Issue 1 - 2023 front

21 August 1997 Edition

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Queen's Student Union attacks the Irish language

By Eoin O'Broin

Queen's University Student Union has attacked the rights of Irish language students by removing its bi-lingual signs from the student union building in Belfast. The move, which comes after years of pressure from unionist students within the union, sees the only recognition of the language removed from student union premises.

An Phoblacht spoke to a number of language activists from the university who were furious at the removal of the signs. One said, ``It's yet another victory for bigotry and cultural supremacy in the university''. Another said that, ``the signs represented equality between the two languages, and now that small token of equality has been removed because of a small unionist lobby within the student union''.

Another student from the humanities department questioned the manner in which the signs were removed. She told An Phoblacht that ``none of the Irish speaking community within the university were consulted, and the signs were removed late at night when no-one would see. Not only is this discrimination pure and simple but it has been carried out in a cowardly way by elected student representatives''.

Speaking at a press confrence on Monday evening president of the union Cormac Bakewell, who ran his election on an SDLP slate, said that the move was not a victory for bigotry and that the majority of the university students would support it.

However Irish language students have asked, ``why were the student body not consulted about the move? If the union were so confident that their decision would be supported why were we not asked? Maybe they know that the opposite is true, that most students believe the signs are a symbol of parity of esteem and would have opposed the union. Maybe this is why they kept it all quiet''.

However Bakewell has recieved the support of DUP justice spokesperson Ian Paisley Jnr. He said, ``It is a decision that is long overdue. The Irish language is a tool of republicans and used by republicans''. Paisley junior called the signs ``sectarian'' and ``divisive'' and called for the reinstatment of the British national anthem at graduation ceremonies in order to ``put the university back on an even keel in terms of cultural identity''.

The decision was attacked by many nationalist bodies, including Conradh na Gaeilge, Sinn Féin and memebrs of the SDLP.

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