Belfast Telegraph

Young Unionists against bilingual signs at Queen's University

By David Young

The youth wing of the Ulster Unionists has told Queen's University that Irish language signs on the Belfast campus would make the institution a "cold house" for Protestants.

The 100-strong student group has written to acting Vice Chancellor Professor James McElnay to voice their concerns.

In their letter, the Young Unionists say they remain committed to equality and diversity at Queen's, but oppose Irish language signs because they claim such signs would "infringe on both these values".

"We want to ensure that Queen's remains as a safe and welcoming place for all people, regardless of their background," the letter states. "The imposition of dual signage threatens to make the university into a cold house for students of the Protestant community."

The reference echoes former UUP leader David Trimble when he acknowledged in his 1998 Nobel acceptance speech that his party had helped build a "cold house" for Catholics in Northern Ireland.

The row at Queen's was sparked after Irish language activists demanded bilingual signs on campus. But in a letter sent by Mr McElnay to Irish language activists in An Cumann Gaelach, the senior academic said Queen's was "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".

The response infuriated Irish language activists, and Mr McElnay apologised.

However, the Young Unionists backed his stance, urging Mr McElnay to "keep Queen's as a neutral environment, so that it may continue to enjoy the excellent academic achievements and community relations it has been gifted with for many years".

"Please do not turn this university into one that values one community over another."

Queen's could not be reached for a response yesterday.

Belfast Telegraph

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