Trinity Declaration on Academic Freedom Launched in response to “Pernicious Censorial Culture”

A group of leading academics and students have launched the Trinity Declaration on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression. 

The declaration comes amid what the group has called “a pernicious and pervasive

culture of censorship” which it says pervades Irish universities, many of which have pledged allegiance to the Athena Swan protocol which promotes controversial ideas such as critical race theory and transgender ideology

Speaking at the launch at Trinity College Dublin yesterday,  Dean Keating, an M.S.c Student at Trinity College and the student director for Free Speech Ireland, said “For over a year, Free Speech Ireland has campaigned against the Hate Speech Bill. Through our activism we have discovered a pernicious and pervasive culture of censorship.”

“Academic life, in particular, has a particularly pernicious censorial culture, which is having a chilling effect on academia in Ireland and stifling academic freedom in Ireland.” he said. 

Keating said that he has heard “harrowing” stories of students and academics alike about how the “culture of censorship” has affected them in their academic careers.

“We hope that our Trinity Declaration on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression will lay the groundwork for the fight back, to protect academic freedom in Ireland.” he said. 

Speaking in absentia, UCD’s Dr Tim Crowley said that the Trinity Declaration “is a powerful call to Irish universities to respect and promote academic freedom.” 

He added that “it is a sorry state of affairs in which we find ourselves that a declaration such as this is needed.”

He continued, “In the Universities Act we have a bold and strong protection for academic freedom. The duty of our universities towards academic freedom is made very clear: the university has a duty and the responsibility to protect and promote academic freedom.” saying that this duty “is routinely ignored”. 

Crowley said that due to the acceptance of so-called Anti-Racism principles, and also to the Athena Swan scheme by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), “academic freedom is being unacceptably compromised” in Irish universities. 

“In the latter case, of Athena Swan, as is well known, display of commitment is tied to eligibility for funding from all of Ireland’s research funding bodies. This is an outrage that must be ended.” he said. 

“I challenge anyone working or studying at an Irish university to identify a policy that has had the intention or effect of promoting academic freedom; policies are promulgated that don’t even protect academic freedom—indeed, that are at odds with academic freedom.” he said. 

Crowley called for optimism saying that the new president of UCD, Orla Freely,  has made “positive noises” about the importance of free speech and academic freedom.

He noted that although Freely has “had requests from students and faculty to commit the university to a

particular position” on the Israel-Palestine war, “Professor Feely explained that to do so would be to inhibit the ‘freedom of members of our community to express their individual positions and suppressing our ability to sustain and respect a diversity of views’.”

Crowley said that University presidents of Ireland “should follow the path” set by President Orla Feely and expressed hope that the Trinity Declaration would “help to push her further—to be a wind at her back, and lead UCD and the other universities towards the goal of academic freedom.”

The full text of the Trinity Declaration on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression reads:

There are two divergent perspectives on the role of universities in contemporary Ireland. Certain voices posit that universities should function in a nakedly political fashion, irrespective of objections by both academics and the student body. 

They hold that a standardised political outlook should be adopted and enforced in a whip like fashion.

We affirm a different conception of the University, that universities are capable of performing this political function absent from the implementation of ideological conformity and collective University positions. Our view is that in its agnosticism toward ideology, universities create a space wherein open debate and the dissemination of knowledge are placed on a pedestal. In turn, genuine academic innovation and progress are fomented.

 Academic freedom and freedom of expression, values which should be treated as sacrosanct by students and academics alike, are threatened by university politicisation. In practice this stifles debate, engenders conformity, creates a climate of hesitancy with respect to the expression of one’s views, and is detrimental to the morale of the student body. We warn against interference caused by, for example, the pegging of research funding to ideological commitment, and the threat of allowing unrepresentative bodies, student or otherwise, to dictate the ideological direction of the university. 

This will fundamentally chill academic freedom and the culture of free inquiry, dissent and debate on campus. As the Kalven report noted; “[The University] should not, therefore, permit itself to be diverted from its mission into playing the role of a second-rate political force or influence.”

Irish Universities have a long, rich history of producing many of the finest politicians, thinkers, and poets – Oscar Wilde, George Berkeley, Jonathan Swift, and Thomas Davis. Subject to a censorial, ideologically uniform status quo, is it even conceivable that our Universities could produce such figures again ? A zeitgeist of open inquiry was cardinal to the flourishing of their intellects and creativity.

We do not subscribe to indifference toward political and social causes, but we do proclaim our firm opposition to the adoption of a dogmatic attitude toward them from the University as an institution.

Our Belief is that universities are a unique instrument for the betterment and enrichment of society. In order for a university to protect its capacity to carry out this role, it must be a space for open inquiry, rigorous debate and scrutiny. The University must not marry itself to the political convictions of the day at the expense of this mission.

The Declaration was signed by:

 Dr. Sarah Alyn Stacey, Trinity College Dublin

Dr. Tim Crowley, University College Dublin

Dr. Colette Colfer, South East Technological University

Dr. Gerard Casey, University College Dublin (Former.)

