Letters to the Editor

Baroness Hoey's comments have advanced cause of united Ireland

In 1932 Basil Brooke, later Lord Brookeborough and prime minister of Northern Ireland, said the following: “I appreciate the great difficulty experienced by some of them in procuring suitable Protestant labour, but I would point out that the Roman Catholics are endeavouring to get in everywhere and are out with all their force and might to destroy the power and constitution of Ulster.”

In comments later endorsed by DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, former Labour minister Baroness Hoey wrote: “There are very justified concerns that many professional vocations have become dominated by those of a nationalist persuasion, and this positioning of activists is then used to exert influence on those in power.”

These comments speak to a sense of entitlement by some unionists to the leading roles in the professions and civil society and a sense of horror that this is changing, despite the fact that this change is only reflective of demographic trends more generally, and a welcome increase in social mobility and reduction in social inequality.

I suspect that for many ‘of a nationalist persuasion’ who have made it into the professions, the abiding sense is one of pride that they have made it despite there being no family history of such employment, with their background being seen as just another barrier which had to be overcome on the way. Indeed, many may have become agnostic or apolitical on their career journey and some may even have become unionist in their politics.

Baroness Hoey’s error is that she conflates all the myriad factors which can influence anyone’s past, present and future allegiances and reduces people to their family and cultural background despite all their efforts at educational and professional advancement.

One would have thought that any rational strategy to secure the place of Northern Ireland within the UK would have included ensuring there is a large middle ground from all backgrounds benefiting from the status quo.

But no. At a time when Brexit has reignited communal tensions Baroness Hoey has sought to divide the professions on sectarian lines – thereby ensuring that many who were becoming neutral or agnostic on the union have no option but to conclude that Northern Ireland as part of the UK isn’t working for them and that they must re-consider the alternative.

So, well done Baroness Hoey. You have advanced the cause of a united Ireland more than any nationalist could by underlining how dysfunctional Northern Ireland still is.

Blessington, Co Wicklow



Growing gap between have and have nots

Reading Deaglán De Bréadún (January 12) commenting on politics in the south – Mary Lou McDonald’s new pastime, and Sinn Féin’s surge of popularity in the 26 counties – got me thinking about the various issues regarding a united Ireland; a border poll and referendum which would gauge support for a united Ireland in that juridistiction.

Mary Lou’s new pastime of boxercise is an excellent metaphor for portraying her as a leader/future taoiseach, who will roll the sleeves up for a good fight, someone who will take no nonsense, dithering or procrastination from political opponents, and it’s not doing her image any harm either.

When you compare her to her political opponents, she stands – metaphorically speaking – head and shoulders above them in every department.

The future looks bright for Sinn Féin if you can believe the polls, but as most people will agree ‘a week is a long time in politics’.

I would urge caution in their pursuit of a united Ireland. Proper, detailed planning will be the key.

Referring back to 2016 and the Brexit referendum, the result and fall out from this course of action should be a salutary reminder that if you fail to prepare you are preparing to fail.

To enable me to make an informed decision I need facts, information and answers to the many and varied issues associated with any restructuring in the politics of this island.

When I make a purchase in a shop or store I would have done the research needed to ensure that the product is fit for purpose.

The status quo is that I am presently able to speak my native tongue. I have an Irish passport, (It would be nice to have a vote in the presidential election), I have access to health service (with its many faults), free at the point of delivery.

Both political systems leave a lot to be desired and carry a lot of hurt and baggage from the past. Things have improved but the gap between the haves and the have nots grows day on day.

The vision and implementation of a just and equal society on this island will require people with skills, foresight and enthusiasm. Economics and a good dose of pragmatism coupled with the respect Ireland enjoys worldwide are all elements which will help to unlock the prize that is Irish unification.

Newry, Co Down


Church is accustomed to icy receptions

The Census at Bethlehem, painted by Peter Bruegel, shows the Holy Family passing unnoticed by Flemish villagers, in a snowy winter evening scene. The Church, in many western countries like ours, is also accustomed to getting an icy reception, so it’s good to take full stock once a year of the Easter story.

An Oxford law student, Val Grieve, was a religious sceptic, but came to faith during his studies. In later life he wrote a stunningly concise and well written 75-page paperback Your Verdict on the Empty Tomb. Assessing and presenting evidence is the stock trade of the lawyer, so it’s no surprise to see the quality of the author’s logic and language skills. As a child, a poacher taught me to use camouflage, plus a single flick of a fly or bait, to catch unsuspecting river trout. Val Grieve had a gift like that with words, using as few as were necessary, but did not want his saviour to stay camouflaged.

Belfast BT5

Lunatics have taken over the asylum

Sue Gray has been appointed by her boss Boris Johnson to investigate guess who?

Her boss Boris Johnson and the goings on in British parliament. The place is coming down with police –  dozens and dozens of them to open gates and doors to let everyone in and out. All she has to do is ask these police officers who and when they let anyone in or out and the time. Is this not back to front? Here was me thinking it was the police who did the investigating and reported to civil servants. The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Banbridge, Co Down

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Letters to the Editor