Letters to the Editor

Justice for African Americans is 150 years too late

A protester holds a sign outside a court in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last month, as the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin begins. The death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers last year sparked civil rights protests in the US and across the world 

JUSTICE has been done for the family of George Floyd with the conviction of Derek Chauvin. This was described in the US media as historic. What is ironic about the use of the word historic is that more than 150 years after the passing of the 13th Amendment, Lincoln’s Emancipation Declaration and the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement there is a sense of joy, relief and surprise that an African American gets justice. This trial was not only about George Floyd but a whole criminal justice system, a criminal justice system that bears down heavily on the poor and minorities. A dysfunctional policing structure and culture that not that long ago, whose main job was to enforce segregation and a security apparatus again, not that long ago that saw Martin Luther King jnr, Malcolm X, Bobby Searl, Angela Davis and even James Baldwin as a threat to America’s white, entitled, comfortable and Christian middle class.

A criminal justice system where African American males account for 34 per cent of male prison population, while in total, African Americans account for 13 per cent of the entire US population. If anyone believes this is all about crime and a community’s propensity to crime, this a false narrative. As Tony Blair, who I quote tentatively, said: “Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.” The causes will include education, poverty, income and wealth inequality, institutionalised racism and discrimination and finally, not to forget the nonsense of the American Dream and its meritocratic foundation. In the richest country in the world healthcare is available not at the point of need but the point of your pen. Just one stat that goes to the heart of the matter, the Federal Reserve reported that white families have a median and average family wealth of US$188,000 and US$983,000 respectively, while Black families have the equivalent of 15 per cent of this, at US$24,000 and US$142,000. This difference is not about ability, desire or ambition but it is clearly about equality of opportunity, equity and America’s original sin.

This could be the moment that shows America to be a nation and keeps it on the track to deliver as laid out in article one of the constitution, “a more perfect Union”, though the events of January 6 and the 4 years leading up to it, show a different trajectory.

As the great Sam Cooke put it “Change Gonna Come” but time is running out.              

Suneil Sharma
Belfast BT6



Friendly Tennessee locals posing pertinent questions

KEN Maginnis’s letter on political incompetence, (21 April), reminds me of a time in a bar in Tennessee. I found myself in the company of some locals. They were a friendly group and I had been advised that I could chat to them about any subject except guns and religion.
During the evening one of my newly acquired Tennessean friends asked me what I thought of Americans. With my guard down and perhaps emboldened by the excellent local craft beer, I replied: “I think Americans are great, friendly and fundamentally honest but I can’t understand why they elect the politicians that they do.”
His rejoinder: “Why what sort of politicians do you elect?” Touché.

Enda Cullen



Somewhere for parents to turn

YOUR article on Autism in The Irish News (Monday April 19) was timely. We have been working in the field of learning difficulties/additional needs for 25 years so the statistics, while sad and alarming, do not surprise us. Instead of getting better it appears that things have got worse for children on the spectrum in the past 25 years.
It was sad to read of a parent who felt there was no-one to turn to.  Although we are based in Mid Ulster we have members from every part of Northern Ireland. Presently most of our activities have had to be moved online but in some ways this means that parents from anywhere in Northern Ireland can access them. We are proud that we have never turned away a parent in the 25 years of our existence. We encourage self-help groups and are willing to offer support and assistance to any parent who wishes to make contact with us.  We have ongoing support, workshops and webinars on different topics of interest.  

You can make contact on:

Office Number: 028 79301606

Email: empower@gmail.com

Visit: www.empowernetwork.co.uk

Facebook: @mpowerprojectlotteryfunded

To view and book a place on any of the workshops listed visit our online booking system through Eventbrite:

We look forward to hearing from you and would like to reassure you that there is always someone to turn to. 

Josie McGuckin
DADS/Empower Project manager



In agreement on partition 

PAUL Laughlin, Doire, in his reply to my criticisms regarding his own earlier letter, seems to be confused as to the issue raised. The core point was that we should not describe joint referenda, as per the Good Friday Agreement, as though they constituted self-determination for the people of Ireland (as he had done in his initial post). They do not and for the reasons I outlined, none of which he has since taken issue with nor disputed. They may well, as he intimates, lead onto an eventual ability to exercise our self-determination, on the far side of a would-be ‘Yes’ vote, but that is an entirely different discussion. Indeed in his follow up letter he makes the point for me, when admitting that the people of Ireland cannot act as one unit – a core requirement for the exercise of their self-determination – until Partition ends. Sin é.

Sean Bresnahan
Co Tyrone


Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access