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Probe due on Hebdo conference risks

Published 23/04/2015

Queen's University in Belfast had been to hold a conference on the Charlie Hebdo massacre
Queen's University in Belfast had been to hold a conference on the Charlie Hebdo massacre

A university in Northern Ireland criticised for cancelling a conference on the Charlie Hebdo murders is to carry out a risk assessment to see whether it could go ahead.

Queen's University in Belfast had been due to host a symposium in June on the fallout from the massacre at the satirical magazine in Paris and its implications for free speech.

But delegates and speakers were told earlier this week that the event had been cancelled.

They claimed they were informed the university's authorities axed the event over concerns about security and Queen's reputation.

While Queen's initially remained silent on the reasons for cancellation, last night a spokeswoman said it was because a risk assessment had not been completed. She insisted the issue was not related to "academic freedom".

Tonight Queen's issued a further statement indicating a risk assessment would now be carried out.

It said: "Building on the statement from Queen's University yesterday and contrary to widespread comment, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston, wishes to reiterate his commitment to academic freedom saying: 'Queen's is, and will remain, a place where difficult issues can be discussed'.

"In line with due process, the university has commissioned a full risk assessment to be completed. The report of this assessment is expected to be completed by Friday 1 May 2015. The report will then inform the university's decision."

Twelve people were killed when brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi opened fire at the Paris magazine's offices in January.

Five others died in the city in related attacks over the following two days.

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