Letters to the Editor

What happened at Dunmurry Manor didn't come out of the blue

There’s nothing new about the ‘horrific catalogue of inhuman treatment’ at Dunmurry Manor exposed by the Commissioner for Older People. Nor are such atrocities confined to Northern Ireland. There has been a steady stream of similar scandals across these islands in recent years.

In March 2012, the NI Human Rights Commission exposed appalling suffering in a number of care homes: frail people not taken to the toilet; residents heavily sedated with no good reason; humiliating invasions of personal care; unjustified use of restraints; gaps of more than 15 hours between meals; residents taken to hospital for acute dehydration; tables used to barricade residents into rooms.

The report, In Defence of Dignity, called for urgent intervention by the executive: “It is now of paramount importance that government…ensures that the necessary structures and resources are in place to enable the staff to carry out their work in compliance with international human rights standards.”

Dunmurry Manor shows how far short we still fall. 

In 2012, the National Centre for the Protection of Older People in the Republic studied 63 nursing homes and reported that 57.6 per cent of staff had observed one or more ‘neglectful behaviours’ in the preceding 12 months.

What happened at Dunmurry Manor didn’t come out of the blue and cannot be put down to peculiar shortcomings in the north.

One common factor has been chronic under-funding and relentless privatisation of care facilities, leading to an increasing number of unqualified staff. When cases are exposed, it almost invariably emerges that many staff members responsible for ill-treatment were unqualified.

Meanwhile, private companies bidding for contracts undercut one another by reducing projected spending per resident.

We need the process of privatisation reversed and a massive increase in health and social care funding.

Is the sort of money that would be required available? Replacing the Trident nuclear submarine will cost up to £205 billion. The money is there but is being spent on other things.

The fundamental shift in the balance of spending which is needed won’t be achieved by conventional political action. It will require mass movements of people power. The unions should be at the heart of this. Union leaders might be surprised at the support they’d receive from a public which cherishes the NHS and is fed up with phony promises.

A huge shout for radical, practical action rather than fiery words at the ICTU rally for the NHS in Belfast on June 30 would help.

Former People Before Profit MLA
for Foyle


Unashamed advocate for defending right to life

I was honoured to be head of Fionnuala O Connor’s hit list of pro-lifers. I admit to being an unashamed advocate for defending the right to life of the  unborn baby. It is a pity Fionnuala does not share that basic humanitarian view and use her journalistic skills to defend the human right to life of the unborn baby.

I am adamantly against abortion because it is a cruel, inhuman act of violence against the unborn baby. I see it as the gravest attack on human rights in the world today and I have consistently argued this from the perspective of a human rights lawyer. The right to life is an absolute right under international human rights law and the European Convention and underpins the very concept of universal human rights.

The fact is, that there is no human right to abortion under international, or European human rights law. The European court in its case law, says that it is up to the relevant legislative authority in every state to determine its law regarding abortion. The legislature is given a wide margin of appreciation or discretion. So locally it is up to the assembly to decide this contentious issue.

The last test of this was in February 2016. Then the assembly voted against fatal foetal abnormality being a legal ground for abortion by 59 votes to 40. In respect of rape and incest, the proposed  amendment to the law was defeated by 62 to 32. Both clear parliamentary majorities that Fionnuala should pay heed to.

Despite all the recent pro-abortion clamour at Westminster, the power of decision making still lies with the assembly, unless you overturn the devolution settlement contained within the Good Friday Agreement.

Sadly, as someone who has been a lifelong reader of The Irish News I find it disquieting, that practically all your columnists seem to be pro-abortion advocates. This in my opinion, belittles the life affirming values of a great Irish newspaper, that steadfastly defended the right to life of all people, during the many difficult and violent years of the Troubles.

Belfast BT15


Israel is a democracy

Congratulations to The Irish News, for once. Your coverage of Israel’s democracy at work. Your coverage of Israel’s Supreme court at work. Yes, Israel does react when illegal settlements are constructed. That is not to say all ‘settlements’ are illegal. Israel is a democracy, and my goodness they display this with such vigour.
No, they are not genocidal maniacs like some of the contributors to your letters page may suggest. The Israeli state is just busy defending its UN recognised sovereignty  while at the same time respecting the rights of its immediate neighbours on the ‘west bank’.

Belfast BT10


Left with no-one to vote for

I completely agree with J Diamond (June 13) in his view that the two so-called nationalist parties here have left many thousands of people like myself who do not support abortion with no-one to vote for.

One of these parties, the SDLP, has allowed a conscience vote where members can actively campaign and vote for any policy they like relating to abortion and in which the party leader and one representative have stated that they support the choice-camp.

Holding such views and being the leader of the SDLP sits uncomfortably with the party’s commitment to being pro-life and Colum Eastwood could achieve much more if he worked to ensure that women who find themselves in the trauma of a crisis pregnancy are given all the medical, emotional and practical support they need instead.

Belfast BT9


We are all crying out for leadership

Thank you for giving me the opportunity through your excellent paper to read the article by Roseann Kelly,  ‘Sharing’s Caring’ (Business Insight, June 19). I cannot believe that Roseann has thrown these women a challenge. It’s worth noting  that between London, Dublin and Belfast there are five woman at the helm and the future looks bleak indeed. I hope somehow Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill will read the article and perhaps take it on board.

Please be courageous enough to get back to work and woman like Roseann Kelly will help and assist you both in doing the right thing. You both know we are all crying out for leadership.

Belfast BT8


Say no to abortion in north

God save us from anyone who supports abortion. God grant that the north of Ireland does not adopt this terrible practice.

Ballycastle, Co Antrim

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access


Letters to the Editor