Letters to the Editor

Why do unionists have such an antipathy towards the EU?

I read Alex Kane’s explanation (October 19) for voting Leave. His objections mainly abstract constitutional concerns, were unconvincing to put it mildly. I am sure they talk of nothing else in Ballymena.

Alex’s criticisms remind me of the long list of reasons a girl might give for not going on a date, polite yet unconvincing, they conceal the less palatable and unspoken truth. Alex doesn’t like the Euro but since the UK has opted out, what is the problem? Most of the other listed concerns, such as the European Defence army do not exist. On the latter, if America reneges on its Nato commitments, which Trump has already threatened, what does Alex suggest? I assume Alex noticed that back in 2012 Putin’s Russia annexed Crimea, so presumably constitutional niceties there, or more worryingly in the Baltic States, might need protecting in the future – if so by whom? 

Apart from noting that Alex’s objections do not really stand up to scrutiny it raises the obvious question, why do unionists have such an antipathy to the EU? 
Why do unionists support something that is akin to national self-harm in order to make a political point? After all, the inviolable union with its ‘blood red lines’ was secured and guaranteed by the Good Friday Agreement 20 years ago.

I wonder if despite, or maybe it is because of, all the positive things that EU membership has brought, especially here in Northern Ireland that at a gut visceral level, unionists simply resent the idea of outsiders interfering in their ‘grand wee country’. Even though these meddling outsiders have provided buckets of money, (for farmers here it is 80 per cent of farm incomes). Perhaps the problem is simply that all these monies come with difficult conditions, at least for unionists, of fairness?
Last week Graham Gudgeon, another deep unionist thinker, demonstrated that he, like a great many others, has never addressed the history of Stormont and come to terms with what a shameful story it was. But that is the past, what about the future? Maybe that is the answer, like the old English imperialists, the inglorious past is exactly where unionism would like to take us?

Sadly it would seem instead of accepting that they benefited from an EU-sponsored political ‘get out of jail card’, that is the GFA, as unionism’s political hegemony enters its death throes, stupidly and not for the first time, they have chosen to bite the hand that fed them.

Belfast BT9


Western nations have abandoned their moral compass

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi, in a Saudi Arabian Consulate, is a crime of monumental proportions.

Such behaviour, which appears to be standard practice behind the Saudi borders, has now been exported to their official overseas facilities, protected by diplomatic immunity (impunity).

Jamal first entered the building on  September 28, and was instructed to return on October 2 for the documents he was requesting. Why the delay for such mundane documentation except for arranging a reception committee for him, which carried out their deadly official orders?

There is much prevarication about implementing sanctions against such a brutal dictatorship, purely over such considerations which, obviously, surpass what we call justice and the rule of law. These western nations have certainly abandoned their moral compass and principles for financial expediency. Hypocrites of the first order.

What I cannot understand is why Saudi Arabia, with around 25 million citizens, needs to spend so much on arms when surely washing machines, refrigerators, computers, televisions, etc., would be a better long-term investment.

Donald Trump, with the support of his faithful European followers, could start implementing regime change as his presidential predecessors have regularly implemented around the world. Personally, I am opposed to any interference in other people’s countries but, in this instance, I can make an exception, especially following this heinous act on Jamal Khashoggi, who will probably not even have the dignity of a decent burial, with no body to bury.

It is not just the shame of Saudi Arabia for permitting such behaviour, it is to our eternal shame that we continue to support such inhuman despots running this criminal regime.

Ballycastle, Co Antrim


Arab Peace Initiative has little popular support

Brendan McNally (October 23) suggests that the Arabs have offered de facto recognition of Israel in the Arab Peace Initiative. However, the initiative has little popular support. It is vague about settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem and ignores the rights of Jewish refugees driven from Arab countries in greater numbers than Palestinians who fled Israel.

As long as the Palestinians demand a ‘right of return’ to Haifa and Jaffa in Israel’s heartland, they effectively aspire to two Arab states: an ‘independent Palestinian state’ in the West Bank, and an Arab state in place of Israel – a recipe for perpetuating the conflict.

Normalising relations with Israel is not the same as accepting Israel as a Jewish state. It is not tantamount to renouncing violence, and can easily be reversed. It should be noted that neither Iran nor Hamas have signed up to the Arab Peace Initiative.

Israel’s nation-state law was passed by a majority of Knesset members.  

The quibbling over the law’s wording in Israel was over nuance, not principle.  It came from critics  who still call themselves Zionists.

There is no contradiction in being a Jewish state that opens its doors wide to all Jews and in being a democracy that stands for full equality for all who live there.



Adopting moral high ground

Manus McDaid (October 29) accuses me of adopting a high moral tone for quoting  accurate statistics – that republican paramilitaries were responsible for more than half of all ‘the Troubles’ deaths. When it comes to ‘a high moral tone’ St Pope John II set the benchmark during his visit to Ireland in 1979, when he spoke at Drogheda.
“Christianity does not command us to close our eyes to difficult human problems. It does not permit us to neglect and to refuse to see unjust social or international situations. What Christianity  does forbid is to seek solutions to these problems by the ways of hatred, by the murdering of defenceless people, by the methods of terrorism.”

Even before St Pope John Paul II left Ireland two days later, the Sinn Féin leadership, ignoring the fact the Pope was speaking against  murder and violence, issued a smokescreen statement to the effect that “the Pope is without competence in matters of Irish politics.”

Downpatrick, Co Down



of thanks


hank you Northern Ireland for helping us raise vital funds during the M&S Macmillan Coffee Morning for people living with cancer.

M&S stores across Northern Ireland were overwhelmed by the level of generosity and involvement of the local communities throughout September for our charity partner’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning campaign. Your generosity has helped raise £56,192.35 (and counting) towards funding Macmillan professionals.


Simon Layton

Head of Region for M&S in Northern Ireland

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