Unionist politics vanishing at Queens…

Interesting ‘poll’ of final year students at Queens University which show that the highest number of those who declared a political interest in the mainstream political parties (just 41% of those asked) would back Sinn Fein (22%), then SDLP (11%), then the DUP (5%) and finally the UUP (3%). Hmmm… the Newsletter resorts to that old story of non Catholic grammar students heading for the boat. That could be a contributing factor, but the numbers are sooo low that other more culturally based reasons must be at the bottom of the phenomenon… Seven years ago this May we published our report on the future of Unionism, I quote the last lines below the fold:

1066 and All That tells us that the English Civil War was ‘an extremely memorable struggle between the Cavaliers (Wrong but Romantic) and the Roundheads (Right but Repulsive).’106 In future struggles, unionists need to be both right and attractive. For that, a firmer, bolder, more far-sighted unionism will be needed. In a ‘long peace’, after all, people must want the Union for it to survive.

As for the SDLP and Sinn Fein, it probably demonstrates the generational shift in loyalities amongst what is likely to become the Catholic middle classes…

  • Cynic2

    My daughter’s friends went to Queens. She went to study in England. Her friends now tell her that the atmosphere at Queens is now very hostile to Protestants not just unionists and they cant wait to graduate and get out of it. In discussions and tutorial groups they find themselves talked down to and, in some cases, personally abused by a minority of extremist republican students. Any attempt to put up alternative views in discussions is derided and they feel that di9ssenting voices are actively trageted. In some faculties the atmosphere verges on intimidatory. Their coping mechanism is to keep their heads down.

  • Chris Donnelly


    And do these catholic students eat live babies whilst intimidating their poor protestant fellow students?

  • sbelfastunionist

    Interesting question would be how they conducted this poll. In my day, questioning people arond the student union for example would have produced this result at Queen’s with nationalists more likely to be there and unionists potentially less likely to admit their intentions. In student elections an overall 65/35 nationalist/ unionist split in the total result could have seen a 85/15 per cent split in the student union polling station

  • JohnM

    “Proddy lie down”

    Whoda thunkit?!

  • RobertEmmett

    nteresting question would be how they conducted this poll. In my day, questioning people arond the student union for example would have produced this result at Queen’s with nationalists more likely to be there and unionists potentially less likely to admit their intentions. In student elections an overall 65/35 nationalist/ unionist split in the total result could have seen a 85/15 per cent split in the student union polling station

    you mean they got the ones in the SU out of the bunatee and speakeasy long enough, and sober enough, to fill a questionaire?

  • Garza

    Well I go to Queens. Basically everyone keeps away from the politics stuff and just have a good time together in my experience. I’ve never had an uncomfortable debate about northern ireland politics ever.

    Most people at queens think the unionist v natioanlist thing is the biggest bunch of bs.

  • slug

    Good to hear from someone actually there.
    I teach at a uni and can’t see how (in my subject) it would be possible for an ardent republican to intimidate anyone in a tute – we are too busy differentiating and taking logs.

  • SM

    I am also studying at Queens – mature student – and have not personally witnessed any along the lines of Cynic2’s hearsay.

    Yes, there are many subjects and classes where the numbers of nationalists would exceed unionists but never ever would this descend into anything close to trouble etc. The University would not have it – lecturers would never let this happen.

    Classes are more likely to be split between the people who go out and enjoy a pint and those that don’t!

  • Jonny

    Im studying in Belfast and have no doubt that both of our major universities are now dominated by nationalists. At Uni of Ulster, there have even been campaigns to stop the sale of the poppy. Obviously these were met with a protest by the unionist students. GAA gets ridiculous amounts of funding with other sports not having a penny to rub together. There is a lack of DUP and unionist activity compared to Sinn Fein IRA, it cant be disputed. The article is correct.

  • aquifer

    Orange Unionist is difficult to defend. A sectarian clique working to exclude almost half the population from participation in the state, while claiming a special right of inclusion themselves?

    It’s a joke, no?

    Orange Unionism repels both the English and reasonable british protestants, who tend to leave or not come back.

    Ironically they might come back to a capitalist united ireland.

  • ranger1640

    Until recently I worked at Queens, and while the politics of Northern Ireland are not specifically played out on the campus. There is an obvious nationalist/republican factor within the student body, and it was assisted by the Queens management.

  • Danny Boy

    If the undergraduate population of Queen’s is so dominated by Catholics, how the hell does the Christian Union still manage to maintain its stranglehold on student politics? I couldn’t find anyone to vote for in the last Student Union elections who wasn’t involved with or backed by someone from the CU.

