Northern Ireland news

Irish government's concerns about QUB's fair employment record

Former Tánaiste Dick Spring. File picture by Haydn West

THE Irish government expressed concerns to the British Ambassador in 1994 over Queen's University Belfast’s fair employment record and feared it was trying to "embroil" president Mary Robinson in the controversy.

The university had been accused of discriminating against Catholics following several high-profile fair employment cases in the early 1990s.

In a note to the British Foreign Office, dated June 14, 1994, David Blatherwick, British Ambassador to Dublin, referred to a proposal from Queen's Vice-Chancellor Sir Gordon Beveridge for a celebration of the Queen’s Colleges established in Belfast, Cork and Galway in 1849.

The ambassador replied that the British government was in favour and that an approach had been made to President Mary Robinson to join Queen Elizabeth on the occasion.

Frank Murray at the Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs was asked what President Robinson's response was likely to be.

Mr Murray initially said that this was "exactly the kind of thing the President favoured".

However, he later telephoned Mr Blatherwick to say that Mrs Robinson had been approached by QUB offering to give her an honorary degree in 1995.

He told Mr Blatherwick Irish officials "were a little nervous of QUB’s fair employment record and were waiting for the report due in July before deciding how to respond".

In a final note, the ambassador added: "The Irish may suspect that QUB are trying to embroil the President through us."

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