Letters to the Editor

Admirable scheme proving an attractive alternative to university

Euan Blair is the scion of a very talented, education focused family. He graduated from Bristol University and subsequently made a postgraduate study of ancient history, which he claims “taught him nothing” – a perspective redolent of the Henry Ford quotation that “history is bunk”. He subsequently helped found the apprentice focused start-up called Multiverse which helps match young people with technical and practical apprenticeships with more than 300 employers. It is proving to be an attractive alternative to going to university thus generating a wholesale and radical shake-up of the anachronistic degree obsessed British educational system.

He did this in defiance of his own father. Ironically Tony Blair – an ardent apostle of university expansion – set a target in 1999 of getting half of all school leavers into higher education. But his son regards this as a dreadful mistake and argues that the target has merely ensnared many young people into degree courses for which they were not compatible and from which they derived little benefit.

Advocates of university expansion always maintain that graduates earn more than non-graduates. This is a valid claim. But is a university education the deciding factor? A more convincing explanation is that most graduates tend to come from more affluent backgrounds. They already have higher school qualifications than non-graduates. Even if they didn’t go to university, they would probably have progressed further anyway.

Euan has also pointed out that under 5 per cent of children on free school meals make it to top Russell Group universities. So much for university expansion as an exercise in social engineering and as a vehicle for social mobility.

Graduate employment rates are simply dreadful at some universities with only 15 per cent finding graduate level employment. Drop-out rates can be more than 15 per cent at others. Then we have the onerous burden of tuition fees and student debt. Apart from the obvious financial burden on the individual student there is also an enormous strain on the national purse which is likely to reach an incredible £560 billion by 2050. Furthermore, it is reckoned that only a quarter of students will earn enough to repay their loan in full.

Why is this failed and expensive higher education chimera still pursued?

Euan Blair’s admirable scheme shows that another more rewarding way is possible for some young folk.

We don’t need more sociology or anthropology graduates. We do need 100,000 HGV drivers, 80,000 nurses, 50,000 care workers, trades men. There are no degrees for lorry driving, plumbing or care giving – yet they are very necessary jobs for the proper functioning of society.

Mornington, Co Meath


Are all unionist parties struggling with equality?

The leaders of all the main Unionist parties here attended an ‘event’ in Corick House, Clogher, Co Tyrone for the families of UDR personnel who died in the conflict in the six counties and all of these political parties hailed this section of the crown forces saviours of unionism and protectors of the unionist people.

Jim Allister, who attended and spoke very highly of the UDR, has previously used the phrase “victim makers” when referring to other combatants in the conflict caused by partition but I put it to him that the UDR were often victim makers and aggressors. As a young man, going about my business on the roads of the largely nationalist Fermanagh and south Tyrone, I was subjected to insults and harassment by this state-armed wing of loyalism.

Within the nationalist community the UDR were viewed as a feared and bigoted sectarian force who were suspected of involvement in many murders, with some convictions to back up this evidence, but also of many other crimes where no investigation or conviction was sought by their partners in crime, the RUC.

The UDR was simply a reformation of the 100 per cent loyalist B-Specials who also terrorised nationalist communities by burning them out of their homes and murdering them in their beds. It’s time for the unionist people of the six counties to wake up and realise that unionist politicians are not serving their best interests by creating division and hatred, there is no need for one person to feel more valued than another because of religion or political ideation we can all live in peace and unity with equality for everyone on this island and their nationalist neighbour has more in common with them than a cabinet of millionaires in London.

Clogher, Co Tyrone


True giant of Irish politics

I am deeply saddened to  learn of the death of a good friend and colleague, Austin Currie.

I valued his friendship from our days in Northern Ireland politics together although we represented different political parties. Our friendship continued when we were both elected as Fine Gael colleagues in elections held on the same day in 1989 – he as a Fine Gael TD and myself as a Fine Gael MEP.

He was a giant of Irish politics. I always valued and respected his political contribution in both parts of Ireland. Although others have been given or tried to claim the credit, he was the real founder of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement and he was totally committed to achieving equality based on non-violent means and respect for both traditions on this island.

We had planned to meet up again several times over the last two years but were denied the opportunity of doing so because of Covid-19 – I will forever regret that we were unable to do this.

I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to his wife Annita, his daughter and Fine Gael colleague, Senator Emer Currie, her siblings, and the wider family circle.

May he rest in peace.

former Fine Gael MEP and former Alliance Leader


SDLP has a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ image

Can someone please enlighten me as to of what benefit the two sitting SDLP members have done at Westminster to further the noble pursuit of a reunified Ireland?

If I had the misfortune to be an SDLP voter I would be asking: “Why do I feel that you’re airbrushing  the main constitutional issue, or has the lure of the £80,000 salary paid to ‘British’ politicians and raised sense of importance become more irresistible than rocking the House of Commons boat when it comes to Irish unity?”

If the SDLP showed the same nationalistic fervour that they display only when they’re speaking at the Gaeltacht then maybe they would be able to garner new votes but the reality is that the longer they continue to adopt this ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ image, the nationalist voter as someone once said “won’t give two balls of roasted snow” when they mark their ballot paper.

Belfast BT11

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Letters to the Editor