Time to change the rhetoric and stop whipping up fear
THE letter from J Martin (16th Feb) is a weak attempt to justify the unjustifiable, and is so lacking in facts that it almost deserves to be totally ignored.
However, no-one should be allowed to rewrite history to satisfy their own narrative. It has been said by so many and on so many occasions that it should not have to be repeated. The six county statelet was founded primarily on a sectarian head count. This is the reality of the situation and is accepted by all those who have independently studied the partition of Ireland.
I have no doubt that, fed the rhetoric by their leaders, the unionist people of the six counties may well have feared their possible treatment in a predominantly Catholic Ireland. Unfortunately, this fear was based on the way the Catholic people had been treated during the unionist time in control. There was no evidence that this would happen and it certainly was not what the nationalist leaders of the time were advocating.
Neither is it the wishes of leaders of nationalism today who, fully aware of what nationalists have had to endure for most of the past 100 years, are absolutely determined that unionists will have their religion and their culture protected in any new and agreed Ireland.
J Martin also tries to brand the conflict between PIRA and the British army ‘sectarian’. Perhaps he should be reminded that the then Northern Ireland prime minister, Chichester Clarke, declared that Britain was at war with the IRA. This is a common claim by unionist politicians, which has been debated in the past on several occasions and will always be a bone of contention between differing viewpoints.
A further bizarre part of his diatribe claims the south is doing less well economically than the north. This flies in the face of all the facts and is contrary to what economic experts are saying.
He ends his letter with the statement that ‘self-preservation is the name of the game’. Self-preservation of unionist dominance was prevalent at the creation of these six counties, it has remained their main criteria for the past 100 years. Now maybe the time to think of our neighbours and establish a just society that cares for all without discrimination or bias of any fashion.
No point unionists complaining about Brexit fire damage?
TODAY we have never had more sources of information, from traditional mainstream outlets, 24-hour rolling news, online platforms and social media. The problem, as with so much in life, is that more is truly less. People faced with information overload appear more susceptible to populist politicians, typically with simplistic, shallow and snappy slogans. The thing about slogans, apart from being trite and lacking any basis in fact, interviewers seem unable to challenge them.
Unionists politicians appear to be using the same techniques with the Irish protocol, complaining about it, while ignoring, conveniently, their previous actions. This behaviour is like arsonists setting their own house on fire, then complaining to the fire brigade about the water damage.
Unionists are now upset about the democratic deficit, that laws and regulations in Northern Ireland will be framed elsewhere and into which they will have no input, along with the increased bureaucracy blocking trade. As ever, different issues are being mixed to confuse and distract. Regarding the paper trail for trade across the Irish Sea, one needs to remember in 2020: Johnson’s government enacted a law to block trade extensions beyond December 31, at the height of the first Covid lockdown in June, refused the opportunity for an extension, finally dragged negotiations into the last week of December, giving businesses no chance to prepare and adapt. Interestingly the DUP was silent throughout. The operational difficulties will no doubt, at a price, settle down in the future.
The constitutional issue is different but raises some questions that should be answered, such as: in what way are NI citizens’ rights really compromised and what are the practical effects on a citizen likely to be? If any unionist has given a single example, I have yet to hear one. The Irish protocol relates solely to trade and protects both EU citizens, and happily, NI residents from cheap American food produced under dubious environmental conditions.
Small gestures of sympathy can help us all heal
WHEN we marked the 25th anniversary of the Shankill Bomb, there were displays containing letters from right across our society, expressing horror at what had happened and sympathy for the people affected. I have no doubt that similar messages were sent again, after the brutal murders and injuries inflicted at Sean Graham bookmakers on the Lower Ormeau Road.
One should never underestimate the importance of small gestures. These communications remind us that, throughout our history of conflict, while some were intent on causing death and destruction, there were always those urging restraint and trying to build relationships. They showed genuine concern for all our people. To take one example, the Peace People worked so hard to counter the divisions that flow from violence.
The future can be different. To the people of the Shankill, the Lower Ormeau and elsewhere, we owe hard work to ensure that the hatreds that fuelled violence are not passed on to future generations.
Next year will be the 30th anniversary of the Sean Graham Bookmakers atrocity. Police officers and ambulance personnel attended the scene and what they experienced will also be forever etched in their memories.
When we think about events like these, we should share the grief and remember them together, as a society. By doing so, we improve the chances that they will never be repeated again. We show that, while many small communities were devastated by brutality, they are not alone and they have not been forgotten.
Those people who wrote the letters, and others of like mind, are still around them. They remember the emotions that led them to put pen to paper all those years ago. They remember why it was important to show they cared.
Clergy selfless and courageous in pandemic
AS a general medical practitioner I have been very privileged to witness the selfless courage of priests and ministers during this terrible pandemic. Without fail they have attended to their parishioners despite the great risks to their own health.
They do not ask for anything in return but just generously offer their help out of altruism and vocation. We are incredibly fortunate to have such people in our communities.
Dr Paul McCormack
Kilrea Health Centre