Letters to the Editor

Obstruction of vital A5 upgrade is only leading to more preventable deaths

Soon after I started to live and work as a GP in Carrickmore in late 1986, I was informed of the infamous ‘Ballygawley Line’ – hearing it described as the most dangerous stretch of road in the north and one of the worst in all of Ireland. Exaggeration I first thought, being an east Down native from the ‘far away’ town of Downpatrick and so not knowing anything at all about this road. It really wasn’t that long until the next life was lost on what I now believe to be the deadliest stretch of road in the country. Then, as a family doctor and like everyone else, I’ve had to helplessly and agonisingly watch the ongoing family carnage taking place in Tyrone as one after another precious life is lost and one after another family is left devastated. Now at the end of 2021 and 35 years after I first heard about this serial killer of a road, the seemingly endless list of family tragedies continues. But what makes this even worse is that we know the cure and what we must do to put an end to this ongoing human catastrophe.

The A4 section of this ‘Ballygawley Line’ from Dungannon to Ballygawley was eventually upgraded to the highest level of dual carriageway (just below full motorway status with no right turns on or off it and exits to the left only) in 2010.

I, as an Independent MLA at the time, was one of many public representatives who spoke out in support of the essential upgrades of our major roads and that it was our public duty to act to save human lives on both the A5 and A4 roads and so the first phase, the upgrading of the A4 section, should be completed without delay.

While the whole A5 Aughnacloy to Derry road was, and still is, equally as dangerous and deadly as the old A4, I for one thought that the Dungannon to Ballygawley section would be the first phase of this vital new infrastructure work and that the A5 would be upgraded fairly soon after completion of the A4 and particularly once it became obvious to all that this new A4 dual carriageway was saving lives and would continue to save many more lives. So why the inexcusable and totally unforgivable delay in upgrading the A5?

While there have been financial issues the major obstacle in preventing the construction of a new life-saving A5 is the largely nameless landowners’ group who call themselves the Alternative A5 Alliance. Founded in 2010 (the same year as the A4 was completed) they have used our legal system and courts to bring about one judicial review after another citing the ‘environmental impact’ from the dualling of the A5 and, sadly, they’ve been successful in stopping the construction of this vital A5 upgrade up to now. Our environment is important of course but it can never be prioritised above the saving of human lives or the prevention of serious injuries and disabilities.

So as we begin 2022 and with talk of new year resolutions, let me suggest two.

Firstly to this unelected group, the Alternative A5 Alliance, please do the right thing and disband.

This will then allow the rest of us and the vast majority to move on with the second which is to forget party politics and so act collectively by using all lawful means at our disposal to convert this present killer A5 road into the same standard of dual carriageway as the Dungannon to Ballygawley A4.

Former MLA,
Carrickmore, Co Tyrone


Why are Irish soldiers in Mali?

The Financial Times article (December 22) seeks to answer the question: “How France lost Mali: failure to quell jihadi threat opens door to Russia.” Ireland should be asking the question why are Irish soldiers stationed in Mali in the midst of one of the most dangerous and confusing conflicts. The UN MINUSMA peacekeeping mission may well be contributing to this confusion. This UN mission has soldiers from 65 different countries including Ireland’s Army Ranger Wing. MINUSMA has lost more than 200 peace keepers killed since 2013. France has attempted to maintain an economic and political stranglehold over all its former colonies and in recent years has persuaded the EU, including Ireland, to support its neo-colonial enterprises in the Sahel region of Africa. In addition to the UN mission, the EU also has a training mission called EUTM including 20 more Irish soldiers propping up what has become a military junta. Far from creating peace and preventing terrorisms, the EU and UN are interfering in a civil war in Mali.
Further confusion is caused by the presence in Mali of French-led Operation Barkhane with soldiers from five Sahel region former French colonies, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. ISIS and other terrorists are taking advantage of the chaos in Mali, using the Libyan chaos, largely created by Nato, as their staging post and source of weapons.

Irish soldiers should never have been deployed to Mali, when there are more urgent peacekeeping needs, such as in the Congo DRC, one of the potentially richest countries in the world, but where tens of thousands of children are starving at present.

Castletroy, Co Limerick


Irish reunification

In his letter about the circumstances of a united Ireland, Frank Schnittger fears that unionists might “demand the right of veto over any post-unification legislative proposals” (January 3).
A group of leading academics has already conceded this kind of formidable power to unionists during the border-poll process. The Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland, operating through University College London, published its final report in May 2021. With the aim of gaining unionist consent to Irish reunification, the working group proposes a comprehensive veto for the north over many key aspects of a united Ireland, including its constitutional form, principal political institutions, national symbols and major public policies. The working group’s proposal violates the Good Friday Agreement and repudiates the democratic votes ratifying it.

Ontario, Canada


Double standards

As someone who believes in a world free from all nuclear weapons it continually baffles me why Iran has been the subject of sanctions imposed by the US. and the terrible suffering caused by those same sanctions on the Iranian people, yet Israel which has nuclear weapons receives unlimited support from the EU and the US.

Why is this double standard allowed to be continued?

Clondalkin, Co Dublin

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Letters to the Editor