Belfast Telegraph

Queen's University apologise after Irish language sign criticism

The Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University has apologised following a row over Irish language signs being placed around the university campus.

In a statement, Professor James C McElnay said he "would like to apologise unreservedly for any offence caused".

An Cumann Gaelach QUB, an Irish language society at the university, expressed anger after receiving a letter from the Vice-Chancellor which said erecting bilingual signs on campus would contravene its equality and diversity policy.

Professor McElnay said he had "received many request for clarification of the university’s position on the Irish language following my recent communication with An Cumann Gaelach QUB" after a request from the society for a discussion of the rights of Irish speakers at the university.

"I understand that my response to this communication has caused concern around the university’s position on the Irish language and I would like to apologise unreservedly for any offence caused," he said.

"I would also take this opportunity to reinforce the university’s commitment to the Irish Language. This is evidenced by our broad range of research and courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate level that involve the teaching of the language.

"The university has always supported An Cumann Gaelach QUB, one of the oldest societies at the University, and has a range of initiatives that respect, support and promote the Irish language.

"These include a series of events that take place during Seachtain Na Gaeilge and An Ciorcal Comhra, which gives staff who wish to speak and practise their Irish an opportunity to get together on a monthly basis.

"We continue to be in constructive and widespread dialogue, including discussions with An Cumann Gaelach QUB, students, staff, political parties and others."

The controversy was sparked by a letter sent to An Cumann Gaelach by Professor McElnay responding to the proposed bilingual signs on campus.

In it, he said the university "seeks to create and sustain a neutral working environment" and referred to Section 3.1 of the its equality and diversity policy, which states the university is committed to "providing a good and harmonious environment free from flags, emblems, posters, graffiti or other materials or actions or language likely to be provocative, offensive or intimidatory".

Sinn Fein MLA Caoimhe Archibald has welcomed the apology from Queen's University.

"Following the meeting myself and Seanadoir Niall O Donnghaile had with Queen's University management this morning, Sinn Fein welcome the apology which has been issued by the Vice Chancellor," she said.

"We also welcome the commitment to engage with An Cumann Gaelach and others on the issue.

"It is important to address the visibility of Irish language and we will continue to be in constructive dialogue with Queen's University and the Irish language sector on how to achieve this."

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