Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 business has been booming at Thales UK’s weapons plants in the north. Thales designs and manufactures missiles including Starstreak, lightweight multi-role missile systems and the NLAW shoulder-launched missile system at plants in east Belfast and Crossgar, Co Down.

Since the outbreak of the war these plants have doubled production and Thales recently claimed that production is set to double again soon. It also has a partnership with Israeli company Elbit to manufacture Watchkeeper WK450 drones in Leicester, which Israel has frequently used in Gaza.

Thales CEO Alex Cresswell has dismissed criticism of the arms industry: “I don’t see that I’m profiting from misery. I see the opposite: by being prepared, I’m averting more misery.”

Thales has long had links to Queen’s University Belfast ,where it has funded research into cybersecurity at the university’s Centre for Secure Information Technologies and financed studies into artificial intelligence and aerodynamics. Thales is so welcome on campus that it is part of The Chief Executives’ Club at Queen’s, where academics and business leaders meet for ‘breakfast lectures’ and ‘Christmas networking drinks’.

With the protests that began at Columbia University in New York – demanding that the college divests from companies involved with Israel’s military – spreading across campuses throughout the US, the question of whether similar protest camps might be initiated here would seem pertinent for Queen’s.

Indeed, a referendum to “decolonise, demilitarise and democratise Queen’s University Belfast” organised by its students’ union last December might have started the process of the university’s divestment and disengagement, not only from Thales but also from BAE Systems and other arms companies or those investing in such companies.

The referendum motion was also very critical of Queen’s chancellor Hilary Clinton’s open support for the bombing campaign against Gaza. With 89% of students who voted backing the proposal, it seemed clear that Queen’s would have to take action. In the same week Thales was boasting of increased production at its factories in the north, QUB Student’s Union announced that an agreement had been reached with a delegation from the university’s management to start a process to deal with the issues raised in the referendum.

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