Letters to the Editor

Border poll may be the best way to kick start a new all-Ireland debate

The president of Sinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald has recently said she is open to discussions on Ireland rejoining the British Commonwealth. The call was to encourage unionists to participate in a discussion about an united Ireland. This is a bold statement from a modern Irish republican considering the political revolution of post-Independence Ireland to build upon the measure of sovereignty obtained in 1922 to have the harp without the crown.

The 30-year process from the first Dáil Éireann declaring Ireland independent to a republic 70 years ago was a gradual one.

Fianna Fáil gained power in 1930s and moved to dismantle the symbolic structures of crown supremacy that led to a new 1937 constitution to replace that created by the treaty. It abolished the oath of allegiance. It recognised the king as head of the Commonwealth but it did not alter membership of the Commonwealth. Whatever the political manoeuvring was behind the constitution it proved to be another barrier to Irish unity. Partition still was the predominant issue but was forced into the background during  the following years. The change of government In February 1948 rekindled it as a live issue in Irish politics.

In February 1948 Ireland’s first Inter-Party government was established and came into office. The government was made up of five political parties, one of which was Clan na Poblachta, led by  Séan MacBride, a former chief of staff of the IRA – modernist, distinguished lawyer and founder of Amnesty International. He served as minister of external affairs and was an ardent opponent to the then External Relations Act, as was the taoiseach, John A Costello.

The first inkling of what was afoot was when John A Costello, on a visit to Canada in September 1948, casually mentioned that Eire was planning to leave the British Commonwealth and become a Republic, coming into effect on Easter Monday 1949. While it was fraught with a lot of controversy, with a whole shamble performance by the government, it was claimed that the declaration of the Republic was a major achievement. It had, however,  harmful consequences when Britain subsequently introduced the ‘Ireland Act of 1949’ which contained a ‘guarantee’ to unionists on partition. Mutual indifferences still marks North-South relations to this day.

There are some people, like DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson, who think that rejoining the Commonwealth is a worthy proposition and there are many others who don’t. Let’s put aside the causes of Ireland’s conflicts and deal with solutions. In view of a new all-Ireland debate about many soluble things including the British guarantees, Commonwealth and ramifications of such, these all can be discussed in the context of ending partition, with the  consequential reunification of Ireland. A border poll may be only a kick start but its the best we can have at this juncture.

Dublin 6W


No credible evidence to support British allegations

IN REFERENCE to The Irish News reports (May 9) on my appearance at the inquest into the killing of 10 people, including a priest and a mother of eight, by the British Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy in August 1971.

In its two-and-a-half page coverage of the Ballymurphy Inquest – including its front page – The Irish News devotes a full page and a half to recycled allegations about my membership of the IRA.

Three of the four headlines relate to this issue. Even where it deals with my evidence at the inquest the primary focus of the reports remain on the allegations around IRA membership rather than my evidence which flatly contradicts British army claims about what happened in the 48 hours after internment was introduced.

Those killed were entirely innocent neighbours. They had no connection to any republican organisation. They posed no threat to the British army. They were trying to help neighbours who were fleeing from homes under attack by loyalist mobs, out looking for their children, or going about their lawful business.

I told the Inquest that the IRA had decided not to engage with the British army and had ‘faded away’, apart from some incidents of token resistance, none of which played any role in the killings by British Paras.

I repeatedly and factually challenged the efforts by the barrister representing the British Ministry of Defence to suggest that there were widespread armed actions from the IRA in Ballymurphy at the time.

All of these are pertinent matters in the context of trying to get truth and justice for the families of those killed.

It is telling that the counsel for the British Ministry of Defence did not properly challenge my evidence or put to me any of the detail of the alleged gunfire which some ex-British soldiers claim came from republicans. Instead he concentrated on allegations against me which have nothing to do with the matters being investigated by the inquest.

This points to the reality that there is no credible evidence to support the British allegations of sustained gunfire directed at the Paratroopers.

That is because there was none.


  • Coverage of the Ballymurphy inquest has been carried across more than 60 pages in The Irish News since the proceedings began five months ago. The vast majority of our reporting has made no reference to Mr Adams, and developments at the hearing which were unrelated to him were given front page prominence on both Friday and Saturday of last week (May 10 and 11). His comments on our approach to his high profile appearance in the witness box should be viewed in this context, and we are more than happy to provide him with the right of reply. The Editor


Lacking get up and go

The latest report from Ulster University tells us that Northern Ireland’s economy is continuing to be  uncompetitive. This lack of modern efficiency standards is not new, nor indeed are the reports and comments. It has been afflicting us since the 1920s and we continue to talk but do nothing.

We can all think of examples of lack of action, from politicians, through public servants, private sector and indeed individually. There is a considerable lack of ‘get up and go’. Have the best people got up and gone?

We lack imagination. We lack the knowledge of what other people do in other competing places and if we do know, we don’t rise to the challenge.

You may say this is general but here are a few examples. A housing project in Britain would take two years, but NI budgets for three. A Transport Hub in Belfast, which was first floated some 30 years ago now may be deliverable by 2023. The Energy from Waste Plant initiative after some 10 years planning and multiple international visits was stopped by political naivety. We have no government because politicians are hung up on issues which will not affect most of us, and  this hang up reflects our lack of progressive vision.

We should support what is correct for the whole community and not what some political slogan says.

It is time more of us stopped accepting third best and demanded the best. We would all be happier , healthier and maybe even be able to pay our way.

Belfast BT1


Gay abandon-ed

Jim Wells should forget about the late DUP leader Ian Paisley being ‘aghast’ at his party’s decision to successfully field Alison Bennington in the recent election. The party have not become enlightened, it is all to do with typical DUP expediency. They suspect a LGBT lobby is looming. Meantime, they can sit on the fence and continue to keep both ears to the ground.

Neither should Jim concern himself about Arlene Foster threatening to look at ‘several issues including bad behaviour’. It is all naughty stool bluster. He is quite safe being all moralistic in his political sinecure and making Private Pike gaffe’s on the greatest radio show in the country. Something else which his former leader echoing St Paul might have passed on to Jim and the party’s fundamentalist members – ‘How can anyone follow the paradoxical cause of looking for justice in the presence of the unjust.’

Derry City


Humanitarian disaster

May I ask why is the Republic’s government along with the EU allowing the devastating and ongoing civil war in Yemen to continue? . This civil war now reaches its fourth anniversary later this month. It has caused a famine which could have been prevented. Please I ask for some intervention to stop this humanitarian disaster.

Clondalkin, Dublin 22



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