Letters to the Editor

Awareness raising is key to protection of children and young people

Christmas is usually a happy time for children and families.  However, for a small number of girls in our society the holidays present a time of vulnerability and greater risk of harm with the threat of being taken abroad to undergo female genital mutilation. (FGM). 

FGM is a term given to all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitals or other injury to female genital organs. It is practiced in some parts of the world but it is without any medical basis and can cause long lasting damage to physical and mental health. The procedure is dangerous, illegal and a serious form of child abuse. Unfortunately, it is an issue for some children across the UK and more needs to be done to stamp
it out.

The NSPCC understands that some families who subject their children to FGM may do so because of cultural norms or that they believe it will help their child improve their life. It is a deeply entrenched issue and the secrecy that surrounds FGM makes it difficult to identify those at risk.

In Northern Ireland, some progress has been made by the Safeguarding Board of Northern Ireland, to help reduce the risk of FGM to girls.  However, awareness raising is key to the protection of children and young people.

Schools, nurseries and youth organisations are well placed to identify girls at risk. We urge everyone working with children to be vigilant and especially if they hear about planned foreign travel to take part in “special” ceremonies, or an extended break from school this Christmas.

The NSPCC provides a specialised FGM helpline which is available in Northern Ireland. Since it was launched across the UK in 2013, the helpline has been contacted more than 1,500 times with around a third of concerns serious enough to be referred to police or social services.

For far too long, FGM has been cloaked in secrecy so we need more people in communities to join forces to ensure this dangerous practice is ended and no child is put through this needless, traumatic procedure. This is child abuse, it is against the law and it has no place in any society.

We would encourage anyone who has concerns about a child and FGM to speak to their GP, health visitor, school nurse, teacher or for advice and support they can contact our anonymous and free FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550  so that appropriate action can be taken. More information can be found online at www.nspcc.org.uk/fgm. Children can call Childline at any time on 0800 1111.  

NEIL ANDERSON
Head of the NSPCC in Northern Ireland

 

Nationalism is narrow, bankrupt and dangerous

The politically bankrupt nature of nationalism was never more evident than in the recent open letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (December 11) 

The 200 people who co-signed the letter demanding that the Irish government support and champion nationalists in Northern Ireland could have done so 60 years ago when the old Nationalist Party absented itself from Stormont just as Sinn Féin has done from the assembly.

Nationalism, Irish or British, never blames itself, never questions its actions nor reflects on its own behaviour. In the world of nationalists and nationalism someone else is always at fault. So it is with the content and tone of this letter. Sinn Féin collapsed the executive, forced an election and ever since have presented excuse after excuse for their failure to form a new assembly. 

The ‘200 Letter’ mirrors exactly the Sinn Féin agenda. It presents an extremely narrow version of events and a dangerous one at that. While claiming to seek to protect the Good Friday Agreement it undermines one of its main cornerstones – the principle of consent. It points to the outcome of the EU referendum and argues that it will ‘reinforce partition on this island’. The Good Friday Agreement confirmed the constitutional position of both parts of this island and that was endorsed by the vast majority of citizens in Northern Ireland and the Republic. 

Very few of the 20 signatories  have been to the fore in the struggle to defend public services, fund education, secure the NHS, stand up for workers rights, oppose zero hours contracts or campaign for a real living wage. Fewer still, for all their alleged concern about a rights-based society, have publicly sought the right of women in Northern Ireland to make their own decisions about their own bodies. 

GEMMA WEIR
Workers Party, North Belfast 

 

No festive cheer for Irish wildlife

In this Christian and supposedly civilised country there will be widespread cruelty inflicted on wild animals over the Christmas holiday season – reaching a peak on St. Stephen’s day, a traditional time for hunts meets and hare coursing meetings. There will be an increased countrywide organised assault on our already hard-pressed wildlife by a minority of the population.

No Christmas respite is given to wildlife by bloodsports followers who ruthlessly violate them by their obscene actions.

In a sense, bloodsports are a pursuit that allows human beings a holiday from being human.  

The actions of the Irish hare coursing community have been well documented.

No one group pleading ‘tradition’ and ‘culture’ should be allowed to inflict terror and death on wild animals for their own pleasure.

JOHN TIERNEY
Dublin 1

 

Abortion is not a human right

Clare Bailey of the Green Party is worried about a referendum on abortion in the north of Ireland. She doesn’t want it to happen because, she wrong headedly attempts to claim abortion as a ‘human right’ (December 19).

Firstly, abortion is not a human right. Secondly, it would appear that Clare Bailey, in seeking the introduction of liberal abortion laws in the north, without consultation with the electorate, fears that the result will not go the way of the abortionists.

The Green Party is concerned about puppies being bought at Christmas and the cruelty of hunting foxes and rightly so. It is incomprehensible, therefore, that this same party advocates the termination of unborn children. 

The Green Party states: “... the principle of non-violence means living as non-violently as possible towards our whole ecosystem, including other creatures capable of suffering. In short, non-violence underpins everything the Green Party in Northern Ireland stands for”.

Except when it comes to their fellow human beings in the wombs of their mothers. The Green Party claims that it “fights for the rights of the most vulnerable” in our society. Its alliance with the abortion industry renders that claim senseless since it shamelessly seeks to destroy the most vulnerable of all in society – the unborn child.

FR PATRICK McCAFFERTY
Belfast BT12

 

Why put right to life up for debate?

Clare Bailey wrote that it is nonsensical to put human rights up for debate (December 19). So why is she putting Irish and British children’s’ right to life up for debate by advocating for the legalisation of the barbaric practice that is abortion on the basis of demand?

EAMONN MacGRIANNA
Beal Feirste BT11 

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