Saturday, December 30, 2006

The End of Saddam...Or is it?

Niall McCamley

Saddam Hussein, aged 69, was hanged this morning at 6:10 am in Iraq (3:10 am British time) in gallows once used by his own secret police. The execution was rushed through in an attempt to provide a new start for a struggling Iraqi government.

Hussein apparently refused a hood and a cleric but did, instead, say a brief prayer before the hanging. When the hanging began at 6:10 his body was then left for 10 minutes to guarantee his death although reports claim it was swift.

George Bush has come out quickly to point out that sectarian violence in Iraq is still continuing and there is still work to be done. Maliki has come out in a much more positive manner concerning Hussein's death. He claims "Saddam's execution puts an end to all the pathetic gambles on a return to dictatorship." This, unfortunately, may be wistful thinking as violence continues unabated in Iraq.

The question that is waiting to be answered now is how will Saddam Hussein's death affect the violence. Will it bring peace and stability to the area or a fully-fledged civil war?

What are your opinions concerning Hussein's execution? Was it right or wrong? Is it of any relevance to students at Queen's? Do students care?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Holidays

The Gown team would like to wish all our contributors and on-line readers a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

This term has been quite frustrating for The Gown to say the least and quite frankly the New Year chimes will be a welcome sound to our ears!

The new term will bring with it a renewed dedication to publishing our hardcopy newspaper in order to bring the students of Queen's an independent insight into the happenings of life here at the university.

Despite the setbacks this year our enthusiasm has not been dented and we look forward to a successful comeback in February! See you in 2007...

Friday, December 15, 2006

Student involvement needed to defeat top-up fees

By Jeannie McCann

The introduction of top fees by the Labour Government this year has created much unease amongst the student population, particularly for those in first year. The resulting average academic debt of around £9,000 for a three-year degree doesn’t even consider living and transport costs. The 16.7% drop in UCAS applications this year has been attributed to the fact that those from less wealthy backgrounds have been discouraged from entering third level education by the prospect of being burdened with this debt.

On Thursday December 14th, the Socialist Worker Student Society (SWSS) hosted a debate on how to defeat tuition fees. Ben Preston, President of Queen’s Student Union spoke alongside Sean Mitchell from SWSS. Both speakers agreed that tuition fees must be defeated and this can only be done through the involvement of students.

There was a general consensus at the meeting that the only way to engage students was to explore creative ways of mobilising them – a concert was one suggestion. The issue needs to be highlighted and the population made aware of their rights. Some argued that the general public must challenge government claims of a lack of money for education. Surely considering the £12bn which has been spent on the war in Iraq thus far, and the estimated £20bn to be spent on replacing Trident these claims are totally untrue? These proposals were made in the hope that more awareness among students will ensure top-up fees become an election issue and could possibly be defeatd...if Stormont ever becomes active again that is.

Colleen Dowdall, Convenor of NUS-USI, informed the meeting about the national campaign which had an extremely successful rally in London on October 29th, when 15,000 students marched into Trafalgar Square demanding the abolition of Top Up Fees. She discussed the ‘Admission Impossible’ campaign which is calling for ‘No to soaring levels of student debt, No to any attempt to lift the Cap, No to the marketisation of education and Yes to free education and access for all’.

The meeting drew to a close with everyone recognising that communication between the Union and the students here at Queen’s must be improved. It is hoped the executive will concentrate on this issue and students will hear more about the campaign in the New Year.

For additional information on the national campaign against tuition fees log onto the NUS-USI website:

Friday, December 08, 2006

Confessions of a Holylands “Degenerate”

by Paul Headley

Strolling down Rugby Avenue, the Times Square of the holylands, can be an intensely exhilarating experience. At times it can feel surreal, like a little kid skipping into Disneyland gazing in astonishment at Splash Mountain. There is a magnificent aura of pubescent energy to be latched on to- if anything your I.Q is knocked down a few points! But when you have a few 1000 students latching on to this energy at the same time that’s when problems can arise. It is like setting off a firework at night, let off one not many people will notice- put on a full blown display - now that’s a pretty loud racket.

