Letters to the Editor

Nationalism across Ireland deserves a better strategy

Let me begin by welcoming the open letter to An Taoiseach (December 11). It was an important and timely intervention in a period of ongoing volatility in political relationships across these islands. 

It was right to identify the Irish government’s role and responsibility as our ultimate insurance policy when it comes to guaranteeing our political agreements, our birthright of an Irish identity and the rights which do and should come with it. During the latest phase of the Brexit negotiations I believe the Irish government performed this duty well and they must continue in the same vein. Equally, I share much of the analysis that northern nationalism finds itself simmering with frustration and concern. The thrust of the letter provides an accurate assessment that northern nationalism does not find itself in a good place. I believe much of our frustration emanates from the fact that nationalist opinion in the north is currently without power or place. The dangerous reality of our politics is that the only local party shaping our political present and future is the DUP – we therefore have every right to worry.

However, highlighting that frustration and concern is not in itself enough.

Civic and constitutional nationalism must ask the fundamental question as to how the political context of DUP veto and control was allowed to arise.

Nationalism across this island deserves a better strategy than the one which has left us with no assembly, no voice in the context of Brexit and is placing us at the mercy of a coalition between the DUP and the Tories at Westminster. 

It deserves a better strategy than the one which left no legacy of substantial economic or social success after 10 years at the top of government. It deserves a better strategy than the one which is no closer to reconciling with or persuading the unionist people of this island.

I freely acknowledge the electoral strength of Sinn Féin but they can’t escape the truth that every extra vote and every extra seat has done nothing to strengthen the position of northern nationalism. In fact it has resulted in a return to British Direct Rule. The only way to break free from that failed strategy and re-establish northern nationalism’s power and place is through the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. The only way our fundamental rights will be delivered as Irish citizens, especially as Brexit unfolds, is by having a local executive and assembly. I worry that nationalism has lost some of our ownership and emphasis in the assembly and I noted that this emphasis was absent from this letter.

Of course we believe in the authority and role of the Irish government and

of Dáil Éireann but the northern institutions are an integral part of our nationalism too. If we gain our aspiration of a new and reunified Ireland, we will still always support an assembly in the north. 

I know this call to return to the assembly is not necessarily a very popular one with many in the nationalist community and there are plenty queuing up to accuse me of being desperate to soften, compromise and sell-out. However, I don’t think trying to re-establish local power in the face of Tory/DUP Direct Rule is a weak position. 

January will mark a full year without a government in Northern Ireland – it’s an anniversary which must push us towards choosing a strategy which doesn’t just read the nationalist mood but instead seeks to deliver for nationalism’s interests. I believe the letter was an important contribution to that debate.

SDLP Leader


At Christmas time don’t let pride get in the way of seeking help

What does Christmas mean in Ireland today? It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people in an increasingly multicultural and less godly society.

To many it is an exciting time of shopping trips to New York or London; for others its to spend hours browsing through shopping centres picking up presents for friends and family. For many it is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, through school plays and attending church and singing in choirs. But  what about the growing number of people and families behind closed doors who dread the coming of Christmas because they are going to slip further into debt, as they feel that they cannot say ‘no’ to children who demand I-Phones and designer gear as presents?

Instead of being a joyous time of year, it is showing the reality of the widening gap between the haves and the have nots.

What does Christmas in Ireland mean today? It actually means that charities are overwhelmed with requests for help. One such charity that is there day in day out to help people, who through no fault of their own, find themselves in dire circumstances, where the provision of food or keeping the house warm, is a juggling exercise, never mind the buying of presents or trips to the shops. The charity I’m referring to is St Vincent de Paul (SVP) which does not differentiate between religion or ethnicity, only on need.

For a large part of the population who are working on the minimum wage or under, they are only one pay cheque away from needing help to pay their bills which do not stop arriving whatever the situation.

Do not let pride get in the way of seeking help, or if you feel that you can play your part. If you have some spare cash, time, unwanted gifts or household items that are surplus to requirement, donate to SVP because you will be carrying out a good deed that will turn frowns of sorrow into smiles of joy, happiness and warmth.

Gort an Choirce, Dun na nGall


Political policing

Carnlough is a sleepy north Antrim coastal village. As you pass through it you pass the Londonderry Arms hotel and, like many an area in the six counties, you might be forgiven for believing that because of its outward image that it is mainly a Protestant/unionist area when in fact it is not. During the recent conflict here it would virtually never have made a newsworthy item, could not be regarded as an area that represented extremist viewpoints. However, being a mainly nationalist village, a monument commemorating the 1916 rising was erected in the village – remember the leaders of this rising were acknowledged and commemorated by Queen Elizabeth in a visit to the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin. Despite of all of this, the PSNI and council workers in the dead of night removed the monument.  Recently someone threw paint on a war memorial commemorating British forces in Larne. The PSNI are treating it as a hate crime.  If you are a republican or nationalist, this is what parity of esteem means to the RUC/PSNI. There are those who would like to consider themselves as part of the republican family who manage to ignore this political policing for their own political interests but they are not fooling anyone.

Belfast BT11


Days of Armageddon

Amid the clamour to condemn US president Donald Trump for wanting to move the US Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem – thus recognising Israel’s claim since 1949 for Jerusalem to be its capital city – no-one questions how absurd it is for all of these world embassies to be in Tel-Aviv at any rate as it is not Israel’s capital. The Palestinian Arabs (as Jews were ‘Palestinian’ too before 1948) claim the Old City of Jerusalem also as their ‘eternal’ capital of a future Palestinian (Arab Muslim) state as if it was their Divine right, when in fact there never existed an Arab Palestinian capital there ever, never mind an Arab Palestinian state. The geographical area of Biblical Israel – renamed as ‘Palestine’ by the Romans as a slur against the Jews after they forcibly ejected the Jews in 135AD – was occupied by various foreign forces.
None of these governances were Arab Palestinian, but 3,000 years ago you have records of King David ruling Jerusalem as a Jewish city.

The Bible predicts that Jerusalem will be at the centre of the world’s attention with the solemn warning found in Zechariah 12:2, “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people; all who would heave it away will be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.”
We could be living in the days of Armageddon. 

Bangor, Co Down

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