Dr. Finbarr Bradley, University College Dublin (Former.)

Dr. Mark Humphrys, Dublin City University

Dr. John Murray, Dublin City University

Dr. Catherine Kavanagh, Mary Immaculate College

This article is a repost from


Cancel Culture is Back at DCU

The Dublin City University Debate society (@DCUDebate) was set to host a debate on March 27th, ‘Where Does the Blame Lie for the Arab-Israeli Conflict?’. Two days before the debate, featuring Clare Daly MEP and Prof. Mark Humphreys, it was called off by the society.

Although the society cited logistical shortcomings, emails leaked to FSI show university staff calling for the cancellation of the debate:

Mail sent to DCU Debate

Dear Society,

I am writing on behalf of a group of staff members across several faculties and departments in DCU. We learnt that your Society organised a debate on the current war on Gaza, to be held on March 27th, featuring four speakers. We would like to express our concerns regarding the presence of our colleague Mark Humphreys as one of the speakers.

In the past, our colleague has been criticised for jeopardising the safety and welfare of DCU students. You may not be aware that in 2021, DCU denounced a post written by this colleague on the anti-racist movement BLM, officially distancing itself from the words and views of this person ( ). DCU former student Ibrahim Halawa talked about how much this staff member impacted on his wellness and mental health ( ). Our colleague has been at the centre of campus life for his opinions and views, and students have repeatedly denounced such views as “racism” and “Islamophobia” ( ). We respectfully wonder why a student society would want to platform someone who has been identified as problematic and damaging by other students.

While our primary concerns focus on the safety of the students, we also wonder if the framing of the debate actually reflects the reality of the data that we receive on a daily basis from Gaza and of the international law, or if it only serves the purpose of inflaming a debate which, we are afraid, will hardly be respectful.

We strongly believe in the transformative power of debating and thinking together, when the integrity of the views exposed and the safety of all participants are guaranteed. We do not think that this is one of those occasions, and we urge you to reconsider the opportunity of holding this debate in these circumstances.

Best regards,

Aisling Twohill, School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies

Audrey Bryan, School of Human Development

Beatrice Scutaru, DCU, School of History and Geography

Caitriona Ni Cassaithe, School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies

Catherine Baker, DCU Anti-Bullying Centre

Eamon Costello, School of STEM Education, Innovation & Global Studies

Eileen Culloty, School of Communications

Ellen Howley, School of English

Erika Biagini, School of Law and Government

Eugene McNulty, School of English

Faraj Elammari, Information Systems Services

Hussam Achour, School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering

Jenna Harris, School of Theology, Philosophy & Music

Joe Usher, DCU, School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies

Justin Rami, School of Policy & Practice

Maria Barry, School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies

Marie Flynn, School of Human Development

Mathias Urban, DCU Institute of Education, Early Childhood Research Centre

Niamh Gaynor, School of Law and Government

Paola Rivetti, School of Law and Government

Peter Tiernan, School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies

Ronaldo Munck, Director of the Centre for Engaged Research

Rowan Oberman, School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies

Shadi Karazi, DCU Business School

Reply from DCU Debate

Dear Paola,

We are disappointed to have received this email from you and we as a society have lost respect for all staff who have signed off on this.

First of all this debate is about the conflict as a whole which as you have been keen in the past to remind people has a longer history than October 7th and the current Gaza Campaign.

You have expressed that you believe in debate and that this opposition to the event is purely due to opposition to Mark Humphrys. You and other colleagues were invited to participate or provide input and none of you expressed any interest in doing so.

The hypocrisy is shocking from someone who was happy to share a platform with Richard Boyd Barrett TD who has made many heinous statements regarding the conflict in Ukraine and a USI representative who at your BDS DCU event engaged in anti semitic language by saying and I quote “The presence of a Jewish student or academic legitimises the apartheid state.”

As a society we are committed to the free expression of all ideas no matter our personal views on them. To claim you believe in the transformative power of debate while trying to censor one is a questionable statement.

We had expressions of support from actual Palestinians on our campus for hosting this debate and believe it is not the place of those with little connection to the conflict to dictate how it may be discussed.

Universities are to be institutes of learning and the free expression of ideas as such we feel you have lost any right to our respect or to be called academics.

The DCU Debate Society Committee

This is not the first time Prof. Humphrys has been the focus of ire at DCU: after expressing opinions about George Floyd and Black Lives Matter on his blog in 2021, students and academics campaigned for him to be sacked.

Following the cancellation of the debate, an unofficial debate occurred on the 27th in a pub near DCU. Speakers on either side of the motion, including Prof. Humphrys, were in attendance, with the exception of Clare Daly. Further leaks revealed that the society’s activities for the rest of the year have been frozen. It is unclear yet whether those involved in the debate will be, or have been, penalised by the University.