  • Nonchalant Repartee

    Having been at Queen’s for 4 years now I can honestly say that I’ve never encountered any of the issues that Cynic2 says his daughter’s mates have mentioned.

  • Comrade Stalin

    How many reports have the police received about people being “intimidated” at QUB by Republicans ?

  • Garza

    I did hear though there was movement to have signs in Queens in English and Irish. Until someone pointed out that more people in Queens speak Chinese as their first language than Irish and that they would have to put Chinese on all the signs as well. It was dropped fairly quickly after that revelation.

  • union mack

    I’ve attended in two spells in the last 6 years. 6 years ago, there was certainly a very anti-unionist atmosphere. Now, it’s much better, there is a greater deal of tolerance, although the underlying sectarianism is still there. Incidentally, many unionists at QUB don’t feel that the unionist parties on campus are anything other than a bitter sectarian rump (DUA), and middle-class twats who look down on the working class (YU). Those involved in student politics tend to be very bitter (in my experience, on both sides) and as such the rest of us don’t get involved. Most of my unionist friends strongly support the union, but not one based on Orangeism and disdain for nationalists. This may explain the low numbers for those two parties.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    The demographics and dynamics in and around Queens has changed remarkably. I was acutely aware that I was the first generation of my family to achieve third level education (cue tearful Kinnock type speech).
    Today more people from “nationalist” backgrounds can point to parents, cousins, uncles/aunts, older siblings who have made the same journey.
    And of course the ambience of the place has changed. No RUC band. No British Anthem. Apparently this is perceived by a certain kind of “unionist” as the end of their civilization…genocide.
    Yet the pendulum swings. In the early 1990s the Students Union did have Irish signage. This was deemed hostile to “unionists”.
    Yet students from the early 1970s would notice a massive change.
    The 25th anniversary of the Hunger Strikes was marked by an exhibition by Ógra Sinn Féin in the Lanyon Building.
    Meanwhile the stone unveiled (in the entrance hall)a few years back by “Queen” is held in a place of honour in the Gift Shop…..discretely hidden behind the coffee mugs “Im no mug Im at QUB”. In the unlikely event of her returning, it might be put back specially in the entrance hall.

    The 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement had an exhibition in the Lanyon Building which without irony celebrated Queens Universitys role in the Civil Rights Movement.
    A seminar was held in the Irish Studies Building where the great and good of the Queens 1968 generation sat around congratulating each other. Michael Farrell and Kevin Boyle were among the speakers. “Lord” Paul (I was at Burntollet) Bew, Erskine Holmes and Alban Magennis were in the audience.
    All without Irony.
    The same Irish Studies Centre peddles a Module together with the School of History, essentially designed to take all the History out of History. The Module does well with american students.
    One of the first year modules is incredibly “Basic Gaelic” which has no real point except to give an “easy” module pass.

    Quite clearly Queens is different. Not enough student accomodation. A culture of drink. The University in Britain/Ireland with the lowest proportion of “toffs” (from fee paying schools). All kinds of groups.

    Msg8 in this thread is from “SM” a Mature Student at QUB. An indication of the marginalisation of Mature Students at QUB is that there was no Mature Students Society at QUB for some years.

    AUB DOES have an identity problem. It talks of neutral (non racist non sexist language) but the University was reguarly dragged thru Employment Tribunals in the 1970s.
    Theres a lot of hyperbole in this thread. Unionists cant sell poppies at UUJ, GAA get grants, Protestant students are intimidated and ridiculed in tutorials and Elections are dominated by the GAA or the Christian Union (sic).

    Effectively Student Elections are a proxy/poxy version of Norn Iron politics. Political footballs kicked about by very uninspired youth team players.
    “What about Edgar Graham”
    “What about Miriam Daly”
    And of course the people really networking like Facebook users on speed are the Law Students and Faculty. Dont get me started on that shower.

  • dwatch

    Queens used to have an MP of its own up to 1948. The labour party abolished it in 1949.

    1920-1948: 13 MPs

    The 1920 Government of Ireland Act left Northern Ireland with 13 MPs. The city of Belfast was divided into four constituencies, North, South, East and West; County Armagh also elected one MP, as did Londonderry (city and county), and the Queen’s University of Belfast. There were also three two-seat constituencies, County Antrim, County Down and Fermanagh/Tyrone. The Fermanagh/Tyrone seats were won by Nationalists at every election except 1924, when they did not stand. West Belfast elected John Beattie, an Independent Labour candidate, in a 1943 by-election and he kept his seat in 1945. Apart from these, and a dissident Unionist who topped the poll in County Down in 1945, all the seats were won and held by the Ulster Unionists, who took the Conservative whip at Westminster

  • FitzjamesHorse

    In my own lifetime QUB elected four MPs to Stormont.
    I recall Charlie Stewart one of the Citys best known magistrates (a star turn at the Law Courts) who was “Independent” and Shelagh Murnaghan a Liberal and an early champion of Travellers Rights.
    The two others were Unionists and forgettable.

