The incoming president of University College Cork has no opposition to a controversial conference on Israel taking place on the campus but he supports last week’s decision that forced its postponement.
UCC has been accused of bowing to pressure over claims of an anti-Israeli imbalance in the list of speakers for the event, which was to have been held on March 31-April 2. But the college said the likelihood of protests meant it could only be held outside of term and if organisers help with security and other costs.
Patrick O’Shea stressed he had no role in the decision, but said that management concerns were about security rather than the conference content.
“It’s not an academic freedom issue, it’s simply a matter of ensuring that participants and students are not interfered with, we all have the normal day-to-day work of the university to think of,” said Mr O’Shea.
The UCC graduate, who takes over from Dr Michael Murphy as UCC president next week, said nobody supports academic freedom as strongly as he does.
“That being said, this has to be done in a reasonable and responsible fashion. That’s why there’s a dialogue going on between the university management team and the organisers to make sure the conference can go ahead in a reasonable and safe manner,” he said.
Irish Federation of University Teachers general secretary Mike Jennings said he is confident that UCC will make a strong statement in support of academic freedom and free speech by agreeing to host the conference despite significant political pressure not to do so.
The conference, ‘International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism’ was originally planned for April 2015 at the University of Southampton, which withdrew permission because of security concerns.
Take the scenic route through Cork with new UCC president, Patrick O'Shea
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