Letters to the Editor

Not surprised by Edwin Poots's sectarian comments on Covid virus

I was horrified but not surprised at the comments of Edwin Poots, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, when he blamed the nationalist community for spreading the coronavirus. Minister Poots seems to forget that Liverpool, London, New York, Madrid, Wuhan and Ballymena all have had major outbreaks of Covid-19 none of which would seem to be a hotbed of nationalism.

Let us not forget though that Mr Poots and the DUP have form on this type of comment and indeed action.  From the ‘let’s not feed the crocodile’ in relation to the Catholic/nationalist community, to the withdrawing of the £50,000 Liofa grant to the Irish speaking community.

At the same time as the Liofa grant was being withdrawn the then DUP agriculture minister was withdrawing the £20m ANC payment to hill farmers. This was a compensation payment that had been paid to hill farmers from 1959 so that they could still farm on poor lands.
But why you might ask would this be seen as a sectarian decision? The answer that many have alleged is because approximately 70 per cent are from the nationalist/Catholic community.

If we delve into the farming subsidies even more, we will see that the big intensive farmers in the lowlands who are mostly from the unionist community were receiving up to £1,000 per hectare of Single Farm Payment while the hill farmers where receiving around £90 per hectare.
Michelle O’Neill, while agriculture minister did a major review on this and put in place a seven-year equalisation plan to level off this inequality.
All farmers would, after the seven-year period, receive £320 per hectare thus making all farmers equal.

The reason I am giving you this background is because Edwin Poots has now stopped this seven-year equalisation period at the five-year point thus making a two-tier farming system where hill farmers are paid less than the big lowland farmers.  This alleged sustained attack on hill farmers by the DUP continued with the recent £25m Covid-19 payment to farmers which almost totally excluded hill beef farmers from any compensation, while big lowland farmers seemed to get the lion’s share of the payment.   

People are alleging that the DUP is sectarianising farming, which in the light of Minister Poots recent comments regarding coronavirus would be seen by many to be very close to the truth.

Sinn Féin, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council


Survey shows DUP assertion transfer test is popular with parents is false

The Education Committee launched a Post Primary Transfer Test Survey in July looking for the views of parents, teachers, children’s organisations and other interested groups in light of the difficulties posed by the closure of schools in March. More than 8,500 adults took part while a separate young people’s survey,  made available to the children of parents who participated, attracted 754 responses.

Responding to how they felt about children taking exams following the lockdown period, a significant majority, 61 per cent of parents/ guardians, 64 per cent of teachers and 67 per cent of other interested parties were very or extremely concerned.

The DUP and the Education Minister Peter Weir have always pushed the line that the transfer test is increasingly popular among parents as evidenced by the growing numbers of children sitting the test. Results from the survey show this assertion to be false. A considerable majority (85 per cent) said they would still have their child take the test but only because they had ‘no choice’ as there were ‘no alternatives to sitting transfer tests to access grammar schools in an area’.
All thanks to the DUP.

Peter Weir has been quoted frequently about how he believes that every child deserves a real chance in life, irrespective of their background.  In July he said: ‘“It is my strongly held belief that every child in Northern Ireland, regardless of their community or socio-economic background, deserves a real chance in life and I am determined that no child should suffer the burden of circumstance in determining his or her outcome.” Does anyone really believe this, given the DUP’s shameless promotion of an educational system of elitism that educates a handful of middle-class children and neglects those who most need an equitable education system to have any chance in life.

Downpatrick, Co Down


Lockdown – this time it is personal

Science fiction, even as bad as this, has become a fact of life. Another lockdown, another farrago of excuses and spurious rationale for the spike in cases. Plain common sense would have told the least informed mind that the return of students to universities would cause a spreading of the virus. They are at no level to blame. But with today’s technology, apart from a few specialised fields, the majority can study from home. The price of this gross error of judgment is borne by us all. We have been undermined by a political leadership that is reactive, fragmented, confused and incapable of taking the decisions necessary to act in the interests of all.

Politicians are no nearer to a road map out of this crisis. In fact, they appear even further apart. They are hapless and overwhelmed by a real crisis. One that they cannot treat with a partisan and a divisive narrative that plays to their respective constituencies. But when all hope appears lost – cometh the hour, cometh the man. One who reaches out to those whose patience and goodwill is over stretched, One to bring hope to the disillusioned and on the point of despondency to explain the true nature of the crisis we are in. The reason staring us in the face, the enemy that was always within – the nationalist community.

I never thought it possible to have a lower opinion of politicians. To sectarianise a virus has to be a new low, even for a party like the DUP.

Belfast BT15


Vital information being ignored

On October 8 Dr David Nabarro,  The World Health Organization’s special envoy on Covid-19 said in an interview with Andrew Neil on Spectator TV’s The Week in 60 Minutes – “We do appeal to all world leaders, stop using lockdown as your primary means of controlling this virus....”

He ended the interview by saying: “But remember lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer.” Why has this vital information from world experts been ignored in Northern Ireland by Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, by Boris Johnson in England, Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, Mark Drakeford in Wales and Micheál Martin in the Republic?

Our politicians tell us they are constantly in touch with medical and scientific experts about Covid-19, so why are they now disregarding the highly experienced advice of the world experts on this very subject?

Glenavy, Co Antrim

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Letters to the Editor