Letters to the Editor

Blame for waste of young lives lies squarely with unionist politicians

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and a delegation from his party met with the Chief Constable Simon Byrne on Wednesday July 7.
At the meeting the delegation raised a number of  concerns, one of which was the under representation of working class Protestants in the PSNI.

One major reason for this may be the lack of educational qualifications of many young working class Protestants. Of course, it’s not just a problem for the Protestant community; young working class Catholics struggle to achieve these qualifications as well. In 2019, 56.5 per cent of Protestant children with free school meals failed to gain 5 GCSE’s A* – C , including maths and English, the figure for Catholic children was 46.8 per cent. Protestant free school meals pupils have consistently low levels of attainment, with only ethnic minorities such as Traveller children having lower levels of achievement.
A large part of the blame for this waste of young lives lies squarely with unionist politicians and particularly the DUP, who for decades have ignored all of the research which shows the damage that a selective education system inflicts on working class children. It was the DUP, speaking at a press conference after the 2006 St Andrews Agreement, who proudly proclaimed that as part of the agreement they had secured the future of academic selection and grammar schools in Northern Ireland.

The DUP have little interest in the academic achievements of working class Protestants. They are there to cater to the needs of a middle class elite of which they are a part. A recent report published by Ulster University’s Unesco Education Centre only serves to confirm this.
The report states that selection serves to benefit a few already privileged pupils and “it is hard to escape the observation that many of the political class responsible for making decisions on the future of selection will themselves be products of the same grammar school system that they seek to preserve”.

Dennis Marsden and Brian Jackson in their seminal work, Education and the Working Classes, describe our education system as “a system of selecting and rejecting in order to raise an elite”.

Irish News columnist Patrick Murphy summed up the situation well when he said: “Sectarianism thrives on ignorance and politics here thrives on sectarianism. So there are votes in preserving ignorance which is why our education system is unlikely to change.”

Downpatrick, Co Down


Equality and justice

During the conflict here thousands of people – mainly republicans – were convicted on statement evidence alone without any corroboration. They were held in RUC interrogation centres and were questioned/interrogated over days without any access to legal advice. They often alleged that they had been tortured/ill-treated but most often these claims fell on deaf ears and they were given lengthy sentences.

In 1972 Joe McCann was shot dead by British soldiers.  A campaign to bring those responsible to ‘justice’ was launched and two soldiers were eventually charged with his murder based on statements they made in 1972. However, those statements have since been found to be inadmissable.  The judge who made that decision stated: “There seems to have been little or no police investigation in 1972. At that time, in fact until late 1973, an understanding was in place between the RUC and the army whereby the RUC did not arrest and question, or even take witness statements from, soldiers involved in shootings such as this one.  This appalling practice was designed, at least in part, to protect soldiers from being prosecuted and in very large measure it succeeded. By reason of this policy A and C were not questioned by the RUC about the reasonableness of their use of force against Mr McCann”.

It is pretty clear from the foregoing statement that the RUC colluded in ensuring that no proper prosecutions against state forces would take place and that cover up mentality has existed ever since. Because it took so long to bring these two people to court, they were able to avail of the PACE (NI) Order 1989 retrospectively in ruling that their statements were inadmissable. However, virtually all of those republicans who received lengthy sentences were not, as it had not yet come into force. Perhaps all those republicans who could not avail of that legislation will now be given new appeals to apply that legislation to their cases (I don’t think so...).

What this, of course, means as we see in the Soldier F case and Daniel Hegarty’s is that the same provision that enabled soldiers to escape prosecution, ie, the failure of the RUC to investigate and the application of PACE has meant that relatives of Bloody Sunday, Ballymurphy and elsewhere are never going to obtain justice.

Where is this point leading to? It is bringing to attention that all of those who were assured that the GFA was heralding a new era of equality and justice were totally misled. All that agreement has done is to continue to regard republicans who were convicted in non-jury courts as criminals and that state combatants have been given virtual immunity from prosecution and in fact are regarded as heroes. This is the real two-tier system of justice that unionism conveniently ignores. There will never be justice, or equality under British rule.

Belfast BT11


Sinn Féin successes

Sinn Féin recently succeeded in bringing the Stormont Executive to the verge of collapse yet again. They used the First Minister nomination process to get their demands for the Irish language ahead of other demands on scarce resources. This may well lead to a lot of money being spent, with the effect of increasing the division in our society. Sinn Féin also managed to add to the disarray in the DUP. There is no doubt that this ‘double whammy’ for the DUP will be viewed with much satisfaction by many. However, how it contributes to the overall prosperity or wellbeing of the population is not apparent to me.

Buoyed by their own perception of success, Sinn Féin appears now to have decided to present themselves as a responsible political party. Let’s see how long this new era lasts – perhaps just beyond the next assembly election.   

Dromore, Co Down


Credit where credit is due

As much as I dislike Alliance, for becoming a Wokeists Behemoth, I applaud them for calling out John O’Dowd for his preconceived notions about integrated schools.

There has been GAA present in those schools, just as there are Gaelscoils in Belfast who compete in the Soccer Schools’ Cup.

Neither side will take a shine to the opposing culture, but that doesn’t mean it should be brought to the political table. I suspect that John O’Dowd is trying to score political points.

Some things are meant to be that way.

Ardboe, Co Tyrone

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Letters to the Editor