Letters to the Editor

Ulster Farmers' Union didn't take an official position during referendum

I am writing in response to Irish News business editor Gary McDonald’s article ‘Business groups to round on DUP’ published on Saturday November 17.
In it, Mr McDonald describes the Ulster Farmers’ Union as previous allies with the DUP and as a ‘Leave group’ in relation to the 2016 EU referendum. To clarify, the UFU works with all political parties and will continue to do so. Also, the UFU did not take an official position during the referendum instead saying both sides of the debate needed to be set out in detail. However, at that time no ‘compelling argument’ had been made that agriculture would be better off outside the EU and those supporting Brexit would need to rise to that challenge. Since the referendum result, we have been working to get the best Brexit deal for agriculture. As always, our focus is securing the best future possible for our family-run farms in Northern Ireland. Farmers work hard to produce the safe, traceable, and affordable food shoppers expect to find on the supermarket shelves. We want to ensure this continues after Brexit. 

We were also disappointed to be described as ‘infuriated’ in the article. Especially when we had not been approached for our view. Sir Jeffery Donaldson is entitled to his opinion but we respectfully disagree with his comments and had The Irish News contacted us we would have said so. The UFU has been studying the withdrawal agreement in detail. While it is not perfect and we need clarification on some parts, it is our view that the agreement would ensure the UK avoids a ‘no deal’ scenario, which would have a devastating impact on farming businesses in Northern Ireland. A UK-wide Free Trade Agreement with the EU is the goal.
The transition period, which includes the whole of the UK, is intended to allow time to negotiate this deal and would negate the need for the implementation of a ‘backstop’ protocol.

The UFU is a democratic organisation and we represent around 11,500 family farms. ‘No deal’ has been considered extensively within the UFU’s internal committee structure and has consistently been found to be the worst of all possible options. The position was confirmed again at our executive meeting in October. We have also always called for a solution that allowed NI farmers unfettered access to the GB market, while at the same time allowing the long-standing trading relationship between NI and ROI to continue. The UFU publicly ‘urged all involved to consider the deal carefully’ not just the DUP.

Without a withdrawal agreement, we can’t even begin the process to negotiate a free trade agreement and on March 30 we’ll crash out of the EU with no deal. This puts family-run farm businesses at risk. 

The UFU is continually monitoring developments and should another option yet emerge which allows for an orderly Brexit process from March 29 2019, we will give it due consideration.

UFU president, Belfast


Appalling levels of child poverty in west Belfast

In the wake of the recent publication of a report by the United Nations into austerity measures across the UK it is worth noting the appalling levels of  child poverty and social deprivation in west Belfast

We have the highest levels of child poverty in Northern Ireland and the second highest in the entire UK.

More than 9,000 children live in homes haunted by poverty.  That means families with increasing debts, choices between ‘heat or eat ’, teenagers with a limited or non-existent social life and an increased risk of chronic illness. Children living in poverty also consistently under-perform at school and find it harder to get a job when they leave. The highest levels of poverty are to be found in the Colin Glen and Falls areas.

Research by Save the Children has shown that around 20 per cent of parents in poverty say their children go without new shoes when they need them and a large number of children in poverty say they are missing out on things that many other children take for granted.

The introduction of universal credit, cuts to health and education budgets, pressures on community, voluntary and youth services all compound the problems already affecting thousands of  local families.

It is unforgivable that while in government Sinn Féin and the DUP refused to implement the promised anti-poverty strategy and sent powers relating to universal credit to Westminster. As a result thousands of children and their families continue to suffer a hardship and deprivation that will haunt them forever.

If there is a more important political priority in west Belfast  than addressing child poverty, then perhaps some local MLAs would like to tell me about it.

Workers Party, West Belfast


Bellicose politicians

In contrast to the dignified understanding from former taoiseach Enda Kenny and the government of the Republic two years ago, when the UK by means of a democratic vote decided to leave the EU, we have been subjected to anti-UK rhetoric by his successor Taoiseach Varadkar and Tanaiste Coveney, two bellicose politicians who seem dedicated to souring relations between the Republic and the UK with particular emphasis on the north of Ireland.

It is unbelievable that a confidential conversation regarding Brexit between UK negotiator Dominic Raab and Tanaiste Coveney was divulged and misrepresented by Taoiseach Varadkar. 

It might be prudent if they could forget their egotism and remember a pithy saying that might once again be in vogue. When the UK coughs Ireland catches a cold.

Derry City


Tax cuts not welcome

The announcement by the taoiseach that he intends to implement major tax cuts for the middle classes and others by reducing the income tax on certain tax bands, will I am sure help in his party’s plans for a re-election to the next government. As someone who would benefit from the same tax cuts, I don’t welcome them. 

How do we pay for maintaining our present inadequate hospital, education, road and other major utilities that keeps this state running if this government insists in continuing to cut the taxes that keep these services going?

If this government really wanted to implement tax cuts to benefit all the citizens, it should start with cutting the biggest taxable item VAT.

Clondalkin, Dublin 22


Enough light for everyone

Jack Duffin (November 12) said he didn’t believe in miracles or in the apparitions at Knock.

He is perfectly entitled to hold those beliefs and there is no Church doctrine that suggests he shouldn’t.

The great French thinker, Blaise Pascal, said regarding faith ‘There is enough light for those who want to see and enough darkness for those who don’t’.

Glenavy, Co Antrim


Factually incorrect

Michael Conlon (November 15) stated that James Connolly, who was a member of the King’s Liverpool regiment before becoming a leader of the Irish rebellion of 1916, never wore a poppy. He goes on ‘...but perhaps the British soldiers who shot Connolly did’.

The poppy did not come into being until 1921 so James Connolly or those who shot him could not have worn the poppy.

Newry, Co Down

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