On Tuesday 14th October 2014, QUB Sinn Fein declared via Facebook post that they had secured a referendum to be held on the 28th October on the question “Should Ireland be a United and Independent country? Yes OR No”
Upon the release of this information QUB Alliance Chair, Stephen Donnelly, made the following statement to The Scoop.
“I am aware that unionist representatives have over the last week actively sought to stop the QUB Unity referendum from taking place. However, as it seems to be the case that the criteria to hold a referendum has been fulfilled, QUB Alliance has no intention of campaigning to stop this referendum from happening, although many of us have reservations about it.
In addition, QUB Alliance, as the only explicitly cross-community party youth group at QUB, will not actively campaign in favour of either Yes or No in the run up to the referendum, and we will make no recommendation to the student body about how they should vote, or, indeed, if they should vote.
QUB Alliance recognise that it is the right of the student body to debate whatever subject that they so wish; with this being said, it seems to us that there are more pressing issues facing students right now than the prospect of a change in the constitutional status, and we fear this referendum may end up being a distraction from these more pressing issues.
Furthermore, the QUBSU should be treated as shared space within which all people, of all backgrounds, are welcome, and we hope that if this debate is going to be had, that it will be had in a way that does not unnecessarily divide our Students’ Union.”
On Tuesday evening, a Neutrality Petition was launched by a cohort of QUB students calling for a referendum to “keep the SU Neutral on NI’s Constitution”.
It became apparent that there had been come confusion regarding the official details of the lodgement and verification of the QUBSF referendum as stated in their Facebook post on Tuesday morning, however this was clarified on Wednesday.
As far as The Scoop have been made aware, the QUBSF ‘Unity’ petition was lodged with the Students’ Union Returning Officer on Wednesday morning at 09:30, with 750 signatures. The ‘Neutrality’ petition was lodged at approximately 14:30, with 600 signatures. At 15:00 the Students’ Union Returning officer verified each petition, and declared that both would take place on Monday 27th October 2014 (a day earlier than previously suggested by QUBSF).
Tonight the Alliance Party released a statement, stating that they will now be lobbying in favour of a “Yes” vote in the ‘Neutrality’ Referendum:
“QUB has always offered an inclusive place for students to continue their studies, with the Students’ Union central to university life. It is unfortunate this inclusive nature is now under threat, with the constitutional question now on the agenda.
QUB Sinn Fein’s plan to hold a border poll on campus and the counter campaign to keep the Students’ Union a neutral space has left us with a situation no-one in QUB Alliance wanted – a potentially divided student body.
Diversity is at the heart of the Alliance Party’s membership, with the desire to move past tribal politics and build a shared future the driving force of everything we do. This aim extends to the QUB Alliance group, where a group of students from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives want to see a united student body, leaving tribal divisions firmly in the past.
After consultation with the Alliance Youth Executive, and more widely with Alliance members who are students at Queen’s University Belfast, QUB Alliance will officially be supporting a ‘yes’ vote on October 27 to ensure the Students’ Union remains a shared and neutral space. This motion reads as follows: ‘This Students’ Union is a shared space that is inclusive for all students and should therefore have a neutral stance on the constitutional position of NI. [Do you agree? Yes or No]’
With respect to the other referendum which asks ‘Should Ireland be a united and independent country? [Yes or No]‘, QUB Alliance recognises the democratic process and the right for this to be tabled – however we don’t believe the constitutional question is a priority for students, with its divisive and polarising nature. QUB Alliance does not take a collective opinion on the specific issue, with individual members able to form their own judgements on that particular question – or even the wisdom of holding such a referendum.
Our priority remains protecting the shared nature of the Students’ Union and would appeal to other political groups within the university to show leadership and responsibility going forward. Our focus will be on co-operating with other youth groups and individuals within the university to secure a clear mandate from the student body to maintain the shared, inclusive and welcoming nature of the Students’ Union. A strong Yes vote in the referendum on ensuring the Students’ Union remains a shared space can guarantee this outcome.
The QUB Alliance membership has a wide variety of perspectives on the constitutional question, but we are united in our belief that the Queen’s Students Union, as a shared institution, should not take a stance on the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.”
The Scoop / Queen’s Radio and The Gown, will be co-hosting a live ‘Big Referenda Debate’ on Wednesday evening at 6:30pm in the MBC building with representatives from both referenda.
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