Letters to the Editor

Peace process demands change

The Wolfe Tones playing at Falls Park in 2019 as part of Feile an Phobail

REGARDING Mr O’Fiach’s letter – ‘Sectarian chanting’ (August 25) – I was loath to reply, but his comments do need a riposte.

The problem is not really the herd-like chanting, rather some people have questioned whether the west Belfast festival adequately represents the silent majority in the area.

If the charity which organises the Féile has ‘benefiting the community’ as an object, it should be able to prove that it consulted all groupings in the area including non-republican parts of west Belfast, or it is not meeting that object.

Critics have asked funding organisations to modify their grant terms, putting the onus on Féile organisers to ensure they do not facilitate or enable events that do not meet the test of cross-community acceptance – in contravention of which, funders can hold organisers liable for any breach of the condition.

He who pays the piper calls the tune. A first change would be to drop the Wolfe Tones. The silent majority is sick of tribalism – whether at bonfires or at concerts.

As James Joyce wisely observed in his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), ‘Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow’.

The Catholic Bishop of Derry, Edward Daly, speaking at the funeral of Mr Patrick Gillespie of Shantallow, said the IRA and its supporters were “the complete contradiction of Christianity.

They may say they are followers of Christ. Some of them may even still engage in the hypocrisy of coming to church, but their lives and their works proclaim clearly that they follow Satan”. Bishop Daly then decided to forbid paramilitary trappings at funerals.

In his letter, Mr O’Fiach took exception to the word ‘sectarian’. I would ask him if he read the book by Sean O’Callaghan from Tralee, Co Kerry – a PIRA killer who eventually repented of his deeds?

The obituary for O’Callaghan in the Guardian (August 29 2017) said that he was dismayed by the sectarian attitude of northern PIRA operatives.

O’Callaghan confessed to killing police detective Peter Flanagan in an Omagh bar. Did that shooting help unite the people of Northern Ireland? Not at all.

Later, the transformed O’Callaghan reached out to unionist leader David Trimble after two policemen were murdered outside Lurgan police station, urging Trimble not to give up on the peace process.

The legacy of the Troubles demands that the west Belfast festival make room for groups with a gentler orientation. Féile organisers could elevate folk performers, such as the Sands family, or Bluegrass artistes – many international performers come to mind.

Why not include a stage for Christian-oriented groups, such as Keith and Kristyn Getty (their modern version of Go Tell It On The Mountain was much applauded in a televised show from Newry Town Hall); or Rend Collective – a Co Antrim group which has an unashamed Christian orientation.

There is no bravery in wearing T-shirts with slogans that support one illegal organisation or another – unless on the wrong tribal turf.

Co Down


Round and round the table

BEFORE May’s assembly election all the major parties here published fantasy manifestos whereby they set out what they intended to do if elected.

These manifestos are manifestly disingenuous to begin with because they can only be achieved to the degree that other parties in the mandatory coalition agree to go along with them.

And thus, as I pointed out before the election, none of them were achievable because it was known by all the parties that there was not going to be an executive after the election because of the DUP’s stance on the protocol.

Nevertheless, having secured a public vote to elect them, these political candidates fell over themselves at Stormont to sign the register that would enable them to be paid for something they were elected to do that in all conscience they knew full well they would not be doing.

The appointment of Chris Heaton-Harris has been greeted with relish by the DUP. It signifies for that party a continued willingness of the British government to support its minority opposition to the protocol.

The British government’s stated position is that it is pursuing its opposition to the protocol to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).

However, the British government is only able to declare that aim in the confidence that whatever legislative changes it makes towards scrapping the protocol will be accepted by the majority of elected representatives here that support the protocol.

If, for instance, Sinn Féin and Alliance stated that they would not enter an executive if the British government imposed legislation that was aimed at scrapping the protocol then the British government could not advance the argument that it was simply protecting the GFA but would instead be faced with a political stalemate.

The lesson that it would have to learn then is that it cannot impose legislative changes that go against the wishes of a majority living here which it argues is the very basis of its legitimacy for continued British rule here.

People may well be asking the question as to why those political parties do not flex their political muscle but instead choose to have the British government override their political wishes?

How can so-called republicans now accept the British government legislating to uphold the wishes of a minority in the six counties over the wishes of a majority?

Didn’t they accept the unionist veto in the GFA by agreeing that the wishes of a majority in the six counties had to be respected?

To now accept that the British government is entitled to legislate to support a minority’s wishes over that of a majority is now to accept what might be regarded as effectively gerrymandering or repartitioning the six counties.



Monarchy draws mixed emotions

IT WAS in 1171 that Henry II invaded Ireland. Neither then, nor ever after, did Britain’s presence understand Ireland’s soul.

The British monarchy draws mixed emotions in Ireland and so it is today many Irish nationalists reacted to the death of a woman they once saw as a symbol of British oppression with indifference or, at most, polite sympathy.

Monarchical systems of government have existed in Ireland from ancient times.

In the south this continued until the early 20th century, when following the AngloIrish treaty it transitioned to the Republic of Ireland with dominion status.

The north of Ireland remained as part of the United Kingdom, under a monarchical system of government.

The treaty also stipulated that the new Irish Oireachtas would have to take a highly objectional Oath of Allegiance to the British monarchy and other draconian conditions.

It was a betrayal of the Irish Republic which had been proclaimed during the 1916 Easter Rising.

All these issues were the cause of a bloody Irish civil war.

It was not until 1949 that the part of Ireland known as Eire ceased to be part of His Majesty’s dominions.

Dublin 6


Letters to the Editor