Letters to the Editor

Future generations entitled to experience joy of the last Rock Pool

Children enjoying the Rock Pool at Newcastle, Co Down. The open-air sea pool was opened in 1933 and is the last of its kind in Ireland but is now threatened with closure 

I WAS blessed to have grown up at the Harbour in Newcastle, where, in the words of Percy French, “the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea”. I spent every day of my summer holidays at the Rock Pool outdoor swimming pool; hail, rain or snow. We used to believe that the water was warmer when it was lashing rain. My mum would buy us a family season ticket and drop us off each morning with a flask of warm dilute juice and 50p to get a chip at Central Park on a Friday as a treat. The highlight of every year had to be ‘chuck-in day’, when you got to go in your normal clothes and throw each other into the pool. For a child this was such a fun and special day.
If I had to compare these summer memories to another place, I would have to travel to a land and time far far away, a land where dreams come true, a Never Never Land. In the words of Sir James Matthew Barrie, the writer of the 1904 play Peter Pan: “So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever in Never Never Land.”

Sir James deliberately picked the word ‘Pan’ to be Peter’s second name as its etymological origins are found in ancient Greek, meaning ‘god of the wild, everything and all’. As a child Peter Pan was the god of the wild and had everything he wanted, so much so that he didn’t want to grow up, and I don’t blame him because being an adult in this modern world is hard. For me, I felt like Joseph Pan spending every day in the Rock Pool with all my friends. The Lost Boys and Girls of Newcastle and I refuse to let that memory ever fade. 

The future of the historic and last remaining rock pool on this island is now in jeopardy again. DUP councillor, Glyn Hanna has justified possibly closing it by saying: “But times have changed, we’ve moved on.” 

Just like Peter Pan, I don’t want to move on and I don’t want our children to miss out on life-defining memories by trading the Rock Pool for a modern indoor pool. We are not in a position to play the tyrant, Captain Hook, and make sacrificial decisions for the young children growing up here.
If this last year has shown us anything, it is that communities are cornerstone to our survival and we must invest in them no matter the cost.
We must unite the Lost Boys and Girls of our community and fight to keep the Rock Pool open for generations to come, allowing them to sprinkle some pixie dust and travel to that place between sleep and awake where dreams come true.

Joseph Fitzpatrick Ireland
Belfast BT9



Strategies needed to prevent repeat of Mournes fire

I WATCHED on Friday as the Mournes fire spread, the now infamous pictures showing Thomas’s Mountain encircled in apocalyptic flames. That it covered such a distance underlines the intense ferocity this fire had.

Seeing how close the fire got to the boundary of Donard Forest really puts into perspective the work agencies put into containing it and keeping people safe. My gratitude goes to the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, Forest Service NI, Mourne Heritage Trust, the PSNI, Mourne Mountain Rescue Team, National Trust and others.

The reason I was able to watch the fire progress as it did was I had taken time on Friday to do a litter pick along the Bloody Bridge River. I picked up a number of discarded barbeques along the side of the river. That people are taking these into the hills in the first place is a nonsense. But to do so during such a dry spell as we are experiencing and then only to leave them behind is just the height of irresponsibility and ignorance.

There are many factors that give rise to the wildfire scenario. The reality is we have experienced this before. Emergency and local agencies need support from the executive and Westminster to be in position to deal with and investigate these fires, which are crimes against our natural habitat, to allow examination and due process to establish responsibility.

Longer term, environmental strategies need to be looked at to reduce the chances of such events happening again. That could include enhanced land management, environmental habitat voluntary fire teams working on prevention and response, and a cohesive outdoor recreation strategy to manage our interactions with the natural environment.

The outdoors is an interactional, not transactional, experience. If this concept is not promoted, developed and taken on by those visiting our outdoor spaces then such incidents will only be repeated.

Councillor Andrew McMurray
Slieve Croob



‘Democratic’ Unionists fail to respect separation of powers

A SEPARATION of powers from legislative, executive and judicial functions is seen as a central safeguard of democracy, which is threatened where one of these attempts to impinge on the other. In a democratic society all are expected to be equally protected by law and accountable to it. Therefore, all claiming to be democrats are expected to respect this separation of powers. It is why, for instance, Sinn Féin could not come out of political quarantine until it publicly declared full support for the administration of policing and justice here in 2007, thereby criminalising its traditional support base.

We now have the situation, however, where the unionist parties are unambiguous with their support that former and serving British soldiers are given favourable treatment in law in a way that they could escape prosecution for killing citizens here. Jeffrey Donaldson tries to justify this by calling such possible prosecutions as vexatious, and that soldiers and police are disproportionately targeted in legacy investigations. Of course, to make these allegations suggests that he has no faith in the institutions of law and order, ie the prosecutorial authority. We have also seen recently that his party has no faith in the PSNI and accused it of a two-tier policy in how it polices loyalists and nationalists. Republicans and nationalists will readily agree that there is a two-tier policing system here but that it is, and always has been, to the disadvantage of republicans and nationalists and this is the crux of the matter. Unionists and loyalists only support justice and the rule of law insofar as it discriminates against republicans and nationalists. That is not being democratic.

As for Jeffrey’s claim that soldiers and police are disproportionately targeted in legacy investigations, let us remember when former soldiers carried out killings here, the RUC abdicated responsibility for investigating them. Let us not forget that the almost totally Protestant regiment, the UDR, had strong links to militant loyalism and some of them were convicted of murder. Let us not forget that the UDR was only ever given information regarding republicans and not loyalists. In short it was guilty of widespread collusion with militant loyalism. 

We have already seen Sinn Fein’s acceptance of a hierarchy of victims here. This is a party that once vowed that republicans and nationalists would never be treated as second-class citizens again but now we see it as actually implementing that reality.

Sean O’Fiach 
Belfast 11

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