Letters to the Editor

Sinn Féin pushing for rights while excercising no mandate

Sinn Féin will have to drastically relax their position on an Irish Language Act if devolution stands any chance. They might be able to get some leeway on gay rights with unionists, but an Irish Language Act would be divisive as it currently stands. It is interesting that Sinn Féin have confined themselves these days to selective rights and not looked for other rights such as housing and working rights and political rights such as physical representation and accountability. Much of the early republican campaign in the late 1960s and 1970s was on housing and worker rights. Of course as long as Sinn Féin renounce power sharing they do not have to represent anyone or be accountable. It is up to them to decide the agenda. Gay issues are becoming pervasive in modern popular culture, however, the Irish or Gaelic language is not. Very little discussion is coming from Northern Ireland on a Bill of Rights, just selective rights demanded by Sinn Féin. No big push from them on the right to housing, the right to a job, the right to medical care, the right to political reply, the right to electoral recall if elected representatives do not take their seats or fail to perform. The big problem is the abuse of rights which is where the real problem lies. In the Republic there has been serious trouble with the Irish language and its abuse. Trouble in court cases giving evidence and official forms. Planning notices in Irish when only a fraction of people understand it. English street signs removed for Gaelic ones, though they bother no-one but fanatics. School children mandated to learn Irish against their wishes and that of their parents – all for the sake of a seldom used or spoken tongue. There is a great irony here. Sinn Féin are pushing for rights while exercising no mandate because they refuse to take their seats either in Stormont or Westminster. Sinn Féin are pushing for selective rights, while denying the right of their electorate to representation. Have Sinn Féin noticed the irony? It is arrogant of Sinn Féin to want a standalone Irish language Act without a reciprocal one being brought in for Ulster-Scots. They are in cuckoo land if they think unionists are going to agree on special treatment for one language and not another. Irish or Gaelic is starting to prevail and being placed over English and its everywhere, including ATMs, where it is now necessary to select either Gaelic or English to get to your account. There may be wriggle room on gay marriage rights at some stage, but an Irish Language Act is not going to fly with unionists deadline or no deadline. 

Shanbally, Co Cork


Redesigning economy will build a better future

Here’s something we’re rarely told growing up – our world rewards wealth, not hard work or talent.

A world where 82 per cent of the wealth created last year went to the richest one per cent of the population. Meanwhile, the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth last year.

Corporations are driving down wages and working conditions across the globe to maximise returns for their shareholders. They use their power and influence to ensure the rules align with their interests – no matter the cost. 

Many of our governments don’t just let this happen, they actively facilitate it, by slashing corporate taxes and stripping away the rights and protections for workers.

The result? Women in hot, overcrowded garment factories in Bangladesh paid poverty wages. But in boardrooms things are better than ever as shareholders and corporate bosses enjoy record profits.

Oxfam campaigners recently set up an inequality restaurant in Belfast city centre to illustrate this huge gap between rich and poor, as the world’s political and business elites met in Davos, Switzerland for four days. In that span of time, the world’s billionaires will see their fortunes swell by an estimated $8 billion.

But we can build a better future, by redesigning our economy to truly reward hard work, rather than wealth. What is lacking is political will. 

Oxfam is urging political leaders to limit rewards to shareholders and senior executives, introduce a statutory living wage, build fairer tax systems, invest in health care and education and shepherd in a technological revolution that works for all.

I’m sure every political and business leader in Davos will echo my concerns about the inequality crisis. But I, like millions of people, am growing impatient waiting for them to act.

Chief Executive, Oxfam Ireland, Belfast


Waste of Ireland’s resources

Israel, a country funded by the US to the tune of $3bn a year, is contemplating closing its Dublin embassy due to budget cuts. Israel’s Dublin embassy is one of 22 embassies and consulates earmarked for closure.

Ireland, in contrast, according to an announcement by An Taoiseach Mr Varadkar at a Shannon Chamber of Commerce event at Dromoland Castle confirmed the Irish government will increase the number of Irish embassies this year and will soon have a diplomatic presence in Mumbai in India, New Zealand, Bogota, in Columbia, Santiago in Chile and a presence in Vancouver in Canada and Oman in Jordan. It is not inconceivable that these embassies will have on their inventories red roll-out carpets so as to fete the great EU statesman, An Taoiseach, when he arrives to perform the official openings of those embassies.

In an advanced technological communications era, what a waste and nonsense to even contemplate opening yet another embassy to add to the 74 existing Irish missions across the world.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, the health service is in a mess, the EU imposed banking debt stands, no sign of the housing crisis being resolved is evident and so many continue to suffer the effects of austerity, EU imposed with the collaboration of an overpaid easily cajoled establishment cadre.

Blarney, Co  Cork


Facts about petitions of concern

Tom Kelly is absolutely entitled to express his opinions, but it is simply outrageous that he be given a platform to indulge in the ‘make-it-up-as-you-go-along’ polemics that have come to characterise his column.

In his piece (January 22), he claims that the iniquitous (I agree) ‘petition of concern’ was “…widely abused by both the DUP and Sinn Féin”. This is simply untrue. For Tom’s information these are the facts:

In the period 2011 to 2016, a ‘petition of concern’ was tabled 115 times. Eighty six of those were tabled by the DUP (including four that were co-signed by the SDLP).
Of the other 29, three were tabled by Sinn Féin and two of these were void given the failure to attract the required 30 signatures (the other eventually went forward when the SDLP had a change of mind).
On every other occasion that a ‘petition of concern’ involving Sinn Féin was tabled it was co-signed by a combination which included, variously, the SDLP, the Alliance Party, the Green Party, NI21 and the Independent Unionist Party.

Béal Feirste BT10


Pro-life opportunity

Now that Barry McIlduff has stood down after insulting the Kingsmill families an election will be held.

The electorate of West Tyrone will be given an opportunity to stand an agreed Pro Life/anti-abortion candidate.  
The electorate of West Tyrone can send a powerful message to the rest of the Irish nation (in this year of the abortion referendum), that they value the lives of our unborn children. Let’s defend the rights of the future children of this nation.
Agree an anti-abortion/Pro Life candidate to stand in West Tyrone and give the people the opportunity to vote for life.

Glengormley, Co Antrim

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