Freemasons fume as Queen's bans jamboree

April 18, 1997

Queen's University, Belfast, has become embroiled in a row after cancelling a Freemason's dinner.

Members of the two reported Masonic lodges at Queen's claim they have been "scapegoated" by the university's insistence on political correctness. The grand secretary of the Masons of Ireland, Michael Walker, said Queen's decision was "not valid".

The booking was for a reception in the university's Canada Room followed by dinner for 165 people and was made by D. T. Burns, a professor in the school of chemistry.

Queen's confirmed that the dinner, which it described as a private function, would not be held on university premises.

For the past three years the policy at Queen's has been that the university should not be associated too closely with organisations linked to only one section of the community. But Queen's masonic lodge has held an annual dinner on the campus every year until 1987 and had wanted this year to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

Mr Walker said: "Our request, at first granted, has now been refused for reasons which, no matter how politically correct they may seem, are certainly not valid.

"Freemasonry is not a secret society and we make no apology for any of our aims, aspirations and activities. We are heavily involved in funding education projects on both sides of the border and charity work. That such an organisation can be refused the use of dining facilities, as just one of the many organisations within the university, is clear proof of just how silly and paranoid society has become."

Alex Attwood, a councillor for the Catholic SDLP and long-time campaigner for reform at Queen's, said members of the senate had suggested membership of the Masons at Queen's should be declared and discouraged. "Yet Queen's appears not to have acted or to be seen to have acted. There are people I know are members of the Masons or the Knights of Colombanus who are men of quality and decency and make immense contributions to the community, but that is not the issue. What is at issue is the extent members of such societies bring advantage to themselves. Queen's, as one of the representative institutions of our time, should be the touchstone against which to judge representative issues, whether education, equality, management or now masonry."

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