Amid signs of increased patrols by British soldiers, a group of activists at Queens’ University in Belfast has succeeded in preventing a British military recruitment exercise on the campus.
A protest was held last week at the Student Union, by the ‘Campaign to Demilitarise Education’ group, comprising republicans and socialist students, calling for an end to the British Military on campus.
It claimed victory after an event by the British Army’s Officer Training Corp (OTC) was “postponed”.
The protest was held before a planned “leadership course” due to take place at the university under the Commanding Officer of the OTC, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Maundrell.
The OTC is an offshoot of Britain’s Territorial Army. A British Ministry of Defence spokesman confirmed that the leadership course was cancelled, but declined to comment on the reason for the decision.
A spokesperson for the campaign, Eamonn Ó Maolmhuaidh said the group believed pressure from the protest was working in their bid to see ‘troops off campus’.
“We want to see our university demilitarised,” he said. “This is also about forcing the university to live up to its ethos as a place for all students to feel comfortable studying in. The Officer Training Corps makes a mockery of that idea.”
The group said a previous event in which the OTC were to hold an information stall was also axed due to the threat of peaceful protest, and have said their actions are in the spirit of “radical student politics”.
Following the protest, Mr Ó Maolmhuaidh said the group later learned the military event had been called off. “This is proof that our protests have the power to get our point across,” he added.
* In a related development, British Army patrols were spotted patrolling on boats on Lough Erne in County Fermanagh on Thursday of this week, according to locals. Other reports said British Army patrols have taken place in recent weeks in Counties Derry and Fermanagh, counter to the policy of demilitarisation in the North.
Two grey and green boats carrying patrols of up to 16 men in camouflage gear, carrying assault rifles and back packs, were said to have alighted in the Newtownbutler area of Fermanagh. Local farmers said that the two patrols left the boats and moved off into surrounding farmland for up to an hour, then returned and left.