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Radicalism on the rise at Queens

06/10/11

Last Wednesday, September 28, marked the opening day of the fresher’s fair at Queens University Belfast, at which cultural clubs and political societies put out their stalls in an effort to recruit new members.

For the past few years the British Army have been openly recruiting at the fair. This year their presence did not go unopposed. Their stall is labelled as ‘OTC’ [Officers’ Training Corps]. At first glance at their stall, the OTC appears as a rather innocuous looking outfit, primarily focused on the promotion of outdoor activities. On closer inspection however, the sinister reality of the OTC is readily apparent. It is a means through which to groom and indoctrinate members of the student population to go off and murder in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan; and when necessary, Belfast, Armagh and Derry.

Having anticipated that éirígí planned to oppose this corrupting influence on the student body, the University establishment went into overdrive in seeking to prevent any expression of dissent. They failed. Security at the Students’ Union was massively increased with students and members of the public, usually free to come and go as they please, being harassed at the entrance of the building by guards demanding proof of identification. On gaining entry students had to pass through yet another layer of intimidation, with guards yet again demanding identification, before being allowed into The Space, where a final layer of eight guards stood protecting the British Army. All of this was carried out under the watchful eye and direction of our impartial police force, which also had a heavy presence at the entrance of the Students’ Union. Between the scores of hostile security guards and police one was left wondering whether they had mistakenly wandered into a security conference rather than a student fair.

Despite all the precautions taken by the establishment to prevent the expression of alternative views on campus, several éirígí members managed to gain access to the Students’ Union and stage a successful protest in front of the British Army’s stall. Despite the hysterical reaction of the guards, who immediately set about trying to kettle in the éirígí activists, the demonstration received an enthusiastic reception from the student population. After some time the protestors were removed from the building by the PSNI, who proceeded to section them under the Justice and Security Act. Undeterred, they continued their protest at the front doors of the Students’ Union.

Another positive development on the day was the huge amount of interest expressed by students in the Republican Congress’ stall, with several dozen registering on the day and scores more leaving their contact details for further information. The Congress aims to promote a progressive, socialist republican agenda at Queens, and in this has éirígí’s full support. An example of the good work being carried out by the Congress was the public meeting they hosted on the evening of the freshers’ fair for the Peace And Neutrality Alliance [PANA].

The meeting was chaired by Patricia Campbell of the Independent Workers Union and was addressed on PANA’s behalf by Roger Cole, who outlined the dangers of the European Union’s and NATO’s unchecked influence growing in Ireland; by Philli McNally for the Republican Congress who drew attention to the sharp parallels in the British Army’s role in the greater Middle East and Ireland; and by Saeb Shaath of Palestinian Aid who spoke on the latest developments in the Middle East. These contributions were followed by a very informative Q&A session.

While the hysterical reaction to any form of dissent other than that which the establishment at Queens deems acceptable is a worrying development, the fight back has begun. Both the éirígí demonstration and the enthusiasm shown by students at the Republican Congress stall shows that the appetite for radical change at Queens is there. It is our task to ensure that it is mobilised and channelled productively to put an end to British militarism at the university and ultimately to abolish the system upon which it succours.

 

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