Letters to the Editor

Does Sinn Féin believe DUP won't run rings around them again in future?

In recent weeks public pressure for Sinn Féin to take an active role towards Brexit by attending Westminster has ranged from the taoiseach to Irish News columnist Deaglán de Bréadún (December 3). Time and again the response has been, we have a mandate. Some people, myself included, thought there might have been a “cunning plan” to manage public expectations, what the late David Ervine called choreography. On this scenario after much public heart searching, we would be treated to a last-minute change of heart and our heroes flying to London in high drama. Perhaps they still might do so?

However, one might ask whether Sinn Fein has managed the psychological steps necessary for a political party that wants to be taken seriously, especially in Republic. It is easy to pose in permanent critic mode carping from the sidelines, like Jim Allister. It does raise the questions though, such as what would you do instead? For Sinn Féin there is the problem of what have you got to show for the nine years in the executive? Their complaints in 2016 that the DUP blocked everything, although tactically useful at the time, meant in effect they had written fail across their own homework.
As Paul Maskey discovered in 2015, 8,000 voters in West Belfast were already unconvinced, to put it mildly. What will they think in the future?

Looking forward and assuming Sinn Féin continue to “fiddle while Rome burns” over Brexit, what about the reintroduction of an executive here? Surely they have plans  for a whole new arrangement? They could not possibly be interested in just going back to the way we were?
It is clear from the RHI inquiry that a parallel structure was in place where the DUP spads were running the civil service and worse Sinn Féin did not notice. If the civil servants also deferred to Sinn Féin spads, I must have missed that. A senior civil servant told RHI that Andrew Crawford told him at a social event “we could fill our boots” over RHI. Apart from the fact that I doubt such a conversation with a Sinn Féin spad could have happened, I also struggle to believe that it would have remained unreported if it had.

So, where does Sinn Féin go for the future? Do they seriously believe that the DUP will not run rings around them again in the future? More importantly recognising their own reverse Heineken effect, (there are parts of the electorate, ie most, that they will never reach), what will they do?
Why not get rid of the petition of concern for a start it would be a first step towards reaching out to the middle ground.
They could reach out to the other parties and try and build consensus, you know, do something. On social policy they could really achieve a lot, especially on issues they claim to think important but that would mean compromise. Maybe they prefer to stitch up deals with their friends in the DUP instead.

Belfast BT9


Misappropriation of green energy schemes costs all of us

Another controversy, another blow to public confidence in green energy schemes. However, it is important to distinguish between the green technologies and those who implement the incentive schemes.

This time, concerns have been raised about the misappropriation of incentives for a scheme that involves converting animal waste into renewable energy.

Anaerobic digesters use organic material like slurry and silage to produce methane gas which is then burned to produce renewable electricity. Under the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) scheme a 500Kw capacity plant can earn up to half a million pounds a year in subsidy.

It has been reported that neighbouring farmers are abusing the scheme by claiming separately for the same digester.
A recent BBC Radio 4 investigation suggested that up to eight ‘phantom plants’ are using a postcode loophole to extract the maximum level of subsidy.  I will be following this up with OFGEM.

Then come the environmental concerns associated a boom of poultry and pig mega farms whose waste will be fuelling these digesters.  Increased levels of nitrates are a further threat to our over polluted rivers where mass fish kills have already become common place.

At the heart of this is the Going for Growth strategy out of which these mega farms arise. This strategy is at complete odds with the green wash of those who have implemented and promoted the ROC scheme and RHI.

Developed between the then Department of Enterprise and the Department of Agriculture the ‘bigger is better’ approach to farming is not only environmentally unsustainable but also puts at threat the traditional family farm.

The ministers at that time were Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill. Their agenda was never about sustainability but instead about facilitating big business.

That is why we see the exploitation of ROCs and RHI for profit rather than as part of the just transition to a low carbon economy.

The IPCC report was stark, we have 12 years to avoid climate catastrophe.  We will need future incentive schemes to make the change. 

Green Party


Positive step forward

I have just returned home from London where I held a series of worthwhile engagements with our Irish diaspora community, Irish language groups, the GAA, journalists and political representatives there.

The purpose of my visit was to encourage (initially) the Irish community in London to get ‘Referendum Ready’ and be prepared for the proposed referendum on Presidential Voting Rights next May.

I was heartened to see first hand the level of enthusiasm that exists among the Irish in Britain, who are as determined as I am to ensure this important referendum is won and won decisively. 

As with other referenda in recent years, the Irish diaspora will have a crucial role to play ahead of such a question being put to the people, whether in terms of awareness raising, grassroots campaigning, online activism, political lobbying or for those who can, actually coming home to vote. 

We are entering a crucial few months in relation to this landmark polling day; it is about recognising and asserting our equal status as Irish citizens, giving more of our people a direct stake in electing Ireland’s Uachtarán. 

The planned referendum will offer us an unprecedented opportunity to have, not just a national but a truly global conversation about the kind of Ireland we want to see after the vote; an Ireland that can have a future presidency not just elected by but truly reflective of the broadest possible spectrum of Irish people. That is a positive step forward.

East Belfast 


Symbolic use of lily flower

If Derry City and Strabane District Council are to allow their staff to wear Easter lilies, then I assume UVF badges are perfectly acceptable? Both the symbolic use of the lily flower and the name UVF came to prominence during the first quarter of the 20th century, those associated with them being held in high regard by their respective communities.

The similarities don’t end there, for in the second half of that same century both symbols and the identities they represented were hijacked by paramilitaries who for decades wrought death and destruction on the entire island. We should never forget the senseless slaughter at Greysteel or La Mon, the protection rackets that bled both communities dry or the 23 garda who lost their lives mainly preventing robberies by those who saw themselves as Irish patriots.

Drumbo, Lisburn



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