Letters to the Editor

We need to show maturity as we work through the legacy issues

The deaths of 11 people In Ballymurphy during August 1971 were a tragic consequence of the events that led to the army being deployed on our streets. I sincerely hope the families are successful in their quest to establish the truth about what happened.

In the mid-70s my father, who was a policeman, wrote a paper titled, ‘The use of the army in the civil environment’. His work highlighted that while Northern Ireland would have descended into civil war without the army, it was not suitably trained for operating in the type of conflict that was unfolding. It was a necessary but blunt instrument. Soldiers were trained for the battlefield where survival depended on ‘reacting’ to events rather than ‘responding’, which forms the basis of policing.

They gained experience on the ground, saving many lives, but also taking them. Altogether they were involved in around 300 deaths. Whether justified or not they were all still tragic. It should also be remembered that more than 700 soldiers were killed and thousands more injured,   

With this is mind, it’s important that the inquests examine not only all aspects of the incidents that occurred, but also the context against which they happened. When the army arrived in Northern Ireland, why was peace and stability not restored? After all, they were welcomed initially by all reasonable people but particularly by the vast majority of the nationalist part of our community. What changed that resulted in gun battles occurring on our streets after their deployment?  

The 1974 documentary ‘Children In Crossfire’ highlighted effectively the environment of hatred that was created by our extremes.

It is so important that the future is different and that is why the families should tell us more about those who were killed so that we better understand the people they were. It is vital we tell our young of the real consequences of conflict.

Also, while I can appreciate the families having little sympathy for the soldiers involved, we need to recognise the tragedy of the deaths of those who happened to also be members of the security services.

This should not be viewed as ‘whataboutery’ but rather a sharing of the tragedy that touched too many in our society so we all understand better what happened here.

As a community, we need to show maturity as we work through the legacy issues. The families from Ballymurphy deserve their opportunity to tell what happened to them, but specific incidents cannot be considered in isolation. Without a more balanced outlook, we risk pandering to an ongoing campaign aimed at spreading the idea that the republican campaign of violence, its hatred of the ‘other’ and undermining the state were justified.

This is an ongoing challenge for Irish nationalism in particular, as we mark 50 years since the Northern Ireland Civil Rights movement and as we move into an intense spell of anniversaries that will last for another 30 to 40 years. If nationalist civic, religious and political leaders across the island really have decided that the IRA campaign was regrettable, but at some level justified, then it sends a worrying message  to their neighbours from a British – Irish tradition.

Holywood, Co Down


Don’t subject fishing industry to paralysis by analysis

Last week I met some representatives from the fishing industry in Kilkeel where I was astounded to find out that the fishing industry will be subjected to a strategic review to be undertaken by two government departments – DAERA and the Department of the Economy.  Usually open-ended reviews means that work will be sluggish in relation to the development of the harbours in Ardglass and Kilkeel.

The fishing  industry has been subjected to other reviews in the past. I have been told that the purpose of this review is to examine future development opportunities for the whole of the Northern Ireland Fish and Seafood industry. It would appear no time scale  has been provided. No structured terms of reference or costs have been provided or even what personnel will carry out this review and what happens the work already been undertaken in respect of harbour development. Surely, such information is already available and does not require another review or analysis.  

The fishing industry does not need further reviews which simply delay the need for ongoing capital works to widen the harbour mouths at Ardglass and Kilkeel. I would urge both departments responsible for this review not to subject the industry to further paralysis by analysis. Those in the catching and processing sectors want government departments to work with them to continue to develop the industry as they face the impact of Brexit and also as they await the outcome of the annual negotiations on fish species quota allocations which will be concluded at next month’s summit in Brussels. 
I would urge that the senior departmental representatives work positively with the fishing industry to continue to grow and develop the fishing industry in Ardglass and Kilkeel.   

SDLP, South Down


SF unable to move on from past grievances

Mary Lou McDonald has said Sinn Féin will not be celebrating the centenary of Northern Ireland in 2021, describing our country as a “wee statelet”. While this is to be expected of a party which supported a murderous campaign in a failed attempt to destroy Northern Ireland, it still sickens me that Sinn Féin are unable to move on from past grievances rather than live in the present, and look to a shared future. A united Northern Ireland is surely a more realistic and appropriate aspiration for Sinn Féin, that would offer more stability and hope for all our children.

Northern Ireland is a diverse community. This is what makes it great and strong, and it should be celebrated.

I say to Mary Lou, stop trying to sow more hurt and division than your party has already done throughout its turbulent history, and what it is still trying to do through its current policy of abandoning the executive and letting all the people of Northern Ireland suffer because of it.

Ulster Unionist, North Down


Poor election performance

Regarding, Liadh ni Riada’s poor performance in the presidential election, the print media seems to be focussing mostly on relatively minor issues such as the time she had to campaign and salary discrepancies and paying little attention to more potent factors.

Would the more old school Sinn Féin voters have been impressed by her grovelling to Máiría Cahill and her unqualified support for the controversial Drew Harris appointment? She then dropped her biggest clanger by saying she would be prepared to wear a poppy.

A cursory glance at social media would show that this lost her votes instantly.  A number of Sinn Féin representatives were forced to take the unprecedented step of publicly dissociating themselves from a statement made by their own party candidate.

Given Sinn Féin’s strenuous efforts in recent times to  become respectable, it is ironic that a most politically correct candidate attracted less than half the percentage vote than that of former IRA man Martin McGuinness in 2011 – and this was before McGuinness started his love-in with British royalty.

Charleville, Co Corcaigh 

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