Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) has insisted it had no control over the presence of undercover Gardaí at Trinity Ball, arguing that the status of the ball as an official, licenced event means “Gardaí have the power and authority to police it as they wish”.
In a statement released on Facebook this morning, Trinity Ents said that without the licence – granted by Dublin City Council and subject to the approval of the Superintendent of Pearse St Garda Station – “there can be NO Trinity Ball”.
In recent days, students have raised concerns about the lack of a response from the union to the detainments, which saw 26 students detained and searched by undercover Gardaí and the seizure of €1,400 worth of drugs. Many argued that TCDSU should have condemned the detainments given its mandate to argue for the decriminalisation of recreational drug use.
In the statement, Ents said: “In order to ensure there was no risk of the Ball not being granted a licence in the future, we needed time to vet any statement relating to this issue.”
“For the past number of years, we have come under immense pressure to allow the use of sniffer dogs on the night of the Ball”, the statement continued. “Recognising that this would encourage dangerous behaviours, we have fought for a harm reduction approach to managing this issue at the Ball.”
The union also defended the measures it took to “raise awareness about harm reduction in the lead up to the Ball”, pointing to the presence of a stand encouraging drug awareness in Goldsmith Hall during ticket collection.
The statement also said that “material was circulated online in order to promote a healthy attitude and relationship with drugs”.
“TCDSU supports the decriminalisation of drugs, and the promotion of harm reduction campaigns, as has been evident at events throughout the past number of years”, the statement said.
“The Ball, however, is still subject to the laws and regulations as set out by the Oireachtas.”
Last year, students expressed concerns online about the presence of sniffer dogs at the ball. Trinity Ents later confirmed that, while the ball area would be searched by sniffer dogs under the direction of the Garda Drug Squad in advance of the event, no such dogs would be present for the event itself.
In 2015, TCDSU launched the What’s in the Pill? campaign, in conjunction with Dublin Institute of Technology Students’ Union (DITSU), University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) and the Ana Liffey Drug Project.
The campaign aimed to promote safe drug usage without pushing students to refrain from using drugs. The campaign produced fact sheets and posters advising students what to do to take precautions when using drugs.
In September 2018, a working group was set up by the Seanad to investigate the possibility of introducing drug testing at such festivals in Ireland. Speaking in the Seanad at the launch of the group, Minister for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne said that “any measures that can reduce harm and death caused by drug use need to be introduced as soon as possible”.