Letters to the Editor

There is no proper legal basis for passport checks by Translink

Newton Emerson (September 28) misses the point with his critique of the complaint submitted by CAJ to Translink over the facilitation of discriminatory passport checks on cross-border bus services by both Gardaí and UK immigration officers.

While he does concede that these checks, which the Gardaí have significantly increased this year, “clearly involve racial profiling” and are worth complaining about, Newton considers it ‘absurd’ and ‘grandstanding’ to complain about Translink for “cooperating with police in another jurisdiction as the law there requires”.

However, the actual point is precisely that there is no proper legal basis for these passport checks. UK immigration law explicitly excludes all journeys in the Common Travel Area (CTA) from passport control powers. Irish passport control law (Immigration Act 2004, modified in 2011) also exempts the land border and other CTA journeys from duties to carry and produce passports. Confusingly, there is an exemption to this exemption, whereby persons who are not Irish or other EU citizens exercising free movement rights (in practice non-EU citizens) have to carry and produce passports on such routes when others do not. As you cannot tell the difference by looking at someone, this makes it impossible to exercise the power in a non-discriminatory and hence lawful manner. In short, there is no law that ‘requires’ Translink allow immigration officials to board their buses and enter their bus stations to question and compel the production of passports from all their passengers.

In a democratic society, law enforcement officers need an actual power to compel you to do something. There are many sanctuary cities that in fact decline to voluntarily assist the enforcement of immigration controls that are discriminatory.

Committee on the Administration of Justice, Belfast BT12



Most voters make their choices based on brand appeal

Branding is an important tactic in gaining support for a product or service and this is no less the case in the branding of political parties through the name chosen for that party. The brand name used is meant to communicate to people something of the core values of that party but sadly the reality in many cases is that the core values of the party fall far short of what their name implies. A few examples I would suggest are as follows: The Green Party brand suggests a commitment to newness and life and the natural environment. Now consider that image alongside the party’s support for abortion, not a great fit I would suggest. In other words the party brand is conveying a false message to potential supporters. Similarly consider the brand ‘People before Profit’ and you would imagine policies that put the love and protection of human beings as a number one priority. The reality is quite different because the party strongly supports abortion which is managed by organisations worldwide heavily interested in profit. Again not a great fit with their brand. A further political brand in which practice has fallen well short of what their name implies is Sinn Féin (ourselves alone). Going over to Westminster to beg the British government to introduce abortion in the north does not have a great fit with ‘ourselves alone’ even allowing for the shamefulness of it. There is a lot of evidence that most voters make their choices based on brand appeal and my hope is that more people will question just how loyal that party is to core values implied in their name.

Dungiven, Co Derry



Ever the headline grabber

Over the weekend Boris Johnson’s comments that “we will build 40 new hospitals” hide a real story which is cause for genuine alarm about the future of our health service.

Firstly, the issue with health services across the UK is that the people working within them are underpaid and overstretched. ‘Building hospitals’ may grab a headline but it does nothing to resource frontline staff working in near impossible circumstances.

The real give away came when ministers were forced to admit they did not have the money to build 40 hospitals and the prime minister himself referred to “seed funding”. In other words, these hospitals will be built predominantly with private money (and will likely be used by private providers).

Ultimately, this is the Americanisation of the health service and who is to say that the private providers using the private hospitals will not be American?

Brexit means irreparable damage to the principle of universal healthcare and, quite possibly, the sale of assets used for healthcare provision to foreign interests.

That is not “taking back control” it is a serious threat to one pillar of our public services.

Alliance, South Belfast



Newly-coined pro-abortion slogan

Emily Thornberry, Labour Party shadow foreign secretary, when attacking Donald Trump’s Pro-Life policies at the recent Labour Party Conference, referred to this move to promote the equal right to life of the mother and unborn child as an attack on a “woman’s right to have control over her own body”. By employing this newly-coined slogan is this an attempt by her and others to re-write human anatomy and promote their pro-abortion agenda? When pregnant, a woman is carrying another life in her womb which is a separate human being – this child has the same right to life as his/her mother.

How ironic and disappointing that a political party such as Labour, which claims to champion universal social justice, can in this way so coldly deny the existence of unborn children and their right to life.

Lisburn, Co Antrim



Rights can’t be horse-traded

The realisation by a number of unionist clerics that the Irish language is not a threat to anyone might have been more useful if it had occurred to them a year and a half ago when the parties were on the cusp of an agreement.

The call now in support of Irish language legislation in order to prevent abortion law reform here does leave out another issue at the centre of the deadlock – same-sex marriage.

Campaigners for an Irish language act in An Dream Dearg have made a point of supporting the campaign for marriage equality, with the simple message of solidarity that different groups’ rights can’t be horse-traded for political expediency.

Belfast BT12

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