Blogger Clodagh interviewed Áine O’Gorman and shared her view on the divestment campaign at Trinity

Clodagh Schofield

Visiting Student

Departments at Trinity: Economics, English, Sociology

Home University: University of Sydney, Political Economy and Cultural Studies

This week, blogger Clodagh interviewed Áine O’Gorman and shared her view on the divestment campaign at Trinity.

At home at my university in Australia, I’ve been very involved in encouraging the university to implement a responsible investment policy for their substantial endowment which would divest us of fossil fuels. Before I came to Trinity College, I heard about Fossil Free TCD, a group of students and staff working to see TCD cease investment in fossil fuels & reinvest the money in ethical industry. However, the person who told me about it described the group as “a few interested people working on a fledgling campaign” and it did not prepare me for the scale, diversity, and exciting atmosphere surrounding the project.

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Above: Fossil Free TCD had the Campanile bell rung for divestment on Earth Hour last week.

Myself and a number of other visiting students got involved straight off the bat, and it’s been a wonderful way to meet local students who are also interested in doing what we can to address climate change and fight for human rights. Visiting students from universities in the US, Australia, and India have been sharing resources from their on campus campaigns, from stories, through to financial cases for divestment and workshop outlines. I’ve shared great resources from the organisations I work with at home, the Australian Student Environment Network and 350.org Australia, run a workshop on getting media attention for divestment campaigns, and recruited my lecturers to sign on the open letter. Other visiting students have been volunteering on Fossil Free TCD stalls talking to students, preparing a report advocating divestment for Trinity Board, and doing arts, crafts and banner painting.

I interviewed organiser Áine O’Gorman about the project and how international students can get involved to get top content for TCD Global readers from the horse’s (Áine’s) mouth. Áine was one of the first friends I made at Trinity, and she’s also President of the Environmental Society.

fossil free tcd 2

Above: (Left to right) Colm Tong, Aine O’Gorman, Deirdre Duff, Ciara Smart (another visiting student from the University of Sydney), Ellie Pipic, and James Senior getting ready to play Carbon Bubble Volleyball in Divestment Week.

Why are you personally involved in the campaign to see Trinity cease investment in fossil fuels?

Áine: Because it makes sense. Because I’ve worked on a lot of environmental issues and this is the something that has tangible, visible results. Because I care about the future of this university and being invested in fossil fuels is both morally and financially negligent. Because I want to be able to say that I was a student in Trinity when it showed incredible institutional leadership and helped to stigmatise fossil fuel companies and end their immoral power just as it did in the 70s during the anti-apartheid movement. And because I love polar bears. Joking. They’re good though.

So Áine, how can international students best help out?

Áine: What we’ve found particularly exciting about having international students in the campaign has been the experience and contacts they have brought from other campaigns across the world. Even for students who haven’t been involved in Fossil Free campaigns on their own campus, each person has brought an unique cultural insight. Particularly as political campaigning in Ireland is not as strong as it is in other countries. No experience is really necessary – enthusiasm is all we need. Also, add our Twibbon to your Facebook profile picture here to get the word out!

Where do you see the campaign going next?

Áine: We are feeling incredibly positive about this campaign. We have engaged thousands of students, alumni, academics and other notable figures. In the short term we hope that that TCD Board will see the incentives to divest and the support growing for it by the day. In the longer term, this campaign is just the start of the fossil fuels divestment movement in Ireland. We hope international and visiting students will bring some of the ideas and friendships they make through this campaign back to their home campuses and be inspired to continue to strengthen the global fossil fuels divestment movement.

What are some ways international students can get involved?

Áine: There’s loads of different opportunities from working on social media to event organising, and speaking to your professors and tutors and classmates about the campaign. To get involved the easiest thing to do is to message the Facebook page or come along to an event and say hello.

Last night as I sat in a huge meeting on the top floor of KC Peaches, I looked across at James, Colm, and Ben, three of the core organisers, and I felt so sad to be leaving. The campaign is flying, and they’ve acquired a very cheeky environmental justice lad swagger, cracking jokes, discussing campaign strategy, cracking jokes ABOUT campaign strategy… Within such a short period, I’ve become so friendly and familiar with the team I’m planning to stay with Aine’s family in Tipperary during the revision period, and Colm & his mum drove me to hospital at 6am last Sunday while I was sick (Thanks Colm!). They’ve been an on campus family to me, and I couldn’t recommend a better group of people to meet and work towards climate justice with during your time here.

Climate change is an international issue that demands an international response. It’s great to see students from very different backgrounds finding common ground in working towards a better world for us all. Find out how to get involved from Fossil Free TCD’s page here.

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