Letters to the Editor

Time for change and to follow the shining example of the lady with the lamp

A single swan silhouetted as the evening sun glistens on Springfield Dam in west Belfast
PICTURE: Mal McCann 

IN 1836 when Florence Nightingale turned 16 years old, she announced to her parents that God had called her to the vocation of nursing. I deliberately use the word vocation to describe the pursuit of nursing because, as Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher once said: “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.” Aristotle spoke these words well over 2,000 years ago, yet in my opinion, this proverb has only come to fruition over the past year during the Covid-19 pandemic. Male and female nurses from around the world have humbly demonstrated their talents on a global stage of unfathomable adversity. They didn’t just turn a switch on when the pandemic hit – their character has been carved throughout their lives, and we have just seen but a glimpse of the self-sacrificing life of a nurse. In the words of Mother Theresa: “Our vocation, to be beautiful, must be full of thought for others.”  

You would think that Florence’s parents would have encouraged her to follow such an honest and fulfilling calling, but instead they were furious at her decision, attempting to change the course of her life through additional mathematics tutoring. Her parents believed nursing was lowly, immodest work done by the poor or servants, completely unsuitable for a woman of Florence’s social standing. Florence was born into a wealthy upper middle-class family, growing up on a picturesque English country estate in Derbyshire with her elder sister, Parthenope. Florence and her sister were home-schooled by their father in classics, philosophy and modern languages, with Florence displaying talents in mathematics and science. Due to her environment and intellectual gifts, Florence was expected to climb the social ladder, of which nursing seemed to be at the bottom rung. 

This negative archetype of a nurse is still etched into our collective unconscious to this day, with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing his plans to give some NHS staff in England only a one per cent pay rise despite the government “promise” last year to give NHS workers a 2.1 per cent pay rise. Florence Nightingale said that, “Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation as any painter’s or sculptor’s work”.
If Michelangelo was to save millions of lives and help curb a global pandemic, would he have only been offered a one per cent pay rise? I doubt it.

Despite her parents’ interest in social-climbing, Florence was defiant and stayed true to her divine purpose. Finally, after even refusing marriage to a ‘suitable’ gentleman, Florence was allowed to register as a nursing student at the Lutheran Hospital of Pastor Fliedner. 

During her vocation as a nurse, Florence founded modern nursing and brought about social reform within the healthcare sector. I believe that now in the 21st century, we must reflect the attitude and social reform Florence promoted towards the nursing vocation. Our executive must not follow the example from Westminster. Now is the time for change and we must be courageous in our pursuit of it.


Joseph Fitzpatrick Ireland
Co Down



Moved by unionist politician’s letter on abortion legislation

I WOULD like to congratulate Robbie Butler of the Ulster Unionist Party on one of the best letters (March 16) I have read in The Irish News.
His very moving letter emphasises the value of protecting our unborn children and the valuable contribution that they make to all our lives.
I am a republican and nationalist but find myself with more in common with unionist politicians on the issue of abortion than I have in common with Sinn Féin politicians such as Michelle O’Neill who are happy to allow the British government to impose abortion legislation in the north of Ireland that is leading to the deaths of hundreds of unborn Irish babies.

S Fox



No-one is tackling the scourge of loyalist paramilitary thugs

THE BBC NI Spotlight revelations on the UDA (BBC1 16/03/21), particularly its South East Antrim creation, come as no real surprise to most of us. The unionist communities who live in that area, and wider nationalism, know what these criminal, murdering, drug-dealing, extorting, intimidating thugs are doing but the question remains, why?

How many times do we wake up to reports of another UDA/UVF murder; attempted murder; shooting, assault; racist/sectarian attack in Carrick, Larne, Ballymoney, Ballyclare, Coleraine, Bangor and Belfast? Where is the outrage, condemnation, demand for urgent action etc from so called constitutional unionism or months of broadcasting on these incidents from other media elements? Effectively these various alphabet soup, militant militias are being given political cover from unionists who indulge them at every turn. 

In addition serious questions must also be asked about the total, abject failure/inaction of the PSNI, British security/intelligence services and the National Crime Agency in relation to this. The perception is that loyalist cartels are still being allowed to freely operate and get away with their deeds. Present, and historical, facts and disclosures have shown that these groups are heavily infiltrated by MI5, Special Branch and British military operatives. You only have to look at the resources, arrests, prosecutions and long sentences given to those who would be deemed ‘dissident’ republicans to see the massive contrast in how they are treated as opposed to loyalists. 

The conclusion one is left with is that violent, paramilitary loyalism is still a necessary tool for some within unionism.

It’s also pretty clear that the will and urgency to ‘deal’ with these groups within Whitehall and the sinister policing, security and intelligence Smiley’s People world just isn’t there. 

S Burns


Reopening old school wounds

IN reply to the seven signatories response, (10 March 2021), to my letter of 4 March 2021, in which they describe my account of some of my traumatic experiences of integrated education as acerbic, it has opened up old wounds for me.

I can assure all seven signatories that my account of my lived reality is absolutely authentic. Therefore I refuse to be cowed or silenced. Incidentally, Margaret Marshall’s proposed solution – “political discord can by ended by integrating schools”, I have yet to see an example of that, particularly considering the absolute political mess and turmoil we are witnessing.                                         

C Hughes

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