In the 1960's Trinity College Dublin represented for some the last bastion of British rule in the Republic. For others it was a vital protection against a domineering Church and an illiberal political culture. In 1967 the young Minister for Education Donogh O'Malley astonished the academic and political worlds by announcing the government's intention to merge the two. There was immediate and intense public interest.
This was very much 'A question of identity.' The move was initially welcomed by UCD (by far the larger college) and resisted by Trinity, which feared that UCD, dominated as it saw it by conservative Catholics actively supported by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, would swamp its Protestant and liberal ethos. Newspapers gleefully entered the fray. Commentators from liberal and right wings sang from their respective hymn sheets. As the row progressed, administrators juggled whole faculties from one campus to another and academics on both sides feared for their status. In both institutions staff and administrators clashed.
Eventually the academics and managers of UCD decided against, while Trinity, with its own motives, began to support the idea. In the end the political will to enforce change wilted. After much debate and numerous new plans, a few minor changes were put in place, but the two great institutions remained more or less as they were.