We should stop moaning about Northern Ireland and enjoy its beauty
Like Allison Morris (February 9), I also remember growing up in west Belfast. I was part of a police family. Life was totally normal, with good neighbours and friends. Religion was not an issue.
We left to live in a police station in Glenarm just before our society descended into the violence that we now too casually call the Troubles. Life changed.
My father now reflects that there was no indication our society was going to break down in the way that it did. When I asked him if the police could have managed without the army’s involvement, he said it became impossible when the hard right of unionism started to attack them too. There were only 3,000 officers at the time and they couldn’t possibly fight on two fronts.
Difficult as those times were, we avoided a civil war and that was down to the security forces. It was also thanks to many in our society who kept working against those who fuelled the violence. Yes, the police and army made many mistakes and that sometimes had tragic consequences, but they ultimately triumphed against those who, at best, were reckless about starting that war.
My father could have been killed directly about five times and indirectly on many other occasions. He was not an exception and 302 officers did die. Thousands of others were injured to varying degrees. The RUC was involved in 52 deaths, some of which were controversial and all of which were tragic.
They put 12,000 republicans into prison for their crimes and some 8,000 loyalists for theirs.
There was nothing achieved through the use of violence in Northern Ireland that could not otherwise have been achieved through peaceful means. Yet the violence happened.
Facing up to that reality is the real transformative act that we on all sides still have to make. Northern Ireland belongs to all of us who live here. It is our responsibility and we should stop moaning about it and enjoy it for the beautiful place it is. The only way to pursue a constitutional preference is by making NI work socially and economically.
The PSNI also belong to all of us and are there to serve and protect us. But we also have to protect them while they are doing so.
The fact that they are in armoured vehicles, wearing bullet-proof vests and carrying any arms and long arms is not their fault but the fault of a society where people still want to kill and injure them. That’s due in part to the attitudes of some nationalists and unionists who should by now be able to show more maturity.
I once told Martin McGuinness, “at some point you and the republican movement have to stop looking for praise for saying it was wrong to murder prison officers. Most of us worked that out a long time ago.” The same goes for police officers and my comment still stands today.
Holywood, Co Down
Like royal family political parties seem to be a bit of a closed shop
Recently I have had a strange experience. I found myself agreeing with Jim Allister over the newly installed executive’s reform of the Spad’s role in Stormont.
For some reason our finance minister and fellow ministers, seem to believe that a pay cut to £85,000 per Spad, is a good use of taxpayers’ money. Apparently the going rate for Spads is linked to the civil service scale. One wonders if the rate might not be better linked to real work performed by a young teacher or nurse.
The recent series of delays in announcing who the lucky lottery winners of this Spad divvy out does suggest some wrangling, no doubt unrecorded, along the lines of: how far can we push it, what and who can we get away with? As a job for party members goes it is clearly all very generous, especially since the pool of potential candidates seems to be so very small. If one examines the Stormont gravy train it is clear how small the pool of talent must be in Northern Ireland. Our political parties seem to be a bit of a closed shop just like the Royal Family, individuals just need to choose their parents very carefully.
Finally if the tradition of passing a seat down the family is not enough it appears Stormont increasingly resembles an insurance company with jobs being handed out as compensation for those who lost their seats elsewhere. So much for the “will of the people”. I don’t know about political jokes, but if Ms Little-Pengelly is to be reappointed as a Stormont Spad, having lost her seat at Westminster, it does seem odd she will get an effective pay rise and earn more than her successor.
Searching for alternatives
Maurice Fitzgerald wants to know ‘What does bringing Sinn Féin in from the cold really mean?’ (February 7).
Well, Mr Fitzgerald, the Good Friday Agreement had little to do with bringing anyone in from the ‘cold’. It was an expression from those signatories of shared responsibility for the blood letting of the previous 30 years and a nod is the direction that partition was a disastrous mistake by the British and recent Free State.
So much water has gone under the bridge since then.
The Republican movement has put itself before the citizens of Ireland.
Mr Fitzgerald is mistaken in saying “nothing has changed”. Fine Gael and Fine Fáil’s supremacy is over. If you want to have an immaculate political party then close your eyes and dream.
The patronising tone of his letter implies that establishment parties sought to bring republicans out of the cold. Nothing could be farther from a reality in establishment circles that republicans were not going away or disappeared.
If folk want to explore the innuendoes and allegations of the IRA and depend on these to decide, so be it. If folk look for alternatives that deal with the issues that address our citizens’ wellbeing that is no bad thing.
The people have spoken
All the talk about the election having “change” as the themed imperative, is utter rubbish.
Voters put their mark on the ballot paper and the result is numbers which are facts.
Any interpretation is simply opinion, and it’s the people who have spoken, not for the candidates to insist on how the results are broken down.
This can be a matter for consultation among them but is not a certainty as to how a government must be formed thereafter.
All general elections have change as the hoped-for outcome, yet it is how the figures stack up which gives us the next step and not the novelty contention that we throw out the old in favour of the new for its own sake.
This would be the childish hope of populists rather than the pragmatic approach of an agreed administration.
Bantry, Co Cork