The raising of LGBT colours for the first time by Trinity College engendered a rather unusual news story the past week with alleged and mysterious pressure being placed upon the college not to do so.
Reported initially by the Sunday Times, the article recounted attempts to quash the hoisting of the LGBT flag by a senior staff member owing to the heritage status of some of the buildings as well as the ‘diverse cultural or faith backgrounds’ of those potentially not supportive of Pride month.
Triggering a quickfire email apology by Provost Linda Doyle to the entire student body, the story begs some questions as to who the anti-LGBT lobbying was done by and for what ends.
Not exactly a hotbed of conservative reaction (The Burkean aside), Trinity for colonial reasons lacks even the residual trace elements of institutional Catholicism like Maynooth or UCD that could have put on the spoilers for such a move.
While the college does have a marginal number of conservative academics, the tone of the email sent suggests that Trinity admins were more cautious of foreign students and backers in their considerations.
Facilitating inordinate amounts of foreign students owing to the disparate fee system that incentivises Irish universities to take in more foreigners, the college has been often criticised before for accepting Gulf money.
In September 2020 the university took some heat for accepting sponsorship from the Qatari Defence Minister, with an increasing amount of Gulf funding being directed towards the Al Maktoum Centre for Middle Eastern Studies.
Named after and bankrolled by the ruling family of Dubai since its inception in 2019, the Centre has represented a major bridgehead for Gulf capital on campus, despite Trinity refusing to answer how much money was donated by the family.
Not just the Centre, the Al Maktoum clan also supports the controversial Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh which has received a lot of press attention for its links to Islamist extremism and rather opaque donor system.
Receiving intense criticism for its human rights abuses, Princess Sheikha Latifa of Dubai was forced to return to the Gulf state after her attempts to flee embroiled former President and TCD golden girl Mary Robinson.
While no link between equivocation in flying the LGBT flag on College Green and the Centre can be made, an educated guess is that the origin of reluctance in flying the flag by college authorities in the famously progressive uni came from consideration it might have on Gulf donors or students.
The financial sway of Dar al-Islam may very well have more of a hold over Irish institutions than we might like to think.