Letters to the Editor

We must not go back to the future but create our own history together

Martin Luther  King once said: “We are not the makers of history. We are made by history.” This is a profound statement, which vividly captures the suppression and subjugation black people felt at that time. I totally agree with Mr King and can relate to its origins given our history here. I would however like to challenge the permanence of his statement. We are only made by our history until we choose to create a new history, just like Mr King did. God has given us the gift of free will and we must embrace it to create new ways of thinking, new neutral path ways we haven’t even considered yet, a new history. As Einstein would say: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We, the people of Northern Ireland, have the glorious chance now, as we emerge from Covid-19, to finally unite and shape our history together. This is not an ideal and we have actually done it briefly in the past under extreme circumstances.

When the late John DeLorean landed into Belfast in 1978 to build his lifelong dream, the DeLorean DMC sports car, an atmosphere of war hung heavily in the air and the people were divided. To paint you a picture; the taoiseach had called for a British declaration of intent to withdraw from Northern Ireland, Amnesty International published a report detailing ill-treatment of people during interrogations at Castlereagh detention centre, Protestant men were 2.5 times more likely to get a job than Catholic men, over 300 republican prisoners were involved in the ‘blanket protests’, the 10th anniversary of the civil rights movement occurred and clashes continued between nationalists, unionists, the RUC and the British army with a total of 81 people losing their lives. As we would say here in Norn Iron, DeLorean was ‘up to his neck in it’. To make matters worse, the majority of people in the west Belfast site location had never even had a job or driven a car, never mind having a job to build a car. DeLorean, however, had come to Belfast out of desperation and jumped at the £100 million financial incentive opportunity the British government gave him to create jobs in a war-torn country. Despite the external circumstances that included threats to bomb the factory before it was even completed, within 28 months a peat bog site was turned into a six building (660,000 sq ft) manufacturing facility by local construction companies. Furthermore, the factory employed over 2,000 mixed workers from nationalist and unionist backgrounds and together they made approximately 9,000 cars in 21 months. To me, this is truly a miracle and demonstrates the free will of the people here to create a better history. We must not fall back into old painful ways of thinking, but instead we must create a new history for this country and demand that our leaders do the same, as Mother Teresa said: “Yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not yet come, we have only today, let us begin.”

Newcastle, Co Down


Appointment of UK’s special envoy a welcome one

I welcome the appointment of Trevor Ringland as the UK’s first special envoy to the United States on NI.  Trevor is a man of integrity, courage and grace. He is a clear thinker and makes many more friends than enemies.  He will be an effective advocate for everyone in Northern Ireland.

He and I share a few things in common.  We are about the same age, started at QUB in the late ‘70s and played rugby.

I played for the school under-14 B team and he played for the British and Irish Lions. We both had good fathers who were comfortable being both Irish and British. They were also both policemen.  Trevor’s dad retired after a long and distinguished career. My dad died in the bottle green uniform in December 1985 at the ruthless and merciless hands of the IRA.

Michelle O’Neill’s comment on this appointment was churlish and predictable. However, I hope than upon mature refection, Sinn Féin will come to welcome and support Trevor in this new role. If we are to cherish all our children on this island, whatever constitutional arrangements there may be, we need to allow their voices to be heard.

The unionist voice in America has often been very faint. If Trevor can raise the volume a little and shed a different light on some republican myths – especially those that in the past have fed the violence – he will have done all of us a service. Sinn Féin might not like that, but they should accommodate and even welcome it. I pray that Trevor will get widespread support and that his work for peace and reconciliation will far exceed his successes on a rugby pitch.

Cullybackey, Co Antrim


Book did not add to family’s continuing grief

A letter from Fr Seán McManus (May 18) comments on my book Fermanagh: From Plantation to Peace Process (published by Eastwood Books last December).

Using value-laden, emotive words like “expurgated” and “censored”, he complains that I omitted any reference to his brother, Patrick McManus, who was killed in a premature bomb explosion near Swanlinbar, Co Cavan, on July 15 1958 during the IRA campaign of 1956-62.

In private correspondence with Fr McManus, I have already explained that the book is focused on the 1969-1998 conflict.

It was never my intention to detail every death in every conflict in Ireland over the centuries. The back cover explicitly states: “Margaret Urwin looks particularly at the recent [emphasis added] conflict in Fermanagh, detailing every death.”

In his foreword, Denzil McDaniel, former editor of the Impartial Reporter, states: “The analysis of Troubles [emphasis added] deaths in Fermanagh is meticulously researched.” This point is also made in the book’s introduction.

Fr McManus states that “every (other) book on the border campaign mentions Patrick”. Mine is not a book on the border campaign – it simply contains a chapter on it.

In relation to the border campaign, very few names of those who died are included. I discuss the Brookeborough raid in some detail as I was fortunate enough to interview a surviving participant of that attack. James Crossan’s death is included to give context to the overturning of a directive regarding the B-Specials.

While I empathise with Fr McManus’s continuing grief on the loss of his brother, I do not believe I have egregiously added to it. That was never my intention.

Co-ordinator Justice for the Forgotten, Hollystown,
Dublin 15


Begrudging comments

The comments by Michelle O’Neill on the appointment of Trevor Ringland as a special envoy to promote Northern Ireland in the US are both miserable and begrudging. It would be hard to think of anyone better qualified to advance the interests of all sections of society here. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Sinn Féin, and the DUP for that matter, could show a bit more local patriotism and some cross-community spirit at times.

Belfast BT7

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Letters to the Editor