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China-sensitive Trinity College Dublin may yet confer honorary degree on Dalai Lama

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(TibetanReview.net, Sep26’22) – The Sunday Independent has revealed last week that in Dec 2019, the honorary degree committee chaired by Mary McAleese took a proposed honour for the Dalai Lama off its agenda, after she set out how the university and Ireland could expect “serious” repercussions from China, reported the independent.ie Sep 25. McAleese, an activist lawyer and author, is a former President of Ireland (1997-2011) and Trinity’s Chancellor.

Defending McAleese’s decision, a senior Trinity official has said the university would be “stupid” to ignore the fact that it had spent 15 years building up relations with China, and this work could be put at risk by a symbolic gesture.

However, last week sources who raised concerns about the decision were told that Trinity could still honour the Dalai Lama, as his name is still on the university’s list, the report said.

Barry Ward, a senator from the Fine Gael, a liberal-conservative and Christian-democratic party, has said the 2019 decision was a “worrying move” by Trinity.

Barry Ward, a senator from the Fine Gael, a liberal-conservative and Christian-democratic party. (Photo courtesy: Barry Ward/FB)

“Decisions by universities about honorary degrees and all academic matters should be made free of fear of the Chinese Communist Party,” Mr Ward has said.

He was stated to have met with Linda Doyle, Trinity’s Provost, at the Ploughing Championships last week and sought a meeting with McAleese.

“There are a number of us in the Oireachtas (Irish legislature) concerned about the increasing weight that China tends to put on institutions,” Mr Ward has said. “I was on the board of UCD (University College Dublin) for years and was uncomfortable with the funding of the Confucius Institute.

“There are loads of commercial opportunities that seem dependent on non-interference with what China wants. They seem to seek to scupper anyone that disagrees with them.”

Mr Ward, a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, has said Chinese influence on academic institutes had a “pervasive effect”.

“What if a student wants to do a thesis on Tiananmen Square, or the effects of Chinese national security law, or the Uighur genocide? Will they get academic support?” he has asked.

Fine Gael is currently the third-largest party in the Republic of Ireland in terms of members of Dáil Éireann, the lower house, and principal chamber, of the Oireachtas, which also includes the President of Ireland and of the Seanad Éireann (the upper house or Senate).  It is also the largest in terms of Irish members of the European Parliament.

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