Saturday, March 29, 2008

'Ruthless' rent demands to dead student's parents

The recent news that the parents of a Co Armagh born student, who died suddenly while at University in Liverpool, may have to fight a court case over rent demands from their daughter's estate agent, has been greeted with scorn.

Shauna McCann died just two months ago while in her second year of study to become a special needs teacher. Her parents, who have been caused "undue stress and worry" over the matter, have received numerous requests from Brownlow Property Management for the remaining rent which stands at £866 from March to June of this year . The estate agents have defended themselves saying they do not feel their pursuit of the rent is in any way "callous or unsympathetic", stating there is still a contract there to be fulfilled.

However MLA for Newry and Armagh, Mickey Brady, condemned the demand as "ruthless" and displaying an "all about money, nothing about grief attitude". The Liverpool Daily Post reported that Liverpool Hope's Students' Union are said to be contacting the University to "find a solution and to spare the family any further suffering at this time". They have labelled the demand as "insensitive". At present the University has said they are not involved in the dispute.

Landlords and estate agents have rarely been held in high esteem by students - this incident has done little to negate this image.

What are your views?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Queen drops into Queen's

The Queen unveiled a stone in the black and white hall of Queen's today to mark the University's centenary year. The Royal visit, which was part of a three-day trip to Northern Ireland was quite low-key as regards news coverage however. A visit to East Belfast today and Armagh Cathedral tomorrow have received more press interest.

Among the guests were outgoing First Minister Ian Paisley, Irish President Mary McAleese as well as various high-flyers in the world of business including founder of Galen, Allen McClay. The Queen arrived in a black landrover swarmed by security around lunchtime today, leaving some two hours later.

A number of student councillors were also given the opportunity to be present at the event. It seems however that the visit was planned some months before a motion was passed at council to invite the Queen to the University (see post below).

Queen's hasn't seen such a high security presence since the then President of the US, Bill Clinton made a historic visit in 1995 (see picture).

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Obama's campaign advisor announces resignation on same day she visits Queen's

- John Beecher

Pulitzer Prize winning author and Harvard professor Samantha Power's visit to Queen’s as part of her UK tour promoting her new book Chasing the Flame, caused an unusually high level of press interest on Friday.

The talk was delayed due to a press gathering outside the Peter Froggatt Centre. This was due to Irish-born Power's resignation earlier that day as international affairs advisor to the Barack Obama presidential campaign over comments she made about Hillary Clinton in an interview with The Scotsman on March 4th. She labelled Clinton “a monster...that is off the record – she is stooping to anything.” Unfortunately for Power The Scotsman decided it was very much on the record and published her quote in full prompting the Clinton campaign to demand her resignation.

Beginning her talk by describing her comments as inexcusable, the author attributed them to tiredness and frustration and warned the academics attending the lecture of the dangers of becoming entangled in politics. She also apologised both to Senator Clinton whom she claimed to think very highly of and to Senator Obama saying she hoped she could offer her services in a future administration. Power went on to joke that this was just about the worst way she had ever had to begin a lecture!

DUP Family loses its Father

Last week's announcement that Ian Paisley (the original) is to retire came just two weeks after Ian Junior (the young pretender) handed in his resignation from the office of Junior Minister. Many had predicted this turn of events in light of the lost credibility of his son and as a result of the increasingly uncomfortable 'chuckle-brother' partnership formed with Martin McGuinness.

Eighty-two next month, the larger than life politician will no doubt be the subject of various documentaries charting his rise to prominence within Northern Irish and indeed UK politics. Despite the phenomenal change in policy in the past 12 months, most followers have refused to do anything but praise 'the Doc'.

The BBC, interested in the student point of view, interviewed a group of Queen's students on The Politics Show earlier today. Among them, Andrew Charles and Thomas Hogg spoke of the DUP as a "family party which every new member is welcomed into". Although certainly "different" after Paisley's departure, these young Unionists hope the party will continue to thrive and "serve the Unionist community" to the best of its ability.

