04-2007 Press Releases

Queen's University Belfast, Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin Sign Up to Strategic Partnership
Queen's Vice-Chancellor Peter Gregson (centre) pictured alongside Dr Hugh Brady, Provost of UCD (L) and Dr John Hegarty, Provost of TCD (R). Looking
on: Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern TD and Minister Maria Eagle, MP.
Queen's Vice-Chancellor Peter Gregson (centre) pictured alongside Dr Hugh Brady, Provost of UCD (L) and Dr John Hegarty, Provost of TCD (R). Looking on: Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern TD and Minister Maria Eagle, MP.

Dublin, Tuesday, April 24th, 2007 – An all-Ireland collaborative research partnership between universities North and South – Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and University College Dublin (UCD) – was signed today by the three university presidents at a special reception hosted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr  Dermot Ahern TD.

Building on a new collaborative accord executed between the two Dublin institutions, TCD Provost, Dr John Hegarty, and UCD President, Dr Hugh Brady, each signed bilateral collaborative agreements with QUB President and Vice Chancellor, Professor Peter Gregson in Dublin today. These agreements will promote and consolidate cooperation in education and research between the three universities.

Welcoming these unique collaborative partnership agreements, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern TD said: "By strengthening cross-border collaboration in research and education in this way, we can help put the island at the forefront of the global knowledge economy and deliver real benefits to citizens both North and South."

Employment and Learning Minister, Ms Maria Eagle MP paid tribute to Queen’s University Belfast, Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin as she witnessed the signing, on behalf of the Northern Ireland Government.

Commending them on their collaboration, Minister Eagle said: “I believe the partnership approach being demonstrated here today by three of our leading Higher Education Institutions is an excellent example of the practical cooperation that increasingly exists between our two jurisdictions.

“Furthermore, I believe that bringing research activities more closely together in joint ventures will help to strengthen the research infrastructure and capability of the whole island, thereby enhancing our attractiveness for research-intensive investment in the future – both indigenous and foreign.”

In this strategic partnership, three of the leading research institutions on the island of Ireland have identified a number of areas in which they have complementary strengths and together intend to develop these areas to ensure maximum intellectual, educational and economic benefits of the three universities in an all-Ireland and international context.

The thrust of this collaboration between TCD, UCD and QUB concerns biomedical sciences and biomedical informatics – with a focus on experimental cancer medicine, infection and immunity; arts and human sciences, including socio-economics and Irish studies; and physical sciences, including nanoscience.

"These collaborations are an important step in developing a world class research infrastructure that brings together recognised excellence in both jurisdictions,” said the Queen’s University Belfast President and Vice Chancellor, Professor Peter Gregson.  "The re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the developing North-South partnerships need to be further reinforced by greater co-ordination of investment in the research base of this island. Full participation by all the island's research institutions in future programmes is now achievable."

Under the auspices of the research partnership, Trinity College and Queen’s University will also collaborate on creative writing, high performance computing, nanoscience, drug design, medicinal chemistry and cancer research and cell biology.

“We see this as a very significant step in our pursuit of strategic partnerships in Ireland, one which brings cutting-edge research activities on the island together in an unprecedented manner across all the major disciplines: health, science, social sciences and the humanities. With such initiatives we continue to move from competition to collaboration across the entire academic spectrum,” said TCD Provost, Dr John Hegarty.

Under the agreement, UCD and QUB will also collaborate on clean technologies; environment and health with particular emphasis on food and nutrition; wireless communication and biomedical informatics.

“The pooling of intellect across the universities presents us with a genuine opportunity to attain critical mass in areas where we can demonstrate centres of excellence in the international arena,” said the President of UCD, Dr Hugh Brady.  “We believe very strongly in the integration of research and education and these agreements underpin our joint effort to establish 4th level Ireland as the platform for the next stage of economic growth and prosperity – North and South.”

The three institutions will also work to develop further complementary research strategies and joint postgraduate school programmes.


