The statement released by University College Dublin (UCD) regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been condemned by the Dublin Rathdown constituency TD, Neale Richmond via a letter to UCD President Andrew Deeks, yesterday evening.

Neale Richmond, a Fine Gael TD for the constituency in which UCD’s Belfield campus is based took to Twitter to publish the letter he has written to Deeks on its “worrying approach to the #UkraineCrisis and the resignation of Prof Ben Tonra“. The letter states that “labelling the invasion of Ukraine as a ‘situation’ is significantly understating what is an invasion of a sovereign state. War has returned to Europe and the results are catastrophic”.

Richmond is a “proud alumni of UCD” who graduated in 2004 with a BA degree in History and a politics MA in 2005 whilst also chairing the UCD branch of Young Fine Gael. He notes in his letter that “as a global university, UCD is well placed to take a stand against Russia, to raise awareness on the reality of what’s happening in Europe”. He further goes on to state that “there are undoubtedly students of UCD from Ukraine, who have family in Ukraine or indeed who are living this crisis first-hand and who urgently require complete and total support, not just ‘concern’.”

The letter compares UCD’s statement to the statements of other Irish universities such as Trinity College Dublin and Dublin City University. Richmond has called the resignation of UCD School of Social Sciences and Law Vice Principal for Internationalisation and Global Engagement, Professor Ben Tonra, a “principled approach”. He hopes this will lead to “deeper consideration from UCD of their position when it comes to Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine”.

Credits: @nealerichmond via Twitter.

Tonra resigned from his position on the 1st of March with “immediate effect” and took to Twitter to explain that “he does not “share the values underpinning UCD’s global engagement strategy”. Speaking to the College Tribune, Tonra stated that UCD “afraid that if they gave ground on the issue of Ukraine that they would be challenged and have to give ground with respect to the issue of the Confucious Institute and the Irish Institute for Chinese Studies. And that just encapsulates what I think is a serious problem for the university which goes beyond a departing President and speaks to an issue that is systemic and is institutionalised and needs to be addressed”.

Deeks’ President’s Bulletin on the evening reiterated UCD’s statement but Deeks went further to state “o be clear, UCD deplores and condemns the action of the Russian Government and military in invading and attacking the people of Ukraine. This act of aggression is a violation of international law and is completely unjustified”.

Speaking exclusively to the College Tribune, Richmond commented that he welcomes Deeks’ statement “but it is belated and clearly only came following a series of protests & the unfortunate resignation of one of UCD’s most well regarded academics from a leadership position. The leadership of Ireland’s largest third level institution should have led the way rather than being shamed into issuing a stronger statement than their initial weak statement of concern. The response is in stark contrast to that in institutions such as Trinity and DCU“.

Mahnoor Choudhry – Co-Editor