  • Turgon

    I cannot comment on the recent situation but it is a simple fact that in the early to mid 1990s Queen’s was an extremely cold house for Protestant students. The atmosphere especially in the Halls of residence was highly intimidatory. I went there as a naive and liberal young person and had my eyes opened. I would never have considered attending any events in the Union apart from the Christian Union on Thursday night and when I got into politics the Union and Council meetings where significant numbers of my friends would be there.

    In about 1996 Queens had to employ outside consultants to look at the problems for Protestant students. Prior to that the university had in a report lauded the bilingual signs in the Students’ Union. The consultants report found that there was a chill factor for unionist students; it suggested the signs were sectarian and suggested the removal of them which to be fair Queen’s duly complied with.

    However, I doubt that that much has changed. One major problem is that many unionist students are from the greater Belfast area and their strategy for avoiding the sectarian nonsense at Queens can be to attend lectures and classes and then go home. Since this is less possible for students from the west which has a more nationalist population, I suspect unionist involvement in the union is even lower than it should be proportionally.

    Queen’s should seriously consider what positive measures it should introduce to tackle this problem. Since power sharing is derigeur (entirely appropriately in my view) in Northern Ireland politics maybe some form of power and responsibility sharing of the Students’ Union should be considered.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Irish language signs don’t inherently intimidate unionists. But the people who were agitating for them to be put in place were definitely doing what republicans going on about Irish are usually trying to do – use the language as some sort of culture weapon. It’s the same idea with Orange marching – for some it is about culture and heritage, for others (a lot of others), it’s about how “king billy bate the Catholics” – something to wave in the face of the taigs.

    The Student’s Union, and student politics itself, is a joke that people take far too seriously. Student elected officials have pretty much no actual power. It does seem to get used as some sort of jumping off point for people looking to cut their teeth before getting into actual politics.

    I do think Fitzjameshorse is right about a lot of this. The very distinct unionist aurora around Queen’s has been stripped away leaving something that is, broadly speaking, fairly neutral. People who are translating this into a feeling of a nationalist agenda are being very silly. That said, I don’t doubt Turgon’s story about the Halls of Residence being rather intimidatory, but the Halls aren’t the whole university.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Comrade Stalin makes some excellent points. But Id like to add that the kids in Conradh na Gaeilige have I understand organised some joint stuff with the Ulster Scots kids and thats actually pretty much without their “political friends” getting too involved.
    While Student Politics are risible and voting figures derisory, clearly too many take it too seriously. My firm belief is that Queens University (and it saddens me to say this) is a BAD UNIVERSITY.
    It is too full of its own self image….oasis of culture and education which sustained thru the darkest days…….myth making. Look at our marvellous Conflict Resolution achievements.
    Yeah right.

    The University has gone to the dogs. Perhaps any ancient like myself would say the same. But talk to any veteran academic and they will tell you that the quality of student is at an all time low. And my own lad took about a month to even get registered about a year ago (cos the computer system had persistent problems).
    There is a board in the Students Union Building with Past Presidents listed which testifies to some names in student politicsmaking it (Fearon, Attwood etc).
    Turgon makes the point that “Protestant” students from Greater Belfast are in some way semi detached. Actually the whole Student Body is disengaged.
    Most Uni societies (Politics, Drama, Movie, History) are struggling. The Sports bodies are doing mostly ok.
    And of course the law Society is probably flourishing.

  • Cynic2


    No, they just gang up on them in discussions and jostle them in corridors afterwards while grinning at them. Good enough for you?

  • Cynic2

    I can only repeat what they say. They feel actively intimidated to the point where they now don’t raise issues in discussions. They say its a minority and its almost now cultural. The rest of the students ignore it.

    The people concerned are not radical or political at all – they don’t give a damn about politics and I doubt that they even vote – but they find that only one orthodoxy is permitted.

  • Ulick

    No harm to you Cynic2, but I think you are spoofing or someone is spoofing to you. What are these tutorial discussions on that so many extremist republican students would feel the need to gang up on poor defenceless unionist students? Outside of Irish History & Politics modules I can’t think of any which would give rise to such a discussion. What is the tutor doing while all this is going on?

    On the poll itself, the NL is trying to portray this as evidence of the Protestant brain drain. That is a myth and there is no evidence to suggest that proportionally more Protestant than Catholic students choose to study elsewhere.