For further details contact:

Caoimhe Ní Lochlainn, Press Officer, Trinity College Dublin, tel: 896 2310 or 087-995 8014

Dominic Martella, UCD: tel: 716 1681or 087 295 9118,

Lisa Mitchell, Queen's University: Tel:  00 44 (0)28 90 97 5384  Mob: 00 44 (0)781 44 22 572


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Nice Little Earner from Queen's Spring Open Learning Programme
Cathal McManus, Teaching Fellow at the School of Education, Queen's University, juggles some materials in preparation for the University's new Spring Open Learning Programme which is currently enrolling.
Cathal McManus, Teaching Fellow at the School of Education, Queen's University, juggles some materials in preparation for the University's new Spring Open Learning Programme which is currently enrolling.
Queen’s University’s new Spring Open Learning Programme may just be the best little earner you’ve ever thought of. Now open for enrolment, the Spring programme features over one hundred short courses, including An Introduction to Selling on eBay.
Delivered by an education specialist trained by eBay and running over three Tuesdays, the fun new course will provide participants with all they need to know about getting started on the eBay express and earning some extra cash. As well as providing tips on how to avoid the costly mistakes that many new eBay sellers make, the course will also provide guidance on how to pitch and photograph your item and on how to pick up a bargain.
Having accumulated some new funds, Travel on the Internet, at both advanced and beginner levels, is another course well worth a look. As well as sharing some of his favourite travel sites, Geoffrey McNab will take participants on a journey through the best travel-related sites on the internet and provide some top tips for grabbing great deals on planes, trains and automobiles.
Such a holiday may help raise your feelings of happiness but have you ever thought about the philosophy behind it? Inspired by the new science of well-being, happiness is becoming a hot topic. In The Philosophy of Happiness, Graeme Watson will explore the history and philosophy behind the emotion often craved. Staying with emotions, a one day workshop ‘Emotional Intelligence Made Easy’ will also examine what causes and controls exist in our relationships with others.
Other courses featuring topics of special interest today include, A History of Modern Iraq and Orange and Green: The Origins and Development of Two Political Traditions – a wonderful opportunity to gain a fresh perspective on Northern Ireland.
2007 also marks 100 years since the 1907 Dock Workers Strike. In Workers United, Cathal McManus will take examine the Belfast Trade Union movement and the impact of Jim Larkin and his role in organising the famous strike.
Other courses on offer in the diverse programme include the ever popular language courses, several of which have been extended to include a wider look at the cultures of each country, an exploration of Stanley Kubrick’s films, Golf for Beginners and Golf for Improvers, Famous Trials: Miscarriages of Justice and the innovative History on Trial, in which a different historical figure is put on trial each week.
Dr Tess Maginess, is the Open Learning Programme’s Co-Ordinator at Queen’s. Speaking about the programme, which includes a course delivered by her on Booker Books, Tess said: “This Spring we have much to learn about our own ‘coloured shapes’ and about the extraordinary world opening around us. We have many courses across the spectrum. From the ancient worlds of Law, History and Language to the new wonders created by science and technology and well being, the 2007 Spring Open Learning Programme from the School of Education at Queen’s offers an amazing opportunity to bring a little colour and knowledge into participant’s lives.”
Commending the programme, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Gregson, said: “This range of diverse academic and other learning opportunities not only includes dozens of courses which have proved their popularity over the years, but also introduces new choices reflecting the demands of life in the 21st century.”
The Spring programme may be found online at or to request a copy telephone 02890 973323. Enrolments should be made as soon as possible as classes begin on Monday, 30 April.
Notes to Editor
Pictures to accompany this image have been sent to all picture desks.
CAPTION: Cathal McManus, Teaching Fellow at the School of Education, Queen’s University, juggles some materials in preparation for the University’s new Spring Open Learning Programme which is currently enrolling.
For further information please contact Eugene McCusker, Communications Office. Tel: 028 90 97 5320.

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Did women make a difference to Irish university life?

The experiences of women in higher education in Ireland over the last 100 years are the focus of a conference at Queen’s University today (Friday 20 April).

