Today a cohort of Students from Queen’s University Belfast launched a ‘Neutrality Petition’ calling for a referendum to “keep the SU Neutral on NI’s Constitution”.
This ‘counter-petition’ follows QUB Sinn’s Fein’s petition, launched on 1st October at QUB’s Freshers Fair, to hold “a referendum at QUB Students’ Union on the prospect of Irish Unity”. At the close of QUB Freshers’ Fair, QUB Sinn Fein declared that 750 students had signed their petition, exceeding the 2.5% (584 student signatures) required to hold a referendum involving the entire student body at Queen’s.
We are currently led to believe that if the QUBSF petition is verified by the Students’ Union Returning Officer (as required by QUB SU constitution), the entire student body at QUB will be presented with the statement:
“Should Ireland be a united and independent country – yes OR no”.
The Scoop spoke with one of the organisers behind the ‘Neutrality Petition’, International PhD student Julia Andrade Rocha, to find out more.
Julia said, “we want an option for someone to say ‘I don’t want my Students’ Union to have a policy on this issue. We want to make sure that if there needs to be a referendum, it shouldn’t be a yes or no campaign.”
She went on to say, “The Neutrality campaign believes that there should be an option to include diversity of opinion on this matter, as there are students who are at QUB who aren’t Unionist or Nationalist, but who just go to classes and want their Students’ Union to advocate issues which have to do with them being students’.”
In terms of the QUBSF referendum, Julia said the ‘Neutrality petition’ “don’t know why the Students’ Union needs to advocate being part of the United Kingdom or an United Ireland”, as “either a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ outcome in the QUBSF referendum, could become exclusionary.”
On Twitter some QUBSF members suggested that those in favour of neutrality on this issue should vote ‘No’ rather than launch a new petition, as the QUBSF referendum is merely an ‘affirmative referendum’. To this end, a ‘No’ vote would maintain QUB SU’s lack of policy on NI’s constitution, and a ‘Yes’ vote would change QUB SU’s policy, to one in favour of a United Ireland.
We posed this issue to Julia, who said that “it shouldn’t be a campaign for a ‘Yes’ or ’No’” in the QUBSF Irish Unity referendum as campaigning ‘No’, may possibly be misconstrued as “being against a United Ireland, and we are not necessarily against a United Ireland, but against the SU having a policy on this issue either way.”
For more information about the ‘Neutrality Petition’ check out: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1DLWQGZLcd9ShmaDAff_F_tULjazdGAQR6OY0HFUHOy8/viewform?c=0&w=1
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