    On Queen’s, the student body is fairly representative of the religious divide in the community at that age group. As for it going to the dogs, QUB has never been more representative off or accessible to the community as a whole and has never had as many students. It has also gained membership of the prestigious Russell Group – all of this against a backdrop of funding cuts and staff redundancies as we saw last summer.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    our experiences seem somewhat different.

  • Ulick

    In what way Fitz? You say that “The University has gone to the dogs… But talk to any veteran academic and they will tell you that the quality of student is at an all time low”

    I’m not sure how you are measuring ‘quality’ but we’ll let that slide – the plain fact is, and this is something the VC can’t get his head around, that the vast majority of QUB students come from Ulster (9 counties), always have and always will. When university access was opened up, that allowed more people from the Ulster to gain entry, with less points than before. Now if you are saying that QUB has become a BAD university because they’ve taken in more students, then are you saying to become a GOOD university they should shut those students out? That would have all sorts of legal and funding implications.

    Queen’s is not a bad university, it is a pretty good regional university and most academics do a good job under extremely difficult circumstances.

  • The Raven

    “One major problem is that many unionist students are from the greater Belfast area….”

    Maybe a “major problem” is that they don’t label themselves the way most people here feel a need to. Also, an increasing number of students at most colleges and the Universities in NI go home, regardless of campus, and dare I say, religion.

    “On the poll itself, the NL is trying to portray this as evidence of the Protestant brain drain. That is a myth….”

    Without getting into “polling” by anyone, my own school had around 160 in its Upper Sixth year, and of that, less than 10 stayed in Northern Ireland. I don’t know how that transfers to any of the Catholic schools, but at the time the move away was noted by one teacher to me as the highest number they’d had in years – which isn’t that long ago. It was a significant issue. It remains so for many rural towns across the whole island.

    A brief peruse around Facebook shows almost none of them returned. Protestant brain drains? No idea. My feeling is that they just decided “here” was shit, and left accordingly. Who would blame them…? It was.

    I have no views other than to say I feel for the people who still “live” in the Holylands. It was my own family’s home for many years. They’ve all left. What a toilet it is today.

  • articles

    The brain drain is a well rehearsed problem and others can shed more light than me.

    But as an aside is there any other university bookshop smaller and less well stocked than Queen’s University bookshop?

  • FitzjamesHorse

    I am not for one moment suggesting that the opening up of the university has made the University bad. Indeed my initial point is that I was one of these pathfinders. And it didnt exactly end Civilization as we know it.
    We could of course measure quality by the fact that people seem to get extremely good grades at A level. That after all means the quality is actually BETTER than in my day. ‘Cept the anecdotal evidence from tutorials/essays doesnt seem to bear that out.
    “Was Margaret Thatcher a Conservative or was she a Tory” (sic).
    Er quite.
    Thank goodness for Media Studies…it puts the quality up. Well….no.

    Even Mark Langhammer who is one of the top dudes in the Union was moved to say on UTV live debate on Holy Land Riot that there were too many students.
    Oddly neither of the excellent Student Union reps were old enough to recall Mark getting elected to Newtownabbey Council for the “Lets Havea party Party”.
    Of course even odder is a representative of a Lecturers Union saying theres too many students (cos it indicates too many lecturers).
    I do agree that our beloved Vice Chancellor is too obsessed with the Chinese.
    Perhaps you recall his infamous pep talk where he told the students that QUB going up the league table would bring a better quality of student…and lecturer.

    Like I say…obviously our experiences are different. And I am just an old dinosaur finds just about everything in 2010 is worse.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    to be fair the Queens Library is excellent.
    And the availability of information online has to some extent undermined the Bookshop.

  • Ulick

    Fitz, we all know that A-Level results are no measure of quality but may be an indicator of how successful a student may be, but that’s all besides the point. I don’t think it’s fair to compare a student of today with one from 20 or 30 years ago especially based on anecdotal evidence from tutorials/essays.

    Higher educational has changed massively in even the past ten years partly due to the effects of globalisation and associated technologies like the Internet. Students now come with different skills and different ways of accessing and processing information – the challenge for university lecturers is to recognise this and design their courses and teaching approaches accordingly. So just as A-Level results are not a measure of quality neither is anecdotal evidence from tutorials/essays, though admittedly they may be indicators of performance in particular subjects.

    The predicament QUB academics find themselves in now is that research is prioritised over teaching so that the VC can get himself up that league table he keeps spouting about, and so their is no incentive for a lecturer to put any effort into teaching. The VC thinks that getting up that table will attract better academics and better students to follow, but that still doesn’t get around the fact that QUB always has drawn it’s students from the local community and for simple geographical reasons almost certainly always will. Just to throw another spanner in the VCs works I believe that league table is about to change drastically as eastern European and Asian universities are about to be accommodated within it.

