Book of Kells blocked by benches in student protest

Students have used benches to block access to the Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) as protests continue against the university.

This week the students' union president revealed the body had been fined €214,000 (£183,000) over campus protests.

The demonstrations had focused on the university's response to the war in Gaza, as well as proposed course fee hikes and increased accommodation costs.

On Saturday afternoon, the university said access to its campus has been restricted to students and staff with valid college ID cards.

It said it had done so to ensure that "those protesting on campus are members of the college community".

"We have not made this decision lightly," it said.

"Regrettably, this will have a direct impact on our students and staff.

"Our libraries, sports centre, Book of Kells Experience, Old Library and the Pavilion Bar have been closed until further notice while sports fixtures, a concert and social events have been cancelled, postponed or moved to another venue."

Trinity said it "respects the strong stance expressed by the people participating in the encampment protest and blockade, and we support the right to peaceful protest.

"There are also, however, many good reasons why the university's policies, including health and safety, dignity and respect must be followed when doing so".

Dozens of students camped out overnight near the Kells Experience entrance.

TCD previously cited a loss of income in its response to the protests as the Book of Kells is a major tourist draw.

The 1,200-year-old manuscript is regarded as one of the greatest treasures of Celtic art.

Earlier on Saturday, students' union president László Molnárfi told BBC News NI that about 70 students across 43 tents had camped out overnight.

On Friday, Trinity College said it did not support the "unauthorised BDS encampment".

"While Trinity supports students' right to protest, protests must be conducted within the rules of the university," it added in a statement.

BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a non-violent pro-Palestinian movement that promotes cultural, academic and economic sanctions against Israel.

Mr Molnárfi previously said he believed the real reason why the students' union was being fined was because TCD authorities "are terrified of the wave" of anti-war protests across university campuses.

"Student movements in the US have been absolutely inspiring and we believe that we need to take further action," he added.

Police in the US have detained more than 2,000 people nationwide in the past fortnight at college rallies and protest camps.

Demonstrators, who have been calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict, are also demanding academic institutions financially divest from Israel and companies who stand to make money from the conflict.

Students have also occupied UK campuses in protest against the conflict in Gaza with pro-Palestinian protesters in cities including London, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds setting up tents outside university buildings.

Israel began bombing Gaza after Hamas killed more than 1,400 people in Israel and kidnapped more than 200 others.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said more than 34,000 people had been killed in the Strip since 7 October.

'Negative financial impact'

TCD said it is a not-for-profit organisation that "cannot survive solely on government funding and depends on other sources of income".

The student protests have had "a negative financial impact", according to the university.

The Book of Kells has been in the hands of TCD since the 17th century and now attracts more than half a million tourists a year with admission starting at €19 (£16).

A statement on the ticket office website said the Book of Kells will be closed between 4 to 6 May.

The fine issued to the student's union was first reported on Thursday by college newspaper Trinity News.

Mr Molnárfi said the body did not intend on paying the fine, which equates to about 20% of the students' union total annual income.