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Last Updated: Friday, 28 September 2007, 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK
Student Politics
Robin Sheeran
Robin Sheeran
The Politics Show Northern Ireland

Bernadette Devlin
Bernadette Devlin - a well known activist of the 60s and 70s

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This week on the Politics Show from Northern Ireland, we look at student politics here and how they have changed in recent years.

Student radicals in other parts of the UK and Ireland may have been regarded as a bit of a joke since the days of the Young Ones sitcom, but the students' union at Queen's University, Belfast, was always something of an anomaly.

Queen's students were in the vanguard of the civil rights movement of the late '60s.

They formed the People's Democracy group that marched on Londonderry in January 1969 and was attacked by loyalists at Burntollet Bridge.

Union divided?

Vote for Nick Ross poster
Nick Ross - you can just about see the likeness in an early poster

This period of Queen's politics saw the emergence of figures like Bernadette Devlin, who was elected to Westminster at the age of 22, the Derry journalist and socialist politician, Eamonn McCann, and the TV presenter, Nick Ross.

In subsequent decades the Union divided along unionist and nationalist lines as the Troubles spilled over into university life.

The law lecturer and Ulster Unionist Party member, Edgar Graham, was shot dead by the IRA in 1983 outside the university.

Mairead Farrell was a Queen's student and part of an IRA bombing team shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988.

Sheena Campbell was a student and Sinn Fein election candidate who was shot dead by the UVF in a bar near the university in 1992.

Events like this naturally served to raise tensions in the student body.

Row after row

Disputes within the union itself regularly made the headlines. There were seemingly unending rows about the display of Irish-language signs in the union building.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness was "egged" by DUP students when he visited the building a few years back.

Ian Paisley Junior
Ian Paisley Junior vociferous in his time too

Ian Paisley Jr made a very public demonstration against the dropping of "God Save the Queen" from graduation ceremonies.

He and Peter Weir, both of them now DUP MLAs, stood during the ceremony and played the national anthem on a small tape recorder.

A number of other senior figures at Stormont also began their political careers at Queen's, including the current SDLP leader, Mark Durkan.

On this week's programme, Rosy Billingham, speaks to student politicians past and present.

As the DUP reach an accommodation with Sinn Fein at Stormont, are today's student politics more to do with the price of a latte than questions of nationality?

Politics Show

Jim Fitzpatrick
Jim Fitzpatrick

Be sure to join presenter Jim Fitzpatrick for Politics Show from Northern Ireland - this Sunday 30 September 2007 at the later time of 13:35 BST on BBC One.

You get a second chance to see the programme again that night, at 22:55 BST on BBC One.

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Politics from around the UK...

Billy, Antrim


Previous stories...

Church political ties 'must end'
10 Sep 07 |  Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
11 Sep 05 |  Politics Show


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