Letters to the Editor

Irish language act row betrays aims of Bobby Sands sacrifice

Bobby Sands died after spending 66 days on hunger strike

I am writing this on Sunday September 24, the day before the 100th anniversary of Thomas Ashe and in memory of that a commemoration has been held in Ballymurphy.  BBC2 today has also screened a documentary about Bobby Sands, his life and 66 days on hunger strike. That documentary could not fail to invoke a number of emotions on those who lived through that period.

Bobby is undoubtedly recognised as a republican icon whose sacrifice has had a profound effect on the political landscape in Ireland. However, for me what is heartbreaking is that those who would idolise him as the epitome of the republican struggle, including some who were the closest of personal friends and comrades, would use his sacrifice to justify the current Sinn Féin strategy. 

It is a distortion of what he and the hunger strikers died for as it is a policy of appeasement to British rule, epitomised in the GFA. 

Speaking at the commemoration today Gerry Adams reiterated Sinn Féin’s determination to  resurrect the failed institutions of Stormont despite the fact that Sinn Féin’s largest electoral success in years was due to nationalist/republican agreement of the analysis that those institutions did not offer anything equating to equality. Sinn Féin’s participation in them merely suited Britain’s interests as a means of controlling opposition to British rule in an acceptable form. Sinn Féin drew a number of red lines before it said it would re-enter a Stormont assembly but these appear to have been gradually downplayed to a single issue of an Irish language act.

Much as I would like to see the recognition of the Irish language formally, I would be incensed if the value of the sacrifice of the hunger strikers and all those others who sacrificed their lives during the struggle were reduced to the value of an Irish language act. 

I could never hope to emulate the courage and sacrifice of Bobby Sands, the other hunger strikers and those republicans who selflessly gave their lives for the republican struggle. 

They are my heroes but when I see how the fruits of their sacrifice have been used by those who claim to be their successors and promoting their legacy, I wish that I could go back to them with the benefit of foresight and say to them don’t do it because those who claim to have your legacy at heart will distort your sacrifice in a way that betrays what your sacrifice aimed to achieve.

Belfast BT11


Focus of bigger argument should be human dignity

Paddy Mac an tSaoir’s response letter to me (August 26) suggests the language that I love (Irish) would have a message for me from the ‘age-old human values, wisdom and outlook’ from the Irish word for ‘abortion’. I actually dislike the Irish term and find it patronising to the user...like many other words and phrases, but this grammar struggle of mine only keeps me awake some nights. 

The English word, of Latin origin, is much more free from moral-demand, ab- ‘away, from’ + oriri ‘be born’. I take his point about the ‘mentally handicapped’ as he puts it, as ‘being afforded special dignity… in Irish’ in much the same way grammatically.  Thankfully we have other words to use for this term that are less patronising to the non-believer.

The focus of the bigger argument here rightly should be on dignity, dignity for the human and her autonomy over her body. If a woman wishes to continue to full term and bring a child into the world, with or without any conditions that may restrict their lives, then repealing the 8th Amendment is not going to affect them in any way. 

It will give choice to those women, however, who do not wish to do the same. No woman needs to give me an explanation about what she should do with her body and I would never demand one, because I’m not entitled to it. If less was demanded of women, how great a society we’d have.  I think that abortion on demand is a valid demand.  I’m a pro-choice agus sin é. 

Wonder what ‘abortion’ is in other languages? Ah, another sleepless night. 

Dún Geimhin, Co Doire


Unlocking border crisis

J Hughes – ‘Hard border will be economic, social and political disaster’ (September 14) – outlines his view of the present state of affairs and offers a possible scenario that might break the impasse and avoid a hard border. He observes that “a hard border is going to be an economic, social and political disaster”. I’d have to ask whether the fairytale that the British are spinning about a ‘soft border’ ought not also be addressed.

J Hughes rightly makes the point that the British have observed the letter of the GFA but have ‘torn up’ the spirit of the agreement.

He does not mention the critical area of the DUP behaviour in respect of the GFA and that is where I would like to address his suggested solution to unlock this serious crisis.

Basically J Hughes sees the six counties becoming a British protectorate with inbuilt checks and balances which would end ‘eventually (in) some form of All Ireland Agreements’.

This rationale is reasonable in theory but different in practice. Just look at the resistance the loyalists (DUP) are putting up to the innocuous suggestion of an Irish language act. That ought to be an indicator of the level of paranoia that exists in loyalism.

A more practical suggestion is that republicans bring those signatories to the GFA to book in respect of their responsibilities; enhancing their electoral strength, resisting austerity measures and confronting the major scandals than more or less have brought us to this pass.

Derry City


Irish freedom should mean equal freedom

Alex Kane (September 22) wonders why an Irish language act is such a big deal for Sinn Féin. In contrast, Sinn Féin never mentions the right of Irish people in Northern Ireland to national freedom. (‘Not Gaelic merely but free as well’.)

Alex quoted the latest statement from Declan Kearney: “An Ireland of equals will only come about once partition has been ended and a national democracy is achieved.” 

In other words, forcing a united Ireland on the Ulster Protestant people against their right to identify themselves and be accepted as British.

How many times does it need to be said, the Ulster Protestant people do not want to be part of a united Ireland? Irish freedom should mean equal freedom for the Ulster British people

Belfast BT15


EU should get off its dictorial horse

We are in cloud-cuckoo-land if Ireland believes Macron and his co-overlord, Merkel, give a damn about us.

What we ought to be doing is making the best possible future trading position with the UK. Great Britain is our true friend in Europe, not the rapidly developing military bloc which is the EU. Britain is not our opposition, rather the dodgy European so-called Union are using us as a pawn with which to crucify our nearest neighbour. The Irish border is not an issue of trade and politics, especially when this relationship is agreed between Britain and Northern Ireland.

The EU might think it has the upper hand but in a flash the UK could understandably pull out without any agreement in place. The EU needs to climb down from its dictatorial horse. Britain is afraid of nothing – there lies true grit.

Bantry, Co Cork

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