Effigies on Eleventh Night bonfires a sinister development
Is it not long past time that the Orange Order ceased closing its eyes and turning its back on the actions of those associated with its Twelfth marches and bonfires? The burning of the Irish national flag on bonfires throughout the north has become such an integral element in Orange Order and loyalist culture that it does not even warrant comment in much of the media anymore. However, we are confronted by sinister new developments in sectarianism in the North. Effigies of the late deputy first minister Martin McGuinness in a coffin on bonfires are now incinerated alongside Polish national flags, election posters of Polish Assembly election candidate Magdelena Wolska and Hong Kong-born Alliance Party candidate Anna Lo. Those responsible should be prosecuted for hate crimes. These appalling acts of sectarianism and racism are new lows even by the standards of ‘normal’ Twelfth Orange Order celebrations.
Following the ending of the Second World War in Germany, an extensive body of legislation was put in place to outlaw all remaining elements of anti-Jewish culture that had grown up around the Nazi party. Is it not imperative that similar measures be introduced in Northern Ireland to deal with the endemic anti-Catholicism so prevalent in large parts of the unionist facade? Nowhere else in Europe would the annual ceremonial burning of many hundreds of the national flags of peaceful neighbouring states go virtually uncommented upon. What if every Bastille day the Union Jack was burned across France, or if every St George’s day the flags of Pakistan, Jamaica or Nigeria were burned in British cities? Understandably, there would be harsh diplomatic protests and perhaps riots in the streets. But in Northern Ireland this systematic and deliberate incitement to hatred has been allowed to become an integral part of unionist culture to such an extent that it hardly draws comment from British secretaries of state, unionist politicians or the British government.
Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland endured 50 years of sectarianism and religious discrimination and sometimes brutal repression, followed by unionist and British suppression of demands for reform. These policies successfully suppressed the size of the population, forcing sufficient permanent emigration to exclude the possibility of nationalists voting themselves out of their predicament.
Poverty and low educational achievement go hand in hand
The Irish News (July 7) reported on the planned cuts to a school uniform fund for children from lower income families and highlighted the cuts to the Sure Start scheme where 50 staff in south Belfast have been told that their jobs are at risk because funding is due to run out.
Poverty and low educational achievement go hand in hand and nowhere more so than here in Northern Ireland. There are more children living in poverty here than anywhere else in the UK, 101,000 or 23 per cent living in poverty compared to 17 per cent in Britain and it’s getting worse.
According to Sir David Varney’s Review of the Competitiveness of Northern Ireland the percentage of working age adults here with no formal qualifications is the highest in the UK by a big margin.
We know what we need to do but all too often in Northern Ireland we seem to have a perverse habit of travelling in the opposite direction. The most effective way to break this cycle of poverty and low educational achievement is early intervention. Nobel prize winning economist James Heckmann analysed two long-term early childhood intervention programmes, one in Michigan and another in North Carolina. The benefits were huge. At age 40 the subjects from the study were far more likely to have graduated from high school and have jobs. They were more likely to own their own homes and less likely to have needed social services. The boys were more likely to have grown up to raise their own children and less likely ever to have been arrested. The return to the taxpayer was huge; every dollar spent at age four was worth up to $300 at age 65.
Here in Northern Ireland we make our cutbacks by targeting the poorest in society. Not only is it shameful it’s also incredibly short sighted and poorly thought out.
Downpatrick, Co Down
Every cloud has a silver lining
The ‘cloud’ is represented by the Tory Party/DUP and the Sinn Féin impasse in their refusals to compromise on each others’ demands.
Hasn’t the solution been obvious, as proved by the recent case of welfare being returned to Westminster to legislate for its application to NI? It surely now is for Westminster to legislate on the other seemingly intractable issues here.
The recent Labour proposal in respect of abortion for NI women has provided an interim solution, whereby English, Scottish and Welsh NHS will provide and pay for all such justifiable cases. This proposal had such cross party support that it was withdrawn as unnecessary.
The ‘silver lining’ is surely direct rule from Westminster, whereby cross-party support is almost assured for dragging NI into the 21st century by extending UK legislation to all of the UK. Extending the language acts for Scotland and Wales to be included on the same basis is also surely possible.
A god-sent opportunity for opponents of the Tory/DUP accord to assuage their anger. ‘Job done’, hey presto, Stormont up and running again.
The DUP might well be outraged by these suggestions but they were never going to vote against the Tory government, even before the accord – even more so now. But this will take courage by any Tory government as relations could be strained.
Kinlough, Co Leitrim
Disappointed by lack of coverage of Dublin event
I’m concerned about a shrinkage problem in The Irish News. Despite what we’re often told there are times when size really does matter.
Monday’s edition (July 3)was a glaring example, for me and possibly another 70,000 people. The coverage of two events, one in Belfast, the other in London was unmissable; huge headlines, triple photographs and in depth reporting – with attendances of 20,000 and
10,000 this was not surprising. In my naivety, I expected to find even greater coverage of the event in Dublin which far outnumbered the others. Are the concerns of so many people about the protection of the most vulnerable lives in Ireland of so little consequence that they can be squeezed into about three inches in the bottom corner of page 6? The pro-life march in Dublin was certainly as newsworthy as any other march calling for human rights so why was it consigned to the “of minor importance” category?
Dunmurry, Co Antrim
Plea from the heart
I would implore you to stop printing letters for Messrs Fitzgerald and Sullivan from Co Cork – two ‘know alls’ in my opinion. They have no idea what is going on in the north of Ireland but seem to have all the answers from their save haven in Cork.
Why don’t they rmigrate to Britain and leave us alone?
Newry, Co Down