Belfast students in discrimination case

THIRTY-FIVE final year students from Queen's University in Belfast have started an action in the Irish High Court in Dublin against the Incorporated Law Society, the Irish State and the attorney general. They allege discrimination.

The students claim they cannot become solicitors in the Irish Republic unless they sit an examination which law students with the same degree qualifications from universities in the Irish Republic are not required to sit.

Their counsel, Dr John White, told the court that Bachelor of Law graduates from Queen's must sit a final examination before being admitted as trainee solicitors. Those with the same degree from Republic universities can start training without sitting the exam.

In an affidavit, the vice-president of the law society at Queen's, Mark McElhinney, claimed he and his fellow students were victims of discrimination. “The conduct of defendants in this matter has occasioned great distress and annoyance among people of all views and persuasions in our faculty,” he said.

“The defendants have made it abundantly clear to us by their conduct that they do not wish to have anything to do with us and that we are to be treated differently because we are from Northern Ireland.”

The judge, Mr Justice Patrick Lynch, adjourned the hearing until January.