Letters to the Editor

Some straight talking may help us better navigate through this difficult period

These are certainly difficult times, but if you listen to some of the media and others you would be entitled to have a sense of “we’re all doomed”. It reminds me of my mother telling me how she sat and listened with her two young children to the Cuban Missile Crisis play out in October/November 1962 as the world was on the brink of nuclear war. We came through that terrible time just as we have come through many others in our history.

I do not want to play down the seriousness of the challenges that Covid-19 poses, both in the short-term and possibly for years to come. However, some straight talking might help us better navigate through this period.

We all have a role to play in shaping the restrictions necessary to live our lives. It’s a task far too important to leave to politicians alone. I make this point because the latest measures have undermined a lot of hard work and thinking from the private sector, aimed at allowing life to continue as normally as possible, while reducing the risks to society.

Businesses were innovative, responsible and practical in their responses to these challenges.

It’s key that the public takes responsibility and sticks to advice like maintaining our distance, washing our hands and wearing masks where appropriate. We all still have a duty to make sure the NHS is not overwhelmed.

We should acknowledge, though, that the risk differs for distinct groups of people. Broadly, most of us fit into one of three categories.

The young and fit, say up to the age of 45 to 50, have low risk. Older people, over 70 or so, those with health conditions and the very unfit are at serious risk of illness or death. They will have to continue to take significant precautions and the rest of us will have to respect the need for them to do so and take it seriously. There are also ‘inbetweeners’, roughly between 50 and 70. This group are at some risk, but they can make their own judgment as to the level of precautions they wish to take.

Each group will have to shape their lives appropriately to minimise the risks to themselves and to avoid spreading the virus to the most vulnerable group in particular.

So, if the infection rate increases what is important is that the rise is not among the older and vulnerable groups. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, there is no prospect of easing the restrictions for nursing homes and those most vulnerable. But we can try and ease the impact of that for the individuals involved. As cases rise again in these homes, our focus should be on controlling the infection there, rather than closing down businesses and restricting the lives of those least at risk.

For wider public health, mental health and our standard of life, we need to rescue our economy, enable social activity and let younger people continue to work. The private sector should be at the forefront of this drive – promoting innovation and bringing both courage and caution to our thinking.

Business people and others had adapted to make the best of the situation, but the latest restrictions undermined all their hard work.

We should be seeking out examples of good practice and encouraging their wider adoption as we dare not destroy our economy any further.

A major part of life is about risk, managing it and living with it. At all times we need to act with maturity and bear in mind the necessary precautions required. As we open up our society, we should be governed by the principle – ‘abuse it and you lose it’.

TREVOR RINGLAND
Holywood, Co Down

 

 

Grotesque to force young families to live in high-rise apartment blocks

By now many people would have seen the eye-catching placard on the fenced-off vacant site at the corner of Carrick Hill and Library Street. The message on the placard is presented in a clever cartoon-style format illustrating the stark differences on the type of social housing preferences. Carrick Hill Residents Association erected the placard as part of their campaign to have good quality social housing built at several sites at Carrick Hill.

The sites, previously earmarked for new housing some years ago should have by now been built with proper traditional social housing. Unfortunately, due to interest from Ulster University and property developers to build high-rise student accommodation and multi-storey apartment blocks, the housing authorities shelved the plan. Due to persistent pressure from the residents association negotiations with the Housing Executive have resumed to finally have the homes built. Suddenly out of the blue another stumbling block has presented itself. This time it is not the usual suspects (the unionists) who are to blame. The problem now is due to a divergence of opinion on what type of housing should be built. Carrick Hill is still strongly in favour of traditional housing. After enduring the former Unity Flats nightmare they know only too well what’s at stake here.

On the other hand nationalist parties in the Stormont Executive have ministers in charge of important departments now, and are in a position to deliver the new housing. The problem now is that some nationalist parties are in favour of building high-rise apartment blocks, a real seizmic shift if ever there was one. Carrick Hill is also realistic and would have no objection to some low-rise flats being built, which would be suitable for single people or childless couples.
To force families with young children to live in high rise apartment blocks is nothing less than grotesque and should never be allowed to happen.

SEAN MASKEY
Belfast BT15

 

Lord Kilclooney seems to have a bad memory for names

Lord Kilclooney seems to have a problem with names. In 2017 he tweeted that Simon Coveney was ‘hoping to undermine the Indian’.  The ‘Indian’ in question was the taoiseach Leo Varadkar, whose father is from India but who was born in Ireland. He said he only used it as shorthand as he could not spell his name. He is at it again but this time he has moved on to America. He tweeted ‘What happens if Biden moves on and the Indian becomes president?’ The ‘Indian’ this time he is referring to is Kamala Harris the vice-president elect. His excuse for using the word ‘Indian’ is ‘I did not know her name and identified her with the term Indian.’

So, as one can see Lord Kilclooney is not racist. He just has a bad memory where names are concerned.

TONY CARROLL
Newry, Co Down

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