So, the ultimate 'Never say "Never...Never...Never...Never"' man's reign is coming to an end. Will there ever be another like him? Is he deserving of the praise he has received from all corners of politics? Or is this giant of Unionism simply a sell-out, having succumbed to the trappings of power?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Rag Mag, PTQ, for sale

PTQ, the annual RAG magazine, was released for sale to the public yesterday. The original release date was set for last Monday to coincide with the beginning of RAG week, however this date was pushed back due to "printing difficulties".

At £2 per issue, all the proceeds will go to the chosen RAG charities this year (The Rape Crisis Centre, Aware Defeat Depression, Northern Ireland Children's Hospice and the Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-Harm) . This charitable society within the Union has encountered difficulties since September with appointed Organiser, Robbie Davis, having gone AWOL at the beginning of the year.

RAG has become less visible within the student community at Queen's in recent years for various reasons, namely lack of student interest, as cited in The Gown's last issue. It seems the antics of former RAG committees are no more and the £30,000 cheque presentations are a thing of the past.

Make sure to grab a copy of PTQ - it's for charity folks!
Contact Sarah McCaffrey

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

"It better be good!"

This is not just an idle threat to newly elected VP Campaigns and Communications, James Murphy, from runner-up Andrew Gordon. The Gown would like to prescibe this bitter little pill to the whole executive.

The crowd, gathered in Bar Sub, were privy to a few surprises as the results of the 2008 Executive Elections were announced. Although underdog Michael Collins did not take the Presidency, his 969 votes did not provide the landslide victory Helferty had expected. In fact, in the President-elect's acceptance speech he made an aside to confirm his shock at such a closely contested result.

What was originally pitched as a foregone conclusion, hopes of "The Dream Team", were dashed by James Murphy's election to the newly created position of Campaigns and Communications.
In his acceptance speech, Murphy stated: "I'd just like to thank all the voters, campaigners and well-wishers, as well as all those who congratulated me. Although one person's absence deserves's a pity she didn't have the good grace to say 'well done'."

Paul Courtney, the new VP of Clubs and Societies left the crowd cringing at his no holds barred acceptance speech. He refused to apologise for 'pissing people off', open-handedly asking the crowd what they wanted him to do, "Cut it off?!".
Never one to comment, The Gown would like to leave the answering of this question to bloggers.
Courtney also lackadaisically apologised for his absence on the first day of voting: "Unfortunately I couldn't make it on Tuesday, but sure I was half cut".

Conceding her defeat to the position of VP for Clubs and Societies, Debbie McCook took the opportunity to thank her loyal supporters, especially those who put her straight on when exactly voting began.

Kelly, Brogan and McAleavey (the latter ran unopposed) made their appreciation clear in their acceptance speeches, rounding off an eventful round of election results.

The Gown looks forward to a colourful year with this not-so-secret Seven.

So who got elected then?

President: Ciárnan Helferty

VP Campaigns and Communications: James Murphy

VP Education: Kevin Kelly

VP Welfare: Fergus McAleavey

VP Community: Laura Hawthorne

VP Equality and Diversity: Shane Brogan

VP Clubs and Societies: Paul Courtney

Election 'mild temperature' grips Queen's

Early indications show a lower turnout to the Sabbatical Elections than last year. At lunchtime today the total number of voters was just over 2000 students. The Online voting system, introduced last year, has increased participation but with a population of nearly 24,000 students at Queen's there is still an underlying apathy.

The circus performers from the 2007 elections returned minus the drum beats, but still succeeded in drawing some extra attention to the polling booths inside.

Again the sense of personality over policy has dominated proceedings. Presidential Candidate, Michael Collins, has praised those who have taken an interest but maintains 'outsiders' will always be at a disadvantage. "It's a popularity contest. It's good to see real issues being talked about but others have hijacked my manifesto issues simply to get votes".

The usual underhand claims and counter-claims have been made as the voting deadline draws to a close. One person canvassing on behalf of another candidate was accused of taking leaflets supporting rival candidates from voters' hands. However no formal complaints have been made and the allegations have been laughed off by those allegedley involved.

The election results are due to be announced in Bar Sub at 6.30 pm this evening.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The election race is stalled from the starting blocks

The view of an anonymous first year student on our Students' Union Elections.