Entitled ‘Did Women Make a Difference: Women in Higher Education, 1908-2008’, the event brings together scholars from Queen’s, University College Cork, University College Dublin, University College Galway, Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick

One of the organisers, Queen’s Professor Mary O’Dowd said: “2008 marks the centenary of the establishment of Queen’s as an independent university and the formation of the National University of Ireland which incorporated the universities in Cork, Dublin and Galway.   While women students were admitted to Queen’s before 1908, it was not until after that date that women began to attend in significant numbers. This conference is exploring their experiences since that date.

“Among the issues we will be discussing are the impact of women on the male-dominated academic community, the current status of women in higher education and the role of gender in the formation of public policy on higher education.”

The proceedings of the conference will be published in time to mark the 2008 centenary of Queen’s. 

The event is the second of an annual series of conferences on Irish women’s history hosted by the University’s School of History and Anthropology.  This year’s conference has been organised in collaboration with the University’s Women’s Studies Centre and the Queen’s Gender Initiative.  The event has been sponsored by the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s.

Queen’s is now acknowledged as a United Kingdom higher education leader in advancing women in the male-dominated fields of science, engineering and technology,

The University was recently awarded an Athena SWAN silver award for excellence in science, engineering and technology employment in higher education. The Athena Project aims to promote the advancement of women in science, engineering and technology in higher education and a significant increase in the number of women recruited to the top posts.

The Silver Award is the latest recognition for Queen’s work in improving the profile and position of women at the University. Last year Queen’s won the Opportunity Now UK education sector award for the work of its Gender Initiative which aims to improve the profile and position of women within the University. The Awards recognised employers from the private and public sectors who have made equal and inclusiveness work cultures a business imperative.  In 2003 Queen’s won the first national Athena award for the University’s pioneering work in advancing women in science, engineering and technology.

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Innovative new course to catch local fishing industry

An innovative new training course aimed at the fishing industries in Northern Ireland and the border counties is to be launched in Co. Down today (Thursday 19 April).

The Marine Aquaculture training course, developed by Queen’s University’s marine research and outreach centre C-Mar, is a blend of marine science, business studies and practical skills. The programme has been funded by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Northern Ireland (DARDNI) South Down Taskforce, Fishing Villages Initiative and created in collaboration with partners in the Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM)/ Sea Fish UK INTERREG IIIA-funded Cross-Border Fisheries Training Programme 2005-2007

Dr Lynn Browne, Acting Manager of C-Mar said: “The course, which will run until July, offers participants the chance to learn about many aspects of shellfish, finfish and seaweed culture as well as methods for the culture of novel species like abalone and urchins. It also contains modules on business start-ups, and trainees will have one-to-one business planning sessions with Ards Business Centre personnel. Other practical modules include Workboat Handling, Safety at Sea and Navigation.”

Further financial support for the course is being provided by BIM and Sea Fish with the support of the Sea Fish Industry Training Authority Ltd. whose contribution is part-financed by the European Union INTERREG IIIA programme for Ireland/ Northern Ireland through the NW Region Cross Border Group.

Located at Queen’s Marine Laboratory in Portaferry, C-Mar is a unique facility in Northern Ireland for focused and applied research in marine aquaculture, inshore fisheries and marine resource management. The Centre maintains close links with industry and its activities underpin the ongoing development of sustainable aquaculture and fisheries in an all-Ireland and broader international context.

BIM, the development agency for the Irish seafood industry, operates a number of dedicated training centres in Ireland. Over the past nine years BIM and Sea Fish have worked with the Sea Fish Industry Training Association (Northern Ireland) Ltd to provide EU-funded accredited training in coastal border counties.

For further information contact:

Dr Lynn Browne, Tel 028 4272 7807 or 028 4272 9648

Editor’s Note:

The course will be launched in the Portaferry Hotel, Portaferry, Co. Down on Thursday 19 April at 1pm Media facilities will be available.


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Health and life sciences education options showcased at Queen's

Queen’s University’s unique range of innovative education programmes for future healthcare professionals and life scientists are to be showcased at a special event on the campus on Friday (20 April).

The Health and Life Sciences Education Showcase will give an invited audience of key opinion-formers, educationalists and representatives from local schools the chance to learn about the range of opportunities available in the University’s Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences.

