Letters to the Editor

Offensive assertions

Obviously stung by my criticism of another hypocritical Sinn Féin political stance, Jack Duffin – ‘Stones and glass house spring to mind’ (June 20) – defends Sinn Féin and instead falsely accuses me of political hypocrisy.

In a reference to myself, he stated: “This leader of the Alliance Party left that party and immediately joined Fine Gael which offered greater career opportunities.”

This is a totally untrue statement, implying that I abandoned the Alliance Party for selfish reasons.

From 1974 to 1987, I was a full-time Alliance politician – I was its sole full-time politician.

My leadership coincided with the most polarised period of the Troubles caused by the political fall-out from the Hunger Strike and the unionist campaign against the Anglo-Irish Agreement. (I had persuaded the Alliance Party to support the agreement).

Under my leadership which commenced in 1984, the Alliance Party’s share of the popular vote was doubled in the June 1987 Westminster Election (and this share of the vote was not exceeded until 2019 under the leadership of Naomi Long).

Having successfully steered the party through this extremely challenging political period and with no prospect whatsoever of the re-establishment of  another assembly, I had no option but to retire as leader and regrettably  leave politics to pursue another career outside politics. This I did.

Almost two years later in 1989 the then leader of Fine Gael, Alan Dukes, along with leading Fine Gael figures in Munster invited me to seek one of the Fine Gael nominations for the European Parliament election for Munster.

I was honoured  to accept this invitation as two Irish coalition  governments led by Fine Gael in co-operation with the respective British governments and progressive political forces in Northern Ireland had supported both the 1974 Sunningdale Power Sharing Agreement and the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, both of which were seminal in paving the way for the Good Friday Agreement. The Alliance Party had also supported both agreements unlike Sinn Féin who had adopted the same stance as Ian Paisley and loyalist paramilitaries and opposed both historic initiatives.

The stance of the Alliance Party at these critical historic junctures also disproves the false and offensive assertion that “the Alliance Party has always been unashamedly unionist”.

The Alliance Party has consistently been a non-sectarian party supported by both moderate unionists and moderate nationalists and those who identified with no tradition who were all committed to building a non-sectarian society based on equality of respect for both traditions.

Lisnagry, Co Limerick


Sir Jeffrey has been Duped by a professional deceiver

Have people not worked out yet why this Protocol has become front and foremost in the eyes of Jeffrey Donaldson’s DUP and their fellow travellers? It’s because the Brexit deal, which these unionist parties so avidly supported, had to be finalised very quickly to prevent Boris being shown up for the liar he is in front of the electorate who supported him on this one issue, against more pressing issues such as the NHS, unmanageable waiting lists and social welfare etc. So, finalised it was, with any awkward irregularities, such as this irritating Protocol, to be negotiated out at a later stage, a deal that was signed in good faith by the EU. Unfortunately, the EU will not play ball, holding the UK to the deal it signed in such haste – time for regrets? I think not. It’s just Boris Johnson trying to strong-arm his way out of the mess he has created by this Brexit deal which was supposed to be done and dusted.

Sorry Jeffrey, you’ve been DUPed again by a professional deceiver.

The Protocol is here to stay, and your complaining will, like your party, become more and more irrelevant by the day.

Let’s see how it all unfolds, probably to the detriment of us all. Partygate is just a minor distraction for, if we lose trade with the EU, just who do we trade with?

Ballycastle, Co Antrim


Real source of sadness

I have the privilege of writing a piece for this paper on a fairly regular basis. Jim Fitzpatrick’s death is a source of real sadness, not least because he went out of his way from time to time to be in touch and encourage me in whatever contribution I might be able to make to these pages.

He was a true gentleman who saw such encouragement to me [and to others] as a normal part of his life and work. He really will be sorely missed, given that such open-heartedness and generosity of spirit are in serious decline in this divided society.

Ballymena, Co Antrim


Ukrainian peace concessions

I have heard little or nothing about negotiations to end the war in Ukraine from the British government, except to denigrate them even before the war started, with Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, talking about “a whiff of Munich” and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss now saying any territorial concessions would be “appalling”. That is not her call to make. Have Biden and Johnson ever even discussed saying to Zelensky that they will back him if he agrees to terms with Russia? As a UK citizen I call on Boris Johnson to say to President Zelensky, at the very least, that he will provide defensive weaponry if that is requested, but that he will also fully support Ukraine should it choose to make serious concessions in order to end the bloodshed as soon as possible.



Safeguarding our children

With school holidays beginning, lots of parents will be  preparing to juggle work and childcare commitments during the summer. After a difficult couple of years for children, it’s great to see young people getting back to some sort of normality and being able to take part in activities away from home, with their friends. The opening up of more summer clubs and camps will also be welcomed by many parents.

While we recognise that these activities can be so important for children to build their confidence and  gain some independence, we also need to ensure that children are as safe as possible when they are away from the family home. If you are thinking of sending your child to clubs, sports camps or other activities, remember that any club or organisation working with children has a responsibility to keep them safe. It’s vital to look for a club, sport or activity that takes seriously the safety and wellbeing of your child. Parents should ensure that organisations  have a designated welfare or child protection officer and that staff and volunteers are trained in safeguarding. It’s never wrong to ask for more information when it comes to children’s safety. If you have concerns contact 0808 800 5000 or help@nspcc.org.uk, for advice to help keep your children safe.

NSPCC Northern Ireland

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Letters to the Editor