Northern Ireland news

QUB Orange Order students slam Irish language residency scheme plans as 'cultural apartheid'

Queen's University Belfast's Student Orange Society has criticised plans by the uni's Irish language society for a scheme to house Gaeilgeoirí together in halls of residence.
Paul Ainsworth

PLANS by Queen's University Belfast to house Irish language speaking students together have been criticised as encouraging "division".

The campus' Orange Order members have also claimed that the move could lead to the isolation of unionists.

The Student Orange Society and its student and alumni lodge have issued a joint statement attacking a recently announced proposal to create an Irish language residency scheme.

Modelled on similar schemes at universities in the Republic, along with Scottish and Welsh campuses, the scheme would see Gaeilgeoirí housed together at halls of residence.

Revealed exclusively in The Irish News last weekend, the scheme has been proposed by Queen's Irish language society An Cumann Gaelach.

"We will continue to work with the university to ensure the scheme is in place by September 2022, for a new generation of Irish speaking students at QUB," a spokesperson for the society said.

However, the statement from the Student Orange Order society said the scheme would "serve only the principle of segregation, and create de facto 'no-go' areas for Protestant and unionist students in what is and should be a shared space".

Earlier this month, former DUP education minister Peter Weir said recent reports on the lower number of staff from a unionist/Protestant background at the university was a "cause for concern".

The new joint Orange statement on the Irish language scheme added: "The university and halls experience is, for many young people in Northern Ireland, the first opportunity to learn about and appreciate the varying cultures on this island as well as those from around the world. Much of the progress which has been made in our province over the last two decades has stemmed from an acceptance that we must be able to peacefully co-exist and the implementation of effective 'cultural apartheid' is antithetical to this cause."

The Worshipful Master of Queen’s LOL 1845, Joshua Patterson, added: "Our universities should be a shared space and have an opportunity to drive progress by promoting understanding between students of different political and religious backgrounds in our country. This policy flies in the face of that and encourages division, further isolating those from a unionist background in university life and wider society."

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