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches every year, the fact that Americans want to be more like the Irish is confirmed. As the Students' Union Elections 2008 approach however, it is glaringly obvious that the student candidates in Belfast are in no way taking a leaf from their American political counterparts' books.

To be more precise, consider the fact that American Presidential candidates work for years seeking party nomination, before they spend several intense months canvassing the nation to ensure votes. The Union elections of this year take place this week and I have yet to be approached by a Presidential candidate seeking my vote.

Alright, so it's nowhere near the scale of an election which offers control of the world's most powerful nation, but the objective is surely the same - to appeal to your electorate and achieve the largest number of votes.

Of course, the Union building itself is covered with posters of hopeful candidates; but they’re all black and white, they all have a picture, and they all embolden a name that means nothing to me. Basically, it seems that they’re all promising the same thing, using slightly different words.

We have only to look at the hotly contested category of Vice President of Communications and Campaigns to see the lethargy of this election campaign. Of the three candidates running for the post it seems to me that only one, James Murphy, has thought outside of the Union and placed posters around the Elms village - a prime target for votes. Isn't it a little ironic that the other candidates for COMMUNICATION are unwilling to take a step outside of their executive realm towards the influential first year electorate. Indeed, Elms itself is a breeding ground of support to these candidates, and the fact remains that the only other posters dotted around the student village are those running on the above candidate's ticket.

So forget about student activism, ignore voter apathy; the real issue at stake here is the unwillingness of the candidates themselves to adequately earn their votes. On that note, I can’t help but wonder if this is a sure sign of how (in)effective some of these candidates will be if they make it into Office.

It's Collins v Helferty for President

- Ryan McAleer

The 2008 sabbatical elections are here! This year is significantly different however as there are seven black padded leather chairs up for grabs instead of the usual five.

For those of you clueless to what will be going on the 4th and 5th of March, (i.e. – anyone not on the exec or student council) Queen’s students will vote via QOL for a new President along with 6 Vice-Presidents. Those elected will form the new student executive for next year, taking a £15k-per-post salary in the process.

As usual we are being promised the world as candidates map out visionary utopias of ‘their union’ on black and white A4 paper. This year’s presidential race pits the sitting Vice-President for Welfare, Ciarnán Helferty, against relative new-comer Michael Collins who is running under the banner of ‘people before profit’.

Expect the usual bad custom-made t-shirts and free lollipops next Tuesday and Wednesday (4th & 5th March) as candidates vie for your vote. Looking beyond Helferty’s manifesto, the fact he was nominated by current President John Roger and seconded by VP Clubs & Services Steffan Rafferty suggests a certain retention of the present regime. Running on his ticket are some familiar faces among union societies, Andrew Gordon (VP Campaigns and Communications), Shane Brogan (VP Equality and Diversity), Laura Hawthorne (VP Community) and Michael Bower (VP Education). Fergus McAleavey could be forgiven for taking it easy on the canvassing front next week as the sole contender for election to the seat of VP Welfare - or perhaps that would under-estimate the popularity of RON?

It seems Michael Collins is up against it to overcome such a well established presence within union governance. His manifesto is logo and slogan friendly and with fees, housing, racism, green issues and protest on the agenda he is obviously appealing to ‘left politics’. Unionists shouldn’t be too scared of the famed nationalist's namesake however, as he envisions “a centre for bringing people together”. Also running on his ticket is Paul Simpson (VP Campaigns and Communications).

Other candidates include James Murphy (VP Campaigns and Communications) from the present Law Society (whose manifesto boasts a generous endorsement from the Law Soc President, who doubles as a housemate and bosom buddy). Kevin Kelly (VP Education) and Paul Courtney (VP Clubs and Societies) are running on the same ticket.

Rhonda Milligan (VP Community) and Jeremy Bennett (VP Clubs and Societies) run on a joint DUA-Queen’s Ulster Unionists ticket with Jonathon Crawford (VP Equality and Diversity) running under a simply ‘unionist’ label. LGBT President Debbie McCook runs for VP Clubs and Societies with Colin McShane running for VP Education with the endorsement of the current seat-holder, Michal Harkin.

Elections take place exclusively online over Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th of March. View candidate’s manifestos on