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UCD ‘clarifies’ its stance to ‘condemn’ Ukraine invasion after Professor Ben Tonra resigns position


Prof Ben Tonra

Prof Ben Tonra

Prof Ben Tonra

UCD has clarified its position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine to say that it ”deplores and condemns” the attack.

The university issued a second statement, using more robust language, after a leading academic resigned from a position at UCD in protest at its original comments.

The controversy, involving UCD politics professor Ben Tonra, also attracted more criticism for the university on social media.

UCD has moved from describing events in Ukraine as a “situation” and a “violation of international law” to an “unjustified act of military aggression” which it “deplores and condemns”.

Statements issued by other Irish universities had condemned the invasion.

Earlier Prof Tonra said he was resigning his role with UCD’s College of Social Sciences and Law as its vice principal for internationalization and global engagement.

He said he would continue with his teaching and research as Full Professor of International Relations at the UCD School of Politics and International Relations and the UCD College of Social Sciences and Law “where I am privileged and proud to serve”.

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He took the step in the wake of a UCD statement on Monday that did not condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and he also cited the role of the Confucius Institute on campus.

The institute is funded by the Chinese government, causing disquiet among some staff at the university since it was established in 2006.

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China has been criticised for not condemning Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

UCD’s initial statement expressed “its concern with the situation in Ukraine, and in particular with the violation of international law and the unnecessary and tragic human suffering and loss of life”.

It said it was offering support to students, staff, faculty and collaborators affected by the crisis and urged any affected member of its community to stay in touch.

In a response on Twitter, Prof Tonra took issue with the phrase “the situation in Ukraine”.

He noted it was from “Ireland’s Global University” and said: “I am deeply, profoundly ashamed.”

Today, he went a step further and resigned a position in UCD.

He said: "Based on the statements and response of the university’s leadership to the invasion of Ukraine and the role of the Confucius Institute on campus, it is clear to me that I do not share the values underpinning UCD’s global engagement strategy.”

UCD’s second statement read: “Yesterday, the university issued a statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The university wishes to clarify its position: UCD deplores and condemns the actions of Russia in invading and attacking Ukraine.

“This act of military aggression is a violation of international law and is completely unjustified.”

Prof David Farrell, a professor of politics at UCD, tweeted that was “good, at least, to see that my colleague @Bentonra’s resignation for this important managerial role promoted this late clarification from UCD”.

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