Letters to the Editor

Last thing Northern Ireland needs is another festival of division

There can be no doubt Theresa May, prime minister for the moment, knows all the wrong buttons to press when it comes to Ireland. Brexit, in bed with the DUP and now a festival to reinforce the link with Britain.

Her announcement that there would be a Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in a couple of years’ time is surely a case of Déjà vu – we have been here before. I remember it well – 1971 and things weren’t going well in the north and the old unionist regime was holding on to power like grim death.

The solution to the uncertainty, the instability, the political unrest was to hold a series of events commemorating the establishment of Stormont. There would be an ‘1971 Exhibition’ – a big tent in the Botanic Gardens and free buses for all those who wanted to go and celebrate 50 years of unionist domination, discrimination and failure to accommodate diversity and difference.

But it didn’t end there – there would be meetings held in every town and village to plan garden fêtes and there would be royal visits to endorse the local celebrations. Yes, I remember it well indeed in our town when a local pub owner attended one of these events where it was explained by the local Presbyterian clergyman how these garden fêtes would have to be linked to ‘Ulster 71’ in order to qualify for local government grants. Poor woman tried to explain that her community wouldn’t be celebrating 50 years of misrule. Her pub was immediately boycotted and so the folly of such a plan was immediately obvious – causing even more division in an already divided society.

No doubt this daft idea suits the Tories and the DUP. Both are in trouble and what better way but to resort to old colonial traditions and pretend everything is rosy in the garden – have a party.

Where on earth does this leave the strenuous and courageous efforts by successive Irish governments to build bridges with Britain – the visit of the Queen to Dublin and Cork and all the other highly commendable events designed, we hoped, to leave a fractured past behind and create in its place something more in keeping with a modern world committed to ending division and mistrust.

Returning to 71 and my home town, once dubbed the worst bombed place per head of population, things have moved on. People are getting on with life, trade is good, relations are excellent and the last thing we need is another festival of division reinforcing division rather than unity and healing.

I suspect life for many other towns which still enjoy a level of cross-community existence the situation is no different from Kilrea. Please leave us in peace and allow us to deal with the mistrust of the past which many would claim happened over not just the last hundred years but centuries before that.

SDLP, East Derry


Unionists have nothing to fear but fear itself

I support the reunification of Ireland, be it a new Ireland, and a strong advocate for a border poll to be held at a appropriate time.
I remember very well the border poll of 1973 on whether the six counties should remain part of the UK or join the Republic. There was little interest in it then from the nationalists, who boycotted it, resulting in a conclusive victory for remaining in the UK. A recent opinion poll reveals the latest thinking about a border poll that shows those who want a united Ireland are almost on par with those who want to remain as part of the UK.

Even if the six counties voted in favour of a  new united Ireland unionists would have a very strong voice in government and a secure position within the EU. They would be better provided for, than what was provided to the nationalist people in the six counties following from the Government of Ireland Act 1920 and the subsequent partitioning of Ireland and 50 years of misrule by the incumbent Northern Ireland parliament.

In taking a hypothetical view of the likely composition of a new all-Ireland government first let’s look at the current political make up of Dáil Eireann and the Stormont assembly. In Dáil Eireann Fine Gael have 50 seats, Fianna Fáil 44, Sinn Féin 22, others 41 and Ceann Comhairie one. In the Stormont assembly, unionists have 40 seats, nationalists 39, others 11. With a new ratified constitution, a STV electoral system and voting pattern changes, the unionists would be a force in any new government. 

If I am to paraphrase a line used in the inaugural address of Franklin D Roosevelt, the unionists in a new Ireland would have nothing to fear but fear itself.   

Dublin 6W


It’s easy to pontificate from a distance

How easy it is for people who live five hours flying time away to pontificate – as some of your recent correspondents have done – about events and  life in Israel/Palestine.

If they bothered to visit the area they would see life goes on with Jews, Muslims and Christians living, working studying and shopping  side by side.

Huge building construction sites are visible both in the Arab occupied areas of the West Bank and in Israel itself.

This is why the eyesore Kahn Al Ahmad (referred to by Francis Rice, October 1) created by the feuding  trouble-making clan of  the Jahalin Bedouin who  squatted in shacks and rusty vans on the verge of the main highway between Jerusalem and Amman, 40 miles north of their ancestral grazing grounds, was deemed to be illegal and an unnecessary provocation by the  courts. They have been provided with much better facilities a few miles away.

Arab and Jewish doctors and other medical staff treat Arab and Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals but in Arab Palestinian hospitals no Jewish staff or patients are tolerated.

If Arabs expect to be able to live and work anywhere and  everywhere they want why can’t Israeli Jews?

West Bank, Israel


Rewriting history

Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill and Gerry Kelly (October 4) repeat the ‘fake news’ that the UK government and not the so-called republican paramilitaries, was the main protagonist in the Troubles. Let the independent statistics speak for themselves:

Killed by republican paramilitaries 2,059; loyalist paramilitaries 1019; British security forces 363; Persons unknown 82; Irish security forces five – total 3,528.
The IRA was the biggest killer. Among its murder victims were 644 civilians, including 80 children.

Sinn Féin says the IRA only resorted to violence, because there was no political alternative. What nonsense. SF was never debarred from contesting elections. Its chosen first option was to support violence. At a SF conference (November 13 1989), Martin McGuinness asked: “Is there a group of people within the republican movement, or within Sinn Féin, who believe that the freedom of Ireland can be won through political involvement, or in elections? It’s a total and absolute nonsense.”

When PIRA planted the Shankill bomb, killing 10 of his constituents, Gerry Adams had been MP for West Belfast for 10 years. That murderous act resulted in loyalist tit-for-tat attacks at Greysteel and Loughinisland.  In each case all the murder victims were completely innocent civilians.

Mr McGuinness went on to rightly condemn dissident republicans for the more recent murders of police officers, Ronan Kerr and Stephen Carroll but refused to admit the IRA was wrong when it similarly killed more than 300 police officers during the Troubles, claiming the context was different.  Is murder ever justified by political context?

Downpatrick, Co Down

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