Letters to the Editor

EU pushing UK towards a Hobson's Choice of bad deal or no deal

We Irish, unionist and nationalist are living in interesting times. The Brexit debacle has reinvigorated the drive for national unity and at the same time shaken the confidence of die hard Angloids who only take their heads out of the sand long enough to deny the obvious. The UK economy is contracting – huge national debt, low productivity, a falling pound, shrinking wages, reduced investment and high value companies and individuals relocating elsewhere are all pointing to recession or even a crash. The Westminster government and our local Brexiteers are in denial in spite of the almost daily humiliation of the Tories by the EU. Michel Barnier seems to have developed a Blarney brogue with  a ‘We told you so’ attitude when he addresses the British. The EU are pushing the UK toward a Hobson’s  Choice of a bad deal or no deal. They are fighting for European unity – the UK has to be made an example of. The Dublin government awoke the morning after the Brexit vote and discovered six counties they had lost down the back of the sofa. They are belatedly  realising their value and are at last seriously considering how to retrieve them. A customs border at the Irish Sea would certainly reduce Irish trading  losses and be seen by many as a huge step toward unity, but there are other advantages for the south in healing the country. The ailing all-Ulster economy could be boosted as a unit with the money that the EU would extract from its own and British coffers as a buffer for the new Ireland. Six-county industry would be freed from the constraints of a geographical cul-de-sac, helping to raise wages and therefore the tax haul that would likely end the historical deficit. Northern talent, skills infrastructure and ports will all be assets to an all island economy. Belfast could become an attractive prospect for relocating companies and relieve the pressure on the greater Dublin area.
A favourite unionist mantra is that the south cannot pay for unification, but because of Brexit it is the UK who will struggle to maintain partition and it is the south who will benefit from its end.
The opportunity for unity is real. The EU members are fighting in Ireland’s corner. Dáil Éireann has a veto on any deal with an increasingly desperate London government and they are starting to gain confidence in their dealings with the ancient bully. Nationalists and pragmatic unionists can but hope that the Irish government have a strong enough will and can hold their nerve. Interesting times indeed.

GERARD HERDMAN
Belfast BT11

 

Fine words can’t justify breaking fifth commandment

Michelle O’Neill states that her party is ‘not in favour of abortion’.  I wonder how she can reconcile this statement with Sinn Féin’s current abortion policy.

My definition of a person who is against abortion would be reflected in someone who campaigns to protect unborn human life at all stages, respects the current pro-life laws in the north, attends and supports pro-life rallies and/or prayer vigils, voices support for retention of the 8th Amendment in the Republic and calls abortion what it is, namely the intentional ending of the unborn child in the womb.

A true opponent of abortion will comply with all or some of the above descriptions.

How does Sinn Féin then measure up to its self-description of being against abortion? They want a liberal abortion policy, thereby bringing about a radical change in the current laws which provide full protection for the unborn child and mother.  They want to make abortion more accessible, less restricted with inclusion of ‘additional features’. 
This position, which many commentators have already pointed out, will bring Northern Ireland into line with Engand’s Abortion Act of 1967.

They denied members the freedom to vote according to their conscience at the recent ard-fheis. 

Now that Sinn Féin’s position is clear and open, I consider it a grave insult to the nationalist people to expect voters to cast aside deeply-held moral and religious principles in order to maintain their allegiance to the party.

To add further insult to the electorate, Michelle O’Neill has suggested that constituents can be talked in to accepting relaxation of abortion laws as something positive. No euphemisms or fine words can justify breaking the 5th Commandment of God: “Thou shalt not kill.” In every country where abortion is now available virtually on demand, it was introduced in a very restricted way.

NOREEN MAGUIRE
Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh

 

Unions want say in Brexit

As trade union organisations with members in Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic, we want a post-Brexit deal that protects their jobs through frictionless trade in goods and services. Our unions will have members both in and out of the EU, often working for the same employer. They must continue to have equal guarantees to their basic rights at work so that rights in Britain and Northern Ireland don’t fall behind the Republic and rest of the EU.

Theresa May’s decision to rule out single market and customs union membership before the negotiations even began was an historic mistake. All options that facilitate frictionless trade in goods and services should be on the table when the UK and EU start negotiating their long term relationship.

Trade unions played a key role in the Good Friday Agreement. We have decades of experience of negotiations behind us and we call on the UK Prime Minister to put party manoeuvring behind her. We need politicians from all sides, and each devolved administration, as well as business and unions, involved in negotiating our future. That’s the only way to prevent the return to a hard border, and ensure that workers don’t pay the price of Brexit.

PATRICIA KING
General Secretary, Irish Congress of Trade Unions

FRANCES O'GRADY
General Secretary, Trades Union Congress

OWEN REIDY
Assistant General Secretary (NI), Irish Congress of Trade Unions

 

Principled stand 

I like a man of principle and Mr William Lennox of the British Truth Forum seems to be such a man. According to The Irish News (November 24) he has said that Muslims and non-Christians may be offended by the erection of a Christmas tree in the centre of Magherafelt. It didn’t matter that the tree was an annual event, he wanted it to undergo an equality impact assessment or the tree should be removed. 

I hope that Mr Lennox is around in July and objects to the erection of Orange archways that are put up all over the place without an equality impact assessment as they may upset nationalists (and maybe even Muslims).
As a man of principle I await reading the letter that he will write to the PSNI although I won’t hold my breath.

TONY CARROLL
Newry, Co Down

 

Anti-Irish need to check facts

Wilson Burgess (December 1) claims that ‘Britain is Ireland’s most important European trading partner’.

Nonsense. The Irish Central Statistic’s Office’s December 2016 Brexit briefing states that: “In 2015, Ireland exported €112.4bn of goods and €15.6bn (13.9 per cent) went to the UK.”

Consistently, around 85 per cent of Irish exports are to countries other than the UK. Ireland often exports more to Belgium than it does to the UK.

Certainly, Ireland exports a fair amount of food to the UK.  However, post-Brexit, British food standards inevitably will be downgraded to facilitate low-quality US ‘standards’. Once that happens, Irish food producers will be faced with a choice of downgrading their current quality standards for the newly-downgraded UK market –  or of maintaining standards for the much more important EU market.
The probable result is that most will vote with their wallets and give the low-quality UK food market a miss.

SEAN MacCANN
Trillick, Co Tyrone

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