The Young Unionists, the youth wing of the Ulster Unionist Party, has labelled a move to erect Irish language signs on the University of Ulster campus as “a political stunt”.
After a University of Ulster Students’ Union (UUSU) Council meeting last week, a new bilingual signage policy was agreed to bring Irish language signs on campus. The signs are to be built across the university’s four campuses in Belfast, Coleraine, Jordanstown, and Derry.
While this decision was met by Sinn Féin as “a positive step forward”, the Young Unionists say that it would “create an unwelcoming atmosphere at the University, and will further dissuade unionists from choosing to attend Ulster University”.
Young Unionists Chairman Joshua Lowry outlined the group’s argument that the signage “creates a hierarchy of equality that suggests that Irish is more important than all the other languages spoken at the University, including – but not limited to – Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, and Ulster-Scots” as well as deeming it a ”political stunt [that] has nothing to do with promoting the use of the Irish language and everything to do with attempting to make the University a cold house for unionists”.
In response to Lowry’s remarks, a spokesperson from UUSU said: “UUSU is committed to upholding the spirit of good relations in all aspects of its activity, including in facilitating healthy debate. The motion in question was put forward by a member of the Students’ Union Council, which is a diverse body made up of students from a range of communities and backgrounds and was subsequently passed.”
Sinn Fein has welcomed this move, while Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader, Jim Allister, and Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Education spokesperson, Rosemary Barton, have opposed it strongly, with Allister claiming it would cause “unionist and Protestant students to feel like aliens in their own land”.