Friday, March 31, 2006

An environmentally friendly environment...?

There has been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about Northern Ireland's poor recycling record. In the society we live in today the policy of recycling is essential, with environmental concerns on the increase. How does your Students' Union contribute?

In a statement the Students' Union said that they are "a environmentally conscious organistion and seeks through its work to promote recycling as one of its policies."

They added that: "At present we recycle as much of our paper as possible" and that "this policy is constantly under review and the Students' Union Executive would welcome constructive suggestions as to how to improve and add to its recycling and environmentally friendly policies."

What do you think?

Could more be done?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Questions to your President - QUBRAG

Questions we have asked your President - 3 days later he has not replied. How many days will the students' at Queen's have to wait?

Why has QUBRAG not been running this year?

Has any attempt been made to get it up and running?

Has the post of QUBRAG officer/co-ordinator been advertised?

Has the RAG issue been discussed at the Executive? What comments were made on this issue?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Make Queen's Go Green?

Our online politicos will naturally eyeball this title and either convulse in rage or delight. Nothing to do with all that however. People and Planet are running a campaign to make universities across the UK more environmentally friendly.

As the government reviews its energy policies, the future of the planet is once again rising up into the headlines. People & Planet is calling on all universities to adopt these four proposals:

1. The active, public support of senior university management for a programme of environmental performance improvement. The support of the Vice-Chancellor or Principal is seen as particularly important.

2. Full-time staff dedicated to environmental management — developing objectives, setting priorities, and significant, timebound targets to fulfil them.

3. A comprehensive review to investigate all the environmental impacts of the institution — so that current impacts are measured, potential improvements are identified and performance is monitored.

4. A written, publicly available environmental policy — to provide a formal demonstration of intent regarding environmental performance improvement, and against which to compare practice.

The Higher Education sector, which owns 9% of all office space in the UK, alone spends in excess of £3 billion every year on goods and services and consumes around £200 million worth of energy.

Queen's itself, as one of the main institutions of Belfast, is also likely to be a big consumer in this area and the yearly A3 flourescent poster campaign aims to keep the electricity bills down.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Return of Mr & Miss PTQ

The Gown can exclusively reveal the return of Mr and Miss PTQ. The titles have been awarded to Rachael Stewart and James Leslie.

Rachael is in her first year at Queen's and is reading Sociology and Philosophy, while James is a final year History student.

The first PTQ "cover girl" appeared in 1949 but the title "Miss PTQ" did not emerge until 1956. There has been a Miss PTQ every year since.

During the 1960's and 70's the cover photo's of Miss PTQ were often of scantily clad young women (see example from 1971). With the reassertion of feminism in the late 70's the Miss PTQ photo's became more reserved and, in the interests of gender equality, Mr PTQ joined her in 1987.

PTQ (Pro Tanto Quid) is a magazine produced annually by RAG at Queen's. It was started in 1927, and this year will see its 80th Edition. RAG is currently undergoing a review and has been seemingly absent this year. There is currently no RAG adminstrator, which is a paid sabbatical post normally advertised by the Students' Union. RAG will be operational again next (academic) year but in the mean time Peter Quinn, Deputy President and Graham Barton, Postgraduate Students' Officer have assumed responsibility for the production of PTQ.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

CU Go To Holy Land

Students' from Queen's Christian Union (CU) descended on the Holy Land area yesterday, in an effort to clean up the area for the local residents.

Over the past several years local residents have lobbied the University to take action against students' who were engaging in anti-social behaviour. The University has responded to these pleas in various ways including; the launch of the 'Don't turn into a monster after dark' campaign, the formation of a University committee to deal with student diciplinary matters, the launch of the Community Wardens and most recently the organising of St Patrick's day festivities.

John Martin, Social Action Co-Ordinator of Queen's Christian Union said: "The clean-up is the latest in a range of initiatives within Queen's and the Christian Union to help enhance community relations. Already we have had a fantastic reaction to our Street Reach programme which involves our students working alongside local residents and I'm glad to say today's work has also received a warm welcome. We will continue to work hard to ensure we can live in harmony with our neighbours and to roll out such programmes".

Equipment was supplied by Belfast City Council and the the CU managed to collect over 100 sacks of litter.

David Farrell, Chairman of the Holyland Residents' group said that "any proactive action to change the look of the Holyland area is welcome and appreciated by the community. People who give up their time to tidy up after others deserve all the praise they get, as there appear to be many who feel that showing a responsible attitude to the community that they live in is something that they do not need to be concerned about, perhaps it is because they do not really live there."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

USI Congress 2006

Members of the Students' Union Executive are currently at the Union of Students' in Ireland (USI) Congress, which is taking place at the West County Hotel, Ennis, County Clare. Each University which belongs to the Union, sends a particular number of delegates depending on the amount of students they represent.

