Chaos ensued at the end of the UCD Literary and Historical Society debate last night on whether “This House believes that the West has failed Palestine”. As security attempted to remove audience members who were disrupting the speakers, the crowd became unruly prompting the room to be cleared by security.
As security removed one man from the room, he paused, shouted “I stand with Israel” and pulled out an Israeli flag from his pocket. The Israeli flag was taken from his hand by another audience member and thrown on the ground, prompting a loud cheer from many of the students at the debate. A scuffle ensued between the man being removed from the room and another audience member in the viewing balcony.
A panic spread within the room after one student began shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is most great – Arabic Translation) in the crowd, before UCD’s Richard Butler and event security intervened (Video below).
The debate took place with Richard Boyd Barrett, People Before Profit Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dún Laoghaire constituency and Natasha Hausdorff of UK Lawyers for Israel. This was contrary to the original plan of having three speakers on each side.
Hausdorff said that that she had flown from the UK to speak at the debate, but had not been told who she would be debating against. The College Tribune understands that a speaker from the opposition was unwilling to debate against Ibrahim Halawa who had been intended to speak in proposition of the motion. The L&H Auditor admitted that there had been a “miscommunication” regarding the teams which would compete in the debate.
Irish Academic and DCU Lecturer Mark Humphrys was due to act as the second guest speaker against the motion. In a statement on X, Humphrys said to Mr Halawa; “I was willing to debate you. My partner Natasha was not, which I had to respect. A frustrating evening. Again, I was willing to debate anyone and everyone on your side.
Ibrahim Halawa is a former UCD student who was arrested and imprisoned by Egyptian security forces in 2013, and spent four years in prison in Egypt before eventually being released to return home to Ireland, he is currently an activist speaking in support of the Palestinian people in Gaza.
Students Frisked Before Debate.
Prior to the debate, students were frisked on the way into the debate by a private security frequently used by the Students’ Union and campus events teams. Students were made empty liquids and throw away food before entering the chamber by the security team.
Speaking to The College Tribune, one UCD staff member, who did not wish to be named, said that it is standard practice to have event security at certain society events such as those with notable celebrities, but explained that this was the first time that they had seen students be frisked prior to entering a debate.
Upon entering UCD’s FitzGerald Debating Chamber, students were forced to wait for more than an hour for the debate to begin – a delay which the society originally blamed on technical issues, before the organisers admitted that the delay was caused by their “miscommunication” around the teams of the debate.
During the wait, members of the Literary and Historical Society’s committee attempted to entertain the students waiting in the chamber. Committee members made jokes around ‘pesto theft advice’ and made speeches about ‘Finland not existing’ to fill the time before the debate began. Members of the audience could be heard expressing discontent with the humorous speeches and a member of the security team shouted across the chamber saying “that’s enough now. Stop. Sit down. There’s a time and a place.”
Speaking to The College Tribune after the debate, L&H Auditor Ayman Memon said, “We had security for the debate. It was a debate that had to happen, but of course the circumstances happened but it was fortunate that the debate went ahead.”
“It was a debate, we had a debate and we are fortunate it went ahead in whatever fashion it did,” he said.
The College Tribune has contacted Natasha Hausdorff, UCD Societies and Richard Boyd Barrett for comment and will add any comment received to this article.
Hugh Dooley – Co-Editor
Ellen Clusker – Assistant News Editor