Letters to the Editor

All parts of UK should be represented on select committee

Further to the election of former NIO Minister Andrew Murrison (Conservative MP for South-West Wiltshire) to the chairmanship of the House of Commons’ Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee, MPs have subsequently agreed that Gregory Campbell (DUP MP for East Derry), Maria Caulfield (Conservative MP for Lewes), Stephen Hepburn (Labour MP for Jarrow), Lady Sylvia Hermon (Independent MP for North Down), Kate Hoey (Labour MP for Vauxhall), Jack Lopresti (Conservative MP for Filton & Bradley Stoke), Conor McGinn (Labour MP for St Helens North), Nigel Mills (Conservative MP for Amber Valley), Ian Paisley (DUP MP for North Antrim) and Jim Shannon (DUP MP for Strangford), should also serve as members of the said committee. 

Leaving aside the pertinent question of who represents the nationalist perspective on the committee, given the absence of any SDLP MPs in the House and subsequently on the committee itself, party politics aside I would have liked to have seen some Scottish and Welsh representation on the committee as, since the committee is comprised solely of English and northern Irish members, in this key committee, it would surely have made sense to have all four parts of the UK represented on it, as we can (and should) all learn from each other’s experiences and opinions.

The role of the committee is to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Northern Ireland Office and its associated public bodies. It also looks at the administration and expenditure (but not the policy) of the Crown Solicitor’s Office (except for individual cases and advice given by the crown solicitor). It chooses its own subjects of inquiry and seeks evidence from a wide range of groups and individuals with relevant interests and experience, and produces reports setting out our findings and making recommendations to the government.  The government has to respond to these recommendations within two months.  

And as the work of the committee gets underway, let it not be forgotten it was only belatedly established in 1993, some 14 years after the establishment of select committees to shadow the work of all other major government departments and as a direct result of consistent lobbying for the same by former Ulster Unionist Party Leader Jim Molyneaux and his parliamentary colleagues in the House of Commons, in the face of bitter hostility from Irish nationalists and republicans who viewed it as underscoring Northern Ireland’s identity as an integral part of the UK, rather than an essential first step in making the Northern Ireland Office more accountable for its actions.

Tunbridge Wells, Kent


The reason why I decided to leave Sinn Féin

Allison Morris in her column (September 7) quite accurately singled me out among members of Sinn Féin who had left that party.  However, instead of putting forward a reason, one that suited better the trend of her article for my leaving – “over the party’s change of stance on abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality” – she might have contacted me or, indeed, Sinn Féin to discover exactly why I left.

At the Sinn Féin Ard-Fheis in February 2014, I proposed that Sinn Féin members should have the right to speak and vote on sensitive moral issues according to their consciences. I consider that right a cornerstone of true republicanism. 

I quoted Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. In April 2013 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution by 148 votes to three calling on states ‘to accommodate religious beliefs in the public sphere’ and ‘to ensure the right of well-defined conscientious objection in relation to morally sensitive matters.’ I relayed this information to the delegates. 

I quoted John Redmond MP, who said that ‘the British Parliament has kept the death penalty off the statute books by free conscience votes’. The Constitutional Convention of Ireland, I told them, had recommended the ending of the ‘whip’, that British device by which members of parliament are told how they must vote, enthusiastically adopted by Leinster House. While concessions are made in the British House of Commons in relation to morally sensitive issues, Irish parties are usually less accommodating. 

The Sinn Féin leadership and faithful roundly rejected my proposal.
Mary Lou McDonald, speaking to the motion, said that ‘Sinn Féin could not give freedom of conscience’, so I decided it was time to go.  

Dungiven, Co Derry


Ignoring democratic deficit

I write, in response, to the letters contained within the letters page, by Marcas MacÁedha, LLB, ‘Glad to be leaving the democratic deficit known as the EU’ and by Martin Mansergh, ‘Yet another historical irony’ (September 11).
An important point was made by Martin in regards the European (withdrawal) Bill which proposes allowing ministers to remove any EU legislation without an Act of Parliament, yet Marcas claims the EU is the institution with a democratic deficit.
Lord Hailsham in 1976 referred to the UK executive as an ‘elective dictatorship’ because the FPTP electoral system ensures executive dominance. The Tories in the north won fewer than 4,000 votes and no seats here yet propose taking the north out of the EU despite the strong Remain vote.
To add insult to injury, they now propose allowing ministers to act unconstitutionally to take away beneficial legislation. Without a codified constitution in the UK, they could well be allowed to
do this.

Herein lies a stronger democratic deficit than that which Marcas discussed within the EU. The EU needs to be reformed but the referendum gave it a mandate in the north, while the people of the north have had no referendum to determine whether the democratic deficit we experience from London is one under which we want to continue to operate.
The last such referendum was held in 1973, while the EEC referendum was held in 1975. By the logic of leaving Europe due to an apparent democratic deficit a border poll should be held in less than 12 months.

Unfortunately, however, the UK executive seem to ignore this democratic deficit.

Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh


Facts determine reality

Transgenderism/Gender Dysphoria is an ideology which has been present in the United States for many years and is now sweeping through the rest of the developed world. 
Yet most people, including many doctors, know little about how the current treatment of it adversely affects vulnerable boys and girls.

In a statement issued in May Dr Michelle Cretella, president of the American College of Paediatricians, said: ‘The American College of Paediatricians urges healthcare professions, educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex. Facts – not ideology – determine reality.’

The college statement said that without interference transgenderism resolves in the vast majority of patients by late adolescence. They conclude by stating: ‘Conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and helpful is child abuse’.

Glenavy, Co Antrim

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