Awareness raising key to protection of children and young people

Christmas is usually a happy time for children and families.  However, for a small number of girls in our society the holidays present a time of vulnerability and greater risk of harm with the threat of being taken abroad to undergo female genital mutilation. (FGM).  

FGM is a term given to all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitals or other injury to female genital organs. It is practiced in some parts of the world but it is without any medical basis and can cause long lasting damage to physical and mental health. The procedure is dangerous, illegal and a serious form of child abuse. Unfortunately, it is an issue for some children across the UK and more needs to be done to stamp

it out.

The NSPCC understands that some families who subject their children to FGM may do so because of cultural norms or that they believe it will help their child improve their life. It is a deeply entrenched issue and the secrecy that surrounds FGM makes it difficult to identify those at risk. 

In Northern Ireland, some progress has been made by the Safeguarding Board of Northern Ireland, to help reduce the risk of FGM to girls.  However, awareness raising is key to the protection of children and young people.

Schools, nurseries and youth organisations are well placed to identify girls at risk. We urge everyone working with children to be vigilant and especially if they hear about planned foreign travel to take part in “special” ceremonies, or an extended break from school. 

The NSPCC provides a specialised FGM helpline which is available in Northern Ireland.

Since it was launched across the UK in 2013, the helpline has been contacted more than 1,500 times with around a third of concerns serious enough to be referred to police or social services.

For far too long, FGM has been cloaked in secrecy so we need more people in communities to join forces to ensure this dangerous practice is ended and no child is put through this needless, traumatic procedure. This is child abuse, it is against

the law and it has no place in any society.

We would encourage anyone who has concerns about a child and FGM to speak to their GP, health visitor, school nurse, teacher or for advice and support they can contact our anonymous and free FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550 so that appropriate action can be taken. More information can be found online at www.nspcc.org.uk/fgm.


NSPCC Northern Ireland 

Patrick Murphy’s view of Brexit not so clear cut

I read Patrick Murphy’s ‘Brexit was protest against inequality’ (December 15) but am unconvinced. If, as Patrick argues, the Brexit vote was ‘people rebelling against poverty and unemployment’, the leave/remain divide would have been clear-cut – the poor would have voted to leave, the rich to remain. This means, according to Patrick’s analysis, that there is no poverty or unemployment in Scotland or the north of Ireland. In fact, Hackney and Foyle, hardly bywords for affluence, voted overwhelmingly to remain, while the Brexiteers are led by old Etonian plutocrats Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, who are not, I’m sure even Patrick will concede, the voice of the marginalised and dispossessed.

No, Patrick, Brexit is an English phenomenon, and it was driven by a hatred of foreigners in general and of immigrants in particular. 

England’s cities, with their long history of accommodating immigrants, voted remain, while the 

stockbroker belt of the home counties voted leave. As a protest against their ‘poverty and unemployment’, apparently. 

Brexit brought out all that is ugly in British culture – racism, xenophobia, jingoism and a hard-right English nationalism nourishing delusions of a return to empire. Brexit was not the plucky little underdog standing up

to the Brussels bully; it was the pack, force-fed a diet of xenophobic rhetoric by their appalling press, turning on the outsider. During and after the Brexit campaign, attacks on immigrants increased by a third. That’s what Brexit was about. 

The Brexit catastrophe is the result of an unholy alliance between the ideologues of the hard right and the dogmatists of the hard left. Both are dangerous fantasists. 


Belfast BT9

Jeremy Hunt’s global review should start in UK

I note that British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ordered a global review into the persecution of Christians worldwide and makes recommendations on which steps the British government can take to support those Christians under threat. Perhaps Mr Hunt might start his global review at home in the UK.

Is it not long past time that the British government ceased closing its eyes and turning its back on their own persecution of Christians in the UK?

Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland were forced to endure 50 years of sectarianism and religious discrimination in employment, housing and voting, a discrimination which included selective internment without trial. Internment was introduced in August 1971 by unionist prime minister Brian Faulkner when a total of 342 men were picked up. All but two were Catholics and nationalists and the remaining two were Protestant republican activists. No loyalists were arrested. Such was the level of gerrymandering of electoral wards that nationalists/Catholics were unable to vote themselves out of their predicament?.

Perhaps one reason why the British state turns a blind eye to such naked sectarianism is the fundamentally sectarian foundations of the British Constitution itself which forbids the Monarch, its spouse or any of the great office holders of state from being a Catholic and automatically grants seats in its upper house to Anglican bishops. A strange practice in a country which prides itself on its secular and  progressive outlook.

Following the ending of the Second World War in Germany, an extensive body of legislation was put in place to outlaw all remaining elements of anti-Jewish culture that had grown up around the Nazi party. Is it not imperative that similar measures be introduced in Northern Ireland to deal with the endemic anti-Catholicism so prevalent in large parts of the unionist facade?


Dublin 2

Ireland needs a Donald Trump

Ireland needs a benevolent president like Donald Trump. He listens to the people of his country. He talks to them directly.

Unemployed people in the north and the south of Ireland, or should I now say, in order to be ‘politically correct’ Northern Ireland and Ireland, need jobs.

Me, I am not interested in being politically correct or keeping my head ‘below the parapet’. Only those who belong to those smug, well-off, chattering classes, don’t seem to like President Trump.  His very name is anathema to them

President Trump is not prepared to see his country flooded with immigrants when the people who are already living there are out of work.

No country should be taking in immigrants until every last person who wants to work and who is fit to work has a job. Start ‘mopping up’ all the unemployed in the country first, then look and see if any more workers from ‘wherever’ are needed.

Nobody in the Dáil or in ‘frozen’ Stormont, is saying this.


Glenariffe, Co Antrim