Letters to the Editor

Any abortion decision should be for women not eminent men

Typical of anti-abortion advocates TJ Hardy bounces around discredited scare stories of consequential breast cancer, suicide, deliberate self-harm, future neo-natal harm and even disability (January 6). That should explain why I made “no reference” on December 28 to misogynist fantasies.

More seriously, TJ Hardy cited the anti-abortion views of anti-Nazi martyr Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Being part of the minority of German Protestants opposed to German fascism does not make Bonhoeffer right on abortion. Unfortunately Bonhoeffer, though opposed to the Catholic ban on contraception, positively considered its opposition to “killing the foetus in cases where the mother is in danger of losing her life”. He called that “a highly questionable action” and continued: “The life of the mother is in the hand of God, but the life of the child is arbitrarily extinguished. The question whether the life of the mother or the life of the child is of greater value can hardly be a matter for a human decision.”

In other words, the late Savita Halappanaver would have received similar treatment from a follower of Bonhoeffer in hospital in Galway in 2012.

It should be said, in fairness, not all who follow Bonhoeffer follow his anti-abortion line. Last May Rob Shenk, President of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute in Washington, wrote that he supported abortion rights. He used to be an anti-abortion crusader but now thinks overturning laws permitting termination, “would be destructive of life”.
Shenk noted that anti-abortion messages in states like Alabama are “delivered to poor women by overwhelmingly middle-or upper-class white men (as most of the legislators passing these laws are)”. That, he concluded, “adds insult to injury”.

I repeat, let women like Savita Hallapanaver who are pregnant make the decision. They are in the best position to exercise individual conscience on the matter. The words of men, however eminent, should be secondary to those who are pregnant.

Cabra, Dublin 7


Sad indictment concept of Irish unity not considered at negotiating table

The recent attempt by an unelected member of the House of Lords to pass through a ‘Referendums Criteria Bill’ that will gerrymander any future referenda must serve as a strong reminder to all that the unstated border poll voting threshold for a referendum on Irish unity needs addressed now.

While this bill in its current format has very little chance of succeeding, it’s a worrying reminder of the undemocratic nature of the British democratic system and the extreme democratic weakness that lies at the heart of Good Friday Agreement with regards to constitutional future of Ireland via a border poll.

The Good Friday Agreement provides a path to unity via the border poll mechanism – how exactly we democratically trigger that mechanism is not stated. The ‘majority’ that is needed is entirely up to the decision of the unelected British secretary of state and Houses of Parliament as per the GFA.

Nationalist political parties missed a major opportunity in the recent Stormont Agreement to ensure that threshold is set. Pressure must be heavily applied on those political parties that built part of their mandates on the promise of putting Irish unity at the top of the political agenda.

There was not one mention of a border poll or Irish unity on the 62-page Stormont document, a sad indictment that the concept of Irish unity was not even considered at the negotiating table by nationalist political parties, failing the ever growing Irish unity community.

We cannot allow the British government be be allowed to move the democratic goalposts whenever and wherever they choose.

Yes For Unity campaign,
Belfast BT12


Is optimism unreasonable?

Before the New Decade New Approach agreement to go back into government, I was optimistic about progress.

Since the 1960s, I have seen little but belligerence, negativity, sectarianism, pointless violence, squandering not only of cash handouts but goodwill and opportunity. We surely couldn’t have gone much further down the path to ultimate destruction than our causing the nurses to strike. Thank goodness the nurses had the fortitude to show leadership which was lacking elsewhere.

So, where do we go from here? Several small steps have been taken, much talk about policy, plans, and aspirations. We have had the begging bowl out many times over the years, but we have squandered the largesse. We have not delivered  many of the projects and targets through incompetence, fear of decision making and of course naked sectarianism and insularity.

The problems are well known to politicians and many others, So let us set dates for completion of projects with cash projections, starting with the Bengoa plan for improving health services, speeding the removal of  barriers in the city; building the transport links. These will all be difficult but they must be done if this government is to regain any credibility.  Let’s get a bit of business discipline into the project planning with dates for completion and costs and widely publish them so that we all can see if progress is being made.

Belfast BT1


Don’t buy trees at Christmas

Sunday, January 5, was the last day of Christmas. How sad it was to see all those Christmas trees being put out and burned on the fire. We see the trees being burned in Australia as the many forests are destroyed.

Trees help the environment and if there are enough of them they can help stop global warming. Yet the government of Brazil are letting people cut down hundreds of trees everyday in the Amazon jungle that is destroying the world, yet the small minds do not see the damage they are doing.

In Ireland and Europe the people need to stop buying Christmas trees, leave them alone to grow to be big trees in the forests so as to help the environment and stop the earth warming up – because sooner or later Europe’s forests will be on fire and out of control like Australia.

In time to come history will blame people like Donald Trump who deny global warming, for the destruction of Earth’s planet. All we can do to play our part is not buy trees at Christmas.

Sligo Town, Co Sligo


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Letters to the Editor