Letters to the Editor

Political and religious freedom is way forward for Northern Ireland

The Fourth of July is a special day for all Americans  – and not least for Irish-Americans, who glory in America’s freedom from England.

But the Fifth of July now also takes on special meaning for this Fermanagh man because on that date the World Communion of Reformed Churches formalised its assent to the Joint Declaration on Justification, originally signed by the Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation in 1999, and later by the World Methodist Council in 2016 – and warmly welcomed by the Anglican-Episcopalian Church.

All my life –  at least from my seminary days in England – I fervently believed that disagreement on Doctrine of Justification (the wedge issue of the Reformation) should never have led to a split in the Catholic Church. And now, 500 years later Luther’s Church and the Catholic Church have reached agreement on this central doctrine –  that we are saved by God’s grace, in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I appeal to all the Protestant Churches in Northern Ireland not to act as if this historic, Holy Spirit-filled moment, never happened. In particular, I appeal to the Orange Order – as it celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Reformation – not to bury its head in the sand and pretend this never happened –  as the Order tends to pretend the IRA ceasefire never happened.

Political and religious freedom must be the way forward in Northern Ireland based on the concept popularised by that other Martin Luther, whose last name was King – the Beloved Community, founded on equality, non-discrimination mutual respect, non-violence and forgiveness, as is the Good Friday Agreement.

But it is up to the British government to address the foundational cause of so much discrimination and bigotry in Northern Ireland – the Anti-Catholic sections of the Act of Settlement, 1701, which still, to this very moment, prohibits a Catholic from being king or queen of England. That such state-sponsored discrimination would be enshrined, justified and mandated in the (unwritten and non-codified) British constitution is blatantly shameless. 

Responding that the Monarch is also head of the Established Church is neither an excuse nor an explanation.
The other thing Americans celebrate on the Fourth of July is the Establishment Clause  –  the separation of Church and state mandated by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”

God bless America and God save Ireland.

President, Irish National Caucus
Washington DC


Woolly thinking of ‘prophet of reason and logic’ sets teeth on edge

I hope Aidan Convery will forgive me for butting in on his conversation with Danny Treacy (July 11), but the woolly thinking of this ‘prophet of reason and logic’ tends to set my teeth on edge. His latest ‘word of the day’ – absolutist –  is applied I assume, to pro-life people alone when of course all those who have an opinion on abortion can be so described. After all what is more absolute than death. Whether you choose to end the life of your child or give someone else tacit permission to do so you have willingly and absolutely ended a life. In Danny’s rambling style, he apparently criticises the pro-life  DUP in particular, for sectarian attitudes that have led to many deaths here of “fully formed human life”. This I can’t argue with, but why does he ignore for example the wholesale slaughter of innocents in the middle east by pro-abortion, secular governments in London and Washington. What does he mean by fully formed? A baby before or after birth? Infants? Teenagers? Almost all of what we are is formed at conception. If Danny can clarify exactly when he became fully formed, I’d be fascinated. Danny, as usual, lays the blame for the world’s ills at the feet of religions. He conveniently by-passes the history of athiest regimes that were responsible for the deaths of millions. Of course, when he criticises religion Danny likes to narrow the term to Catholicism. I’m sure he has his reasons. His assertion is that if the Church were to permit contraception it would reduce abortion and Aids in developing countries. Well, let’s pop over to England again where contraception is available everywhere and religion has little influence. A ‘secular utopia’ where thousands of abortions are committed annually and where sexually transmitted diseases are rampant. I’m sure there are many people reading this who conceived a child or were infected by a disease while believing they were protected by contraception. Promiscuity has a price in the form of death and misery. Those religions that preach self-control are swimming against the tide of human nature, but if we all lived the life they espouse then these ills would all but be eliminated – its only logical. Danny ends by accusing pro-life people of “moral cowardice” – when abortion is almost always the easy way out and he should take note of the abuse his fellow pro-aborts give out when attacking those who choose to speak up for those who are unable to defend themselves.

Belfast BT11


Stuck in Neanderthal times

Seán Ó Fiach’s reply (July 14) to our previous correspondence reminds me of the infamous Jeremy Paxman interview with Michael Howard. Fourteen times Paxman asked a question but Howard circled around it without answering.

He questions Sinn Féin for talking to the UDA. Maybe he wants to go back to the dark days and have a shoot-out like the OK Corral? Times, attitudes, policies and  strategies change but Seán appears DUP-like, stuck in Neanderthal times.

He advises me to follow “my party’s advice” and contact the police about drug dealing. Wrong again – not and never have been a member. As for his denial about drug dealing he must be the only one in BT11 unaware of it. Again – Paxman like – I ask what is his alternative to taking part in elections? Abstain and give unionists a free hand? Or maybe he should advise who to vote for if at all?

Radio Fáilte’s new premises, an Culturlann, Dunville, Falls, Lenadoon, Willowbank, Black’s Road, Poleglass parks recently completely refurbished or built and a new playing park for Michael Davitt’s CLG. Just some examples of partaking in politics. Nothing like that was done for west Belfast when unionists had control.

224,000-plus voted Sinn Féin this year so they are wrong and Seán and his two like-minded Cork men are right? 

Belfast BT11 


Nolan gives good value for money

One penny per year is how much Stephen Nolan is costing us – please let Gregory Campbell know. For that one penny per year we can listen to Nolan’s often entertaining and informative programmes five mornings per week on Radio Ulster, three nights per week on Five Live, for about 10 months of the year, as well as several BBC television programmes.

Quite simple maths: Stephen Nolan is earning no more than £450,000 per year. There are more than 45 million adults in the UK who pay or are covered by the licence fee. £450,000 divided by 45 million equals £0.01 per year.

Who is going to argue that Stephen Nolan as a presenter is not worth one penny per year?
The last 10 years’ worth of Stephen Nolan presenting his BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Five Live and BBC television programmes has cost each of us a grand total of 10p. Ten pence for 10 years of Stephen Nolan presenting ‘the biggest show in the country’, plus his excellent Five Live radio shows, plus many entertaining television programmes – that’s unarguably good value for money. Perhaps if Gregory Campbell got his way Stephen Nolan could leave public service broadcasting, the BBC could get some amateur to do his job for nothing nd we would each save an entire penny per year.
Compare that with the RHI incompetence, which Stephen Nolan so competently brought to our attention.

Belfast BT9

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