Monday, February 18, 2008

Junior Junior Resigns - What a difference a year makes

The news today that Ian Paisley Jr has handed in his resignation as Junior Minister, followed a turbulent few months in his high-profile post.

The politician (pictured) talked to The Gown in September about the eventful 12 months which had passed since the Fresher's Bazaar 2006 when he had demanded that Sinn Fein "cross the Rubicon" before any power-sharing would take place. Ian Jr told us he enjoyed the "business-like relationship" he had with his nationalist colleagues. It looks like another interesting interview set for this year's clubs and societies day...if he shows up.

There were calls for his resignation following anti-gay remarks made in September 2007. Mr Paisley admitted he is "pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism". However the storm eventually calmed...just in time for allegations that he had lobbied on behalf of his own constituents with regard to a lucrative land deal. His associations with Seymour Sweeney and others were called into question and a barrage of complaints followed.

Of course the Queen's graduate states firmly that his resignation is in the interests of his party, who he feels have been subjected to unfair criticism as a result of the allegations, rather than a sign of guilt on his own part.

What do you think? Was it time for him to go? Could the Junior Minister's resignation have any resulting effect on his father's time in office as First Minister? Is the Paisley-ite reign coming to an end so soon after it began?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

American Elections

Victoria McMullan gives an update on the recent happenings in the US elections

First of all let’s remember for a few seconds the casualties on the road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. On the Democrat side John Edwards gracefully, or is that inevitably, accepted his gooseberry status and dropped out so Hillary and Barak could spend some quality time together. For the Republicans an honourable mention goes to Rudi Giuliani, he came (late), he saw and then, well he lost.

Mitt Romney felt the chill blast of reality when he dropped out last week. A pragmatic move in the face of failing support, or the possibility of second billing on the ticket in November?

Meanwhile the two runners who are left in the Republican race both have popularity issues. While Huckabee has received a recent surge in support following Romney’s decision to drop out he is still viewed with misgiving by the Republican faithful who are suspicious of his tax and spend reputation - they want tax cuts and they want them now! While he has the support of the Christian Right others might turn to him just because he isn’t John McCain. Possibly taking over from Hillary Clinton as the person Republicans hate most McCain has inspired vitriolic diatribes from those doyennes of the right wing media the right wing radio hosts. When they hate you you must be doing something right, oh wait that only works if you’re a Democrat! These are the people who McCain should be relying on but at least he can take comfort in an endorsement from President Bush.

Hilary and Barak have continued their squabbling but while Obama is gaining momentum Clinton is losing money and her campaign manager. This neck and neck Democratic campaign will go to the wire meaning the party must unite quickly behind the eventual victor. At least the Republicans can get their infighting out of the way now.

New Sabbs in place of Non-Sabbs

- Ryan McAleer

The Student Council has overwhelmingly voted in favour of scrapping non-sabbatical officers and creating two new paid sabbatical roles for the student union. This will bring the total number of full time paid sabbatical officers to seven in time for elections in March.

The portfolio’s of the ‘non-sabbs’ will be transferred into six ‘vice-president’ (VP) sabbatical roles under the Union President. Along with the two new roles of ‘VP Community’ and ‘VP Equality and Diversity’, the role of Deputy President will be scrapped in favour of a ‘VP for Campaigns and Communications’ to better clarify the role.

According to the report recommending the changes, the two new positions will cost “in the region of £31-32k”, bringing the total salary of the union executive to approximately £110,000. The ‘Report from student officer review sub-group’ states: “It is estimated that the Students’ Union will have adequate funds in its budget to cover this cost. In the event that this is not the case, an assurance has been given from the Director of Student Plus that funding will be drawn from Student Plus Reserves.” Translated: Queen’s University will pay.

The recommendations from the report stimulated much debate at the council meeting of February 11th before finally being adopted. A number of councillors addressed their council colleagues urging caution against any rash ‘rubber stamping’ for the sake of it. The cost of paying seven officers weighed heavily in arguments against the adopting of the recommendations in the report. However their pleas proved in vain as a large majority of councillors finally backed the motion of scrapping ‘non-sabbs’ and creating the new posts.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Queen to visit Queen's...maybe

Tonight's student Council meeting proved that Northern Irish society truly has moved on from the dark days of the past. A motion to invite the Queen to the University in this, its centenary year, was not only passed by an overwhelming majority but was enthusiastically welcomed by most present at the gathering.

Proposed as a fitting recognition to the University's name (after the current Queen's great grandmother), the motion took a very short time to be passed, compared to other motions on the night - due to its high level of relevance to the student body? Or perhaps due to a tongue-in-cheek attitude taken by the majority of voters?

VP Welfare, Ciarnan Helferty offered his spare bed in response to a concern over the financial feasability of a visit from Her Royal Highness. However Cllr Michael Shilliday subsequently reassured councillors that "the Royal Household" pays for such visits.

It is not yet known when the invitation will be sent, or if Liz (in the interests of not offending anyone reading this: Betty, M'am and all the rest) will indeed take up the offer of a day at "this fine institution".

We await your response with bated (minty fresh) breath your Majesty!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

New Issue Out Now!

The Gown has re-entered cyberspace. We're sorry for the shortage of posts lately - we've been working on the first issue of the New Year which is out now.

Results Mayhem

We at The Gown have felt the massive delay in the publication of exam results on Queen's Online was in need of investigation. The original deadline stated on the Queen's website was Tuesday 5th February; that has long since passed. In the meantime students have been left to sweat it out a little longer and many are in a state of utter confusion.

A warning was posted on the QOL results page for all students on Wednesday stating that results viewed may not be reliable. Many students were then left in the lurch as to whether the passes or failures they were viewing were their real results.

Technical difficulties have been blamed for the whole affair and, after having been transferred to four separate departments we finally got what sounded like a solid answer from someone in the know. Alan Collins of Information Services and Administration support told The Gown, "There was a system fault, one of the servers crashed and there has been a backlog since then".

Rumours that incorrect results were posted and subsequently removed were not confirmed. A spokesperson for the Records office in the Student Guidance Centre said "There was a problem which was rectified as quickly as possible".

It is hoped every Queen's student will have the correct results by Friday 8th February. Anyone who still has concerns thereafter is advised to contact their school for more information.

If the delay has affected you, have your say here!

Non-Sabbs ditched

The term ahead will no doubt see much more happening within the Union - from rivalry between election candidates, to ridiculousness and perhaps even some action from the Student Council.

The proposed ditching of the non-Sabbatical posts will come before the Council at the first meeting next week. It is thought the 6 part-time unpaid positions will be replaced by two full-time paid positions: VP Communities and VP Equality and Diversity. The current post of Deputy President is also in the offing to be replaced by a VP Communications and Campaigns. The largely inactive nature of this year's Non-Sabbs has been criticised and is thought to have been the catalyst for change. Those current 'duties' of the Postraduate Student Officer will also come under the remit of VP Education.

What do you think of the propsed changes? Was it time for the Non-Sabbs to go?