Letters to the Editor

Basic division on national identity continues to reflected in voting habits

After the local government elections, there have again been claims that ‘orange and green’ politics were eroded. The inescapable fact, though, is that there is little cross-community voting. Take, for example, People Before Profit, that went from one to five councillors, from 1.1 to 1.4 per cent of votes cast. By and large, PBB stood and did best in areas with very few, if any, unionists. Their support was from traditionally nationalist voters.

In Belfast the Collins brothers, Matt and Michael, won a PBP seat each in the Black Mountain and Colin electoral areas.

Black Mountain, with no unionist candidates, delivered six seats left to Sinn Féin. In Colin, where unionists received 439 votes, SF won five  seats.

In the only other area where PBP stood, Derry-Strabane, the same thing happened. Thus Eamonn McCann won in Moor, where a unionist received 148 votes. The successful PBP candidate in Foyleside confronted no unionist candidate. An unlucky PBP candidate in Ballyarnett again faced no unionist. In Derg and Faughan, where SF and the SDLP won seats, alongside successful unionist and Alliance candidates, PBP did ot stand.

The only partial outlier was in Belfast’s Oldpark that elected three SF, one each for the SDLP and DUP, plus a PBP candidate on the last count. PBP started with 447 and ended up with 1,407 votes. PBP received 334 transfer votes from a significantly over-quota SDLP candidate in stage two. Later, PBP received 457 transfers from excluded PUP (341) and UUP (116) candidates. The UUP-PUP transfer may have been a unionist anti-SF vote. There may also, tentatively, be signs of movement among working class unionist voters in that area.

What does this tell us?
Perhaps that nationalists generally are more progressive and less sectarian in their voting habits, than the unionist electorate.
It also indicates that within traditionally poorer nationalist working-class areas, voters are frustrated with the slow pace of change, with austerity imposed by Westminster Tories and by the absence of political movement on equality issues.
Nationalist expectations rest largely with Sinn Féin, in second place overall. SF stood still, with the same number of seats, 105. PBP’s two seat gain in Belfast and in Derry-Strabane was within the same electoral pool. The SDLP, which otherwise had a bad election, and an anti-choice GP also won seats in Derry-Strabane at Sinn Fein’s expense.

Unionist frustrations were reflected in a severe dent in UUP support by Alliance, with some inroads also into the dominant DUP’s seat count. Alliance grew from 6.6 to 11.5 per cent support. The Green Party (up from 0.9 to 2.1 per cent) appears also to have had an impact. These gains may result from an anti-Brexit backlash.

Whatever way the tea leaves are read, the basic division on national identity continues to be reflected in voting habits, even where successful ‘other’ candidates deny this reality. This political condition is imposed by Northern Ireland’s formation and history, which is why the constitutional issue remains to the fore.

Cabra, Dublin 7


Try not to vote too early or often in EU elections

The EU gravy train beckons our hopeful MEPs in the upcoming election for Brussels.

To say just Brussels is the operative word. Because voters need to know that as soon as our lads and lassies get elected all hope of Eire being solely represented by them, or even at all, is abandoned.

In fact, as soon as they get their feet under that particular table, their first requirement is to join a ‘group’ or other they may feel drawn to in their wish to latch on to like-minded thinkers with something in common as they erceive it.

And thereafter they leave their ethnicity back home and are compelled to debate and conform to a set agenda and group-vote on issues as a controlled EU appendage without recourse to conscience or nationality.

The only time they will get to speak on matters of Ireland is only if it comes up for scrutiny (perhaps never) and what they might have promised to constituents pre ‘victory’ counts for nothing once they get over there. The funny thing is this is not even their fault because orders are orders. Having signed up democracy means something else entirely different in that dictatorial bloc to which our MEPs become willing, handsomely paid minions, bereft of political power regarding Eire. They become messenger boys and girls and that only during their tenure.

We never hear a rant or a rave from individuals voted into that place from our own MEPs, who previously had promised to raise hell on issues from ‘back yonder’ once they ‘got in’. Not a peep of substance since we joined all those decades ago from the ‘fightin’ Irish’ representatives who could never even claim the mantle of benign fifth columnists out to force reform.

Try not to vote too early or often.

Bantry, Co Cork


Don’t use Irish language as a weapon

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald both call for the British government to have a plan B – that if the DUP don’t agree to an Irish language act, the British government should force it on them. The Irish language has been forced on the people of the Irish Republic for a long number of years and it has not resulted in a great lot of good for the Irish language.

Forcing the language down the throats of the Irish people has created a large number of people to hate the Irish language.

The Irish language was used in the Republic to discriminate against non-nationalists in jobs and in boosting nationalist people’s entry to university.

The language will be used to discriminate against Protestants in jobs and university education in the north giving nationalists a big advantage over Protestants.

Michael Collins said the Irish Language should be compulsory in our schools to ‘make little nationalists out of Irish children’.

Our taoiseach should be careful not to use the Irish language as a weapon against northern Protestants.

Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin


Unpaid carers deserve to have their say

More than 214,000 people in Northern Ireland are caring unpaid for a loved one who is older, disabled, or seriously ill. Whether it’s round-the-clock or for a few hours a week, in their own home or for someone at the other end of a motorway – caring can have a huge impact on people’s lives.

Unpaid carers are holding families together and enabling loved ones to get the most out of life. They make an enormous contribution to society and together save the NI economy £4.6bn a year. Yet many find themselves stretched to the limit; often financially, without access to support or unable to take a break.

Carers in Northern Ireland deserve to have their say on what affects them and their ability to care – what is working well and what needs to change. By filling in Carers UK’s State of Caring survey (at www.carersuk.org/news-and-campaigns/state-of-caring-survey-2019 ) they can help inform the UK’s most comprehensive research into experiences of looking after a loved one.

The survey answers will help the charity make life better for carers – giving us the evidence to push carers up the agenda for policy makers and campaign for support and change.

It has never been more important for unpaid carers to share their experiences.

Head of Carers NI


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