Letters to the Editor

Finance minister's ‘not me gov' approach is wearing a bit thin

Like Newton Emerson, I read with some surprise Conor Murphy’s recent article rejecting the option of increasing property rates as a possible executive fundraiser. In his column Newton completely dissected Conor’s logic in ruling out rate rises, noting in passing that rates are effectively an unavoidable wealth tax – it is hard after all to offshore a building. Curiously Conor, ignoring his own decision, then went on to attack the Tory government for not taxing the wealthy, claiming their failure to do so was in deference to “interests served by the British Conservative party”. As a planned, published article, mistakes are rare since the text will have had multiple checks. So, we are left with the conclusion either the policy contradictions had not occurred to the minister or, worse still, he and his advisers didn’t care.

The entire content and tenor of the finance minister’s piece revealed not just a lack of imagination but more worryingly an unwillingness to act, suggesting that Sinn Féin remains, as Blair famously said about John Major, “in office but not in power”.  Given Sinn Féin’s default mode, acting like permanently disgruntled protesters, an abdication of responsibility as ‘finance minister’ fits well with this mindset. The problem with this behaviour, having been in the driving seat at Stormont since 2007, adopting a ‘not me guv’ approach, blaming either unionists, Westminster or both, is all wearing a bit thin now. At some point even Sinn Féin voters will notice the party is, as the saying goes, all mouth and no trousers, the key question of course, is when? Courtesy of the DUP’s Brexit implosion and the resultant crisis within political unionism, going by the empty article it seems the plan is do nothing, batten down the hatches and coast to victory in next May’s assembly elections. Looking south, the big questions remain: are they equipped to govern, to take difficult and unpopular decisions? The evidence in the sick counties suggests they have made little progress. Finally, back to property rates, one does wonder, given Sinn Fein’s populist left-wing pose, particularly in the south, why the reluctance to act in the north? Perhaps like the Conservatives, Sinn Féin have their own party interests to serve as well? Whatever the reason, since the real Sinn Féin decision makers are shrouded in mystery, the disconnect between what they say and actually do is hardly surprising.

Belfast BT9


Partial union

Partition witnessed the dividing of Ireland, Ulster originally consisted of nine counties. However, three - Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal - were excluded from the land grab due to there not being a guaranteed unionist majority and were ultimately abandoned. Offering nothing but threats of violence and actual violence, Carson’s charges – the UVF, the Auxiliaries, the Black and Tans and a host of other paramilitary aides – ensured, without discussion, without debate or the mere idea of a conversation, the annexation of six counties of Ireland resulting of the imposition of the entity of ‘Northern Ireland’ on the indiginous Irish.

From 1921 onwards – a golden age for unionists – the usurpers of the one-party statelet, elitist unionists, ruled with unrelenting ignominy coupled with blind sectarianism and appalling racial bigotry.

The peaceful Civil Rights movement advocated change and campaigned for equality and basic human rights. This idea was frowned upon by unionists who, outraged, angered and affronted, suppressed the very thought of sharing anything. To confront any feelings of discontent Faulkner called in the army and introduced internment for Catholics. Out of the chaos and Weltschmerz the DUP materialised with an even more hardline anti-Catholic, anti-Irish and fervent sectarian leader than their Ulster unionist counterparts. A doyen of ungraciousness, coupled with naked sectarianism, he unleashed this small party of religious zealots, which grew from total insignificance to the loudest voice within unionism.

After a change of allegiance where the old guard, who had overseen and maintained the status quo were defenestrated, loyalist/unionist communities scrambled to elect the hardcore element who, consisting of mediocre individuals, promised the world but delivered nothing but an all too real and existential threat to their way of life. Perhaps it is time for Jeffrey Donaldson to deliver on his threat and bring an end to this uncertainty.

Belfast BT1


One can be British and support Irish unity

In the ongoing regarding a future united Ireland, it is important not to conflate a British identity with opposition to Irish unity. Identity is far more complex than that.

It is perfectly possible to have a British identity and see that the best future for all the people of the north is within a united Ireland.

It is possible to describe yourself as ‘Northern Irish’ and to understand that partition is not working; to want the north to re-enter the European Union through the pathway of Irish unity.

A united Ireland is not just for those who see their identity solely as Irish.

What we need to build on this island is a united Ireland that embraces all identities – an Ireland, to paraphrase Thomas Davis, which will “embrace Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter – Milesian and Cromwellian – the Irishman of a 100 generations, and the stranger who is within our gates”.

Ashbourne, Co Meath


Informative letter misses key point

The interesting and informative  letter from Liam Archibald – ‘Knowing the difference between relative and absolute risk reduction’ (November 30) – misses a key point, that is, the incidence of disease, in those exposed to the virus, was reduced by 95 per cent in the vaccinated group compared to the unvaccinated group.  Vaccination is only a relevant protection at the point that an individual is exposed to the disease, so including statistics for those who are never exposed to it is irrelevant surely?

Claddagh, Co Galway


Expression of gratitude

I would like to thank the staff/customers in and around Burger King (Castle Court, Belfast) last Saturday for handing in the child’s Christmas present jumper, inadvertently left at a table. We greatly appreciate your honesty, and wish you a very Happy Christmas, which you have helped a little grandson to have.

Greyabbey, Co Down

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Letters to the Editor