Letters to the Editor

Polarised politicians still pressing hate button when it comes to elections

According to the book Lost Lives, 560 people were killed in north Belfast during the hate-fest otherwise known as the Troubles. This totally unnecessary conflict was driven by two deeply flawed ideologies, violent and narrow republicanism and insular, extreme unionism. They released a hatred of the other that wreaked havoc across our society.

In reality, the consequences were much worse than the north Belfast 560. Many more people in that part of Belfast died by suicide or stress-related illnesses. Thousands were injured or imprisoned, the economy was blighted and the area is still feeling the effects so many
years later.

When I campaigned for the 1998 Agreement, it was in the expectation that the future would be grasped by people to shape it differently from the past. To a degree, that has been the case. Our society is in a better place. Contrary to the media narrative, there is less polarisation and people are getting on better with their lives.

Professor Pete Shirlow’s recent research strongly suggests that about 90 per cent of people here recognise that everybody must concentrate on making this place work first and foremost, whatever their longer-term constitutional preferences. Support for the constitutional status quo lies at about 60 pere cent, despite all the noise about disruptive and divisive changes to our status in the short-term. That research also shows that on non-constitutional issues there is significant unionist and nationalist/republican support for sharing and social liberalism. People, especially young people, are on the same page. But we remain in a politics that drives difference as opposed to accepting evidence that most people in Northern Ireland want tolerance, mutual respect and a future for their children. It is a mere and ever smaller share of our society who want hate and to return to conflict.

However, many of our politicians, who tend to be more polarised than the electorate, seem intent upon making us feel fearful about the future. They’re still pressing the hate button when it comes to elections. In north Belfast, let’s call it for what it is. The old tribal battle in which we all lose.

If we can’t find a way to get out of that spiral, our politics will never reflect the progress that we really have made as a society.

A real challenge should be laid down to all candidates, particularly in North Belfast. Do they accept that violence outside the law was always wrong, unnecessary and unjustified in Northern Ireland? However, the constitutional position is resolved, our futures are interdependent. Their response will be a good indicator of the type of future their politics will lead us to.

Holywood, Co Down


We should be repelled by those who would consign homosexuals to hell fire

Rev Ivan Foster’s letter (November 14) got me thinking. Does God really hate homosexuals or is it just those of his servants, stuck in a literal reading of the Old Testament rather than embracing the spirit of the New Testament, who hate them?

The Bible texts that condemn homosexuality usually also condemn adultery, temple prostitution and all other forms of sexual licence because all of these behaviours were particularly associated with Pagan temple worship and hated practices of idolatry of the surrounding communities of Old and New Testament Judea.

Ezra and Nehemiah launched a purge against foreign wives and children of Jews in Judea – fearful that they would introduce foreign religious practices they campaigned to drive them out by force. This continued a policy of genocidal ethnic cleansing documented and approved of, in many places in the Old Testament. Homosexuality in this xenophobic society was considered to be a foreign, Greek custom and the Jews were at war with the process of Hellenisation of their culture so were bound to reject anything Greek as against their God.

Nowadays, we recognise that God creates homosexual people, just as he creates homosexual animals in nature. They are not to be punished nor prosecuted in a civilised society. We should be repelled by those who would consign them to hell fire, just as we are repelled by ethnic cleansing in the name of God.
The widening vistas of the New Testament call for a rethinking of Old Testament attitudes.

Ironically those gay people who wish to marry are more likely to be conservative, and possibly religious members, of the gay community with values in accord with those who are trying to throw them out of Christian communion.

Coleraine, Co Derry


Alliance’s changing mantra

The unfolding electoral developments while challenging for some traditional political purists have excited a general public. There is a palpable feeling that as we all face the calamity of Brexit that at last, politicians are putting the needs of the people ahead of selfish party political interests. The SDLP who have framed this election should be congratulated as should Sinn Féin and the Green Party for setting aside their obvious differences in the interests of the majority of people who voted remain.

What’s really disappointing is that Alliance have joined with the DUP in attempting to sectarianise this Remain campaign simply for selfish political gain. In doing so, they also enhance the prospects of returning Brexiteer MPs.

Their stated intention to oppose Sylvia Hermon highlighted the true measure of their electoral ambition, to increase the Alliance headcount, rather than support a united approach to protect the interests of everyone facing the calamity of Brexit.

Is it not now ironic that the new owners of the ‘Ourselves Alone’ mantle is the very same party who for years claimed the ‘Let’s work Together’ mantra? I wonder what has changed?

Kilmore, Co Armagh


Councils should be leading by example

We are coming to the time of year when local authorities discuss the rates for the incoming year 2019/20. In my own local council area, Newry Mourne and Down, there have been rises in each of the last three years –

2016/17 +1.94%; 2017/18  +2.66%; 2018/19 +3.38%.

This year our councillors need to be firm and ensure that there is no increase, in fact they should be advocating for a reduction.

We are now in a time of uncertainty, with Brexit upon us and no assembly since January 2017, when families are struggling daily to get by and businesses having to deal with rising overheads, lack of footfall, increasing unfair competition from Internet giants and out-of-town shopping.

This year our councils should be leading by example, all unnecessary expenditure should be cut out. Innovative ways are needed to make the services they provide self-sustainable .

Like many others I will be eager to see how our local representatives vote on the setting of the 2019/20 rates.

Warrenpoint, Co Down

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Letters to the Editor