  • Articles,

    I think you are being very harsh on Queen’s bookshop. There are loads of worse university bookshops than it, especially ones that have been taken over by chains the way it nearly was. We are very lucky it was never taken over.

  • Driftwood

    Are you Theodore Dalrymple?

    I agree with everything you said. I was there 1989-1992 and thought it was a joke. The main split was between those doing ‘proper’ degrees (Medicine, Science, Engineering)who never went near the Union. And those doing ‘Micky Mouse degrees in politics, sociology, irish studies etc.

    I maintained a discreet distance from it all in the back bar of Lavery’s.

    UUJ appears to be a real life version of Private Eye’s ‘University of Neasden’ (formerly North Circular polytech) and UUC is about as academic as Hydebank.

  • Driftwood

    The Raven
    My anecdotal evidence would concur with what you say. I went to a rural grammar in South Down and pretty much all the brightest went to the mainland to study. Few came back. Edinburgh, Manchester and London being favourites.

    Many degrees are practically worthless currency in the employment market. The Open University has a higher pedigree than QUB, which really only has the Medical School as its bearer of prestige.

  • Danny Boy

    Ulick sounds like the only one who’s been to a university I recognise : )

  • slug

    “The predicament QUB academics find themselves in now is that research is prioritised over teaching so that the VC can get himself up that league table he keeps spouting about,”

    Ulick this has been the case at most universities in the UK since the 1980s. I also teach at a top UK university and we do make sure to do a good job of teaching – with the highest standards – but really research is how you get your promotion and become a professor. I think QUB can attract good staff and students (especially graduate students) and the VC is right that the league table will help in that regard.

    QUB still seems a bit too insular compared to places like for example Manchester or Glasgow where one might compare it to. International links and research collaborations are important. Its important to comare internationally not just be content to be top dog in NI.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Nope …….apparently (if Mr Sammy Morse is to believed) I am a columnist for a daily newspaper and he (Mr Morse) read my columns for years.

    And Mr Morse is never wrong. Is he?

  • abucs

    As others have said, polls could be inaccurate for various reasons. If true though, the Unionist Parties should seriously consider increasing or changing their presence/image on campus.

    I thought the poll on Great Britain campuses showing only 21% support for Labour very surprising. Does this show a generational swing away from “New” Labour ? (sic)

  • FitzjamesHorse

    The sheer Geography means Queens will be necessarily “regional” if not insular.
    In using the League terminology, QUB might be trying to Aston Villa or Newcastle competing with the Big Four.
    Or more accurately Celtic or another Scottish team trying to compete in Europe (not that Celtic can seemingly compete in Scotland).

    There is something very pretentious about Queens…a historic past that is best forgotten and a contemporay existence that is mostly in its own imagination.
    Lets invite some more Iraqis, Afghans etc for a non alcoholic dinner and we will all talk about Conflict Resolution (world leaders in this apparently). Meanwhile lets hope the Iraqis and Afghans dont notice our boozy students in the Holy Land.

  • slug

    FJH I work at a top university. I have to take flights and Skype all the time in a world where research collaboration takes place with people all across Europe. Yes QUB is a bit peripheral in European terms but not much moreso than places like Edinburgh or Manchester that are making a fist of it. QUB could do better. I’ve talked to some academics who worked there and they comment on this insularity.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    So we have a difference here.
    Ulick thinks QUB is pretty good.
    I think it isnt.
    Slug thinks it can do better.

    All about our experiences.

  • Ulick

    Fitz like any other large institution it has it good parts and bad parts.

    Slug, all academics are used to getting assessed in the RAE but the problem is QUB is using the money from student fees and grants to fund building programs, overseas outreach programmes and academic research with little or no investment in providing for teaching. This is illustrated perfectly with the redundancies last year when almost all of those targeted were those with a primary responsibility for teaching or teaching support.

    On the one hand QUB is getting money to provide quality teaching and they pay off their best teachers. On the other, the teaching slack has to be taken up by the remaing academics, so it’s not unusual for a Prof to be walking around a lab taking attendance roles or spending hours replying to basic student inquiries. A crazy situation given the money they are on and certainly not the best use of an academics time especially if you want them to concentrate on research.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Ulick……absolutely 100% correct.
    QUB is simply not investing in Teaching.

  • SM

    I do agree that I think QUB standards have slipped but probably only in correlation to the overall slipping of educational standards.

    I can also confirm that the Open University is excellent – wasn’t sure what to expect initially but cannot fault any aspect – the materials were first class.

