Northern Ireland news

Queen's University's boss sorry for Irish signs remarks

The acting Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast has apologised amid an Irish language row

QUEEN'S University's acting Vice-Chancellor has apologised amid a row over Irish language signs being placed on campus.

Irish language society An Cumann Gaelach QUB had hit out after receiving a letter from Professor James McElnay which appeared to suggest putting up bilingual signs would contravene the university's diversity and equality policy.

Prof McElnay clarified his remarks yesterday.

"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.

Prof McElnay said the university was committed 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," he said.

"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."

The acting Vice-Chancellor's initial letter to An Cumann Gaelach had said the university "seeks to create and sustain a neutral working environment".

He referred to its equality and diversity policy and stated commitment to provide "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".

An Cumann Gaelach said the initial letter had "greatly angered" their members.

"It is clear that the university authorities are of the opinion that Irish is 'provocative, offensive, intimidatory'," they said.

Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald, who met university management yesterday along with Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile, welcomed the apology.

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

"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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