At their house debate on Thursday the 14th of September, committee members of the Literary and Historical Society (L&H) admitted that their corporate sponsor, Arthur Cox, had reached out to the society to request the removal of their logo from their posters and social media. The controversy was spawned by Arthur Cox’s sponsorship of the L&H, while the international law firm also represents RTÉ.
The debate titled ‘This House Does Not Trust RTÉ’ featured esteemed speakers such as former Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and Teachta Dála Shane Ross, and Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists in Ireland, as well as the author of this article!
Ireland’s national broadcaster, Raidió Teilifís Éireann, has come under public criticism in recent months after it emerged that there were discrepancies in the pay figures released by the broadcaster related to the earnings of their star presenter Ryan Tubridy.
Arthur Cox represented and advised the company during a period in which their employees had various appearances in front of government committees relating to the controversy.
The society had placed debate posters around the college campus that morning and had posted social media posts advertising the debate but was contacted by a representative of Arthur Cox asking the society to remove their branding. Committee members rushed around the campus with scissors to cut the Arthur Cox branding off the poster.
Following the logo removal from posters, Arthur Cox branding temporarily returned to L&H social media posts. However, since news of the logo removal issue was printed in this publication and later covered by Miriam Lord in The Irish Times, Arthur Cox’s logo has not reappeared.
The College Tribune approached the Literary and Historical Society of UCD for comment regarding the removal of the Arthur Cox logo from their posters and social media posts.
L&H Auditor Ayman Memon said, “Arthur Cox has been a loyal supporter of the L&H for some years and as a part of such association on occasion, the L&H uses the Arthur Cox logo subject to prior approval in promotion of selected events. On this occasion prior approval was not sought and the logo was removed once the oversight came to light.”
The College Tribune has also approached Arthur Cox for comment but did not receive a response.
The College Tribune understands that Arthur Cox will continue to act as a sponsor of the society, still appearing on their LinkTree and sponsoring recruitment events that the society will run during the year.
Subsequent posters which the society placed around campus, for The Abortion Debate on the 28th of September, were similarly amended to remove the logo.
Sources close to the society have indicated that this recent attention on Arthur Cox’s sponsorship of debating societies may have acted as a catalyst for existing concerns within the firm on such deals.
The Historical Society in Trinity College Dublin also featured the Arthur Cox logo on their debate posters up until the 19th of September.
Student Groups Condemn the UCD L&H
Returning to regular programming, the L&H in UCD looked to move on when they hosted The Northern Ireland debate in the FitzGerald Chamber last Monday, 9th of October.
The debate was booked to feature speakers from across the aisles in Bertie Ahern, former Fianna Fáil Taoiseach and TD, as well as Alliance Leader Naomi Long, and Ulster Unionist Party politician Tom Elliott. The final named guest for the debate was Former Democratic Unionist Party Leader Edwin Poots.
The lineup initially attracted light criticism from students. “Are they intentionally trying to tank this? Disastrous line up.” commented one college student on their social media posts of the event. Another student labeled the guests as a “Joke of a lineup.”
Later that day, a collection of student activist and political groups condemned the lineup of the event in a press release sent to various student newspapers.
UCD, TCD, and TUD’s People Before Profit groups, as well as UCD Postgraduate Workers Organisation (PWO), Students4Change (an alliance of socialist students originating in Trinity) and Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union labeled the event as being “biased towards the establishment” and having “a clear political agenda”.
They said that “Bertie Ahern and his legacy of corruption is (sic) not welcome here at UCD!” and that “Edwin Poots and his reactionary elitist politics is (sic) not welcome here at UCD!” The student groups called the house debate a “mockery” and an “absolute farce”.
Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union President and former Chair of Students4Change, László Molnárfi said that the debate represented “The attempted rehabilitation of Bertie Ahern by the establishment” which he said was “disgraceful.”
“Furthermore, the panel is a sham, designed to limit rather than promote debate, to push a clear right-wing agenda, given the biased nature of the speaker,” said Mr. Molnárfi.
The head of UCD’s branch of the PWO, Rory Burke said that “UCD PWO stands against the L&H Society’s attempts to rehabilitate the image of a man who has done more to harm students, researchers and the Irish higher education sector as a whole than any other in recent history.”
Mr. Rory Burke blamed Ahern’s government for “the neoliberal corporatisation of the higher education sector that has followed in the years since.”
The College Tribune understands that these student groups had planned to attend the debate in order to protest the guest speaker lineup until the announcement of a Palestinian Solidarity Rally outside the Dáil. A representative of the PWO stated, “they had better things to be focusing on here”.
The College Tribune has approached the Literary and Historical Society to offer the society the opportunity to respond to these criticisms and claims. The society has not responded.
Hugh Dooley – Co-Editor