Pic: Brian Regan
GARDAÍ WERE CALLED to the concourse at NUI Galway today over a protest involving students and members of the university’s Christian Union.
The protest related to stalls being manned by two brothers running in the upcoming student union elections, and also a referendum on same-sex marriage due to take place tomorrow.
Sean Kearns, the Student Union (SU) president, told TheJournal.ie that the university’s LGBT group gathered the required 500 signatures to enable a referendum on NUIG supporting same-sex marriage to be held.
He said that an opposition group against the referendum was set up, and it includes members of the Christian Union society.
This opposition group “released some flyers and posters that have caused quite a lot of offence”, said Kearns, as they “correlated homosexuality with paedophilia”.
Stalls were set up at the NUIG concourse, near the café Smokies, today from which leaflets were distributed. As these leaflets were anti-same-sex marriage, students began gathering at the concourse in protest.
There are currently 2-300 students at the scene, with two gardaí monitoring the situation.
“The union’s stance would be that everyone has the right to have equal views shared when a referendum is called. We are asking students get out and vote tomorrow,” said Kearns.
He added that it is important that intimidation and bullying isn’t allowed during the protest, as these would be grounds for the referendum to be cancelled.
Eoghan Holland of Flirt FM, NUIG’s student radio station, said that brothers Enoch and Isaac Burke were at the stalls at the concourse along with members of their family.
Enoch is running for Equality Officer, while Isaac is running for Post-Graduate Officer in tomorrow’s student union elections.
“When I went down, the situation was in full flow and there were two garda present,” he recalled.
The decision of Enoch Burke to run for the role of Equality Officer “has caused tension on campus”, said Holland.
All Burke family members refused comment to Flirt FM at the time. According to Holland, the stands were related to an anti same-sex marriage poster that has caused controversy on campus. There was also pro-life material on the stands, said Holland.
Last week, the students union voted for the campus to remain pro-choice.
The students had been protesting all day and it is understood they are due to remain there overnight. SIN Newspaper, NUIG’s student newspaper, reports that students are holding signs which read “love not hate”.
There was also a mock same-sex marriage ceremony held at the concourse today.