Where was the academic outcry when QUB's Peter Doran refused to condemn murder of Edgar Graham?
Republican and leftist over-representation to blame for silence, says Nelson McCausland
Nowadays, I often listen to BBC Radio 4 in the morning (sorry, Stephen Nolan). I find it very informative and recently I came across discussion about a report that had been published by the Adam Smith Institute.
It was entitled Lackademia: Why do Academics Lean Left? and it concluded that “evidence suggests the over-representation of left-liberal views (in our universities) may have increased since the 1960s”.
The research had shown that most university academics were on the left of the political spectrum, which includes everything from the Labour Party to the Green Party, as well as communists and Trotskyists.
Those on the right of the spectrum, mainly the Conservative Party, or Ukip, are in a very small minority.
Some people from the liberal left may argue that this is because their views are more intelligent.
However, that explanation does not stand up to scrutiny.
The report also noted that people with the highest IQ were fairly evenly divided between right and left.
That liberal left dominance within universities is something that deserves careful consideration. Why does it happen? How does it happen? Should we be concerned about it?
Universities are powerful institutions in shaping society and there is undoubtedly an issue around their commitment to equality, or lack of it.
The academic imbalance should also be noted by broadcasters, who often go to universities for ‘independent experts’ who can comment on political, cultural and historical matters.
Does that not unconsciously produce imbalances in terms of ‘expert contributors’?
Those are just two implications of the imbalance, but they are sufficient to make it clear that there is an issue to be looked at.
That is true in Great Britain and, I would suggest, in Northern Ireland.
Indeed, here there is the added dimension of Irish republicanism and its alignment with the left.
This helps to explain the case of Dr Peter Doran, who is a lecturer in the School of Law at Queen’s University, Belfast.
His university website page lists one of his interests as Amnesty International, but omits any reference to his former association with the Green Party and his more recent role within Sinn Fein.
The Queen’s lecturer even stood as a Sinn Fein candidate in the recent Assembly election.
The fact that he is in the School of Law led to him being asked about the murder of Edgar Graham, who was also a lecturer in the School of Law and was killed by an IRA gunman in 1983 in the grounds of the university.
We might have hoped that Peter Doran would have been able to condemn the murder of Edgar Graham, but when it came to a straightforward condemnation of the IRA killing, he declined.
The Sinn Fein member spoke of his “profound sorrow”, but that was as far as he would go. Yet there was no academic outcry.
I suspect that he is the first senior university figure to stand as a Sinn Fein candidate, but he is not the first to work closely with Irish republicans.
Denis O’Hearn was Professor of Economic Change at Queen’s from 2003 to 2008.
An American of part-Irish descent, he came to Belfast, sent his children to an Irish-medium primary school named in honour of IRA terrorist Bobby Sands and wrote a biography of Bobby Sands.
He also wrote a children’s biography of Sands and this was translated into Irish for use in Irish-medium schools.
This willingness to work closely with mainstream Irish republicans is not unique to Queen’s. When Sinn Fein negotiated a capital fund of £8m for Irish language centres, they created an investment fund named An Ciste Infheistiochta Gaeilge.
The directors include several senior members of Sinn Fein, but also Professor Emerita Margaret Dolores O’Reilly and university lecturer Laurence McCurry, both from Ulster University.
I have highlighted an issue and its implications.
Now it is over to the universities and others to identify the causes and see how they can be addressed.