Letters to the Editor

Bible sacrilegiously deployed to reject gesture of reaching out

Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1889-1975), one of the most eminent English historians, explained how England used the Bible in its genocidal, racist,  and – after the English Reformation – anti-Catholic oppression of Ireland.

Sadly, today there is still a residue of that deep-seated anti-Catholic mindset in a significant section of the Protestant community in Northern Ireland. (Can any informed, objective person really deny this?) And – since the six counties were torn away from the other 26 counties of Ireland by the 1920 British Government of Ireland Act – every time any unionist/loyalist/Protestant leader makes a gesture of reaching out to nationalists/republicans/ Catholics, the Bible is sacrilegiously deployed to reject that gesture.

Some might see the latest melancholic example of this as being  Ballymoney councillor John Finlay’s over-the-top attack on Arlene Foster’s attendance at the Ulster GAA final. 

Was this attack out of concern for the Lord’s Day – which, by the way was changed from Saturday to Sunday by the Catholic Church at the  Council of Laodicea in A.D. 364 – or could it be seen as a dog whistle? Might some, with good reason, see Cllr Findlay’s attack as a not too subtle attempt to rally the extreme, fundamentalist, ultra-Orange base of the DUP – to show disrespect not only to Catholics, but also to all things Irish (as personified by the GAA)? Just like Gregory Campbell’s disgraceful  attack on the Irish language.

A few misguided individuals may think the best way to counter anti-Catholicism, anti-Semitism, or anti-Black racism is to ignore it – just don’t acknowledge it and it will disappear. History and human nature prove otherwise. Right now, Blacks in the US quite correctly call out anti-Black racism. And I back them 100 per cent. The same as I back Jewish-Americans who are not silent about some re-emergence of anti-Semitism in the US.

Any time the Word of God is used directly or by dog whistle to cause division and hurt, we can be certain it is not God’s will. As I said recently in a speech  at the headquarters of the AFL-CIO (the federation of 55 national and international labor unions that represent 12.5 million working men and women): 

“People of faith can be certain that working for justice is doing God’s work on earth. And  people of no faith can be certain that working for justice is doing the decent and loving thing. And all of us can be certain that anything that does injustice – anything that marginalises, demeans, devalues and disrespects human beings – cannot be God’s work, or cannot be the decent and loving thing to do.”

President, Irish National Caucus
Washington DC


Have we a constitutional crisis after referendum?

In the recent referendum 1,429,981 people voted to insert the following into article 40.3.3 of the constitution of Ireland: ‘Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy’. Every pregnancy has a termination, the majority of which are live births but the object of this new provision is to prevent live births by means of abortion. Abortion is the direct and intentional termination of the unborn child. Article 15.5.2 of the constitution reads: ‘The Oireachtas shall not enact any law providing for the imposition of the death penalty.” 

The paper of record commemorated the 25th anniversary of Ireland’s ratification of the united nations convention on the rights of the child, on 20.11.17. A special supplement was published to include messages from the ombudsman for children, Dr Niall Muldoon and from the president of Ireland, Michael D Higgins. On 27/4/18 the executive director of amnesty international wrote that the convention “does not provide the right to life prenatally”.

The preamble includes the following paragraph: ‘The child by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, need special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.” 

Article 3 includes the following: ‘In all actions concerning children, The best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.’ 

Article 6 reads: ‘States parties recognise that every child has the inherent right to life.’ 

If the Ombudsman for Chlildren, Dr Niall Muldoon in saying that nations that ratify this convention are bound to it by international law is correct, do we have a constitutional crisis?

Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin


One of my darkest days

May 26 was one of my worst days in 61 years of priesthood. I listened intently and eagerly as the votes came in on the Eighth Amendment. I was shocked, utterly disappointed and ever since find it hard to believe. In other countries abortion has been introduced by politicians, not by referendum. The litany of past ‘evils’ has confirmed the disdain for Catholicism. The sins of our predecessors and the triumphal behaviour of many in Church authority were in part responsible.

The Ireland of saints and scholars is no longer a Catholic country.

Associating the ‘Yes’ campaign with concepts of care, compassion and equality and the ‘No’ side with, cruelty, torture and oppression, played on people’s need to be accepted by many so-called cultured Catholics. We who believe in the sacredness of all human life continue to believe that abortion is morally wrong. We are now living a seismic change so we must come to grips with it. The pre-Referendum debates and discussions with memorable contributions from convinced Catholics were mostly confined to their legalities but I was immensely impressed by many on the ‘No’ side. Those who shamelessly pushed the abortion agenda and claimed to be pro-life should be held to account. Meanwhile let us continue to work towards providing constitutional protection for the unborn.

Co Tyrone


Real political leadership

I WANT to thank Arlene Foster most sincerely for showing real political leadership through her recent attendance at the Ulster GAA Final at Clones last Sunday. 

As someone who grew up through the Troubles and coming from a rural nationalist community in Co Down I can safely say her attendance is being seen by me and many people across Ireland as a stepping stone to everyone living together on the whole island of Ireland, while respecting everyone’s culture and heritage. 

Her decision I am sure cannot have been an easy one to make from her own personal, religious, political and cultural background. I also know she will have your detractors and critics. 

But in the bigger picture of things I believe her attendance has sent out the right message. 

Castlewellan, Co Down 


Time for a border poll

The mere suggestion of a border poll raised by Peter Robinson has been criticised by his former party colleagues.  Gregory Campbell has said that it would lead to chaos and be divisive. It would be bound to fail he feels because, wait for it, the man who disparaged the Irish language in the assembly said that people in the six counties can celebrate both Britishness and Irishness according to their choice.  However, in a united Ireland only Irishness could be celebrated.

What many people might find confusing is where, particularly given results of a recent poll, are the clarion calls from those ‘constitutional republicans’ for a border poll. Isn’t it time they demanded such a poll if their stated, ultimate aim is a united Ireland and to refuse to accept anything less than a border poll?  Both the free state government and the DUP know that the conditions are right for a border poll and that it could be successful and they are both running scared.

Belfast BT11

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