    Why do more people not go to a real university like Trinity – couple of hours down the road and lightyears ahead of QUB (I see QUB is 201 in the Times HE World Rankings – Trinity is 43)??

  • Glencoppagagh

    The problem with Queen’s is that it’s far too parochial. It should be doing far more to encourage undergrad applications from elsewhere in the UK. Does anyone know what proportion of its undergraduates are not from NI or the RoI?

  • RepublicanStones

    I remember during my time at Queens, Krusty was egged outside the students union. I wonder if Cynic2 would accept this as evidence of Queens being virulently anti-nationalist/republican? Or would using only one example to prove a theory be a nonsense…with emphasis on the non !

  • John East Belfast

    I have never really bought into this Queens is a cold house for Protestants and therefore they dont go there.

    I have an 18 year old accepted to Manchester next year.

    It wouldnt have been on his radar that Queens was unionist or nationalist and this was to do mostly – despite him being my son – with the fact that he doesnt really know or care about the difference.

    That has a lot to do with our education system here which means that by now he has still bearly met a catholic – certainly not one of a nationalist bent. He has been totally insulated from them meaning his view of life is middle class Protestant where he takes his Britishness for granted.

    Therefore when an 18 year old Belfast student makes decisions about university they simply want to move on to the next stage – which is going to a university in GB – especially one in the top 20 league tables if they can (the lasst time I looked Queens was about 49 ? – ie if you are gifted Queens probably isnt the best choice – lets be honest

    All that is on their minds is a good degree and partying – some put the latter before the former I fear.

    I am not saying that unionist students who go to Queens then get the impression there is a nationalist emphasis but that has a lot to do with a culture shock because as I said this is the first time in 18 years many have met a Catholic let alone a nationalist or even a republican.

    Then as Irish nationalism likes to differentiate – Gaelic games, catholicism and language then a whole visible culture springs up which of course is not reflected in the Protestant unionist side as it does not see the need to differentiate from the accepted English language speaking norm.

    Indeed any young Protestant making such claims to me – eg my older son’s friends already at Queens – I effectively tell them to grow a pair, get over it and stand up for themselves.

    I was at Queens in the mid 80s doing engineering – I was there when Edgar Graham was murdered and when the Anglo Irish Agreement was signed. There was difference but never tension among students doing the same course was my experience – maybe the arts faculties were different. We all got on great together despite the shit that was going on around us.

    Then there is probably the travel factor – Belfast students see going away to university as crossing the Irish Sea and myabe those from Fermanagh & Tyrone see it as going to Belfast.

    Having said all that there is clearly work to be done by UCUNF at Queens

  • cups

    I’m a QUB student from Belfast who’s currently doing a year studying abroad. Compared to my uni here, QUB students are much less diverse and so aren’t exposed to many new political ideas. There are some who can be quite loud and obvious in their support of their party – but that’s not just Sinn Fein supporters or Christian freaks, it’s also the socialists and greens etc. I think the majority of students keep quiet about it and don’t openly align themselves to any party, but that’s not apathy. These students at QUB seem to be better informed and less extreme, in general, than students in the uni where I am now.
    In my opinion the state of student democracy at QUB is one of the university’s biggest problems. It’s dominated by the law and GAA societies, though this year a new group won a lot of the vote, after having blatantly bought votes. It’s a good thing that they have hardly any direct power, but it would be nice if they tried to stand up for the students whenever the university closes down departments or brings in administration systems which don’t work.
    It’s probably worth remembering that students are like most other people: if they see anyone who is a loud and vocal supporter of any political party, they’ll just think they’re a wanker. Student democracy should not be taken seriously!

  • FitzjamesHorse

    most of what you say is correct.
    in general queens students are pretty well informed…politics is in the DNA of a lot (not necessarily loudmouths).
    Others are too polite to mention it. “Whatever you say , say nothing” is a good way to start Queens or indeed a job.
    The Law Societys blatant networking is irritating. The GAA and indeed Norn Iron our wee country football supporters are a pain in the ass at times….overtly political symbols.
    Might actually be a good idea if symbols were discouraged. After all neutral language is a rule of the Uni.
    Rather like the character from Little Britain …the university secretary who phones a lecturer and describes students sitting in front of her in politically correct ways….its hard to describe a student without saying “the big ginger haired lad with the Fermanagh top” or “the wee girl from Ballymena with the Jim Allister tattoo” (actually I made one of these up).

    Student Democracy is of course NOT just about the Union. Its also about the joint committees of staff and students in the various Schools.
    Inevitably the same student faces.
    Inevitably the same staff faces.

