“…there is no debate because there can be no debate”

Charlie HebdoThis from Belfast emigre Robert McLiam Wilson, via Henry McDonald:

“I am feeling a touch of shame today. Cancelling such an event in the face of putative menace in a city that endured a 30-year torture of self-immolation seems worse than pusillanimous. Belfast? Seriously? This is not the city I remember. This cancellation says, with trumpeting clarity, that there is no debate because there can be no debate. There is a big boat that can’t be rocked.”

He added: “Charlie Hebdo is ‘anti’ plenty of things. But it is not anti-Arab or anti-Israeli or anti-immigrant. No one gets more grief than Front National leader Marine Le Pen and loopy rightwinger Nicolas Sarkozy. If you speak French, it’s pretty hard to deny what Charlie really is. It is, monotonously, rigorously and sometimes unamusingly anti-arsehole. I am beyond proud to write for Charlie. And not, today, so proud of the city of my birth.”

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  • Ulick

    Queen’s is all about the money and far be it for anyone to put any research funding at risk.

  • The University system -both in UK & ROI – has been filleted by the managerial and commercial classes, masquerading as ‘Vice President’ for this and ‘Registrar ‘ for that. Any concept of success is predicated on fees generation and university league table status. Having said that….in this particular instance QUB have proved themselves to be beneath contempt. The proud radical dissenter tradition of my home town lies in tatters at their lick-spittle feet.

  • chrisjones2

    A shameful decision by an organisation that has lost its way and bowed to the possibility of intimidation as opposed – so far as we can tell – to any specific threat

  • Dan

    Safe in their ivory towers….

  • According to the BBC report

    The conference had been scheduled for the Belfast university in June.

    Vice chancellor Patrick Johnston had said he cancelled due to the security risk and concerns for QUB’s reputation.

    Earlier, two academics who had been booked to speak said it was ironic that an event about free speech should be called off in this way.

    Self-censorship was one of the themes of the conference.

    In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Queen’s University said: “As part of managing the health and safety of the institution, it is a requirement for all major events to have a full risk assessment completed prior to them going ahead on the campus.

    “Unfortunately the proposed symposium organised by the Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities did not have a completed risk assessment and, as a result, the institute has cancelled the event.

    “This issue is not related to academic freedom and Queen’s continues to uphold the importance of academic freedom in a world-class institution and has demonstrated this over many years.”

    Hmmm… There would seem to have been plenty of time [June] for any necessary ‘risk assessment’ to have been completed before cancelling the event.

    And the vice-chancellor was quoted as referencing a ‘security risk’, not an absence of an risk assessment…

  • Ernekid

    Both students and staff are confused and angry about this decision. QUBSU is writing to VC Professor Johnston asking why he made this decision. Its especially confusing as the QUB School of Law is holding a similar seminar regarding Charlie Hebdo and that hasn’t been effected.

  • And that statement from Queen’s University doesn’t tally with the email from the Institute quoted in the Guardian report

    The institute claimed that the university’s vice-chancellor, Patrick Johnston, said he had cancelled because of the security risk and concerns for QUB’s reputation.

    An email circulated from the institute earlier this week said: “The vice-chancellor at Queen’s University Belfast has made the decision just this morning that he does not wish our symposium to go ahead. [added emphasis]

    “He is concerned about the security risk for delegates and about the reputation of the university.”

  • Janos Bingham

    The ‘issue’ is not Charlie Hebdo. The issue is free speech.

    The same free speech that allows us all in this part of the world to be aware about the crisis in the Mediterranean, and those in sub Saharan Africa and in other places.

    The same free speech that allows us to discuss those issues without fear of being constrained in some manner, either benevolently or malevolently.

  • Janos Bingham

    “Ah” the disdain. The same disdain that those with full bellies often show towards the diet choices of others.

    … and the alleged ‘abuse’ of free speech, or the limits on exercising free speech that a civilised multiracial society may wish to consider might have been explored during the (cancelled) conference.

  • Practically_Family

    I believe that anyone who critises an invididual or organisation for cancelling events, publications or whatever the case may be which have a demonstrated history of attracting a violent reaction should accompany their explanation of why they find the cancellation objectionable with a photo of themselves, perhaps along with their family and a listing of their address, telephone number and perhaps place of business.

    It puts them on about par with those associated with the event/publication/whatever and, perhaps more importantly with the lady who cleans the bog in the venue/publication office… Whatever.

    There is perhaps a degree of kudos in making a stand for something you believe in. But really, hang the “Je suis….” Banner over your own door first.

  • Gopher

    Queens its seems are flat track bullies. The student body are a bit limp the way they rolled over on this. Hopefully America, Israel, Catholic Church, a Bakery,UKIP, HMG, the border, the Tories or some micro seperatist movement in general will give the institution a chance to feel like activists again soon. Pretty poor show all round.

    I must admit i did study the memorial to the fallen of the World Wars at Queens in passing today

    “‘Cast a cold Eye On Life, on Death. Horseman, pass by”

  • aquifer

    The marketplace for ideas has been taken over by con-men and murderers.

    Often the same people, murder settles many arguments in favour of those whom truth would destroy.

  • I hope at some point QUB explain the “reputation” comment. It seems key to understanding the pressures three university faces.

    Queen’s decision to cancel this conference – and the manner in which they have communicated it – suggests that the Russell Group institution is more commercially-minded than staying true to its roots as a place for discussion and challenge in the public square.

    QUB has outposts internationally and perhaps fears for the security of staff and students. However, QUB’s reference to “reputation” in their cancellation implies a worry about their ability to attract funding from overseas investors, particularly international students who pay premium fees.

    We need our universities to stand up for learning, reflection and free speech, rather than being bound up by bursars and budgets.

  • New Yorker

    By not deciding on the security issue before the conference was announced Queens has lowered its reputation. A better explanation from Queens is warranted.

  • kalista63

    It’s ‘anti-arsehole’, is it? Sorry but portraying black people, on serveral occasions, as monkeys is very, very much arsehole behaviour.

  • Wrong. Sad that this is received wisdom in some quarters. Who sold you this lemon?

    “the cartoon depicting France’s black Justice minister Christiane Taubira
    as a monkey was actually lampooning the blatant racism of a far right
    wing paper’s front cover and thus exposing the thinly veiled racism of
    that publication (note that Taubira sued the paper Charlie Hebdo
    were parodying, and not Charlie Hebdo). By depicting the world through
    the lens of the extreme right’s gaze they were attacking the racists,
    not the race.”

  • MainlandUlsterman

    there is a lot going on about them at the moment though John – big EU meetings about it. Though too little too late.

    Decision to remove Italian Mare Nostrum patrols without adequate replacement service has cost many lives – all in the name of looking tough on immigration and saving money. A disgrace.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Queen’s has shamed Belfast on this occasions. We have a shameful record of producing terrorists but also a proud record of standing up to them and carrying on normal life in the face of their bullying, threats and murders. How ironic we now seem too scared of terrorists to hold a conference.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It is sickening – deeply cynical politics. If the Conservatives ever had a soul, they don’t now. The sooner they shuffle off to the margins of British politics where they belong, the better. Shower of b******s.