Thousands of pounds are paid anually to the National Union of Students' (NUS) and USI in membership fees. Questions have to be asked about the value of such conferences, and some suggest the money could be better spent directly on students at Queen's. Graham Barton, Postgraduate Students' Officer, who is not attending the conference, regards these Unions as irrelevant. "We have to ask what benefit the average student at Queen's really gets from us being part of NUS-USI." he said.

Members of the Executive who attend the conference, will not be required to give a report on proceedings or their contribution on behalf of the students' at Queen's. One controversial motion at this years conference is on whether or not abortion should be legalised in the Republic of Ireland. It is not known how members representing Queen's students voted on this motion.

USI Timetable
USI Motions

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Alliance Make Presence Felt at Queen's

The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland is hoping to make its presence felt at Queen's University by becoming an offical society of the Students' Union.

In a statement the group said that they hoped to offer "a cross-community political debating forum which aims to offer students from all ethnic, religious and political backgrounds an opportunity to express their views on the best way forward for everyone in Northern Ireland as a whole".

At present the Alliance Party has no formal presence at Queen's compared to their main political rivals: the DUP, Sinn Fein, the UUP and the SDLP. In order to secure formal recognition they will be required to submit a constitution along with 15 names of interested students' to the VP for Clubs & Services who will then submit their application to Student Council for recognition. If successful they will join the UUP, who were reinstated as an official society this academic year. Fianna Fail, the governing political party in the Republic of Ireland, hosted an an event at Queen's earlier this year. They too hope to start an official society at Queen's, but how realistic this objective is remains to be seen.

The Alliance Party group hope to become formally recognised at the April meeting of Council, their official title will be, 'Queen's University Alliance Society' (QUAS).

Alliance Party

Monday, March 20, 2006

Northern Ireland Briefing: Good Friday Looms Large

Politics in Northern Ireland may appear to be at a standstill, but below the surface there is frantic activity. Sinn Fein and the DUP have been involved in intensive negoiations with both governments in order to find a way forward. Tony Blair is determined to secure a legacy in Northern Ireland after failure in the middle-east. He has cancelled two visits to the province this year because he feared all the pieces weren't in place for a deal.

The blue-print for a way forward was outlined to President Bush last week during the St Patrick's day festivities. Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern are also due to meet at the European Council, in Brussels, this week.

The governments are determined to find a way forward before Good Friday, even suggesting that they will press ahead without all parties agreeing to their proposals. But it is difficult to see how any plan could work without the consent of Sinn Fein and the DUP.

The SDLP and the UUP have been consulted on the blue-print, but to a lesser extent. Many believe that NIO's long term plan has been to find compromise between the political extremes in Northern Ireland. It is only in acheiving this that political stabilty can be more than a flash-in-the-pan.

Hunger Strike Exhibition stalled

A plan by Sinn Fein at QUB to commemorate the Hunger Strikes was stalled when they failed to get information on the event, in on time. They were required to supply additional information at the request of the SU Executive, this prevented the event receiving consent in time for the anniversary.

It is believed that the group was hoping to hold an exhibition to mark the event when IRA prisoners went on hunger strike in protest against the British government, who had removed special status from paramilitary prisoners in Northern Ireland. A similar exhibition on 'Collusion' was organised by Sinn Fein last year. It took place in the Students' Union and angered many unionist students.

Bobby Sands was the first of ten republican prisoners to die and two weeks ago Denis O'Hearn, a Professor of Sociology at Queen's University, launched a book about Mr Sands at St Mary's College.

New Team at Queen's Radio

Last week Queen's Radio held elections for a new committee at their Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM). Sources within the Students' Union suggest there had been some friction within the student station recently and members were determined to keep the station in the hands of students.

The radio station was started with the help of money from the Queen's Alumni Fund. It has been broadcasting (via computer network) inside the University for several years and is expected to start broadcasting on AM during this academic term.

The new committee:

Station Manager: Darren Craig
Assistant Station Manager: Sarah McCaffery
Chairperson: Aoife Crilly
Secretary: Emma-Rose McGrady
Treasurer: Joseph Todd

Queen's Radio

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

DUA Say No to Education Reforms

The Democratic Unionist Association (DUA) at Queen's University attracted cross-party support last night for a motion opposing government reforms to the Education system.