    Some lecturers feel that while being contractually obliged to be AVAILABLE, they will refuse to be APPROACHABLE.

  • union mack

    Norn Iron our wee country football supporters are a pain in the ass at times…

    In the university? How so? As someone who takes an active role in the NISA, I am aware that we are a club who play our recreational soccer at Olympia, compete in a league with teams from all backgrounds off campus, hold our social events almost exclusively off campus and the only club symbol we have is an amalgam of the QUB emblem and the IFA emblem. Now, where is the in your face overtly political nature of this? That, to be honest, is total and utter bullshit. Easy target. We seldom use QUB facilities (it’s too expensive), we don’t use the union to watch games (it’s not worth the aggro), and we have a very low profile on-campus. Show me evidence to back up your assertion.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Oh for crying out loud.
    Well I presume your many friends in the GAA would also agree their symbols and your symbols are not overtly political.
    Fact is you they might as well stick a label on them saying that they are are Irish Nationalists and your friends might as well stick a label on them saying that youre British Unionists.
    I find both to be a pain in the ass.
    And I would encourage that people dont wear these things that indicate their preferences.
    After all I dont see why its deemed inappropriate dress code in a bar or shopping centre. And it is deemed appropriate in a tutorial or lecture hall. Unless of course you confuse a lecture theatre in the PFC with the Spion Kop at Windsor Park.
    You may or may not find it appropriate to attend a lecture delivered by a professor wearing a GAA top….a Rangers top……a Celtic top….a Republic of Ireland top…or indeed a Norn Iron top.
    Indeed if a Professor wore one or all of those tops you might be the first to walk out and stage a wee protest.
    Too much to ask the student body to reciprocate. In your case obviously.
    I am all for you taking your events off campus (good luck with that).
    And yes the QUB facilities are expensive.
    But why on earth are you getting “aggro” at the Union Bar. Could it be that your dress code and/or behaviour is a factor?
    Could it be that you would behave any better to a person with a Republic top.
    If you are intimidated have you reported it?
    Have you consulted the PSNI?

    And God love you for keeping a low profile round Queens. The Meek will surely inherit the Earth. But come off it…..dont play the old soldier….youre not all exactly fearful Christians in an upstairs room in Jerusalem.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    And you and your friends in Norn Iron Supporters and GAA etc are not that subtle round Student Election time.
    A poster with that little IFA symbol or GAA top is just the ticket for a “nudge and wink in the right direction”.

  • union mack

    a) most GAA symbols are not political
    b) just bacuse someone is in an NI top, does not mean they are in the NISA
    c) people are entitled to wear whatever they want, I wouldn’t criticise someone in a GAP hoodie despite that symbol representing child exploitation (in my eyes)
    d) the aggro in the union bar is nothing to do with other students, I am sure the ROI fans will agree that the doorstaff don’t seem to know what the policy is on wearing a football jersey to watch a match (whether it be Man U, Arsenal NI, RoI)
    e) I never mentioned intimidation. I’ve never been intimidated at Queen’s
    f) A low profile is kept not intentionally, it is simply because we exist as a body to attend NI games. I’m not aware that any of these have taken place on campus. Correct me if i’m wrong.
    g) If some political arsewipe decides to put a GAA or IFA badge on an election leaflet, thats for the IFA/GAA to deal with. I’ve never seen a QUBNISA logo on one, and if I did, it would be removed asap.

    There are some arseholes who wear GAA tops and some who wear NI tops, but don’t tar us all with the same brush, because most of us get on with each other, have friends across the divide, and accept our differences

  • FitzjamesHorse

    You havent seen these things at QUB cos you havent been around long enough.
    NO GAA symbol is political…..IN ITSELF.
    NO IFA symbol is poltical……IN ITSELF.

    But youre kidding yourself (which is fair enough) if you think they are not used by MANY as a self labelling exercise, marking out territory like a tom cat spraying its scent.

    You have your take on it. I have mine.

  • union mack

    I think six years of undergraduate and postgraduate study is more than long enough. I admit that some use it as a labelling exercise, but in my experience, it’s a minority. By the same token, does that make it ok for you to imply that everyone who wears some kind of sporting attire as bigoted? I personally would never wear a football shirt (they make you stink), but if people do, let them. Only by a greater level of exposure to each other will the two sides mature

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Three points.
    1..Excellent on six yeras. Its three more than most. And I unreservedly withdraw any insinuation to the contrary. (and indeed hope you have many more years if you choose a career there)
    2..we are agreed on the labelling. My observation is that many more use it as a label than you believe. One of us is right. One of us is wrong. Id point out that football shirts (at football matches) IS a way of identifying with a team (I have been known to wear sporting tops at sporting and other occasions)

    and in the context of Norn Iron wearing them NOT at football matches DOES too often have a more unpleasant resonance that simple respect for a football team.
    That the thread is focussed on the unease that unionist students say they experience at QUB……my concern is that the atmosphere should be pleasant and congenial. The use and often misuse of football tops IS not indicative of a pleasant atmosphere.

