Letters to the Editor

‘Clever devices' may not be the sole preserve of Donaldson's DUP

Writing in the Irish Times, Newton Emerson notes that Jeffrey Donaldson has brought in Peter Robinson as an adviser, as he is allegedly good at coming up with “clever devices” – (When will the DUP level with the public? Opinion & Analysis, January 27). The new strategy apparently involves the DUP collapsing the institutions after the May assembly election if they don’t get their way on the Protocol. However, clever devices may not be the sole preserve of the DUP.

For instance, if the unionist parties all fail to nominate a Deputy First Minster because they don’t want to serve with a Sinn Féin First Minister, there is a simple solution which will prevent the collapse of devolution – Sinn Féin simply designates itself as a ‘unionist’ party, which then requires the largest ‘nationalist’ party, the SDLP, to nominate a Deputy First Minister.

If unionists refuse to contribute to the governance of Northern Ireland, nationalists may have to do it all by themselves.

It may sound crazy, but it is not as far-fetched as it seems. By signing the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), Sinn Féin has recognised Northern Ireland is part of the UK and it has operated the GFA institutions and the executive under devolved powers granted by Westminster. Sinn Féin is therefore a de facto unionist party, even if its aspiration is to change that by way of a border poll as soon as possible.

The prospect of a Sinn Féin First Minister and an SDLP Deputy First Minister should concentrate unionist minds wonderfully, and merely the threat of it should ensure the leading ‘unionist’ party takes up the Deputy First Minister role. That party might even be Alliance, which is within the margin of error of becoming the largest ‘unionist’ party in the opinion polls. It designated itself as unionist in 2001 to prevent a collapse of the institutions then, so that precedent has been set.

Longer term, party designations are a farce anyway, as formally non-aligned parties like Alliance and the Greens are deprived of the chance of the top jobs regardless of how well they do. The Good Friday Agreement should be encouraging the development of cross-community parties, rather than forcing them to become or remain part of the sectarian divide.

With the non-aligned centre growing ever larger in Northern Ireland, that is becoming an ever larger anomaly and injustice. The time for a party like the DUP, with 17 per cent of the projected vote, to hold everyone else to ransom has surely come to an end, and not before time.   

Blessington, Co Wicklow


Poor blanket explanation of political discourse

I was very interested to read Brian Feeney’s article (January 26) on how the SDLP could improve its political case. He argues that SDLP representatives are committed to attacking Sinn Féin rather than putting forward their own positions. However, since the assembly was restored there has only been one motion introduced by SDLP representatives with the express intent of critiquing Sinn Féin and the Provisional movement and that was a censure of the Bobby Storey funeral affair. Notably, an opinion poll later that year confirmed Colum Eastwood as the most popular of Northern Ireland political leaders. It may indeed just make sense to provide opposition whenever the occasion merits. This highlights the problem with what Brian Feeney suggests. He doesn’t give evidence of an arbitrary or reflexive strategy on behalf of the SDLP. Ignoring and failing to define the substance of what the criticism actually is and why and when they were made just leads to a poor blanket explanation of complex political discourse, when the time and the nature of events themselves should enter into any such explanation. Hence it serves as an evasive ad hominem upon SDLP representatives just fulfilling their job of setting out their differences and holding a powerful party of government to account. It may also bolster some wishful thinking of Sinn Féin and its supporters that criticism and exposure of mistakes can only ever be to their own benefit not to confront.

Lurgan, Co Armagh


Anyone can be a victim of crime

In February 2020, a man in the Kingswood Cross district of Co Dublin was murdered one morning as he attempted to jump start his car. The alleged suspect (a woman who was unknown to him) has been charged with his murder and is due to stand trial at some point in the future. In a separate case in England, Ms Hannah Sindrey was convicted this month of murdering her boyfriend, Paul Fletcher, in December 2020 and is due to be sentenced. It comes as no surprise to learn that few people will have been aware of either case for neither received the same amount of media coverage or public condemnation as the murders of Sarah Everard and Aisling Murphy.

A woman murdered by a man will be depicted as an example of how society is rampant with ‘misogyny’ and ‘toxic masculinity’. Politicians fall over themselves to denounce the crimes and pledge to adopt tough measures to end ‘male violence against women’. By contrast, men being murdered by women is largely ignored, nothing is said about ‘toxic femininity’ in our society and activists are nowhere to be seen calling for an end to ‘female violence against men’.

Anybody can be a victim of crime and criminals come in all shapes and sizes. Yet, the sex of the victim and the perpetrator determines how the narrative will be framed. It is difficult to come to any conclusion other than there appears to be some sort of pernicious anti-male agenda being played out before us.

Belfast BT7


Anita will be greatly missed

I was so sorry to hear of the passing of Antia Robinson, RIP. I looked forward each Tuesday to reading her articles. I did have a couple of my letters published by The Irish News regarding her stories, many I could relate to and which made me smile. I extend my sincere condolences to her daughter, whom she often mentioned in her articles, and her entire family circle.

Belfast BT6


Johnson must go

As Stormont DUP assistant to Ian Paisley for years and as the first chair of Bangor DUP, I have no problem in calling for this rogue Boris Johnson

to resign. He has no credibility left. It is little wonder that the former chancellor Philip Hammond (a gentleman) refused to serve in a Johnson government. While the public are incandescent with anger he runs away to Ukraine to prod and provoke the Russian bear, knowing full well Putin could wipe out London in minutes with his new missiles.

Then there is the police matter. Does Cressida Dick work for him? Some are starting to wonder. In the words of Cromwell – Go, go.

Bangor, Co Down

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Letters to the Editor