In proposing the motion, Philip Allister made reference to Northern Ireland’s exemplary record in exam results when compared to other UK regions, "Comprehensive schooling has failed spectacularly in England and Wales, yet the Government are proposing this system for Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has long out-performed other regions in the United Kingdom and once again last year we produced the best A-Level results. A majority of politicians, teachers and parents want academic selection, yet the Government is continuing with their strategy of demolishing a system which is the best in the UK, and one of the best in the world, whilst ironically making provisions for its introduction in England and Wales."

Edward Hanna, who seconded the motion, accused the government of failing children coming from less affluent backgrounds. "Academic selection is the fairest way to ensure that each child gets the education they need and the best criteria on which to base admissions into grammar schools. The government’s proposals benefit those families who can afford to relocate to closer to the best schools, disadvantaging those from poorer backgrounds." he said.

( Information from a press release by the DUA )

New SRC speaker elected

A new speaker was elected to the chair of Student Representive Council (SRC) on Tuesday night. A by-election was called after the previous speaker David Ennis resigned. Succeeding him is John Glenn, a medical student who rose to the challenge unopposed.

In other news: tempers rose over Council motions on suicide, the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) and the proposed controversial government education bill.

For more info, including the text of the various motions and other business go to:

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lucky Dip Council Meeting!

Tonight there will be a Student Council meeting in the Students' Union . In an effort to boost participation, Deputy General Manager, Dominic Doherty, has written to all council members advising them that there will be free refreshments and that those in attendance will also be entered into a prize draw.

The meeting takes place at 6pm in the Snack Bar on the 2nd floor of the Union. If there is not a quorum the meeting cannot take place, and so Mr Doherty is keen to attract as many students as possible.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Gaskin makes one last stand...

Chris Gaskin, who stood for QUBSU VP Education is believed to be interested in standing for the NUS-USI top post.

The NUS-USI Convenor is responsible for representing 'the student movement' in Northern Ireland within UK and in the Republic of Ireland. The current convenor is Damien Kavanagh, a former VP Education from Queen's, himself.

Gaskin fell 184 votes short in defeating fellow Law student Michael Forde in a hotly fought contest for the Education portfolio on Thursday 2nd March.

Gaskin who is well known within Student Union circles was widely considered a favourite to win the post in what was seen as his 'last stand' to re-enter the Students' Union Executive. He previously held the post of SCA officer in the Union executive only to be defeated last year, 2005, by Edward Hanna of the 'Campaign for a Better Union'.


- Article from 'The Gown' online blog:

Saturday, March 11, 2006

University Vows to Tackle Unruly Behaviour

The Gown asked the University what it intended to do with students' who engaged in antisocial behaviour on St Patrick's Day. The University said:

The Festival, runs from 15 – 17 March, and will offer a programme of social, cultural, sporting, entertainment and spiritual events, for both the students and residents of South Belfast.

The first event of its kind in Northern Ireland, the Festival stems from a commitment by both universities to help enhance community relations through a series of positive activities.

Both Universities would encourage students to act responsibly. Disciplinary procedures are in place and any complaints received will be dealt with through these procedures.

The two universities will be sending out an all – student email reminding students about their conduct over the St Patrick's Day period and asking them to work with the Community Safety Wardens to make this an enjoyable and peaceful festival for everyone.

Student Executive Want Re-election!

By Frank Talk

Members of the Student Executive are to complain about the way the sabbatical elections were conducted.

Usually the so-called 'Golden Oldies' are deployed to man the polling stations, located around campus. However, this year the elections must have coincided with something good on Richard & Judy or perhaps a National Trust holiday; certainly 'Golden Oldies' were not to be seen.

Many people would say, so what, who cares, the result might be more accurate without the aid of Vision Express. But certain student sabbatical officers, who I think it is fair to say have too much time on their hands, have decided to complain that 'Golden Oldies' were shelved in favour of part-time students. Despite obviously being burdened with the big issue day and working hard for student welfare, some members of the Executive are allegedly going to make their complaints public. Of course when you think about it, issues such as increased fees, student housing being over-crowded and under-regulated and lecturers going on strike all pale into insignificance when you compare it to the absense of the 'Golden Oldies'. I mean there is always the risk that part-time staff would want to gerrymander the result!

The thing that these Student Executive members have obviously not considered*, is that if the part-time staff 'fiddled' the result, or at least had the ability to do so, then they quite possibly should not have been elected. How different could the result be, if we held another election, just for clarification? The tables could be completely turned and narrow victories could easily become decicive defeats.