The programme will include presentations on clinical skills training, prescribing for the future, innovative learning and teaching techniques and an exhibition illustrating health and life sciences themes and activities.

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said: “Events such as this education showcase play a crucial role in communicating the University’s activities to key audiences and to the wider public and prospective students

“As a member of the Russell Group of leading UK universities, Queen’s enjoys an international reputation for the quality of its research and education programmes and makes an enormous contribution to the educational, economic, cultural and social life of Northern Ireland. One of the most important ways in which we make this contribution is our role as a training ground for the professions. Today’s event underlines just some of the ways in which we deliver this education and training, by demonstrating some of the options available for our future doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists, pharmacists and scientists.”

Dean of the Faculty Professor James McElnay said: “Queen’s is one of only four Russell Group universities to cover the whole spectrum of health and life sciences. Our academic programme incorporates medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, midwifery, biomedical sciences and biological sciences.

“Education in the Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, Nursing and Midwifery and Pharmacy is, not surprisingly, focused on professional courses. These Schools are responsible for training a large proportion of the healthcare professionals who serve the community with distinction in Northern Ireland and further afield.  Meanwhile, the Schools of Biomedical Sciences and Biological Sciences offer undergraduates a wide choice of academic options from medical related subjects, including biochemistry, through to marine biology and subjects in the agri-food area.”
For further information contact:

Anne Langford, Tel 028 9097 5310

Notes for editors: 

The Health and Life Sciences Education Showcase will take place in the Canada Room, Queen’s University on Friday 20 April, from 10.30am to 12.45pm. The exhibition will take place in the Great Hall from 12.45pm to 2pm.  Media facilities will be available throughout the event.

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Queen's Historian Wins Military Prize
Prof K.Jeffery. Queen's University Belfast
Prof K.Jeffery. Queen's University Belfast

Leading Queen’s University Belfast historian, Keith Jeffery, has won a major award for his contribution to British military history. Professor Jeffery was awarded the 2006 Templer Medal and Book Prize by the Society for Army Historical Research for his book, Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson: A Political Soldier, published last year by Oxford University Press.

The medal is awarded each Spring to the book published during the previous year which makes the most significant contribution to the history of the British Army. Professor Jeffery was presented his medal and a cash prize of £5,000 at a special event in the Calvary and Guards Club in London on 18 April.

Professor Jeffery’s book is the first modern biography of Sir Henry Wilson, a flamboyant, maverick and controversial Irishman who was at the centre of British military affairs for twenty years and became Chief of the Imperial General Staff – professional head of the British Army – during the last year of the First World War. After retiring from the army in February 1922 he became MP for North Down, but four months later was assassinated on his London doorstep by two IRA men.

The Templer Medal award was established in 1982 to commemorate the life and achievements of Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer KG (1898-1979).


Notes for Editors:

Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson: A Political Soldier, is published by Oxford University Press, ISBN: 0-19-820358-6

Keith Jeffery was educated in Ireland, the USA and Cambridge (St John’s College), where he won the Prince Consort Prize and Seeley Medal. From 1988 to 1997 he was joint-editor of Irish Historical Studies, and is currently chair of the journal’s board of directors.

In 1997–98 he was a visiting fellow at the Australian National University and the Australian Defence Force Academy, University of New South Wales.In 1998 he was Lees Knowles Lecturer in Military Science at Trinity College Cambridge, and in 2003–04 Parnell Fellow in Irish Studies at Magdalene College, Cambridge. In 2004 he was also a visiting research fellow at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. He moved to Queen’s in 2005 after teaching at the Ulster Polytechnic and the University of Ulster for over 20 years.

Professor Jeffery’s wide research interests include topics in Irish, British, and British imperial history, with emphasis on Ireland and the First World War. He was presenter on an Australian/Turkish/Irish co-production ‘Revealing Gallipoli’, broadcast during 2005.

