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Queens warned against pursuing anti-Irish agenda

25 August, 2004

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, West Belfast MLA Michael Ferguson has warned the Queens University hierarchy against pursuing an anti-Irish agenda after it emerged that the Student and Learning pro-Chancellor Ken Bell is attempting to block the unanimous decision Students Union Executive to publish its' Student Handbook in English and Irish.

Mr Ferguson said:

"The Executive of the Students Union is entirely within its rights to publish its' annual students handbook in English and Irish. I am deeply concerned that it now appears that senior members of the Queens establishment, including the student and learning pro-chancellor Ken Bell are attempting to block the unanimous decision of the Executive. This move has clear implications for the relationship and independence of the Students Union Executive.

"I would warn, in the strongest terms, Queens against pursuing an anti-Irish agenda. Increasing anti-Irish bigotry is rearing its ugly head within our society; throughout the Six Counties there is almost daily evidence of sectarian attacks on nationalists coming from the unionist community. It is an agenda being pursued by some of the most intolerant elements within our society and Queens if it continues with its current approach to this bilingual handbook will not only be guilty of caving into an anti-Irish sentiment will also stand accused of fostering sectarianism.

"The Agreement and international and EU convention that have precedence make it clear that there is a duty on Queens to promote the use of Irish language. The agreement makes explicit commitment to remove barriers to the use of Irish.

"Given the huge growth in Irish medium education and the resurgence in the use of Irish there is clearly a duty on Queens to meet the needs of the growing numbers of Irish language speakers studying at Queens." ENDS

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