Part-time staff were employed because the old folk didn't want to put their chilblains to the test, by sitting in foyers around the University. By demanding that old people count the ballot papers, student executive members could be exposing senior citizens to harm. Old people matter too you know!

I suppose it is logical enough to assume that the personality types who pick a fight over these sorts of non-issues, are also likely to be offended by being told to grow up, grasp perspective and get a life...whoops did I just say that?

* Recent reports suggest this issue may not come up - obviously another election is not something they want to risk.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Northern Ireland Briefing: Cross-border Raid

A large-scaled, cross-border, security operation swung into operation at 4am this morning. The PSNI and the Garda raided several properties, in a joint operation.

The raid is believed to have focused on the family home of top republican and alleged one time IRA Chief of Staff, Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy. Up to 50 PSNI officers were involved, backed up by the British army and two helicopters. The Garda were also backed up by the Irish army.

While the operation is related to organised crime, it is not understood to be linked to the Assets Recovery Agency probe in 250 properties in the Greater Manchester area. Mr Murphy, 62, claims to know nothing about these properties and insists he makes his living exclusively from farming.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Queen's Marks No Smoking Day

Queen's is marking national No Smoking Day by offering free health profiles to all its staff and students.

Aimed to promote a healthier lifestyle, the health profiles will test individual's carbon monoxide readings. The assessors will then explain how much benefit could be derived from giving up smoking. A follow-up test is also on offered to show how much the carbon monoxide reading changes after giving up.

The University has marked No Smoking Day for the last 6 years and has a No Smoking policy in all University buildings.

A charity, oddly enough called No Smoking Day (NSD), organises the national campaign every year. The charity is based in London and is run by 3 full time staff. NSD aims to help people who want to stop smoking by creating a supportive environment for them, and by highlighting the many sources of help available to people who want to quit.

The campaign has been running for 23 years and claims to have helped 1.4 million smokers stop for good.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Queen's Launches St Pat's Festival

Queen's have launched the programme for their St Patricks Day festival, which it hopes will curb anti-social behaviour seen in previous years.

The extensive programme includes comedy, music, sport, art and a spiritual element, often absent from this religious festival. The programme was put together in collaboration with the University of Ulster and has the backing of both University Student Unions.

In a joint statement Professor Gerry McCormac of Queen's University and Professor William Clarke of the University of Ulster said, "Last year, as many of you will be aware, St Patrick’s Day was marred for long-term residents and many students by displays of anti-social behaviour. This year, we hope, will be very different. The Festival is a tangible example of our determination that St Patrick’s Day should be celebrated as it should be – as a Holy Day and a holiday."

Chairman of the Holyland Residents' group, David Farrell, said that "any degree of positive change is welcome and anything that has the potential to make a difference in relationships is a positive bonus." However he added that if there was "any breach of rules about anti-social behaviour, it needs to be dealt with quickly and efficiently."

QUBSU President, Ben Preston, said that he thought the festival was a good idea and hoped to see it made an "annual and successful occasion."

The festival at Queen's will not however be alcohol free and there are fears that some students may come to the festival with the intention of getting drunk.

The University has not yet commented on how it intends to deal with students, if they engage in unacceptable conduct next Friday.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Lecturers' Go On Strike

Lecturers in Northern Ireland are to hold a 24 hour strike due to a continuing pay dispute.

The strike has been organised by both the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE). Their action is part of a national campaign and will mean a total cessation of normal work. From Wednesday onwards, students' academic work will not be marked, lectures and tutorials may also be cancelled until the unions are satisfied that their problems are being addressed.

The Students' Unions of both the provinces universities are backing the action. But many students will undoubtedly be dismayed that this action should adversely effect their academic studies. If the action continues graduations may well be delayed.

Staff at Queen's, including those from St Mary's and Stranmillis colleges, will stage pickets at the University gates tomorrow, and a protest will also be held at the Department of Education headquarters in Belfast.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Holyland Resident's Slam Student Election Campaign

The Holyland residents group has complained to the University about recent campaigning for the students union elections.

In a letter to Pro-Vice Chancellor, Gerry McCormac, the chairman of the group, Mr David Farrell said, "No street or lamp post has escaped, posters have been illegally stuck up in places that are not normally used for posting...", he continues "There will not be a team of conscientious student leaders dutifully removing the posters after the elections."

Mr Farrell has had regular correspondence with the University regarding anti-social behaviour in the Holyland area located behind the main campus (see picture). His letter, obtained by The Gown, pulls no punches in its condemnation of the University and the Students' Union. "The people whose faces appear on these posters will do nothing for any of the real issues that effect the lives of students such as, social welfare, student living conditions and professional advice on lethal tenancy agreements. These 'leaders' will however, press for cheaper drink and longer opening hours to consume it, before they too eventually drag themselves through this neighborhood howling out their attention deficiencies" he said.

