Letters to the Editor

Size of majority will determine type of united Ireland to be put in place

Peter Robinson and some Fianna Fáil politicians state that a majority of 50 plus one would cause instability. Undermining the 50 plus one rule basically undermines any current definition of democracy. However I believe the size of the majority will determine the type of united Ireland that is put in place. To learn from the Brexit vote, we know that a straight forward yes or no question, only leads to more questions such as a hard or soft Brexit.
I believe a united Ireland referendum should have two questions, first being, do you want to join a united Ireland. The second would be, if there is a united Ireland, what type would you select? Three options should be given. It would be up to the UK and Irish governments to provide the framework for the three options  – a soft UI, medium UI, or hard UI.

A soft UI probably would mean that Stormont would still exist as an autonomous regional assembly; the Irish foreign minister would probably move into Hillsborough Castle and assume a governance role and act as pay master general. The 18 current MPs would transfer directly to the Dáil. Stormont would have fiscal autonomy, tax raising powers and could decide if it remains tied to the sterling or not. People’s rights, benefits, pensions would be copper fastened and any unification would probably be as frictionless as possible.

Harder forms of unification would probably have greater divergence from the status quo and probably have closer links to the Dáil and EU systems.

Each deal would have to backed up with a large financial package sponsored by our US, EU and UK partners, basically Northern Ireland would have it all its debts removed and would be transferred across as a going concern and have a solid 10 to 15-year financial buffer to ensure any change would be as smooth as possible.

Some people argue that the Republic could not afford to unite with the north and are happy to be in a subservient situation where the begging bowl is always out to London. Some revel in the fact that there is currently a large deficit. With the north currently having the lowest level of unemployment in the UK, a modernisation of the current health system, a reduction of the civil service, a vast reduction of defence spending and a lucrative financial package would mean any change would be financially possible.

The referendum should be held in 2023, 25 years after the Good Friday Agreement, which gives  enough time for the governments to formulate and specify the frameworks for a hard, soft or medium united Ireland and plenty of time for the people north and south to discuss. That way will help reduce any instability in the case of 50 plus one.

Belfast BT5


Perfect opportunity to pay tribute to dedicated humanitarian workers

World Humanitarian Day last Sunday offered a perfect opportunity to pay tribute to the dedicated humanitarian workers who, together with the public’s support, have helped to deliver major life-saving impact in responding to global emergencies – such as the recent Lombok earthquake in Indonesia and the violence in Yemen.

I recently saw for myself how Oxfam’s humanitarian team has been providing practical support and real hope for people caught up in the crisis in South Sudan, which has been ravaged by a brutal conflict for the past four years.

More than six million people – 45 per cent of the population – are facing extreme hunger. As many as 7.5 million people now need humanitarian assistance. More than one million of these people are children who are acutely malnourished.

When I visited South Sudan earlier this summer, I met many people whose lives have been turned upside down by the ongoing conflict. I spoke to women grieving for their dead children, families who have had to flee their homes and farmers forced to abandon their land – ordinary people, who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves caught up in the crisis.

And yet many of these people are working alongside us to ensure vulnerable people receive live-saving aid – humanitarians like Martha, whose quiet hometown Nyal in Unity State became a refuge for thousands of people forced to flee. Martha uses her skills as a canoe driver to locate and transport those in need on the islands around Nyal – usually the elderly or sick – and make sure they access food distributions, medical services and other vital support. Oxfam’s team has been reaching over 500,000 people across South Sudan with life-saving aid. Oxfam’s humanitarian team is on the ground in Nyal, working with people like Martha to provide canoes to bring the sick and vulnerable from the remote islands to access life-saving aid and health care. 

I would like to thank all the humanitarian heroes working across the world. I would also like to say a huge thank you to the public here for their ongoing support – we couldn’t do what we do without you. You are heroes too.

Chief Executive, Oxfam Ireland


Belfast deserves better

I learned with some incredulity that the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Deirdre Hargey, was invited as guest speaker for a programme of events at the Linen Hall Library, Belfast, under the heading  ‘Civil Rights Now’. The programme itself, validating the worth of the LGBT and other vulnerable communities, is admirable.

Most would agree, I think, that the most basic of human rights is the right to life. Ms Hargey was present in Magennis’s Bar in January 2005 the night Robert McCartney was attacked and murdered by republicans associated with Sinn Féin.
To the best of my knowledge, Ms Hargey did not give a statement to the police at the time and was subsequently suspended from Sinn Féin. Even the most incidental knowledge from her might have been of use to the police in piecing together the awful sequence of events.

It cannot be said that this is some distant atrocity from the era of the Troubles, though that in itself would hardly be a justification for silence. Robert McCartney’s children, family and close friends carry every day the burden of the killing and surely deserve the support of all who care about the taking of human life. Belfast deserves better from its public representatives,  particularly its first citizen. So perhaps Belfast City Council might consider instituting a civil and human rights education programme for public representatives of this once ‘Athens of
the north’.

Belfast BT7


SDLP no better than Sinn Féin

Daniel McCrossan MLA (August 13) maintains the view that the SDLP are better than Sinn Féin and are thereby the true inheritors of the vision set by 1916.
Let him not forget that while he personally is noted for his strong pro-life views, the same cannot now be said for his party leader, Colum Eastwood MLA and Claire Hanna MLA. 

They both have shown support for a English MP’s call by her government to impose abortion and along side with Sinn Féin, were also advocating for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. 

Clonoe, Co Tyrone

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