Letters to the Editor

Key task is to create a society built on mutual respect

 

The response of much of nationalism to the recent Northern Ireland census showing a greater number of Catholics than Protestants has at times been bordering on triumphalism, as if this was a political achievement.

I agree with nationalists that Northern Ireland was a flawed and partially sectarian state but the Republic was far from a pluralist society; hence Garrett FitzGerald’s ‘constitutional crusade’. And Mary Lou McDonald has spoken of ‘the crimes of a reactionary Catholic Church and a confessional state’.

In 1996 the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation commissioned an academic report by JJ Sexton and Richard O’Leary on the decline in the Protestant population in the Republic (it had more than halved since the formation of the independent Irish state).

They identified the outworking of mixed marriages as perhaps the most significant factor. Their most striking – if not shocking – statistic was that in 1981, 86.1 per cent of the children of mixed marriages were being brought up as Catholic. With up to 20 per cent of Protestants being in mixed marriages it is not surprising that their numbers fell so dramatically. 

And if the increase in the Catholic population in the north is to be celebrated, by the same logic should not the decrease in the Protestant population in the south be mourned?

The same oppressive practices of course also applied to Northern Ireland. Jean McConville, victim of one of the IRA’s most notorious crimes, was brought up a Protestant. She married a Catholic and had 10 children, all Catholic. Was this something for anyone to feel good about? Was it a defeat for unionism? Surely not.

Hubert Butler, the perceptive Kilkenny essayist, wrote in 1954: “Before Ne Temere hostages were exchanged pari passu. Now there is no reciprocity and in those who have given all and received nothing there is a feeling of slow strangulation, which they are forced to dissemble. A whole community can die without drama.”

The census may very well portend a united Ireland – or it may not. In truth no-one actually knows. In the meantime our key task must be to create a society based upon mutual respect, one without ‘peace walls’, casual sectarianism and a fervid political atmosphere based upon inferring people’s views on the basis of the Church they usually don’t attend on a Sunday morning. That would be a united society really worth having.

DR PHILIP McGARRY FRCPsych
Belfast BT9

 

God help and save Ireland not some foreign king

Martina Devlin’s “light bulb” interview – ‘Broadening and advancing the unity conversation’ (September 27) – made very sad and disappointing reading for any Irish republican. That she has been belatedly moved to a soft stance on Irish ‘unity’, as conscribed and mis-shaped by the Belfast/Good Friday (dis) Agreement, only because of Brexit says much in relation to her lack of what Robert Emmett described as “patriotic motivation,” or any understanding of Britain’s long term strategic interest for remaining in Ireland.

What is totally unforgivable in a political context is her complete misunderstanding and mis-representation of Wolfe Tone’s inspiring words that gave birth to modern Irish Republicanism in which “hybridity” has absolutely no currency. Ireland’s right to self-determination exists in spite of, and not because of, Britain’s long and continuing interference in Irish affairs as so eloquently enunciated in the Proclamation of Irish Freedom read aloud in O’Connell Street, Dublin, on Easter Monday 1916 by both Padraig Pearse and Tomás Clarke. Engaging in an echo chamber and great jamboree of like minds in Dublin or elsewhere,  absent any voice loyal to the Irish Republic, does not, and cannot, extinguish the right of the Irish people to exercise their right to real and meaningful self-determination.
Perhaps the next time Martina passes along the road from Omagh to Dublin she might ponder on what was going through Wolfe Tone’s mind as he was transported from Derry to his final lonely prison cell along that same route. Maybe she might even stop off for coffee in Aughnacloy and view the building where he was imprisoned overnight and vow to fulfil his noble ideals or at least desist from entirely misrepresenting them. Meantime, God help and save Ireland, not some foreign king.

P NUGENT
Galbally, Co Tyrone

 

Free speech now a preserve of the rich

The voices that were calling for Celtic to be punished after their fans sang ‘If you hate the royal family clap your hands’ either have a very thin grasp on reality or, more likely, are doing what they have become used to in an oppressive society such as the British one. The media, like many other institutions in Britain (with a few exceptions), has become the preserve of the right where they are given carte blanche to force their views on the public. It’s okay, for example, to make everyone wear a poppy and stand for the Queen but don’t dare protest or the guardians of virtue will come down on you. The Celtic fans made a legitimate protest at being asked to applaud all that they stood against. If anyone should have been castigated it should have been the SPFL for making such a request in the first place. The protest was dignified and clever. You want a round of applause? Okay. They weren’t singing about wading in anyone’s blood, just we don’t like you and what you stand for, the same as the Liverpool fans and Cliftonville fans at the Irish Cup Final a few years ago. It’s supposed to be a free country but I guess free speech (like most other things) has now become a preserve of the rich and the sycophants who dance to their tune. 

SÉAN MORHAIN
London

 

‘Cultural’ argument

It was heartening to read  Newton Emerson – ‘Heating oil offer a kick to the DUP’ (September 24) – reminding readers, that notwithstanding the Tory election process and the death of the queen, there is the ongoing deleterious effect of the DUP boycott. He addresses disadvantages that oil-heated homes and businesses are in and flags up that a better scheme can only be delivered by a functioning Stormont. In other words, elected representatives have a job to do. It is my view that those who enter politics do so with their own aspirations, as well as a desire to protect and promote the health and welfare of those who elect them – the exception apparently is the DUP whose sole purpose is to ‘protect their British identity’.

This stance is remarkable as no-one sees that there is any need for anyone to feel their identity threatened.

The Good Friday Agreement likewise offers cast iron protection to those of different identities.

So, in essence, the DUP against all received wisdom is placing this ‘cultural’ argument above the clear and present crisis confronting people.

 MANUS McDAID
Derry City

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Letters to the Editor