In 2005 he was appointed to write the first Official History of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), covering the years 1909–49

For further information, please contact Queen’s Communications Office. Tel: 028 90 97 3091

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Queen's Research shows Daily cannabis use reported by NI teenagers

Fourteen and fifteen year olds in Northern Ireland are using cannabis daily a study has found.

Research from Queen's University Belfast has found that one in ten school children who had reported using cannabis at least once had now become daily users.

Dr Patrick McCrystal, Senior Research Fellow, said: “Whilst the numbers in our study who told us they were using cannabis each day may seem small, these young people are telling us that by the age of 15 they have moved beyond experimental or recreational use of an illegal drug to more sustained usage.”

Those reporting high levels of cannabis use were also more likely to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol regularly as well as use other illegal drugs. Approximately one in six of these users also reported abusing solvents on a weekly basis and nearly one third used ecstasy each week. The frequent cannabis users were responsible for almost all use of ‘hard’ drugs like cocaine.

The Youth Development Study (YDS), being carried out by Queen’s Institute of Child Care Research, is a longitudinal study of adolescent drug use. Some 4,000 teenagers covering 43 schools in Belfast, Ballymena and Downpatrick have taken part each year since they entered secondary education making it one of the largest schools-based surveys of its kind.

The research found that 70 percent of the frequent users were male. Nearly two-thirds of all the users belonged to the lowest socio-economic groups, were more likely to live within a disrupted family with just one parent, have poor levels of communication with parents or guardians, and had low levels of motivation to do well at school.

Dr McCrystal continued: “The findings tell us that the school children who use cannabis each day are placing themselves at an increased risk to drug related social and health problems now and in the future. These young people appear to have moved beyond what we consider traditional teenage lifestyles to one that includes regular use of illegal drugs as well as frequent tobacco and alcohol consumption.  They are more likely to spend their evenings away from the family home, have poor levels of communication with their families, and be disaffected with school.”

The study further indicates high levels of delinquency and antisocial behaviour by daily users which may have become part of their ‘lifestyle activities’. Of these teenagers, a quarter reported being in trouble with the police on more than 10 occasions and nearly one-fifth had been summoned to court during the twelve month period prior to the survey.

Dr McCrystal said: “The lifestyle activities of the high level users may provide valuable insights for education and prevention strategies for the future. The opportunity should be taken now to identify as many of these young people as possible and as early as we can.  Our research provides examples of the type of information that is now needed to do this and to develop support strategies to meet their needs.

“Also, as we continue with our research into the lifestyles of these young people we may be able to determine more specifically the activities associated with their drug use, and in doing so also more fully understand how drug use is shaped by lifestyle, and conversely, how drug use reshapes lifestyle.”


For further information, please contact the Communications Office on 028 9097 5391.

Notes for Editors:

Dr McCrystal’s paper has been published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence and can be found at the Drug and Alcohol Dependence web page via

These findings are part of a longitudinal study into the drug use behaviours of approximately 4,000young people attending schools in Northern Ireland. It is being undertaken by the Institute of Child Care Research at Queen’s University Belfast and forms part of the Belfast Youth Development Study. The young people completed a questionnaire each year in school from ages 11-16.

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Queen's University Helps United States 'Discover Northern Ireland'

A major cultural event aimed at promoting Northern Ireland to an American audience will be co-hosted by Queen's University in the heart of Washington DC on Wednesday 18 April.

Part of the Discover Northern Ireland programme that was launched on both sides of the Atlantic earlier this year, the event will feature an evening of the finest poets associated with Queen's.

The United States capital will come alive with the sound of poetry at the National Geographic building in association with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Chairman of NEA and poet Dana Gioia will join Northern Ireland poets Ciaran Carson, Michael Longley, Medbh McGuckian, and Paul Muldoon for a poetry evening entitled "A Shower of Rhyming Couplets." There will also be a video message from Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney.

The reading is one of a series of more than 40 events that are bringing the arts and culture of Northern Ireland to numerous Washington DC venues in 2007.