And really that’s what it all comes down to- that’s the problem, its not individual students, it’s the sheer concentration. Landlords were allowed to keep packing more and more young people into these houses unabated, and now the process is almost irreversible. Greed is a powerful motivator, Landlords knew the vast amounts of cash that could be made from Real Estate in the Holylands area so they went for the jugular. Whether it was charging extortionate rent or dividing a 4 person house into a 8 person house. Its something akin to global warming- capitalism won no matter what the consequences were.

The result is undeniable. If you squash 1000’s of students, many of whom have led reasonably sheltered lives, into one area it doesn’t inspire a collective feeling of responsibility, any adult labouring in the workforce right now who believes they would have behaved differently are surely being naive. I do have a profound sympathy for some of the noise levels the remaining residents are forced to endure at times, many students just don’t realise how loud they can be. That’s exactly why the only solution is increased supervision. No matter how many ad campaigns are started they will fall on deaf ears.

It occurred to me, whilst preparing to write this piece, the immense capacity people (particularly those in the media) have for manipulating the truth. The image of the average student in the holylands has been corrupted and distorted into some Pete Doherty-esque caricature which completely ignores some of the obscene treatment many of the tenants are forced to endure from landlords. I myself have lived in the holylands area for two years and during that time I have been chastised continuously regarding our heathen lifestyles and the downright depravity of our existence.

I am also a firm believer that the destructive behaviour, beyond noise, is greatly exaggerated. In all my time living in the area I have seen no more than handful of incidents of violence which were all resolved quickly. Given the vast numbers in the area (and the vast quantities of alcohol consumed) that’s quite startling. I would also like to point out that any acts of vandalism, such as getting into fights with phone boxes and other such activities, occur far less frequently than often portrayed, and are in no way essential to the average student’s night out. These acts of vandalism can be largely blamed on a very small section of morons. These activities have been condemned, and rightly so but too often all students are unfairly tarred with the same brush.

Sshh..."a campaign on our terms"

The latest Student's Union campaign with regards to the promotion of good relations between students and residents in South Belfast, particularly the Holylands area, has been open to criticism from many. 'Sshh' stands for Silent Students (a big ask) Happy Homes. Of course the aim can't be condemned, its the action that's been taken that raises questions. Giving lollipops to drunk students to keep them quiet at night...seriously? Patronising takes on a whole new meaning in this context.

It has been said that this is a simple PR exercise to ensure the executive looks to be making a stand against rowdy students - without actually doing very much at all. A few leaflets and free lollipops are surely not going to solve this allegdly huge problem.

When questioned about the seemingly childish nature of the campaign, Deputy President Peter Quinn acknowledged this, saying its simply the foundation for more union intiatives in the future. "Its a gimmick, we know that. The point was always to have a campaign on our terms. This simply draws attention to the situation and can be seen as the start of something bigger. We hope to go on from this and do more to tackle the problem."

He also said there has been good feedback from the Resident's Association, although there were no statistics to back this up. Whether you think its a novel idea to build relations or a ridiculous waste of time and money is up to yourselves. The executive have the rest of the year to prove themselves, in the meantime student toothache may surpass resident earache!

RAG Resurrection

The gradual demise and eventual death of RAG in Queen's over the past number of years has been unfortunate to say the least. With such a large student population availing of all the benefits of one of the best universities in the UK, surely giving something back to those in need is not too much to ask.

You may or may not have noticed the fleeting hints around the Union and beyond that plans to resurrect the society, founded in 1927, are currently underway. The student executive sacrificed the warmth of their cosy offices and ventured into the harsh subzero temperatures of Belfast to venture around the front of Queen's and shake charity boxes at people last week - but at least the Christmas themed outfits looked like pretty good insulation.

Its about time positive steps were taken to officially restore RAG to its former glory. Deputy President, Peter Quinn, has stated that the campaign will be stepped up next semester and the charity stunts will be much cleverer this time round - no more fairy liquid in Castlecourt's water fountain...

A RAG officer will be appointed early in the new year so hopefully next RAG day will be about more than just a day off to head to the nearest bar!