Letters to the Editor

It is in all our interests to make North South Ministerial Council work

It is very disappointing at a crucial period in the peace and reconciliation process that unionists non-attendance of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) had to be taken to court. Problems for unionists attending the NSMC can be easily solved by ministers signing a memorandum at the start of any meeting that constitutional matters will not be discussed and any mention of united Ireland ruled out of order – so there is no excuse not to attend. The NSMC has the potential to be an invaluable tool in keeping trade development going for the better and should not be baulked at by unionists. A united Ireland is a far flung theory and the NSMC was never meant to bring it about, or be a stepping stone to it. On the contrary, it was designed to smooth difficult and often cold and non-existent north-south relations. Unionists may be fearing a pact between Dublin and Sinn Féin ministers to create a united Ireland. That’s a laugh, because the government likes to keep their distance from Sinn Féin over their military wing and left-wing approach to politics, especially taxation. Again, this problem can be solved by signing waivers and having a strict order of business. Ideally, the NSMC should always be balanced and have an equal number of unionists on it to further address unionists fears that the NSMC will become ‘too green’. Nor was it meant to give a say to the Republic over Northern Ireland. How could this be with the assembly taking decisions with elected MLAs? The NSMC is an exciting opportunity for ministers to improve relations on this island and gain a better and working understanding of the cultural dynamics. It would undoubtedly be an invaluable tool to make any protocol regarding UK-EU trade easier to handle and understand if they ever agree to one. Unionists are getting cold feet over what can be got around and perhaps cutting their own throats by opting out. If they opted in, it may in fact make devolution work better for them. It is as simple as this – what is good for Northern Ireland is good for the Republic. It is in all our interests to make the NSMC work, not for a united Ireland but for unity of peace, reconciliation and economic wealth. The absence of the NSMC means that the GFA is not firing on all cylinders like it should.

MAURICE FITZGERALD
Shanbally, Co Cork

 

Resorting to insults over Brexit

GERALD Graham (October 20) me of having an authoritarian mindset for having the temerity to suggest that the DUP must own the consequences of Brexit, as it is they who continued to campaign for a particularly hard form of Brexit even after a large majority in Northern Ireland had voted against.

Most of his letter consists of random insults which bear no relationship to what I actually wrote or believe, but his central point is that in voting for Brexit in 2016, the UK voted to sever all ties with the EU in all respects.

This is just plain rubbish. At the time of the referendum all sorts of different forms of Brexit where being discussed from a ‘Norway option’ to a ‘Switzerland option’, to remaining within the Single Market or Customs Union. Indeed, Theresa May’s subsequent proposals included remaining within the Single Market and would have required no Protocol or customs border ‘down the Irish Sea’, or within Ireland.

It was the DUP’s insistence on trying to reinforce the land border within Ireland by the addition of customs controls which resulted in their voting against Theresa May’s proposals .

Boris Johnson, with DUP support, subsequently negotiated the Withdrawal Agreement which contains the Protocol and won an overwhelming mandate and majority from the British people for his rather excellent ‘oven-ready deal’.

It is thus Mr Graham who exhibits “an authoritarian mindset” for rejecting the decision of the British people on how Brexit should be implemented.

Of course, it is open to any party to a treaty to seek to have it amended, post ratification, which is why the EU and UK are currently conducting discussions to see if any easements can be jointly agreed.

However, both parties have to agree for any changes to be implemented, and it is against international law for any one party to unilaterally fail to implement what was agreed. Even triggering Article 16 of the Protocol allows the other party to retaliate proportionately, and there are fears that this could lead to a UK EU trade war. Mr Graham only appears to believe in acting lawfully when it suits him and insulting others when the facts don’t support his case.

FRANK SCHNITTGER
Blessington, Co Wicklow

 

Hope for the future

THE service in Armagh raises the interesting appearance of collusion between the four Church leaders in ‘marking’ the partition of Ireland. On the one hand, unionists’ fears that ‘home rule would mean Rome rule’ led directly to this savage division – well borne out by Fintan O’Toole in his recently published book. That nationalist Ireland has effectively rid itself of the legacies of de Valera and McQuaid gives us hope for the future. On the other hand, nationalists’ fears that ‘Northern rule would mean Orange rule’ proved no less unfounded, as evidenced by multitudes of studies and writings of fair-minded unionist journalists, such as Sam McBride and Newton Emerson. That another Church-dominated entity, the DUP, in conspiracy with rabid imperialists, is still seeking to further and strengthen the divisions, would provide our communities of much less hope for the future. Was it communal guilt, only now recognised by Church leaders of their having caused these toxic divisions, that led to this ‘marking’ – it’s doubtful, when such elevated and dignified authorities have heavily disguised their association as fervent and pious desires for a peaceful future Northern Ireland. Neither of their principles were ceded by either side nor compromises made. The lesson must surely be learned by all, that our future will only be peaceful, when such malign influences are removed to where they rightfully belong – in the dustbin of history.

FRANK MURRAY
Kinlough, Co Leitrim

 

People indebted to Church leaders

The people of Ireland are indebted to the leaders of the four main Churches in Ireland for organising the successful and moving ecumenical service held at St Patricks Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh last Thursday.

As clearly set out in their invitation it was intended to be a service of reflection dealing with past hurts and failures and to promote reconciliation and hope. This is precisely what it did and was not what its many critics claimed when they falsely alleged that it would be a ‘celebration of partition’.

Shame on them.

It was clear that most of these, including elected politicians, had not read the invitation or chose to deliberately misrepresent its contents and intentions.

Those that did should now return to the same media outlets which they used to make their false and misleading statements and apologise to the leaders of the four main Churches and others involved in organising this wonderful and heart-warming event.

JOHN CUSHNAHAN
Lisnagry, Co Limerick

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Letters to the Editor