Boris Bridge could have economic benefits
I read the reports of the “bridge” feasibility study linking Northern Ireland to the Scotland with equal enthusiasm and dismay.
My enthusiasm is based on the “visionary” nature of such a project as it is obvious that if constructed in the right location this could be a game changer for the island of Ireland economically as we would no longer be on the fringe of Europe and it would reduce our reliance on shipping and aviation.
My dismay was because the project proposed by Boris Johnson was aimed at unionists, creating an “umbilical” cord link to their ancestral lands without any other form of consideration and was, simply put “bonkers”.
The argument for a fixed sea link connection to the UK is an economic one and long overdue. The link needs to be sited at the point of optimum economic efficiency of getting goods to market for both Britain and Ireland and it is obvious that Ireland and Dublin to Anglesey is the only route worthy of consideration.
A fixed sea link connection from Ireland to the UK deserves to be taken seriously and not ridiculed.
I would suggest that Irish citizens and politicians from across the island of Ireland take a step back and start to consider the more practical aspects of such a project and the economic benefits it could bring and start to consider routes that actually stand a chance of success.
Conduct of Clarkes is a situation which the DUP must address
In recent days I challenged the DUP leadership to publicly state if it had confidence in its scandal hit South Antrim MLA, Trevor Clarke, and local Councillor Linda Clarke.
An anonymous DUP spokesperson dismissed my statement and attempted to deflect the focus away from the serious allegations facing these two representatives.
Contrary to the behaviour and mindset of the DUP, political integrity, standards in public life, and respect for others do matter.
The electorate of South Antrim and my constituents are entitled to expect the highest standard of their representatives.
Successive failures and persistent refusal by the DUP to meet these standards are the reasons our political institutions collapsed, and remain suspended, while we await the RHI inquiry report, and as the DUP and Tories push us closer to their Brexit cliff edge.
The political challenge facing the DUP is to fully embrace proper power sharing and partnership government institutions which must have the highest standards of financial probity, public accountability, and commitments to anti sectarianism and reconciliation at their heart.
In recent negotiations there has been no serious evidence the DUP can, or wants to make a restored Executive and Assembly function properly in the interests of all citizens in the north.
It is in the public interest to know the DUP leadership’s, and its South Antrim MP’s, opinion on the suitability of Trevor Clarke and Linda Clarke to hold public office.
All of this resonates an old status quo which the late Martin McGuinness cautioned we must never allow to be repeated.
Declan Kearney MLA
Unfair business rates in Larne must be tackled - enough is enough
Shoppers in Larne are recovering from the sudden closure of their Dunnes Store which had traded for 35-plus years. Dunnes have been silent on the reasons for the closure so it is not clear what role, if any, its £100,000-plus a year rates bill will have played in the decision.
However, any businessperson operating in the Mid and East Antrim (MEA) area will find it a very hostile business rates environment with business rates just 1.6 per cent short of being the most expensive in the entire UK. The MEA council contribution to that disgraceful position is to set its district rate 38 per cent higher than the least expensive district in NI. All this in an region with by far the lowest level of rates relief for small businesses available anywhere in the UK.
Basic research would show that over the last three years, as a result of the above factors, the 123 businesses operating alongside Dunnes on the Main Street in Larne will between them have paid a massive £1.2 million more in business rates that would be the case if they were operating in Scotland.
In those last three years NI received an additional £130 million as a result of the significantly increased levels of small business support in England virtually none of which flowed to support the NI small business sector - it was quietly pocketed by Stormont.
The review of business rates by the Department of Finance (DoF) is unlikely to provide comfort as they have a truly lamentable track record when it comes to effective policy-making in this crucial area of the economy.
The way ahead is for an urgent and comprehensive review of business rates in NI conducted by the NI Affairs Select Committee in Westminster who can be expected to bring a higher degree of rigour and independence to the task than otherwise would be the case. This is supported by our local MP Mr Sammy Wilson.
Our local councillors need to hold MEA Council to account for their excessive level of district rates. They along with our MLAs need to demand a truly competitive rates relief scheme for small businesses – certainly no less generous that that pertaining in Scotland. Finally we need all elected representatives to commit to ending the ongoing scandal of Stormont not passing on to the small business sector sums it receives as a result of increasing levels of small business support in England.
Action is needed now by our politicians at the local, regional and national level. As far as the unfair rates burden in Larne and indeed across Northern Ireland is concerned - enough is enough.
Tom and Paul McMullen
RTE's Brolly bloomer
Just when we had concluded RTE could never match the BBC in the complacently stupid stakes they go and dismiss the redoubtable pundit Joe Brolly. The Greeks may have introduced the principles of punditry but Brolly advanced that principle, allowing him to use whole areas of his intellect and personality. His profound knowledge of Gaelic football enthralled his many followers and enhanced the horizons of the GAA. He produced a new form of punditry which hitherto had been dormant on RTE, but alas, made the contributions of his fellow pundits sound archaic.