2/23/2008

Political Protocol is a denial of freedom

University of Ulster has in place what it calls a 'political protocol'; in effect it bars political parties from organising openly and freely in the Universities campus.



To date, all political parties organised in the University of Ulster have faced the brunt of the 'political protocol'.

Elected representatives are banned from attending Fresher's and where threatened to be forcibly removed by UU staff at Magee's recent Fresher's and the Ógra Shinn Féin Cumann at Jordanstown were also recently refused the right to set up a stall to promote the pressing issue of drug and alcohol awareness.

Ógra Shinn Féin are set to step up the campaign to overturn the 'protocol', and are asking other political organisations, college societies, the student body and general public to support the campaign and oppose the Universities blatant censorship and disregard for freedom of speech.

Urging people to sign the online petition, University of Ulster student and Councillor Johnny McGibbon said,

"I am calling on those who support freedom of speech and political expression to sign this petition which opposes the University of Ulster's 'political protocol.'

"As citizens in the North of Ireland move forward to a shared future, a future of mutual respect for diversity, and nurtured through discussion, the University of Ulster is stuck in a time warp."

"The University of Ulster is stating through this 'protocol' that politics is contentious, that debate and respect for diversity is wrong. This crazy decision instead of helping us fight the disgusting acts of sectarianism and racism in modern society, actually fosters the ignorance that creates these evils."


Free Speech

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" ~Voltaire

The statement above is the essence of any civilised democracy, it appears the University of Ulster still has not reached that standard.

As a former Chair of the Sinn Féin Cumann in QUB I know only too well the struggle that our comrades in UU faced in relation to the denial of their basic freedoms of speech and assembly.

I loved my University days; I made many life long friends, had a great time and completed my law degree. My involvement in the Sinn Féin Cumann, or "Save the Puppies" as some of my non-political friends called it, was central to that enjoyment of University life.

A lot of the people that I socialised with at University were either members of the Cumann or those associated with it. Many a drunken night was had in the Bot, Union, Renshaws and the Hatfield with QUB Republican's.

Most of my time in Student Politics, as opposed to Republican politics while in Uni, was devoted to annoying the DUP, such an excitable bunch that they were.

The one thing that I am proud about though during my time in student politics was that I helped the LGBT society and the Young Ulster Unionist Society become recognised in QUB.

When the LGBT society came up for recognition at a SRC meeting many of the DUP members present gave us the age old rendition of "Save Ulster from Sodomy".

I remember many of us addressing the floor in support of this group. None of us were gay but we all believed that everyone was entitled to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

The same was true of the Young Ulster Unionists. In fact it was because of Republicans that that society now has recognition at QUB. Myself and most of the QUB Cumann signed their petition for 25 student names, a requirement of recognition, and we all signed it as Sinn Féin members.

The DUP at QUB had tried to block this recognition for some time, the result of which was that they had to pay for a stall at Fresher's, couldn't book rooms like other societies etc.

It was Republicans who voted for their recognition at an SRC meeting.

If I was a student at UU I would be making a complaint to the Human Rights Commission as the Commission now has the power to take cases in its own right. I would also be contacting my solicitor and asking him to start proceedings against the University in light of their infringements of Section 75.

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