Students will protest outside the Westland Eats food outlets in the Hamilton building – run by Aramark, the company criticised for its involvement in direct provision centre – in its “first direct action” on Trinity campus.
The protest will take place next Wednesday and is being run by the Aramark off our Campus campaign group, which aims to end Trinity’s contract with the company, which provides food at several direct provision centres around Ireland. The demonstration will focus on “petitioning, protesting, and chatting” to students about direct provision.
Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) is mandated to campaign for the end of direct provision in Ireland, following a referendum in 2014. Last November, the campaign group brought a motion to a meeting of TCDSU’s council calling on the union to lobby against Aramark’s presence on council. Speaking in support of the motion, at the time, Aramark off our Campus Organiser Stacey Wrenn condemned the “millions” of euro that the government has given Aramark. The motion passed and the union is now mandated to lobby Trinity not to renew its contract with Aramark in 2021, when it is set to expire.
Shortly before Christmas, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) hosted a protest outside Avoca on Suffolk St, which is owned by Aramark. The demonstration called for an end to direct provision and appealed to Christmas shoppers not to support Avoca.
The Aramark off our Campus group launched the campaign on November 15th, with former and current residents of the direct provision system attending the launch to speak candidly about the horrors of living in direct provision centres.
Aramark signed a five-year license agreement with Trinity’s Commercial Revenue Unit in 2016. Branches of Costa, Freshii and Gastro were opened last November. However, only Costa is still fully in operation. Speaking to The University Times by email, the US-based company said it is “proud of the partnership that we have with Trinity College to provide nutritious food options on campus”.
The company also has strong ties to other Irish universities, including University College Dublin (UCD) and the University of Limerick (UL). In recent years, it has purchased the Avoca chain and increased its involvement with food outlets in the Dundrum Town Centre. It currently serves food in direction provision centres in Limerick, Meath and Cork, which accommodate almost 1,000 asylum seekers. These facilities have been criticised for sub-par living conditions and under-developed amenities.
UCD Students have also called for a boycott of the group on their campus, with an official campaign launch slated for sometime in the early part of this year.
Speaking via email to The University Times in November, Cian O’Farrell, an organiser of the “Aramark Off UCD” campaign, said he was “appalled” when he learned that the company operated in UCD: “We do not think a company who profits millions and millions from the incarceration of vulnerable people is in line with UCD community standards.”