Mr Farrell fears that St Patricks day will once again bring mayhem to the streets that he calls home. While the University is attempting to provide alternative festivities, it's actions seem to have done little to satisfy Mr Farrell. He went on, "Everything still points to the fact that QUB have very little interest in the community which it purports to be at the heart of. It's more like a cancer, unchecked and malignant, not satisfied until it has infected the whole. Things are not improving, one set of rules for QUB and to hell with everywhere else."

Thus far no response has been forthcoming from the University.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Students' back, Forde, Caughey and McGourty.

Michael Forde, Colin Caughey and Kevin McGourty have been elected to the Students' Union Executive. They join Ben Preston and Peter Quinn who were elected a week ago. Mr Gaskin's defeat has already been interpreted as a further snub to Ben Preston who secured a narrow victory a week ago. Mr Caughey takes over the Welfare post from Andrea O'Kane who did not run again for the post. Mr McGourty has been re-elected as Vice President Clubs and Services.


VP Education:
(First Preference's)

Michael Forde - 670
Chris Gaskin - 531
Rodney Gilmour- 305
RON - 39

Spolit - 87

Quota - 773

2nd Count

Michael Forde - 670 plus 124 transfers - 794 [ELECTED]

Chris Gaskin - 531 plus 79 transfers - 610 [ELIMINATED]

VP Welfare:
(First Preference's)

Colin Caughey - 812 [ELECTED]
Kat McCamley - 203
Barry McColgan - 530
RON - 31

Spolit - 56

Quota - 789

VP Clubs & Services:
(First Preference's)

Graham Barton - 451
Emma McGrady - 360
Kevin McGourty - 700
RON - 30

Spolit - 90

Quota - 771

2nd Count

Graham Barton - 451 plus 149 transfers - 600 [ELIMINATED]

Kevin McGourty - 700 plus 122 transfers - 822 [ELECTED]

Legal Eagle's Favour Forde

Michael Forde has won the contest for Vice President Education. In what was a hotly fought contest, Mr Forde edged ahead, making this Mr Gaskin's final term in student office. Mr Gaskin played down republican credentials in campaigning, and he may now wonder if this was the right approach. Mr Forde, a classmate of Mr Gaskin and Chairman of the Queen's Law Society, got his vote out on the day and will take on the Education portfolio.

Election Count Begins!

Counting is under way after yesterday's hard fought election campaign. Returning Brian Heading is overseeing the count which is done by an anonymous group of OAP's, filling in their time until the Northern Ireland Electoral Office call upon their services again. Results are expected very soon.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ignorance Is Bliss: Ulster Young Unionists attack 'The Gown'

A recent article on the Ulster Young Unionist Website suggests:

The Gown's attitude to student democracy worries me, as I believe that the end result is not in the interest of the student population...(The Gown)seems to demonstrate a policy of perpetuating such apathy, and not attempting to remedy it.

The article shows complete ignorance of 'The Gown's' half century contribution to student life at Queen's. The paper has always been at the forefront of promoting accountability, justice and student participation. Is voter 'apathy' something members of the UUP should really give lectures on?

Election's cause 'buzz' on campus

By 'A' Correspondent for 'the Gown'

WE'LL another year, another week of elections; this time for the VP's of Welfare, Education and Club's & Services which are arguably the hardest jobs in the Union.

There is an air of anticipation as queues form at polling stations and canvassers fight over the electorate urging them to vote. Some do it with lollipops, some with sweet chews and others with just a good old fashioned charm!

Voter turnout is set to be high, much higher than last week's Presidential elections leading to some questions over whether this was to do with the candidate's or the weather!

It all comes down to use of 'force' and presence on the ground on election day. Students walk by polling stations being 'heckled' by canvassers whilst saying to themselves: "Just leave me alone!". Most students' don't even know the candidates and probably don't even know who they actually are voting for when they go to the ballot box.

The results, due tomorrow, will be interesting and 'the Gown' will of course keep you up-to-date as the news breaks.

We are interested to hear of your experience at the ballot box, so share a funny story (or even a serious one) by joining the debate online!

Polls open for Student Union Election

Polling stations have opened around the University for the second election of student sabbatical posts. Candidates are making their presence felt around campus after the close run election contest a week ago.

Returning Officer, Brian Heading said he expected a high turnout and urged all students to get out and vote.

If you have any comments on or issues with todays election, please let us know.