Letters to the Editor

Providing Transfer Test dates will not remove stress for children

WE learnt earlier this month that the Transfer Test will go ahead.
The Education Minister Peter Weir welcomed the decision, which he said should provide “pupils, parents and teachers with clarity. More importantly I hope it will remove any stress that pupils and parents might be feeling”.
Does the minister seriously think that providing dates for these tests ‘will remove any stress’.
This type of comment just shows how out of touch he and the DUP are with the reality faced by those children and their parents who are forced to sit these tests if they want a grammar school place. The stress is only just beginning.

The children who will be  most disadvantaged are those who are already disadvantaged. Those who are poor, whose parents don’t have access to the digital technology or the knowledge to use it. While other children have had digital access to private transfer test tutors almost from the start.
It’s the Matthew effect being played out again and again in one of the most unequal societies in western Europe. The rich are getting richer in terms of educational progress and the poor are going backwards, losing what little knowledge schools have given them.

Research by Professor John Jerrim and Sam Simms which looked at more than 1,800 children from grammar school areas in England and Northern Ireland found that those in families in the bottom quarter of household incomes have less than a 10 per cent chance of attending a grammar school. This compares to around a 40 per cent chance of children in the top quarter of household incomes. They also found that higher income families were much more likely to use private tutors to coach their children for the test and that this gave them a huge advantage over poorer families who couldn’t afford to pay for
private tutors.
In Northern Ireland a child from a more advantaged background who received private tutoring for the Transfer Test was three times more likely to go to a grammar school than a poor child of equal ability whose parents couldn’t afford a private tutor.

So, if Peter Weir really believes in giving every child an ‘equal opportunity’ to gain a grammar school place let him provide poor families with vouchers to be used to employ private tutors to coach their children for this test.

Downpatrick, Co Down


Hopefully Fine Gael will not try to renew its attempts to honour RIC

WHEN I bought this year’s Co Cork football and hurling shirt, it came as a surprise. Gone was the familiar red and white replaced by black and blue colours. On the front are images of two Sinn Féin lord mayors of Cork, Thomas McCurtain and Terence McSweeney, IRA volunteers who lost their lives 100 years ago – McCurtain on the March 20 1920, McSweeney a few months later while on hunger strike in England.

In March 1920, MacCurtain was murdered in his home. At the inquest into his killing, a verdict of wilful murder was returned, specifically naming British prime minister Lloyd George as being responsible as well as the lord lieutenant and the chief secretary for Ireland and RIC District Inspector Oswald Swanzy.

The atmosphere throughout Ireland reflected the changing times. Sinn Féin and other nationalist parties had come to the fore in the local government elections in January across the nine counties of Ulster. Significantly unionists lost Derry City Council.

Trouble spread and loyalists drove thousands of Catholics from their jobs in the shipyard, Mackies, Sirocco works and the massive Gallahers factories.

During all this, the friends and comrades of Thomas MacCurtain tracked down DI Swanzy, to Lisburn and went north. One of the party was Sean Culhane, who brought MacCurtain’s revolver with him. They liaised with the Belfast Brigade to execute Swanzy on Sunday August 22.

Pubs and shops in Lisburn were looted and burned by roaming loyalists. This continued for another two days despite the announcement of a curfew from 9pm. Firemen from Belfast trying to assist had their hoses cut by axes. Over 1,000 Catholics fled Lisburn and 22 people in five days died in Belfast.

Another lord mayor to die was George Clancy of Limerick, who had once taught the young James Joyce Irish and was murdered by the RIC’s ‘Black and Tans’ the following year 1921. Perhaps Limerick might follow Cork’s lead, while Antrim could remember Roger Casement on the saffron shirt?

Hopefully the present Fine Gael group in temporary control of the government of the 26 counties will not be renewing their attempts to commemorate the RIC next year as they tried in January of this year.



Family planning

FOR those worried about the new laws ‘bringing abortion’ to Northern Ireland, some context is required. Family planning has long been a part of the fabric of Irish society – from the first recorded abortion in 650AD performed by St Brigid, to home remedies; to the philanthropic wives of prominent city figures first establishing Marie Stopes in Belfast in the 1930s, to the cross-community cohort of women who set up family planning centres across the north amidst the riots and violence of the 1970s.

As we know – making abortion illegal does not stop women having abortions. Throughout the centuries, desperate women have always found a way. For the 28 women from Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Tyrone and Fermanagh who every week travel to England, these new laws simply allow family planning to be done at home.

Alliance for Choice, Derry


Strange behaviour

SOCIETY never fails to amaze me. After a 30-year-plus conflict carried out by those who killed each other in the name of loyalty to their respective beliefs, people are now destroying the beauty of this island of Ireland by dumping litter on the roadside.

Daily I walk the country roads every morning roads with my canine companion and what I see is a vile pile of continuous litter on the road and in the hedges, ranging from bottles, tin cans and newspapers.

I accept that the councils have limited financial means, but surely they could make some effort to occasionally muster up some local volunteers to remove this unsightly mess?

Tourism for every country can be of enormous beneficial benefit. It is time for those who dump litter on the roadside to wise up and take their litter home.

Kircubbin, Co Down


State of Ireland

Fionnuala O’Connor, (May 5) should know that the reason why we “now routinely entitle” the state Ireland is because that’s its name.

I suggest that she takes a look at Bunreacht na hEireann-Constitution of Ireland and she’ll understand that the people of the state voted for the adoption of that name in 1937. Nothing new about that.

Maynooth, Co Kildare

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Letters to the Editor