Tánaiste ‘worried’ about debate on college campuses after he was heckled

Tánaiste ‘Worried’ About Debate On College Campuses After He Was Heckled
Micheál Martin said the ‘very purpose of being a student’ is to be open to different views and perspectives. Photo: PA
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By Cillian Sherlock, PA

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said he is “worried” about third-level institutions not facilitating debates over fear of disruption on campuses.

His comments came after the first day of the Government’s Consultative Forum on International Security Policy at University College Cork was disrupted by protest.


Speaking to reporters during a break in proceedings, Mr Martin said: “To me, the very purpose of being a student is to be open to different views and different perspectives, but have that then in a respectful way.

Consultative Forum on International Security Policy
Anti-Nato protesters disrupted the opening address. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

“That’s something in terms of the future of our democracy that we need to protect.”


He added: “It’s not just cancel culture. I think it’s people with a particular viewpoint on the world saying nobody else can have another viewpoint.”

Reflecting on his own time as a student at University College Cork, Mr Martin said debate in the past listened to all views.



He said: “I think we need more of that is all I’m saying. What worries me about protests of this kind is that many third-level institutions are now shying away from debate because they’re afraid of this kind of thing.

“They’re afraid of disruption, afraid of trouble in the campus, so: ‘Better that we don’t have any debates’.

“I mean, I worry about the campuses of today in the future. In my time, we had excited debates, angry debates, on the campus, but there were debates.


“In the modern era, you know, there’s a tendency that in order to avoid any sort of potential trouble or disruptions ‘let’s not have any debate’.

Consultative Forum on International Security Policy
Tánaiste Micheál Martin speaking to members of the media following the opening session of the Consultative Forum on International Security Policy. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

“Academic institutions should be the centrepiece of good evidence-based inquiry, good solid debates, and should be spaces where people can become more informed, get more insights and then formulate your own views.”


Asked about his reaction to the protests during the forum, the Tanaiste said he had “anticipated” some disruption.


He criticised the demonstrators who were removed from the lecture hall by gardaí.

“I’m a democrat, I believe in free speech, I believe in peaceful protest as well. But I also believe that people should allow others speak.”

He later added: “To try and shut down the debate is not the right approach.”

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