    As to the Elections. Well you really should have noticed that in the last three years at least (and in my experience long before that) there have been students who use their sporting affiliation as a subliminal message on election posters.

  • South Belfast Opinion

    Questions for the DUP and Christopher Stalford in particular….

    South Belfast DUP chairman, who has been rattled after a Senior South Belfast Orangeman has spoken out against the use and abuse of the Orange Order, said that he had no role in the letter and then he praised the four Sany Row men for putting their name to it! No role in the letter, Christopher???


    Now have a look at Stalford’s DUP video on you tube. Who is in the middle of it? Ask yourself do you think the ordinary Sandy Row men are behind the open letter? contacting Mark Devenport? contacting the Newsletter? Or do you think it may have been someone else in the video?

    The DUP have been found out!

  • Henry94


    Since power sharing is derigeur (entirely appropriately in my view) in Northern Ireland politics maybe some form of power and responsibility sharing of the Students’ Union should be considered.

    That’s a good idea.

  • Chris Donnelly


    Why stop there? If unionists want power-sharing at university student’s union level, what’s wrong with power-sharing at local government council level?

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Now that Jonathan Bell has reached the top of the greasy pole by replacing Mrs Robinson in Strangford, I expect the equally ambitious Stalford to replace her hubby in East Belfast when he decides to spend more time with his koi fish in his back garden.
    Yet a win for Spratt in South Belfast might herald Stalfords triumphant march into the Stormont Chamber.

  • slug

    “Yet a win for Spratt in South Belfast might herald Stalfords triumphant march into the Stormont Chamber. ”

    Another reason not to vote Spratt

  • slug

    I think the DUP should tell us who we would get in Stormont if we elect one of their MPs. This applies to several constituencies.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    this of course depends on whether the DUP take Double Jobbing seriously as an issue.
    But MPs and Stormont Ministers can bring in people on their coat-tails in Stormont Elections and this means the role of these “second” MLA figures can be enhanced.
    For example McCausland will be #1 DUP man in NB which will make him less vulnerable….Newton in EB.
    Strangford is interesting with Shannon, McIlveen, Hamilton and Bell. I dont think they will hold the seat at Westminster Yet Id be surprised if they held four seats after the next Stormont. Even three looks a difficult thing with a likely nationalist gain.
    Shannon retiring is an option. But Hamilton and McIlveen must be a bit wary of publicity seeker Bell.

  • slug


    I have not been impressed by the quality of Bell’s orations whatsoever. I think it likely DUP will lose 2 MLAs there – one each to TUV and UUP in Strangford.

    Regarding double jobbbing, DUP politicians are recently publicly pledged to resign with immediate effect if (re-)elected as MP, with the one exception of Robinson.

    So assuming they get elected everywhere bar SA Strangford and Upper Bann, then that’s a lot of new MLAs.

    Who they will be makes a big difference in Stormont so the people should surely know who is to be nominated for Stormont. I am surprised TUV and UUP are not asking the question.

  • slug

    Vote Spratt as MP get Stalford as MLA.
    Vote Paisley as MP get Maurice Mills as MLA.

    Generally: Vote X as MP get Y as an MLA you didin’t vote for.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    well in fairness nobody voted for mcdevitt of sdlp.
    I am not so sure about Upper Bann btw. I am not writing Simpson off yet as “Flash Harry” is unimpressive, no declared TUV person yet and Simpsons hardline credentials (TUV people think he might jump DUP ship and they need the boost that a sitting MP would give them).
    New “unelected” MLAs from South Belfast, North Belfast, East Antrim, East Derry, North Antrim, Upper Bann……certainly it gives them a year to make an impression before the next election.

    Jonathan Bell…well Im equally unimpressed but the point is …..Bell impresses himself and has been doing so for years.

    Way too early to predict anything about Strangford next year except that Iris bringing three MLAs with her wont be repeated.
    Theres a nationalist quota there and Claire Hanna has a chance of name recognition for next year. Better option than Joe Boyle and Dan McCarthy. But in nationalist terms they may need to run two candidates as the “mainland” voters and “peninsula” voters have no real connexion.

    Theres two safe DUP, one safe UUP ………two other quotas(SDLP/AP or SF/AP) and the seventh seat UUP/TUV.
    But way too early.