Students' Union In The 1960's?!
The Queen's University
of Belfast and its Students' Union have not always been synomonous with
Liberalism. However, that is not to say that Liberal values have never
been present here. From around 1957 to 1979 there was a Liberal Association
here (albeit just in name) and in 1965 Sheelagh Murnaghan was elected to
the old Stormont Parliament from the Queen's University constituency under
the banner of the Ulster Liberal Party, serving there until 1969.
News reports from around that time mention the QUB Liberal Society criticising
the then Stormont Primeminister James Craig over his decision to ban a
civil rights march from the University to the City Hall. They also believed
that the terrible events of Bloody Sunday would never have happened had
the march there been permitted to go ahead peacefully. Further news stories
tell how our predecessors called for British values to be applied in Northern
Ireland in the protection of civil rights of Catholics - as the denial
of these rights on religious grounds would never be tolerated anywhere
else in the United Kingdom. And interestingly the Unionists at the time
called the Liberals a part of "the greatest mixture of discontent and trouble-makers
possible" - something which could still apply today!
The early 70's saw
the quick demise of Liberalism all over the province not least at Queen's.
The Liberal Democrats set up a student association here in the past as
well but the society has become defunct for various reasons. The Alliance
Party has a branch here which has been dormant for a few years. There are
plans to revitalise it, and we will certainly be glad to have the opportunity
to work alongside like-minded individuals in the Students' Union.
Society: A Realistic Possibility?
It would appear
that there has been alot going against the formation of a new Liberal society.
Most students at Queen's nowadays have been accused of being apathetic
to politics, and only appear to express mild interest on matters which
incite them to support their Unionist/Republican upbringing. However, the
current political climate in Northern Ireland is one of progress and a
willingness to compromise - the perfect setting for a revival of pro-liberal
attitudes. Whilst we found it difficult to initially gain interest in the
Society, this year has proven that there are many liberally-minded individuals
Of The Society
There is a serious
void in the politics of Northern Ireland, and therefore at Queen's, in
that there are no truly Liberal political organisations pressing for a
Liberal future. Brian Lacey and Tadhg Morgan realised this and decided
to work together to promote peace, tolerance, individualism and constructive
reform throughout the student body. Whilst the idea for the society had
been in existance since May 1998, it wasn't until November that year that
things actually got off the ground and a proper constitution was written
with a list of aims and objectives.
At the February
1999 Council meeting the Liberal Society was on the agenda to be recognised
but was postponed by the unofficial majority faction because Sinn Fein
Cumann and the Progressive Unionist Association were also seeking recognition.
It wasn't until April 1999 that the Society was officially recognised as
a true Queen's students' society. The inaugural (and Annual Business) meeting
was held on the 20th May, at which the first Officers and policies were
The Society has
from 1999 - 2002:
8 representatives on
Student Council and 1 representative on the Student Executive;
pushed for, and participated
in, Constitutional Reform of the Union;
taken an active role
in the Anti-Fees demonstration;
supported the democratic
right of the PUP and Sinn Fein to have recognised student societies at
sought greater information
flow from the Executive Committee to the student body and vice versa;
demanded more student
representation on the University Senate;
been directly involved
in the promotion of student involvement in the voluntary sector.