Queen's University Belfast Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said: "These are exciting days for Northern Ireland. The region is looking towards a positive and successful future as a dynamic region committed to economic prosperity, cultural development and building confidence in the innovation and creativity of its people. Queen's is and will be central to this process. We look forward over the coming days and months to sharing with US audiences information on all that Northern Ireland has to offer, including our contribution to global culture and to cutting-edge scientific, medical and technological advances."

Speaking about the event NEA Chairman Dana Gioia said: "Nowhere in the English-speaking world has there been such a remarkable concentration of poetic talent as in Northern Ireland over the past half century. Northern Ireland's troubles took a terrible human toll, but they also provoked its writers to affirm the freedom and dignity of the human imagination. As a public official, I welcome these writers with pride, but as a fellow poet, I greet them with no little awe."

Chairman Gioia and the four poets also will participate in Emblems in Adversity, a two-day symposium on Northern Ireland at Georgetown University.

Rediscover Northern Ireland was launched on St. Patrick's Day and will continue through to 8 July. From 27 June to 8 July, Northern Ireland will take part in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall, the largest annual cultural event in the nation's capital.


Media enquiries to the Press Office on 028 9097 3091.

Notes to Editors

Queen's University Belfast is a member of the Russell Group of leading UK universities. A leader in innovation and a centre of international academic excellence rooted at the heart of Northern Ireland, the University has a distinctly global outlook. Its international connections include a major partnership with Georgetown University in Washington DC.

The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts–both new and established–bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the largest national funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases. For more information, please visit

Rediscover Northern Ireland is a unique collaboration among Northern Ireland government, academic and non-profit organizations, including the Northern Ireland Bureau, Invest NI, the University of Ulster, Queen's University and a broad range of arts and cultural organizations under the leadership of the Department of Culture, Arts & Leisure (DCAL) and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, developed to leverage Northern Ireland's participation in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and present a new, revitalized Northern Ireland to U.S. audiences. Activities have been developed to showcase Northern Ireland in the areas of trade and business, education, tourism, food and drink, and arts and culture and to promote the region as a destination site for American business, students, and travelers.

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Razor Sharp Students Launch 2007 Titanic Duathlon Series at Queen's University
Razor Sharp - Matthew Wilson from Queen’s University Triathlon Club, gets race ready for the first event in the 2007 Titanic Duathlon Series which takes place in Belfast this Saturday at 3.00pm. Looking on is team mate and brother Paul Wilson.
Razor Sharp - Matthew Wilson from Queen’s University Triathlon Club, gets race ready for the first event in the 2007 Titanic Duathlon Series which takes place in Belfast this Saturday at 3.00pm. Looking on is team mate and brother Paul Wilson.

This weekend will be yet another busy one for the Titanic Quarter of Belfast as Queen's University Triathlon Club hosts the second year of its successful Titanic Duathlon Series. Comprising of a two mile run, a ten mile cycle and a final two mile run through the historic Titanic Quarter, four events will take place from this Saturday (21 April) until July.

Over 500 people competed in the first ever Titanic Duathlon Series last summer and this year competitors are being encouraged to enter all races in order to see if their times improve across the four events.

Last year’s oldest entrant was 83 year old John McKeag from Dundonald, a member of Ballydrain Harriers. With assistance from Titanic Quarter Ltd, Belfast Harbour Commissioners, Harcourt Construction and McConvey Cycles, Queen’s Triathlon Club is hoping the event will attract first time duathlon competitors as well as international athletes.

Cash prizes are on offer for all the main categories and an extensive range of spot prizes are also on offer throughout the four events.

Entry is £10 per race with a discount available for registration across all four events. Registration is available online at

Speaking about the event, Titanic Duathlon Series Director, Paul Wilson of Queen’s University Triathlon Club said: “The Titanic Duathlon Series is about having a go and taking part, rather than the competitive environment often associated with triathlons and duathlons. We have made our course shorter than other duathlons in the hope of encouraging people to come out and give multi-sport events a go. Our event also provides a unique arena in which to compete.”

The remaining races, will take place on Saturday, 5 May; Saturday 23 June and Sat 21 July. Late entries will be accepted on the day, subject to an overall entry limit.


