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Just 4% of students turn out for TCD trans referendum to boycott Irish Times

Just 4 per cent of the student population voted in Trinity College Dublin’s referendum intended to boycott the Irish Times. Driven by the paper’s decision to print an article last August from therapists who were critical of some of the demands of the transgender movement, the referendum was held last Friday 26 November.

Trinity College’s Students’ Union (TCDSU) did not get the go-ahead to boycott the Irish Times media conglomerate after just 58 per cent of students (of the 4 per cent who turned out) voted to cut ties with the paper, which fell below a 60 per cent required.

In response, online political and cultural magazine Burkean Journal, which is run by students from Trinity College with the aim of promoting conservative thought and ideas, said that, “Ultimately the vote was rather indicative of the inflated egos of the middle class hacks who inhibit the corridors of power in Irish student unions, wasting our time, money and attention spans on unimportant matters while Rome otherwise burns.” 

The magazine added that: “Ireland’s cultural revolutionaries went just that bit further in undermining themselves yesterday with the failure of a referendum intended to boycott the Irish Times in Trinity College.”

If the referendum had passed, the union would no longer accept advertising from the newspaper or printing by its media conglomerate, the union’s shops would no longer stock the paper, and TCDSU officers would no longer give comments to Irish Times reporters.

“Tokenistic as it is, such a move would invariably put the fear of God into any future editorial decisions made by the paper in platforming those critical of the transgender industry and its effects on society,” the Burkean said.

Turnout for the referendum was 686 votes, which equates to roughly just four per cent of the entire Trinity College student population.

The failed boycott had been spearheaded by the Trans Writers Union, in response to what they perceived as a “anti-trans ethos” in the Irish Times. The boycott has been described by the Burkean as “trivial and vindictive”.

The boycott campaign began when the Irish Times published an opinion piece on 9 August, entitled “Bill to ban conversion therapy poses problems for therapists”. The piece argued that gender identity should not be part of planned legislation to outlaw conversion therapy due to the “danger of unnecessarily restricting the openness, efficacy and ethics of therapy in areas such as gender identity”.

The authors of the article argued that gender dysphoria “may have many underlying causes not necessarily related to being transgender” and said that the proposed bill “does not leave room for therapeutic intervention”. The writers strongly opposed conversion therapy for gay people, but said that a bill which would restrict therapists who were seeking to help people with gender identity difficulties.

In a piece published in relation to the content TCDSU took issue with, the Burkean said:

“While the complaints mostly circle around various TERF letters sent in to the paper, the majority of the ire has been directed towards an article written by a psychotherapist outlining the various disadvantages of a proposed gay conversion therapy ban put forward by Sinn Féin.

“Put simply, the psychotherapist is worried the bill, as currently worded, would prevent her doing her job because of how it handles gender identity.

“Of course, this concern has been interpreted as an outright declaration of heresy by Ireland’s Progressive militants.”

Following the publication, the Trans Writers Union called on the Irish Times to withdraw the piece and apologise for it, as well as urging them to take “practical, committed steps to adopting a trans-inclusive editorial line”.

Less than a week after the article was published, Jack Kennedy of Trinity News announced that the student paper was dumping the Irish Times as a publisher, directly citing the newspaper’s trans stance. Subsequent pressure quickly mounted on Emer Moreau’s University Times to take the same action, despite the publication having firmer ties to the Irish Times than other student papers. Moreau and her colleagues eventually folded under sustained pressure after one of the paper’s assistant theatre editors resigned over the issue.

The referendum was subsequently triggered after the TCDSU council voted in favour of a motion to boycott the paper. TCDSU LGBT+ Rights officer Jenny Maguire blasted the Irish Times, saying that the paper had “been platforming an anti-transgender ethos” by publishing articles and letters to the editor which she described as “simply transphobic and rife with scaremongering”.

Ms Maguire said that the articles in question sought to prevent those identifying as transgender from “living life free of persecution,” and she urged the council to “support trans writers” by boycotting the paper.

Many of the letters in question printed by the Irish Times took issue with the narrative that gender is fluid – and pointed to obvious outcomes such as giving violent predators access to women in prison or shelters.

In UCDSU, sabbatical officers are not banned from providing comment to the Irish Times, however, the motion passed at the union’s council meeting implores officers to “consider the effect the Irish Times has had on trans students when providing any future comment to them”.

The losing side were quick to express their frustration at failing to win the quote despite capturing a majority. Speaking shortly after the announcement, Trinity News Editor Jack Kennedy said that Trinity News would be continuing to boycott the paper, and urged others to do the same.

“This isn’t the end,” he said. “TN will be maintaining our boycott and we’d encourage other groups and people within Trinity to join. The SUs of many of Ireland’s universities are still on board, as well as thousands of individual people. You should be one of those people.”

The attack on the Irish Times appears to be the latest in a trending string of similar accusations launched by trans activists. In April, Gript reported that the CEO of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) claimed that Irish broadcaster Joe Duffy was “contributing” to the assault of trans women.

Éirénne Carroll, CEO of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), claimed in a series of tweets that Liveline presenter Mr Duffy was “contributing to [sic] assault and harassment of trans women,” asking him: “how do you look at yourself in the mirror at night knowing you contribute to trans assault?”

The comments were made after the veteran radio presenter hosted a show about Department of Education proposals regarding gender neutral toilets in schools.

At no point did Carroll provide any evidence that either Joe Duffy, or a caller to Liveline, said anything that could be considered to a vilification of anyone transgender, let alone that the show had specifically contributed to the assault and harassment of trans women.

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