Letters to the Editor

Westminster interference must not be allowed to undermine our democracy

NEXT TUESDAY a group of English MPs led by Labour Party MP Diana Johnston will introduce a bill calling for full decriminalisation of the Northern Ireland abortion laws. This is an attack on our right as Northern Ireland people to decide whether we uphold or reject such legislation as constituting our own laws on abortion. It is a blatant attempt to undermine the democratic rights of the people of Northern Ireland to decide our own laws as enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement. In the first instance, it is not for English MPs to interfere in the affairs of Northern Ireland.
Secondly, the pro-choice lobby of Amnesty International and Sinn Féin are aligning themselves with these MPs in order to rush through changes to the current abortion laws without our consent. 
By taking advantage of the fact that the NI Assembly is not sitting, they are attempting to impose their particular view on the electorate of the province in respect of the abortion issue. 

The English Peer, Lord Alton, has already condemned such meddling by Westminster in our democracy as tantamount to treating Northern Ireland as if we are a remote and backward region, fictionally incapable of framing our own laws and determining our own future democratically and has called for this matter to be decided by ourselves alone. 

In 2008, Dr Ian Paisley, Gerry Adams, Sir Reg Empey and Mark Durkan signed a letter sent to all MPs from England, Scotland and Wales stating that: “The imposition of legislation on abortion that excluded the assembly from having a say would undoubtedly undermine the integrity of the devolution process and significantly would reduce public confidence in the political progress we’ve made.” 

The present-day leaders of the main political parties in Northern Ireland must be held accountable for the above statements made by their predecessors and told in clear terms that nothing has changed. Their parties signed up to the full terms of the Good Friday Agreement and their parties must fully abide by it.
No Westminster interference must be allowed to undermine our cherished democracy.

No discussion of our abortion laws should take place until the Stormont Assembly is returned. It is therefore a priority of all parties to promote the return to Stormont of all political parties involved in the current political deadlock to decide this matter once and for all. 

This is too sensitive and important an issue to be decided by Westminster alone and a cabal of pro-abortion politicians. 

As a human rights defender with a background in human rights and international law, I call upon all MPs throughout the UK to respect the regional autonomy of Northern Ireland and its democratic right to decide this matter for itself by rejecting this bill outright, thereby reaffirming the right of the Northern Ireland people alone to decide this matter in accordance with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and the powers invested in the Northern Ireland Assembly.  

Derry City


Is Church’s wealth keeping us from salvation?

As a practising Catholic, I await the decisive action promised by Pope Francis in his visit to Ireland in August, to deal with the results of the abuse scandals, and to help rebuild our Church. So far, I have heard nothing of great promise. I continue to practise my faith, but find that, at 54 I am among the youngest in the chapel. All very depressing. So I continue to await the decisive action. But following last Sunday’s Gospel reading, I have a suggestion for the Irish bishops to consider. It’s simple. Sell all you own, give the money to the poor, and follow Jesus. I have no doubt that their Lordships are probably troubled by falling incomes and the struggle to maintain the Church estate.
Isn’t this the perfect solution,
suggested by no less than Jesus himself?
We need our churches, schools, parochial halls etc. But in today’s climate, do we need any more than one parochial house per parish? And many parishes own considerably more spare real estate. Like the rich man in the Gospel reading, is the wealth of our Church keeping us from salvation? Did the desire to maintain that wealth and privilege motivate those who covered up abuse cases, for fear that they would lose their lofty positions if abuse was publicised? Shouldn’t we, as a Church, start to divest ourselves of any spare property, give the money to the poor and focus on following Jesus, rather than managing a property portfolio?
By the poor, I would suggest the victims of abuse, together with the women and their babies now in jeopardy of their lives, as we see the push for abortion in this part of the country too.
So, I say to the Irish bishops, listen to the Gospel – do something decisive. Do it now. Inspire those of us still in your flock. Who knows, you might even attract back a few of the recently departed.

Newry, Co Down


Is anyone listening to Sinn Féin?

Michelle O’Neill claimed last week, with no apparent sense of irony, that the DUP doesn’t speak for Northern Ireland. One might equally ask exactly when and where are Sinn Féin speaking and, more importantly, who is listening? 

Apart from the odd posed picture and suitably outraged hand wringing about the DUP doing as Theresa May noted “what the DUP does”, what have they achieved? 

Have our ‘hard working’ representatives not noticed the almost universal (and for the Tories very convenient) silence in UK British newspapers about RHI and not wondered why? Think what a real and hard-working politician could do with this material? 

For example in this month of the set piece UK budget, Sinn Féin could fly into London and do a Frank Maguire and ‘abstain in person’. 
In the resulting media circus of will they/won’t they, and in the course of a few press conferences, Sinn Féin could choose to highlight some of Arlene and Co’s behaviour over the unreported RHI. Even the twitter sphere would lift that one. Who knows Theresa May might even end up looking for a barge pole, quicker than Arlene can say no?

Still I suppose whatever it is Sinn Féin are doing, it’s a comfort to know, that when they do get around to working, they will be burning the midnight oil and not wooden pellets.

Belfast BT9


West is complicit by its silence

Perhaps it’s too obvious for words to compare and contrast the western governments’ muted response to the disappearance of reporter Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to the hysteria surrounding the poisoning of the Skripals by alleged Russian assassins as one incident was conducted by an imposed regime that denies basic human rights to its citizens, conducts mass executions, commits war crimes against its neighbours and the other is Russia.

The fact that the west is complicit by its silence in the face of these heinous acts is no surprise to anyone given the dependency on oil that has weaned generations of American and other western administrations who have not only turned a blind eye to its suppliers’ crimes, but have sought to justify its actions and champion its causes, be it the destruction of its arch enemy Iraq to whitewashing the fact that 15 out of the 22 plotters of 9/11 were Saudi nationals. And now the latest crimes in Yemen where a Saudi-led coalition is bombing the country into the mediaeval age. Their targets include schools, places of worship and hospitals. 

Belfast BT15

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