When the Irish Sun splashed across its pages this week the news that a “drug dealing network” operating at Trinity Ball had been “smashed” by undercover Gardaí posing as students, hackles were – understandably – raised.
The Sun’s sensationalism aside, students were left baffled by the fact that Gardaí posing as ball-goers had been allowed detain 26 students at a nominally private party – particularly one part-organised by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), which has been mandated since 2016 to support the decriminalisation of recreational drug use.
In reality, Trinity Ball is not as private as students might like to think. Whether we like it or not, an event that brings 8,000 people together for a giant party must comply with reams of rules and regulations, the same as any other festival.
It’s also widely accepted by now that MCD, not Trinity Ents, pulls most of the strings involved in organising Trinity Ball, and it seems unlikely that TCDSU had much of a say in the extent of the Garda presence.
But it is still eminently reasonable to ask how the union can reconcile its “harm-reduction” approach to the issue with the reality of Gardaí roaming Trinity’s campus attempting to catch students red-handed – particularly given its deafening silence in the aftermath of the news.
The detention of so many students on Trinity’s campus for small, drug-related offences seems jarringly at odds with many of the progressive steps taken by the union in the last few years. The measures employed at Trinity Ball, it’s clear, were punitive and in direct contradiction of the stance TCDSU purports to support.
So it was beyond disappointing that the union did not comment on the matter. Even if it could do nothing about the Garda presence, the least TCDSU owed students was a public statement on the detention of 26 students.
This union seems to have forgotten that it is supposed to be the public voice of Trinity students. College may not always listen when TCDSU speaks. But if Trinity’s own union isn’t going to stand up for students, then it’s difficult to see who will.