Letters to the Editor

Lack of rail link depriving Armagh of large number of visitors

Is Armagh, the Ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, the forgotten city? This is the question we in the Portadown and Armagh Railway Society are asking.

The other cities in Northern Ireland have rail links – Belfast, Derry, Newry (which is currently having an upgrade) and Lisburn, while we in this city have been ‘side-lined’. 

This society has been campaigning for several years to have the 10-mile rail link to Armagh, from the main line junction at Portadown, reinstated. Recently 10,000 residents signed a petition to this effect.

Few would disagree that Armagh is a huge but undersold tourist location, with possibly more major tourist attractions than anywhere else in Northern Ireland. 

As a society we are totally convinced that the lack of a rail link is depriving Armagh of a very substantial number of new visitors annually. This was highlighted by a survey in which 60 per cent of foreign tourists on the Enterprise trains said they did not consider visiting the city, due to the absence of a rail link.

Our council endeavours to promote tourism in order to enhance infrastructure and to bring visitors quickly and conveniently to our beautiful city. Many are unaware that the track-bed of the former line to Portadown is largely still in situ. We are reliably informed that it would be relatively easy to re-open the line at a cost which would be extremely economical relative to the boon it would be to tourism and to the many Richhill and Armagh commuters  who currently drive to Portadown to access trains to study or work in Belfast. Much emphasis is put on road schemes to boost the economies of other areas (and we have no argument with that), yet Armagh’s potential as a tourist centre and indeed a residential area, is restricted by the lack of a short link to our own and the Republic’s rail network. 

It is very obvious, there is no likelihood of the congestion on the M1 decreasing, especially at peak hours. The only way to provide better access from Armagh to Belfast is to restore the railway to Portadown. The impending new Transport Hub at Great Victoria Street is evidence of increased rail use.

As a society we are greatly encouraged by growing support for re-opening the line. More and more Northern Ireland people are opting to travel by rail with much credit due to the excellent service provided by NIR. However, it is difficult to understand why, with rail traffic now surpassing the total numbers carried by the former rail networks before all lines west of the Bann were sadly closed, the DfI seems to want to hide this fact from the public, by continually highlighting total public transport figures. The overall decline in bus usage masks the fact that rail passenger figures are booming. Railways are faster, safer, more comfortable and environmentally friendly and are not hindered by growing traffic congestion. 

This is why we in Armagh badly need a rail link.

Secretary, Portadown and Armagh Railway Society


Democracy and democratic mandate must be respected

Words like ‘respect’ and ‘equality’ are in vogue in recent times but I wonder if those who use them so frequently have any understanding of their real meaning.

While I am not a member of the DUP, or any other political party, respect compels me to acknowledge that the 292,316 votes they received in the recent election, was 36 per cent of the votes cast and the majority of the
popular vote. 

That majority vote was for a party accused in the popular English press in recent days of being ‘dinosaurs’ and even ‘homophobic’. 292,316 people however voted for this party and were well aware of their long standing position on ‘same-sex marriage’ and the extension of the ‘1967 Abortion Act’ to Northern Ireland.

Are we to turn democracy on its head to support the minority of ‘thousands’ who march in support of ‘same-sex marriage’? Democracy and the democratic mandate must be respected.

The DUP’s position on the life of the unborn is also equally well known. Their stance is that of ‘equality’. Human rights for all. Equal regard for the human rights of the most vulnerable in society, the person who has no voice of the own – the unborn child. 

While we must be sensitive to those who find themselves with an unwanted/unplanned or difficult pregnancies, recent pressure to change the law appears to ignore the legal maxim ‘hard cases make bad law’.
Unfortunately since the passing of the ‘1967 Abortion Act’ most abortions would appear to be conducted for purely social reasons.

Those, like myself, who have been involved in Christian ministry, have seen the devastating effects of abortion, even years after the event, with mental disorders and death-bed trauma.

These results should be considered by those who shout the loudest on ‘respect’ and ‘equality’.

Retired Presbyterian Minister 


City of Newry being choked to death

Now that the DUP is in an apparently strong strategic position with the Theresa May government regarding special infrastructure funds for Northern Ireland priority should be given to the Newry Southern Relief road.

At present all traffic from the port of Warrenpoint and all commuters from south Down are forced through the heart of Newry en route to Dublin, south Armagh, Armagh City, Craigavon and Belfast. 

The city of Newry is literally being choked to death. For example at Canal Street and the Armagh Road levels of air pollution are inordinately high with a constant stream of almost bumper-to-bumper traffic from early morning to late at night. 

There is now an opportunity to obtain the necessary funding and free up Newry for once and for all. There is no other answer. The problem is particularly acute because the city is in a hollow. It is estimated that 70 per cent of traffic being forced through the centre of Newry could be re-directed to the MI through the proposed dual carriageway Relief Road and make its way from there to the various destinations. 

With all the uncertainty around Brexit this is just the boost that Newry and its hinterland needs.

SDLP, Newry, Mourne and Down Council


Partitionist attitude

Maurice Fitzgerald – ‘Not everyone is happy with SF’s non-attendance protest vote’ (June 13) – launches an attack on republicans for not taking their seats in a foreign parliament and that triggers a free state mentality. Let’s spell it out – it is partitionist at least Mr Fitzgerald is.

So I say to the likes of Mr Fitzgerald, when you talk about the ‘Republic of Ireland’ is it 26 or 32?

His criticism of the republican movement’s attitude to Westminster, reflects your own partitionist attitude.

The republican movement, to me, does not attend Westminster because it is republican.  

Derry City


Homage to Queen Arlene

I used to think that Arlene Foster’s crown brooch was merely a homage to the British Monarchy.

However, given that Arlene needs private offices in count centres and is above using any of London’s five airports to get back to Belfast (to continue to say ‘no’, which ‘urgent’ message could as easily have been sent by text), perhaps I was wrong and the reality is that Foster’s brooch is a homage to Queen Arlene.

Trillick, Co Tyrone


Living in a different world

I spent a few days in London last month. I travelled around it quite a bit by bus – you can see more and fellow passengers are more talkative. I did not see one election poster or a flyer placed on a door handle or windscreen of a car during my few days. The only notice of an election was outside Brentwood Council offices telling people of the upcoming election and who were the candidates.

I must be living in a different country.

Ballygawley, Co Tyrone 

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Letters to the Editor