Letters to the Editor

Cries of foul play and betrayal echo through the ages

An sign in Larne, Co Antrim, protesting the Northern Ireland protocol. According to former DUP leader Peter Robinson, unionists have never felt more alienated in the past 50 years, than they do now 

RECENTLY Peter Robinson shared his considered opinion, that at no time in the past 50 years have unionists felt “more alienated”.
One wonders what Peter was thinking when Heath prorogued Stormont. Has Peter forgotten the long road through Sunningdale, the Anglo-Irish agreement, the Good Friday Agreement and now the NI protocol, a Brexit compromise, driven in no small part by the DUP’s unique interpretation of representative democracy?
Throughout all of these events, the unionist default response has been outrage, along with cries of betrayal. By the 1990s, unionist reaction, never positive action, was such a cliché, that the comedian Harry Enfield created the ridiculous figure of angry ‘William Ulsterman’, 30 years later it is beyond parody.

Fifty years ago Denis Healey, with an Irish hinterland, patiently explained to his Cabinet colleagues that practical and demographic realities meant that unionism’s gerrymandered hegemony gave them a veto on radical Westminster political intervention. 

Surely Peter understands things have changed utterly, since then?

One might be tempted to ask if Peter’s crisis of unionism is not just a crisis for the DUP. As the 2022 election draws closer it is possible the other unionist parties will fall into line.
Electorally it might even work, but at some point, if unionist politicians do not move, their voters will. The question arises, apart from securing lucrative MLA seats at Stormont, what is the endgame? Winning a few seats more or less in 2022 is hardly an end in itself, the list of questions just gets longer. 
What are unionist strategists hoping to achieve? It would be a foolish job applicant who did not prepare for the standard question “where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?” 

Are unionists still making it up as they go along, or do they have an answer?

Since it is unlikely Peter is dependent on his News Letter fee, the question arises, why stir things up and so publicly? Maybe Peter hopes for a de Gaulle-like call for the great leader to return? If it is a career move, what a pity, like so many unionist politicians down the years, he felt it necessary to include a thinly veiled threat of violence with his reference to “robustly” vented protests. That is ugly politics and ultimately
self-defeating, at least for unionism.

Frank Hennessey
Belfast 9



Fine Gael’s attack on Sinn Féin an attempt to deflect from mess in Dáil

THE main letter on March 24 on states: “Sinn Féin shows double standards in its appointments.”
The author queried Sinn Féin’s call for Leo Varadkar’s resignation, alleging double standards by the Sinn Féin appointments of former political prisoners to ministerial roles in the northern Executive. Expecting the author to be some far right-wing unionist I was nevertheless unsurprised it was my old school friend John Cushnahan. Does John recollect how we would query after school in Barrack Street why we were never taught Irish history? Interviewed on January 27 last year by the BBC Leo claimed, under a picture of Michael Collins, that Collins (died 1922) was the founding father of Fine Gael (FG). This despite the fact FG was not formed until 1933. Maybe John is unaware RTÉ is available in the north and I watched Leo’s embarrassing and conflicting responses to Pearse Doherty. I’ll not hold my breath as to any court proceeding. Why would FG claim – and presumably John – a “former terrorist” such as Collins, the first minister of finance in the then Free State? Likewise WT Cosgrave, a founding member of FG and first president, was a former Irish Volunteer. The least said about the former FG leader and fascist Eoin O’Duffy the better.
Collins and the now defunct PIRA had the same objectives and undoubtedly some of their activities were questionable, but unfortunately such are the consequences of war.

Ian Paisley’s (snr) DUP accepted Sinn Féin as executive partners and were probably aware some former political prisoners would in all probability hold ministerial positions. The three ministers appointed were all elected MLAs and perfectly entitled to hold the positions. It’s called democracy. John’s letter is a classic example of deflecting the present mess the Dáil coalition is in, highlighted by the most recent opinion polls.
To my knowledge no Sinn Féin TD’s have ever been accused of leaking Dáil confidential information. John and Leo’s knowledge of Irish history is, to put it mildly, very questionable.
How John, from a respectable working-class family, ended up a conservative baffles me. Only he can answer.

Tomás Ó Dubhagain



Is Irish the only acceptable form of nationalism?

I HAVE always found it slightly odd that Irish nationalist politicians freely used the term ‘Little Englander’ during the Brexit  debate, as they are obviously proud to be nationalists but were outraged that others might show similar characteristics. However now that an Irish nationalist politician has been accused of being a ‘Little Irelander’ the term is described as “insulting and inflammatory” by the SDLP’s Mark H Durkan and used as a reason to ban Jim Allister from speaking in the assembly. 

While I’m all for the use of temperate language, heated debate and emotive language are sometimes essential to explore issues fully, particularly in a government debating chamber where decisions are being taken on issues with far-reaching consequences for us all. The citing of Jim Allister’s use of the term ‘Little Irelander’, by the speaker as a reason to ban him from representing the views of his constituents has set a very dangerous precedent.

James Martin
Co Down

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