Irish News columnists get to the heart of the matter
I'VE written before on how impressed I am with The Irish News collection of columnists. My admiration continues unabated but today one of my favourites, Alex Kane (February 19), delivered a gem. It’s a piece that every adult and teenager in Northern Ireland should read and then cut out and frame. This piece gets to the very heart about how opinions are formed, clung to and nurtured and why, by failing to dare to walk in the other man’s shoes we just become clones of our forbears, carrying their baggage on top what we might accumulate on our own.
Even though we are all, to an extent, victims of our upbringing it shouldn’t mean that we can’t think ‘outside the box’. We ought, he argues, allow our own education and experiences to define us rather than being led meekly by the nose by the opinions or prejudices of family, educators and other example givers.
Forming your own opinions and acting upon them, he argues, is not just a sign of maturity but can be an act of courage in itself and he borrows from Atticus Finch in the famous novel/film To Kill a Mockingbird where he strongly advises living in someone’s else’s skin to truly understand their point of view.
The extreme wings of our divided society are a long way from even considering this advice, much less acting upon it. You would think, however, that those who got a shot at a decent education and then walked through life without their eyes closed, would surely have read or seen To Kill a Mockingbird. Maybe our leaders are too busy to bother with trivialities like reading or self educating and, let’s face it, if you want to be loved and more importantly, get reelected, don’t be straying too far from the party line. Bimpe Archer on the facing page hit some good notes in her piece also.
Substantive planning must underpin approach to border poll
AS the conversations about a border poll and potential Irish unity grow in number and deepen in substance could I make the following proposals to help the preparation of the case for unity?
The Irish government should, in conjunction with the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), announce their intention to issue two bonds as follows.
Firstly, one to fund the establishment and immediate running of an Ireland-wide health service that provides free at the point of use care.
Secondly, a bond that funds a five-year plan to introduce an Ireland-wide education system that includes the best from both existing systems plus much-needed reform for our 21st century needs.
I have no doubt that local and diaspora investors would, given the context and targeted nature of such bonds, keenly support these issues.
It would be extremely informative to the unity debate if the government also outlined, again with the NTMA, how potential projects and plans could be facilitated by both the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Both the ISIF and the EIB are significant sources of longer term investments and could potentially be important to the country’s
continuing development in the context of unity.
It is vital that substantive planning underpins our approach to a border poll and I think the above proposals make a contribution.
Dr Billy Leonard
Former MLA & author of Towards a United Ireland
Kilkee, Co Clare
Students from north studying across water should qualify for grant too
I WOULD like to ask Stormont MLAs why students from the north of Ireland who study across the water in places such as Liverpool are not able to qualify for the £500 grant, while students from other international countries who are studying here, and rightly so, are entitled to it.
Why are students from the north of Ireland not entitled to the same funds being made available to students from outside of the north?
Courses that young people from the north wish to study aren’t always available here, therefore forcing them to travel across the water – through no fault of their own. The cost of living, paying rent etc is often far more expensive than if they were studying at home. These kids have still been paying rent to landlords in England but are here at home studying online – which still costs money.
Extended lockdown has adverse impact
IN relation to the ongoing extended lockdown, I should like to ask the following question of Health Minister Robin Swann and CMO Michael McBride. What analysis has been made within government of the adverse impacts of the extended lockdown upon the long term health of the Northern Ireland population?
Some of these impacts are direct such as those arising from the restriction of physical activity, the loss of educational opportunity and the loss of social contact. Others will arise indirectly from the economic devastation caused by the lockdown.
It is standard practice within government to carry out an impact analysis for even minor elements of policy.
Without it there can be no confidence that the adverse health impact of the lockdown does not exceed the direct impact of Covid-19.