Queens Students Union vote strongly for neutrality and narrowly against United Ireland

Talking to a friend early who said every road unionism takes leads back inevitably to the liberal outlook of O’Neill on an inclusive society, and every road a nationalist takes leads back to an accommodation with their neighbours. Some proof of that Queens tonight, when a motion to keep the Students Union a neutral venue was endorsed 2,596 to 409.

The Union’s border poll was a lot closer, but was lost 1,285 votes to 1,264 despite a DUP boycott of the poll. Back to the drawing board for some basic question perhaps?

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  • Bryan Magee

    The QUB students showed common sense.

    Many who supported the neutrality option will – I am sure – personally prefer a UI but will wonder what on earth the point is of the Student’s Union having an offiicial position on this matter.

    Why should the Student Union officially take one side or the other – shouldn’t it be a place for all to feel at home in?

  • Dan

    Nice to see rejection of a bid by Sinn Fein to foster sectarian agitation in yet another area of public life in NI.

  • Ha!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Where was the debate we were promised by the QUB republicans ?

  • apollox

    As a Sinn Fein voter I’m embarrassed by the QUB group’s attempt to ‘claim’ the SU. If they wanted a debate, they should’ve organised a debate.

  • Jon Hope

    Some folk I saw talking about it realised the two questions weren’t mutually exclusive and voted yes to both. Going by the numbers the majority of yes voters did likewise.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    I think the SF students by pushing an ill timed referendum on Irish unity – which regrettably this is not remotely on the agenda because of SF’s lack of strategic vision and the incompetence of its leadership and the IRA’s poisoning of the well of potential with its campaign of violence – have also dealt a blow to Irish language visibility
    In QUBSU. A ‘neutral’ environment wrongly excludes Irish for ‘creating a cold house for Protestants’, a very politically biased view in my opinion. A workplace which excludes Irish in such a way actually proves its lack of neutrality

  • carl marks

    it would seem that the students have more sense than “the grown ups” it was daft to try to make the SU take a positon on a UI, Queens should remain neutral!

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Wow. I’m quite heartened by these results.
    Well done for the neutrality vote I say. (Surprised about the UI vote though).
    Interestingly, would these results prove embarrassing for any loyalists of the tinfoil-hat-wearing variety who may be concerned that Queen’s is a simmering pot of republican subversion?

  • “I think the SF students by pushing an ill timed referendum on Irish unity – which regrettably this is not remotely on the agenda because of SF’s lack of strategic vision and the incompetence of its leadership and the IRA’s poisoning of the well of potential with its campaign of violence…”

    To be fair, they’re just following the direction given.

  • So, over a year after Sinn Féin started their campaign of pointless border polls – a great success, apparently – and more than 5 years on from Gerry Adams’ World Tour for Irish Unity

    Economic crises, however severe, will come and go.

    The next generation have given their verdict.

    As I said back in 2009

    The way forward lies not in political grandstanding, or world tours, but in the more delicate, humdrum even, process of civilisation here.

    Bertie Ahern seemed to get that. And Brian Cowen appears to also. Why, apparently, don’t some of our local politicians? Is it simply an aversion to risking their traditionally accrued political capital?

    The other point to note regarding Adams’ latest speech is how it fits, or doesn’t fit, into the conversation Sinn Féin’s Toiréasa Ferris professed to want. Are we expected to endure a continuation of a policy of pretence..

    Sooner or later political reality may intervene – what Adams forgot to say was that political parties come and go, as do politicians. And then what?

    *ahem*

    [Look into my eyes, the eyes, the eyes, not around the eyes.. – Ed]

    http://youtu.be/_aZ2bdnG97A

  • Jag

    I wonder what the result 20 years ago would have been (and what it will be 20 years hence….)

  • Biftergreenthumb

    “Some folk I saw talking about it realised the two questions weren’t mutually exclusive and voted yes to both. Going by the numbers the majority of yes voters did likewise.”

    Maybe I have misunderstood you but I have an issue with both sentences of your post.

    Regarding your first sentence –

    One of the referendum questions was: Should Ireland be a united and independent country? Yes or No.

    The other was: This Students’ Union is a shared space that is inclusive for all students and should therefore have a neutral stance on the constitutional position of Northern Ireland – do you agree with this statement?

    Surely the only way to vote in both and be consistent would be to vote No to the neutrality one? You couldn’t vote yes to neutrality and vote in the other without contradiction.

    Regarding your second sentence

    2,596 votes were cast for neutrality and only 409 against it.

    1,285 votes were cast against a united Ireland and 1,264 were cast for.

