Unionists sling out sitting officers

February 2, 1996

Unionist graduates have staged a takeover of Queen's University's convocation. More than 100 graduates of the convocation, to which all former students belong, combined to oust a number of sitting officers last week.

The move was seen as a backlash by Unionists over the body's failure to protest against the senate's decision last year to drop the national anthem at graduation ceremonies.

John Taylor MP, deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist party and a convocation member, said the vote reflected the failure of the previous office bearers to speak out against the senate. Only Alex Attwood, a member of the nationalist SDLP, retained a position on the committee of convocation.

The sitting chairman Jack McDowell was defeated by the Unionist candidate John Holland who will hold the seat for the next three years. Activists such as John Burke, the chairman of SDLP Youth, and Ann Hall, an officer of the Union of Students in Ireland, also lost their positions.

The shift could embarrass the university authorities who are attempting to change Queen's unionist image after years of allegations of bias.

Mr Taylor said the unionist graduates who supported the retention of the national anthem had come out against those who had politicised the graduate body.

Mr Attwood, who was not standing for re-election as deputy chairman but who vigorously defended the decision over the anthem, was not available for comment.

Ulster Unionist Graduates Association spokesman Peter Weir said: "It has awakened a new spirit among graduates and is a significant move to redress the nationalist agenda."

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