Letters to the Editor

Flagship scheme will remain mired in controversy long after completion

Welcome as it is to hard-pressed commuters, can the opening of two lanes of the A6 through an environmentally and culturally rich landscape (Irish News November 25) justify the means? I believe not. There has never existed an imperative reason of overriding public importance to justify circumventing due process, which is why this particular section of the Department for Infrastructure’s flagship scheme will remain mired in controversy, long after the 10-mile/£200m upgrade is complete. With the statutory orders remaining a phantom, questions will continue to be asked: where is the EU-compliant appropriate assessment? Where is the competent authority’s decision? Where is the notice to proceed?

The decision, made on August 17 2016, by a previous minister to formally proceed with the project from planning to construction is an essential part of democracy’s due process, without which there is no accountability.
Where is that decision now, and what has happened to other statutory orders and assessments made and announced that day? Their disappearance is evidence of this government’s ability to influence the terms of reference and parameters of four public inquiries and a judicial review. It is also symptomatic of the raw power this department is able to wield as the regulator, developer and decision-maker, effectively judge and jury in its own court.

Earth protectors will not stop asking questions or shy away from challenging harmful decisions.

The continued failure by this department to provide evidence of the existence of the statutory orders is damning.
Seamus Heaney described the route (not the road) as an ‘ecological wound on a precious wetland’. The harm being done to this internationally important wetland
and to the public’s trust in environmental governance and justice is huge.

Wetlands cover 1per cent of the planet yet support 12 per cent of the world’s wildlife. They are disappearing at a faster rate than forests. Wetlands are especially vulnerable to the processes of fragmentation from infrastructure such as mega-dams, drainage and dual carriageways. Hemmed in,  divided and disturbed, the insidious ‘death by a thousand cuts’ marches on relentlessly.
For the sake of a three-mile arc through a wetland, supposedly protected, this scheme deals a severe blow to the natural world and our climate.

Killough, Co Down


Executive should act on real evidence

Bars and restaurants closed; barbers and beauticians closed – and the R number is still on the rise. So, what do the decision makers do? Unbelievably, well almost unbelievably, they do exactly the same again. When one action fails to provide the required outcome, then common sense, not rocket science, would suggest that we look elsewhere for the solution.

I believe that there is evidence that the main culprits for increasing the spread of the virus lie in two different establishments, two establishments which the executive are not keen to tackle mainly due to the economic repercussions.

The first of these is schools, and I mean inside the schools and not ‘parents at the gates’. Hundreds of pupils aged from 11 to 18 enter the school building. They are in there for six hours, five days a week. They go into small classrooms, 30 or more pupils at a time, and they do this eight or nine times in one day. These pupils come from a wide geographical area and all social classes. No chance of bubbles here. Very little protection to our teachers, they too are frontline workers who have largely been forgotten.

These children and young adults mix freely. Do we really believe that 30-plus pupils will sit behind their desk, in their seats and not move or interact? Of course they don’t. Covid-19 could not ask for any better circumstances in which to spread into our community.

So why not make the numbers of pupils sent home to isolate for two weeks from our schools public? Why not publish the number of exam students in this position? Some have had to isolate numerous times. Where is the level playing ground for them in public exams next year?

The reason these facts are not in the public domain is that if we close schools then parents cannot go to their work and the economy would suffer. Questions will be asked when this pandemic is under control.

The second is our supermarkets which have been protected to the detriment of our local stores, shops and the high streets in our town. Local stores, shops, barbers and beauticians in our town centres have ploughed thousands into their businesses to make them as safe as possible. Statistics have constantly shown that they have an insignificant effect on the R number, yet they continue to be targeted by the decision makers.

The reason can only be that the UK government believe it would be detrimental to the economy to close these large stores and furlough their staff.  So what do we do?

Those in positions of responsibility must act on the real evidence, not on what is good for the economy but on those actions that will save lives.

Craigavon, Co Armagh


Unforgivable tweet

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley’s unforgivable tweet glorifying the IRA’s murder of 18 soldiers near Warrenpoint, on the same day they murdered Lord Mountbatten and two children, is despicable and unforgivable. When taken together with his colleague David Cullinane’s infamous “Up the Ra” comment after his Dáil election victory both their actions illustrate that if you scratch some Sinn Féin TDs beneath the surface they remain unreconstructed apologists for the bloody IRA campaign which was responsible for 49 per cent of all murders during the north’s troubles.

As Sinn Féin has not been slow to call for other resignations in the Dáil for what they described as “inappropriate behaviour” in spite of the fact that the respective TDs on those occasions apologised profusely, it is high time they applied the same principle to one of their own namely Brian Stanley.

Lisnagry, Co Limerick


Litany of gaffes

John Taylor (Lord Kilclooney) is in the news again. This time with his comments about the vice-president elect of the US, Kamala Harris.

Mr Taylor has had a litany of  gaffes over the years. He held office in the Stormont Parliament during the 1960s and 1970s. He was a trenchant critic of any reform programmes in the north of Ireland. In his political life he was mercurial, capable of making off the cuff comments similar to his most recent.

Dublin 6

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Letters to the Editor