Letters to the Editor

Not all votes in Assembly are equal

The unique feature of Alliance Party ideology is its belief in the existence of a distinctive northern Irish community or ‘third tradition’. Alliance rejects the binary division of Northern Ireland into two separate Orange and Green ethnic communities.

Furthermore, despite its origins as a liberal, non-sectarian pro-union party, Alliance has gradually evolved into a more constitutionally agnostic position. This formula seems to resonate with the electorate. The party won 17 seats in the Assembly elections – more than doubling its representation from the previous election. It also became the third largest party at Stormont.

However, not all votes in the Assembly are equal. Most MLAs designate themselves as either ‘nationalist’ or ‘unionist’ to facilitate cross-community voting. Alliance designate as ‘other’. Cross-community decisions must be supported by specific percentages of MLAs from the main unionist and nationalist blocks. This is achieved via two metrics known as parallel consent and weighted majority. Both systems are skewed towards the orange/green ethnic dichotomy. ‘Others’ are given a lower weighting. It is in fact a system of institutionalised sectarianism and a power carve up rather than an authentic power sharing arrangement.

This undemocratic system was basically designed for the benefit of the two main parties – DUP and Sinn Féin. Both have serially abused it by collapsing the assembly so frequently that it has functioned only 50 per cent of its time. In fact its foundations are so fragile there should be a hazard warning to warn MLAs of the threat of imminent collapse.

Clearly the current constitutional system is broken and in urgent need of reform. It is therefore, astonishing that Patricia MacBride argues that the Alliance Party should act to restore the assembly by re-designating as ‘unionist’. By pursuing this crackpot dodge Alliance could take the DFM post, under a unionist designation. It would then, superficially comply with the requisite cross-community parameters of the Good Friday Agreement. However, this dishonest variant of the GFA would be executed in the absence of the DUP, the real unionists – thereby guaranteeing its failure.

This would therefore be an act of electoral, self-immolation by Alliance. It is the antithesis of the tenets of the party and a total betrayal of its non-aligned mandate. It would be much better to consign the rigged designation system to the dustbin than trying to cheat the electorate. A new more representative system could then be devised which hopefully reflects recent demographic changes and the full diversity of Northern Ireland society. It should make provision for the whole community – including the 20 per cent non-binary ‘others’ downgraded under the present system. Most importantly every MLA vote in the assembly should have equal weighting.

Donabate, Dublin


Distraction politics

John Cushnahan (June 13) claims to have “obviously stung” me by highlighting what he calls Sinn Féin’s (SF) hypocrisy. If he equates SF’s previous assembly withdrawal to the DUP’s present antics it’s as well he has withdrawn from front line politics. Sinn Féin withdrew because of DUP scandals – Nama, RHI, Red Sky etc – along with other broken promises. Enough was enough. How would John have addressed it?

Conor Murphy recently debunked Sinn Féin’s three-year assembly absence as Sinn Féin offered the DUP the opportunity to return after a year, which they refused. John states the number of times Sinn Féin have made hypocritical statements is endless but produces no evidence. Obviously guided by fellow conservatives, Johnson and Trump, he responds by ignoring the questions and replies with accusations – distraction politics. He addressed one issue I raised and ignored the rest. Does he consider Irish people gullible? If, as he believes, Sinn Féin are hypocritical, why has their popularity dramatically increased throughout the 32 counties? How does working tirelessly for the electorate on day-to-day issues make Sinn Féin extremists?

He appears to comply with the late Jim Molyneaux, who stated the worst thing that could happen would be an IRA ceasefire.

Belfast BT11


Messages of hope and positivity

Brian Feeney’s article – ‘New study shows financial benefits of a united Ireland’ (June 1) – outlines the economic arguments in favour of a united Ireland. It is based on economists and academic studies on the matters  – objectively a sound argument.

Recently, towards the end of the Covid crisis another message was being heard. A budget to cover a three-year period to plan for delivery on health, welfare and social development. These messages to me, carry hope and positivity about them. They are to do with citizens’ life chances. In a word they carry hope, a profoundly important ingredient in the life of people. Yet, two pages in from Mr Feeney’s article is a letter from the DUP’s Jonathan Buckley MLA. His complaint is about a cartoon. Yes, in the midst of what is a societal crisis where the essentials of oil, electricity, gas and food are rocketing in price, he is exercised by a cartoon. Recently his leader said that he is outraged by the BBC’s ‘lack of coverage’ of an Orange Order march. This same person has also said he is OK about 40,000 losing their jobs. What can we make of these offerings? On the one hand constructive propositions for the future, on the other utterances about being maligned and no reference to emergencies present or future.

Derry City


Irish breach of international neutrality laws

Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and  Simon Coveney have all justifiably criticised the UK government for their proposal to enact UK legislation that will be in breach of international law with regard to the Northern Ireland Protocol and the Good Friday Agreement. It is good to see such respect for international laws by our senior government leaders on these matters. Yet far more serious breaches of international laws and Irish legislation have been occurring due to US military use of Shannon airport since 2001. In April 2003 Judge Kearns in the High Court ruled that the Irish government was in breach of customary international laws on neutrality. The UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) has been brought into Irish legislation by the Criminal Justice Act 2000. Article 4.1 states that: “Each state Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.”

US military and CIA use of Shannon airport has arguably involved the Irish state in complicity in war crimes and acts of torture.

Castletroy, Co Limerick

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Letters to the Editor