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Queen's scientists reveal first settlers to colonise Ireland
You may well ask the question, where did the animals and plants of modern day Ireland and Britain come from? Published in the prestigious journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society, scientists at Queen's University Belfast have uncovered evidence that stoats survived in Ireland at the coldest point of the last Ice Age, 23,500 years ago.

The research has revealed that despite few animals or plants surviving the millennia of freezing cold and ice, the Irish stoats had real staying power. The Irish lineage of these small carnivores that eat mice, rabbits and birds is unique according to the research.

The scientists reached their conclusions by studying the wiry mammal's DNA collected from museum collections and gamekeepers.

Explaining the research findings, Dr Robbie McDonald, Manager of Quercus at Queen's, explained: "These tenacious carnivores probably survived the extreme cold at the peak of the last Ice Age by living under the snow and eating lemmings, just as they do in Greenland today.

"Irish stoats are a diverse and ancient lineage, this study provides the first compelling evidence that a species of mammal found in Ireland today actually survived throughout the worst of the Ice Age weather.

"The Irish fauna is a very unusual mix of native and introduced species, but we tend to overlook the unique nature of the Irish gene pool of many species, such as stoats and hares. This work helps identify which species should be a priority for conserving the Irish natural heritage."

Genetic research has found that the Irish lineage of stoats is about 23,500 years old, compared to the British lineage, which is about 12,000 years old.

Stoats are found over a wide range of temperature conditions ranging from warm temperate to artic. While they currently occur in the high Artic of Greenland and Canada, feeding on lemmings, it is known from fossils that lemmings survived in Ireland providing a potential food supply during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM).


Note to Editor:

Using genetic techniques the scientists used a total of 197 tissue and skin samples collected from stoats from 153 localities in Eurasia and Greenland which yielded definite sequences.

Dr Robbie McDonald from Queen's University's Biodiversity Research Centre, known as Quercus, recently worked on this research in conjunction with genetics expert Professor Jeremy Searle from York University and Professor Dr Natalia Martinkova from the Academy of Science of the Czech Republic.

Quercus is a collaboration between Queen's University and the DOE Environment and Heritage Service.

For further information please contact Eugene McCusker, Communications Office. Tel: 028 90 97 5320.

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Geldof takes stage for Union celebrations
Bob Geldof delivers his lecture to students as part of the celebrations to mark the re-opening of the Students' Union.
Bob Geldof delivers his lecture to students as part of the celebrations to mark the re-opening of the Students' Union.

Anti-poverty campaigner and musician Bob Geldof recently took the stage as part of the celebrations to mark the new-look Queen's University Students' Union, following a £9 million refurbishment to create some of the best student facilities in the United Kingdom.

The major building project, which has transformed the interior and exterior of one of the best-known buildings in south Belfast, was financed from University reserves, external loans secured from Students' Union trading activities and a £1 million donation from The Queen's University of Belfast Foundation. The redevelopment included much-needed renovation and modernisation of the existing building which was designed for a much smaller student population when it first opened 40 years ago.

Following the official opening, Bob Geldof was the guest speaker at a special student lecture entitled 'Making a Difference'. He delivered the University's R M Jones Lecture, set up under a bequest by the late Robert Millar Jones, a former headmaster of Royal Belfast Academical Institution and Queen's Senator, who died in 1948.

The 'top to bottom' transformation of the Union has successfully created a striking new building within the Queen's conservation area. The alterations provide a new social concourse, featuring a range of retail and catering outlets, a state-of-the-art entertainments venue, a new suite of offices and meetings rooms, and an upgrading of the mechanical and electrical services installations.

The Students' Union redevelopment is part of the University's £259 million programme of investment in students, staff and facilities. Major projects include its state-of-the-art £45 million new library, due to open in 2009, and the £45 million Queen's Elms student village on the Malone Road, which is nearing completion. Meanwhile, a £7 million new sports facility at the Physical Education Centre was officially opened by Dame Kelly Holmes last month.

Bob Geldof was also the guest speaker at a gala dinner tonight in the University's Great Hall.

For further information contact: Anne Langford, Tel 028 9097 5310

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