Queen's Irish language campaigners propose scheme to house Gaeilgeoirí together in halls of residence
IRISH language campaigners at Queen’s University have proposed a scheme that would see Gaeilgeoirí grouped together in halls of residence.
In a move that would mirror similar arrangements that exist at Trinity College Dublin, Galway City University and other higher education establishments in the south, the university is being urged to allow a small number of students to share Irish-speaking dorms in Queen's-run accommodation.
Similar schemes exist in Welsh and Scottish universities.
A report into the proposal launched last night says the initiative would be "cost-neutral".
Queen's has dismissed claims that the scheme, which is supported by Sinn Féin, SDLP and Alliance, has already been rejected.
It said plans were in place to meet An Cumann Gaelach, the university’s Irish-language student society, to discuss "various issues around cultural and linguistic diversity at Queen’s".
The university said it was "committed to promoting awareness of and respect for a wide range of cultural communities and languages".
"We will continue to engage with language and diversity groups to ensure that their voice is being heard and remain committed to maintaining positive relationships," a statement said.
Sinn Féin's Aisling Reilly said research had shown that students and staff wanted "greater promotion of the language on campus and that must be acknowledged and acted upon".
"Gaeilgeoirí deserve better than the status quo – by implementing these proposals Queen’s has the opportunity to become a leader in terms of equality," she said.
SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole said the residential scheme would "create a space for like minded students to live and socialise".
"Queen's has committed itself to promoting Irish and other languages and we all must do what we can to encourage the number of Irish speakers to grow and allow the language to thrive," he said.
Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw pointed to similar schemes elsewhere and said it was "important students are given further opportunities to expand this linguistic skill through this type of immersion".
"We need to cherish minority languages and protect this part of shared cultural heritage," she said.