Queen’s University Belfast has rejected demands to reintroduce bilingual English-Irish signs across campus – insisting that it seeks to maintain “a good and harmonious environment” instead.
The demands were made in writing by the university’s Irish language society, An Cumann Gaelach QUB, which said it was “greatly angered” by the response.
The club wrote to the vice-chancellor and the Student’s Union last month about “the problems and lack of recognition that Irish speakers face on campus”.
The need for Irish language legislation has been recognised at local, national and international level, it said.
“Irish and English signs were seen side by side through the campus until 1997. An Cuman Galeach believe these signs should be reinstated on the university campus.”
However, Professor James C McEnlnay, acting president and vice-chancellor defended a “neutral” environment.
“The university seeks to create and sustain a neutral working environment that values and celebrates the diversity of all its staff and its student body in accordance with its charter and statutes,” he said.
Section 3.1 of the policy highlights the university’s commitment to “providing a good and harmonious environment free from flags, emblems, posters, graffiti or other materials or actions or language likely to be provocative, offensive or intimidatory,” he added.
On Sunday the society said on Facebook that it was angered by the response.
“It is clear that the university authorities are of the opinion the Irish is ‘provocative, offensive, intimidatory’,” it said. “We are sorely disappointed and greatly angered that this is the outlook that the university has and that he refused to meet with us.”
A QUB spokeswoman said it has a strong commitment to the development of Irish through Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences courses.
She added: “The university values and celebrates the diversity of all its staff and students and will be happy to meet with An Cumann Gaelach QUB.”
But Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin from Irish language group Conradh na Gaeilge was not satisfied: “There are some big questions to be answered here around QUB’s understanding of the role of the Irish language, and their policy which seems to contradict guidelines from international bodies such as the Council of Europe,” he said.