Letters to the Editor

Let's call on the ‘can-do' spirit of 1998 to end political incompetence

Ken Maginnis with UUP colleagues David Trimble and John Taylor at a party press conference in 1998 ahead of the Good Friday Agreement  

AS one of the handful of Ulster Unionist Party negotiators responsible for the 1998 Belfast Agreement, I share in the general public’s sense of disappointment and feel not a little anger over the chronic failure of the two main parties to work and behave responsibly.

Petty one-upmanship has been a strong and dominant feature of the DUP and Sinn Féin axis and childish point-scoring has taken firm hold. Relationships between the two at the helm are an insult to the electorate.
Crucial decision-making is mired in hopeless procrastination.

Angry words, whether they are over the Northern Ireland Protocol, covid regulations, attendance at funerals or lockdown rules, pollute the political atmosphere.
At a time when people from all backgrounds want clear-sighted direction, we get fudge, indecision, superficial strategic planning and costly mistakes.

The vast middle ground of Northern Ireland voters demand better. They want an end to grandstanding and would dearly like to see some maturity from the Executive Office.  

Demands from the DUP and the UUP for the head of the Chief Constable Simon Byrne was, in the view of many across our society, a scandalous politicisation of law and order.
 Despite denials to the contrary, thoughtless ramping up the rhetoric over the protocol and the Storey funeral fiasco has directly contributed to recent scenes of street violence, sectarianism and confrontation.

I deplore the mentally bankrupt attitude of Arlene Foster and of Steve Aiken in respect of the PSNI and the chief constable. That is not to ignore the ratcheting up of tensions by the words uttered by Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney, Colum Eastwood and Naomi Long.

To predict a return to terrorist violence that we worked so hard to bring to a close in 1998 is grossly irresponsible, insensitive and wrong.
Sane, sensible negotiations to make an Irish Sea border or a hard border on this island unnecessary could have been achieved if we had seen some sensible contributions from Dublin and Westminster leadership. Instead, we got scare-mongering and shrill exchanges.

Hundreds of thousands of people want nothing more than an end to sectarian friction and yearn for normality. I fully understand their disappointment and anger. As a unionist, I now fear they will register their disgust in next May’s Assembly election by staying at home.

That would not be an answer but most of our frustrated voters want an end to mere sectarian head counts. They want our leaders to behave like responsible adults and not petulant youngsters.
We need to ‘call time’ on what passes for politics in Northern Ireland and begin to think collaboratively and constructively to resolve real issues for families and our present pandemic-damaged economy.
The age of the political ‘kindergarten’ needs to give way to grown-up politics that puts the needs of all our people first and foremost.

We cannot go on limping from crisis to crisis.
Overall, our politics are being undermined and I have to hope that the handbrake will be applied before democracy itself becomes the casualty.

North and south of the border, the electorate took big decisions for all the right reasons in ’98. Now, that same ‘can-do’ and confident spirit is needed to end the awful political incompetence.    

Ken Maginnis
Lord Maginnis of Drumglass


Ideological purity will be damaging to political ideals of unity

CLEARLY Seán Bresnahan (Letters April 15) agrees with me that the partition of Ireland prevented the exercise of self-determination by the Irish people. However, in his response to my letter of April 9 he creates a conundrum for himself that he will not easily resolve.  

The people of Ireland cannot act as a single unit until partition ends, yet this will not now happen until those in the two existing polities vote for it to end.  Imperfect though it may be this is the political reality we must work with. 

The logic of Seán Bresnahan’s argument is that he would boycott a border poll held under the terms of the GFA as it could not, in his analysis, deliver authentic self-determination. His conundrum is that such a decision would serve only those who oppose a border poll and constitutional change.  While it may be personally comforting for Seán his ideological purity is, ironically, in its political effect purely partitionist.                 

Paul Laughlin



Latest unrest cultivated within unionist seige mentality culture

AS last week’s events unfolded, the more clear it became that the violence had next to nothing to do with Brexit/NI Protocol nor the Bobby Storey funeral, and everything to do with the nihilism and hopelessness, cultivated by political unionism selling everything as a loss to loyalism over decades.

Removing the protocol and arresting members of Sinn Féin would barely act as a sticking plaster, and only quell agitation until the next existential, synthesised ‘crisis’.

Brexit is merely the latest trigger, within a sea of longstanding insecurities and an ingrained siege mentality culture. Imagine the impact of a parent continually telling a child they’re losing, that other children are winning, that everyone is against them. It would undoubtedly create mass emotional instability, pessimism, and unhappiness. This is what we’re seeing conveyed at a societal level by political leaders, and the ramifications of this are playing out in front of our very eyes.

The cyclic practice of whipping up a voting base every four to five years, citing the spectre of Sinn Féin and a united Ireland is founded in irresponsible short-termism. It may be a vote winner in an election cycle but only exacerbates long-term issues and does nothing to prepare and support people for shifts in demographic change, movement of tectonic political plates, and potential constitutional amendments.

It’s undoubtedly time for some honesty, introspection, tackling of root causes, and ditching of the blame, zero-sum-game culture.

Sadly, somehow, in 2021 there’s no positive vision for education, expression, employment, nor worldly potential, only insular suspicion, doom and gloom.

It’s high time for a concerted, joint effort across sectors and parties to arrest the decline, and forcibly change things for the better.

It’s time to deliver a vision that creates a sense of belief and engenders ambition and self-worth. Young people deserve so much better than this.             

                                 John McManus

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access