    What makes you think anyone who voted yes for a united Ireland also voted yes to neutrality or vice versa? You cant tell just by looking at the figures.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    Indeed Pete. I’m 100% for a United Ireland but I believe it has to be built from the inside out – that the poll would be the very last block to go on top. First we have to get a “Uniting” Ireland process underway which means that unnecessary barriers between north and south have to be tackled – for instance sign posts in both jurisdictions adjacent to the border with miles and kilometers, banking red tape eradicated, insurance red tape, etc. SF has shown no appetite for this, merely going for ‘polls’ which even in republican strong holds like Crossmaglen did not attract huge numbers of voters.

  • Chris Browne

    Correct. They are mutually exclusive in the sense that they both would have become SU policy. If the first were simply an opinion poll, then you could theoretically say that you favour a UI, but that you also believe QUBSU should remain independent on the issue.

  • babyface finlayson

    “Yes I personally am in favour of a United Ireland, but no I don’t think the Students Union needs to take a position on the issue.”
    How is that contradictory?

  • Biftergreenthumb

    Because the if students had have voted in sufficient numbers for a united ireland or against it that would have become the official stance of the SU.
    The neutrality referendum was about whether or not the SU should take a stance at all.
    So unless someone voted no to neutrality they contradicted themselves if they voted in the unity referendum.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    “…would these results prove embarrassing for any loyalists of the tinfoil-hat-wearing variety who may be concerned that Queen’s is a simmering pot of republican subversion?”

    I wondered the same thing. If nationalist wanted to make unionists feel unwelcome at QUBSU they could’ve done so. The results completely challenge the “loyalist-victimhood”/“our culture is under attack” narrative so prevalent amongst fleggers, orangists and DUP types.

    However, regardless of this victory for common sense I doubt the tinfoil hat brigade will feel any less paranoid.

    The Newsletter’s reporting of the neutrality victory just dregs up all the usual “poor unionist students in the QUB cold house” nonsense in an incredibly mean spirited article:

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/a-vote-for-genuine-respect-at-queen-s-university-1-6381954

  • Jon Hope

    Yeah, except the majority of people voting aren’t Slugger wonks. They’re students who logged onto QOL and were prompted to answer two questions.

    Should Ireland be a united and independent country? Yes.
    Should the Union remain neutral on it? Yes

    It’s not rocket science lads.

  • Bryan Magee

    The proposal that the Student Union officially takes a nationalist position hardly does anything to assuage those concerns you describe as “paranoid”; on the contrary proposing a vote on such a policy and surely stirs them up!

  • carl marks

    Just read the Newsletter article and really all i can say is, what can you expect from a pig but a grunt! such a bitter little bit of reporting.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    The QUBSU Sinn Fein lot should never have proposed such a blatantly sectarian and divisive referendum but the results show that QUB is not a cold house for unionists but is a rather an inclusive institution.

    Sinn Fein clearly wanted the SU to become an exclusive institution but clearly the student body, the majority of which are nationalist, rejected this. Hopefully unionists will see that most nationalists aren’t trying make them feel unwelcome. But from the tone of the Newsletter article with its talk of qub as a “cold house for non-nationalist students” and GAA tops “worn with triumphalism” you’d think Sinn Fein won the referendum.

  • Thomas Girvan

    English is a neutral language spoken by everyone at Queens.
    It is best just to leave it at that

  • carl marks

    No they are not mutually exclusive, i know unionists see a conspiracy at every corner but having a political stance and believing that some groups or institutions should remain neutral is a perfectly reasonable stance.
    Unionists have a problem with neutrality and shared space, take the flag protests where the line was “do it our way or else your destroying our culture” failed to understand the concept of compromise.
    but then again its hard to keep a mope going if you admit the other side is being reasonable.

  • carl marks

    so no place for Irish! as i have said elsewhere neutrality for unionists is doing it there way.
    that us make no mistake here if unionists had the choice then queens would be a cold place for nationalists.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    You are right that it is not contradictory to want a united Ireland and to think the QUBSU should stay neutral on the constitutional question.

    But the point of each referenda was to set SU policy. If someone voted in the unity referendum one way or the other they were voting to change the official stance of the SU to either unionism or republicanism. If they also voted for neutrality they contradicted themselves whether they realised that or not. It’s not rocket science.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    I’m not going to argue with you when you claim that unionists have a problem with shared/neutral space in other contexts but when it came to the QUBSU referendum the only party opposed to neutrality was Sinn Fein.

  • Bryan Magee

    I agree with you.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    English may be a neutral language but a publicly funded building/facility which excludes Irish in any way cannot be described as neutral.

  • carl marks

    and they got their answer, most students support neutrality. as i said a good result!

  • carl marks

    can anybody tell me way i am getting links to ads in my posts?

  • carl marks

    sorted it, my bad.

