Friday, 8 June 2018

Why were they silent about their Sinn Fein colleague?

Peter Robinson at Queen's University Belfast
The appointment of Peter Robinson as an honorary professor of peace studies at Queen's University Belfast has drawn criticism from a number of university staff.

The position is part-time, unpaid and lasts for three years but 37 university staff have signed a letter expressing 'deep concern and profound regret' at the appointment.  
37 QUB staff signed a letter of objection
We call for the George Mitchell Institute to make a public statement distancing itself from Mr Robinson's repugnant views.
We also seek immediate clarification about how and why the appointment was decided - the facts about Mr Robinson's intolerant views have been a matter of public record for some time - since it is incumbent upon the institute and Queen's University to act with caution and sensitivity to the entire academic community when conferring such honours on controversial figures.
We object to the cavalier way in which this appointment has been made since it appears to set a precedent for avoiding proper scrutiny when inviting people with intolerant views to be considered members of our academic community.
The university's LGBT staff group PRISM also opposed his appointment but back to the letter and notice what the signatories say about Peter Robinson.  It says that he is a 'controversial figure' with views that are 'intolerant' and 'repugnant'.  Their can be no doubt about their assessment of the former DUP politician and former First Minister.

Well here are some words that come to my mind about the signatories of the letter when I read it: arrogant, intolerant and hypocritical.

Sinn Fein candidate and QUB lecturer Dr Peter Doran
with Michelle O'Neill MLA
I say that because last year there was a really 'controversial figure' associated with Queen's University and indeed he is still there.

Of course there were and are certain differences.  His position is permanent rather than temporary and his position is paid rather than unpaid.

The other important difference is that he was a Sinn Fein politician, whereas Peter Robinson is a member of the DUP, and his name was Dr Peter Doran.

Peter Doran is a lecturer in the School of Law at Queen's and last year he stood for election as a Sinn Fein Assembly candidate in the Lagan Valley constituency.  Previously a member of the Green Party, he joined Sinn Fein in 2011.

During his election campaign he became embroiled in some controversy when he was asked about the Provisional IRA murder of Unionist politician and academic Edgar Graham, who was also a lecturer in the School of Law.  Most people will recall that he was brutally murdered by an IRA gunman outside the university library in December 1983.
Edgar Graham was murdered by the IRA in the street beside Queen's

Peter Doran was asked to condemn the murder of Edgar Graham but as a Sinn Fein politician he was unable and unwilling to do that.  He spoke about 'profound sorrow' but refused to condemn the murder of an academic who had worked in the same university department.

It's a pity those who have written to the vice-chancellor about Peter Robinson did not show the same concern about Dr Peter Doran.  I certainly can't recall any letter from university staff of the type that has appeared now.

Of course there are differences between the two situations but the only really significant one is that Peter Robinson is a DUP politician and Peter Doran was a Sinn Fein politician.

Media reports so far have named only a few of the 37 signatories - Professor Phil Scraton, Professor Debbie Lisle. Professor Beverley Milton-Edwards and Dr Emma Reisz - but the full list will probably appear in due course.

In a television interview Peter Robinson was asked about the letter and his response was calm and gracious.  He spoke about the need for tolerance.

Today we find that the liberal leftist elite who preach about tolerance and respect are often the most intolerant.  That is the background to the campaigns in some English universities to ban speakers and to exclude ideas.  The same thing seems to be emerging now in Northern Ireland.

Professor Phil Scraton
There are more than 2,400 academic staff at Queen's and so in the scheme of things 37 is a very small number - just 1.5%.  However the list includes a number of professors, senior academics, and the full list would make interesting reading both as regards who they are and the departments in which they work.  In the meantime, here are some of the signatories.

Professor Phil Scraton  is an emeritus professor in the School of Law, the same school as Dr Peter Doran.
Professor Beverley Milton-Edwards

Professor Beverley Milton-Edwards is a professor in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics and

Professor Debbie Lisle is also a professor in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics and specialises in 'international political sociology'.

Dr Emma Reisz is a history lecturer in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics.

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