End of an era for Queen's University Students' Union

Queen's University Student Union back in the 1960s
Queen's University Student Union back in the 1960s

IT was the end of an era for Queen's Student's Union (SU) in Belfast last night as it prepares to close its doors after 50 years to make way for a new state-of-the-art building.

Ahead of its planned closure this August, former SU presidents and students came together with current staff and officers for a special exhibition chronicling its history to officially say farewell to the University Road building.

Facing Lanyon Hall, the students' union will close in mid August to make way for a new purpose-built student centre and students’ union scheduled to open in 2021 to cater for the university’s 24,000 students.

The site will be demolished to make way for fresh construction next year.

Alternative venues for the student body’s activities and services have been organised for the next three years during the build.

Live music venue Mandela Hall - which saw U2 play there twice in the band’s early days - is the main casualty of the closure.

However, the union’s director Ciaran Higgins promised that come September, it will be business as usual for the new freshers and returning students.

"The construction of the student centre will commence in 2018-19 and will therefore require the students’ union to move temporarily to new premises in the summer of 2018, until September 2021," he said.

"During this period, the students’ union and the university are committed to ensuring that the temporary accommodation maintains and enhances the student experience.

"To facilitate this, a full range of students’ union services will continue to be delivered from premises on Elmwood Avenue (just behind the current union) including the SU Shop, our student officer team, our advice and developmental services such as a hub for clubs and societies, enterprise and student volunteering."

The famous Speakeasy bar and the campus’s student entertainment provision will move to premises at 92-96 Lisburn Road.

The plan to rebuild the union was announced last June jointly by the university and the SU.

Belfast SDLP councillor Tim Attwood, who was SU president in 1986/87, spoke of how the Student’s Union and Mandela Hall was the centre of the city’s social life for young people over the years.

"Mandela Hall and The Speakeasy was the safe place to go for thousands of people in Belfast when people are afraid to go into the city centre," he said.

"And let’s not forget how important the debating society was to student activism over the years."