  • babyface finlayson

    Ok I see. The wording of the question does not make that clear.
    What were sufficient numbers? Was it a percentage?
    Maybe just one question would have been less confusing; eg
    Should the SU
    a)take a pro UI stance
    b)take an anti UI stance, or
    c)take a neutral position

  • Bryan Magee

    No, thats not right in my opinion: the actual outcome would be that the SU officially endorses the nationalist view on the constitutional question, and that seems incompatible with the SU being officially neutral in an NI context.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’d certainly be up for a serious debate on partition and constitutional matters. But I doubt many others are.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    The article almost sounded annoyed that the vote didn’t pass. A strange cocktail of triumphalism, gloating and disappointment. if only Northern Ireland could export those qualities…

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Thomas
    If Ulster Irish can’t be given respect and a place in ‘Ulster’ then where can it be respected?
    I argue till I’m blue in the face that SF absolutely tarnish the language’s image but I think that as Queens is in the Irish part of the UK then Irish has a place there.
    It would be a fitting homage to Belfast’s history of Irish Academic achievements of centuries past (e.g. Lord Downshire’s enterprise).

  • NMS

    Tá an ceart agat, Con. Níl aon tuiscint acu ar aontú nó an bhrí atá leis . Tonnbhriseadh agus scrios an t-aon dá ábhar ar intinn ag Sinn Féin

  • Biftergreenthumb

    They needed 10% of the student body to vote for a particular option to make it SU policy. I think (but dont quote me) that any particular policy needs about 2000 votes. That’s why the anti united ireland option even though it won that referendum didnt become policy.
    As there were two referendums there could have been an outcome where by the SU was both neutral and either pro UK or UI at the same time (if there was sufficient voter turn out). 1 referendum with 3 options, as you suggest, would have avoided this potential contradiction.

  • John Gorman

    I think 10% is around 2400 so both votes are only just passed. Which shows justs the extent of political apathy among Northern Irelands youth. I mean they just had to vote online too, it couldnt have been easier. I guess turnouts at future elections are going to contine to drop and fast

  • babyface finlayson

    Thanks for clarifying.
    10% seems low to achieve a policy change. A reflection, I suppose, of the the low numbers expected to vote.

  • Mucker

    The right to a homeland for the loyal Ulster people is not something that can be put up for debate.

  • Mucker

    “Neutrality” is a nonsense position as QUB is a British university on British territory, and receives British funding.

  • carl marks

    really! so your going to tell the rest of us how to think then.
    tell me did you ever hear of this thing called democracy?
    I know loyalists are not too fond of the oul voting thing but your stuck with it mate.

  • Thomas Girvan

    English is the International language.
    We all know that.
    We have enough problems with flags, marches, and all the divisive stuff.
    Queen’s should be trying to make itself a warm house for everybody.
    For goodness sake wise up ,there are more important issues.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    Even if there is a united ireland you would still have a home land. You wouldn’t even have to move house.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    and it is also a University on the island of Ireland and more than 50% of its students come from Irish nationalist backgrounds.
    Neutrality is not a nonsense position. Its the only sensible one unless you huge numbers of potential students to feel that QUB is not the University for them.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    Irish too is an international language, it’s spoken all over the world. However, it’s an indigenous language of Ireland and as such a University should be encouraging its use rather than suppressing it. It’s nowhere on a par with flags and parades and putting it there does it and the cause of pluralism a great disservice.

  • Thomas Girvan

    The problem in Northern Ireland is that people are uncomfortable about things that the other sections of the population feel comfortable with.
    Take for instance, the Union flag, which flew over the City Hall for 100 odd years.
    Now during that time I was not aware that it was even noticed, never mind offensive to a section of the Belfast people.
    Apparently it was.
    The same for the parade past the shops at Ardoyne.
    Apparently the people there are traumatised by a 10 minute walk.
    So people on the other side have become aware of the potential things that they are offended by.
    The “Shrine at the Maze/Long Kesh site”, is an example.
    It was given the boot.
    Similarly naming play parks after terrorists and murals celebrating IRA mass murderers are taken as offensive by the other side.
    The Irish language is a lovely tongue which should be cherished, however, in a divided society where the priorities are point scoring at the lowest sectarian level I am afraid that it will always be seen as a threat by Unionists, particularly when it is used as a war cry by militant Republicans.
    It is all tit for tat stuff.
    That is the reality as I see it.
    Chucky ar la!
    (I can’t speak Irish).

  • WindsorRocker

    Is it not bilingual signs that are excluded? Surely people are free to speak Irish to one another, free to hold Irish language events.

    Bilingual signage/logo policy is undoubtedly nationalist, not neutral. Back in my day, the overwhelming majority of nationalists on the Queen’s SU Council accepted that when they voted to omit bilingual logos from official letters being posted to students living in unionist areas.