Letters to the Editor

Church should do more to help priests accused of abuse

It is disturbing and regrettable that decent human beings such as priests, whose purpose in life is to help others, are wrongly accused of such a hideous crime as child abuse. As a representative of Clerical Abuse Survivors in Northern Ireland, I feel disgusted that there are those who engage in making these false allegations.

Someone who makes a false complaint is committing a crime that is equal to that of a paedophile. Not just are they destroying that person’s life but there are also destroying the lives of their families.
In the case of priests, they are eroding the ability of priests to carry out their work, providing services to people most in need – such as the homeless, the poor, the old and the mentally ill.

False allegations make it much more difficult for genuine survivors to get justice as they cast suspicion and doubt on their credibility which in turn increases their pain and frustration.

It is disappointing that the Catholic Church does not do more to help priests who have been accused of abuse. All human beings are entitled to be treated as innocent until proven guilty.

I speak from personal experience when I say it takes many years for someone who has been affected by child abuse to speak about what happened them in the past, especially when the perpetrator has been a cleric. There is much that can be learned from genuine survivors to establish patterns of behaviour that could be instrumental in establishing the initial credibility of a complaint that should be taken into consideration during any investigation of child abuse.

As a representative of Clerical Abuse Survivors, I would like to offer my condolences to all the priests who have taken their own lives and sincerely hope those who have been wrongly accused find justice. There is definitely a case for much more to be done in order to protect innocent people from false allegations.

Clerical Abuse NI, Belfast


Important we protect shared housing initiatives

It’s incredibly important that we protect shared housing initiatives, like the development at Cantrell Close, and ensure that everyone feels welcome in them. The police can only do so much and the broad pro-union family has much to gain by stepping up and taking responsibility.

The constitutional future of Northern Ireland will be a battle of hearts and minds. When Edward Carson and James Craig founded the state they advised that it should work for all of its people. They realised that violence and exclusion can only create further conflict and alienate people from a sense of Britishness.

A good first step would be to challenge properly all those who have threatened the young families in east Belfast because of their religion. Additionally, pro-union people should stop reacting to Sinn Féin’s agenda and start thinking more strategically.

That means refusing to tolerate flags that are associated with paramilitaries, irrespective of dishonest arguments that they represent something else. The republican movement seems to want to constantly remind everyone of its murderous, unnecessary campaign of violence. Do loyalists really think they promote our place in the UK by reminding people of their movement’s brutality? If so, they are doing Sinn Féin’s work for it by alienating those who would otherwise be happy to call Northern Ireland home.

There are many examples of what can happen when we’re prepared to genuinely challenge ourselves as to how we share this place. Look at the success of Northern Ireland football fans and ‘football for all’. Irish nationalism should also heed it and similar examples.

All unionist politicians should come together against such threats and stand with the families. They should help the PSNI deal with the perpetrators and embrace the challenge of promoting Northern Ireland for everyone.

In his poem Invictus, WE Henley suggests ‘We are the masters of our fate / We are the captains of our soul’.
In Northern Ireland we and no-one else will determine the kind of place we live in.

Holywood, Co Down


Is now the time to rebuild Syria?

I have just returned from the World Federation Trade Union Conference in Syria hosted by the TFGU in Damascus. What I saw destroys the western media myth that Syria is a devastated region beset by violence and civil war.

I saw a country in the final days of war; a nation besieged by external and internal violence; a proud country brought to its knees by its enemies who stoked internal dissent and created a foreign army of mercenaries with one aim and one aim only to over throw and devastate the secular Syrian Arab Republic – a republic that stood firm against American threats and a country that stands full square behind the call for justice for Palestine.

While I understand the call from Kurds in Iraq, Syria and Turkey to reclaim their nationhood the attempt to balkanise Syria only suits its enemies in America, Britain and Israel. While America encourages Saudi Arabia to attack Iran via Syria in its regional political chess game only the innocent will die.

All these protagonists are funded, armed, trained and exploited by Syria’s enemies in the search for global and regional domination, for oil and gas reserves, bank profits and new consumer markets.

The travel restrictions enforced by America and Britain on Syria cause untold pain and misery and like Iraq these sanctions could ultimately lead to countless unnecessary civilian deaths.

Syria with the help of Lebanon, Iran and Russia is defeating the western-backed attacks on its people. As I walked unaccompanied around the streets of downtown Damascus I was entranced by the welcome of the people, the normality of life, the old market and the beautiful Syrian culture.
Let the Syrians collectively decide their combined future. The Syrian Arab Army is freeing Syria from American imperialist intervention. End foreign directed aggression against Syria.

My return journey was from Damascus to Beirut, then Beirut to Cyprus, finally Vilnius to Belfast was a total journey time of 29 hours. Was it worth it? Yes it was. 

Belfast BT14


Denial of democracy

While the world and his wife were talking about the war of words – and that’s all there is to it – between Donald Trump and Kim Jung-Un, the Spanish government is blatantly flouting International Law and denying Catalonia the right to a referendum of self-determination.

Now that the European bubble has burst, there is now a seismic shift towards regions seceding – most notably in northern Italy –  by those sick to death of having to foot the bill for development in southern Italy.

Even the US and Russia aren’t wholly immune from the need for certain states or oblasts to break free. Do Texas and Vermont really have anything in common, other than being American?

I had a feeling 15 years ago that the EU would implode as it would become too big to maintain. Looks like that has been proven correct.

Ardboe, Co Tyrone

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