In politics, unlike religion, one is subject to forensic questioning
The past few weeks have produced two choice examples of individuals going catastrophically off message. Firstly, in Listowel, retired priest Fr Sheehy gave a sermon on “rampant sin” in modern life, provoking a walkout and making the headlines. Times have changed, given the usual age of congregations it is likely that many have children and grandchildren for whom they only feel love and pride and reject any suggested shame. In the following days his bishop apologised, tacitly acknowledging that it wasn’t so much what Fr Sheehy said but how he said it. But then that is the problem with subjecting religion to a revisionist or modernisation process. The linguistic, theological and verbal gymnastics required can be so convoluted that few true believers or, more importantly, good listeners can keep up.
I have often thought of the republican movement like a religion – a set of ideals interwoven with a lot of dogma, (most since airbrushed into history), open to interpretation and reinterpretation by a select, if invisible, few. Its members have an absolute certainty of being right, a refusal to compromise and of course a blood-stained history replete with its own version of the Spanish Inquisition. As Sinn Féin gets ever closer to power in the south the challenges of office and representation of the entire community has increasingly put republican shibboleths under strain with the leadership desperately trying to ditch as much as possible. After the recent Ard Feis Mary Lou McDonald, talking about past violence and criminality, resorted to an almost theological perspective that intent was important, a thought perhaps lost on the victims?
The next foot in mouth attack struck Tina Black, Belfast’s Sinn Féin lord mayor, as she sought to explain the party’s carefully constructed policy of acknowledging the war dead while squaring it with the party’s historical position. To be fair to the mayor I suspect her problem was not any personal shortcoming. Given previous examples of Sinn Féin-speak it is more likely that her problem was that the carefully chosen words were a meaningless construct, as in nonsense which she was unable to believe much less repeat. In politics unlike religion one is subject to forensic questioning. If Sinn Féin are serious about responsible public office, they need to stop playing with words and focus on action which we all know always speaks loudest.
Finally, in July Sinn Féin claimed yet more kudos for a visit to the Somme some twenty years after Alex Maskey’s then historic attendance at the Cenotaph. It is surely about time these things were routine and unremarkable and Sinn Féin stopped seeking credit for doing what they are well paid for anyway.
The Housing Executive recently announced that it will demolish ten of its tower blocks. Eight of the blocks are in Belfast, one is in Newtownabbey and one in Larne. The executive has also given a definite time frame for the demolitions to be carried out. That will happen over the next three years. Reading about this reminded me of another Housing Executive statement released a couple of years ago when they announced plans for the demolition of the Seven Towers block in the New Lodge area of north Belfast. No definite time frame for when that would happen was given. It looks as if the residents of the Seven Towers may have to endure their nightmare indefinitely. Not far from the New Lodge is the inner-city north Belfast area of Carrick Hill where the housing question is entirely different from the above.
They got their high-rise social housing problem sorted out years ago, when the residents fought a successful campaign to have the awful Unity Flats complex demolished. The situation as it stands now in Carrick Hill is that there are three sites available to build on, and have been available for a number of years now. At one time the sites where earmarked for the development of social housing. Plans to build proper family houses were prepared by the housing executive. Due to one reason or another the scheme failed to get off the ground. Undeterred, Carrick Hill Residents Association campaigned long and hard to have houses built on these sites. Now at long last at a full Belfast City Council meeting a motion to build social housing on the sites has The question now is: What type of housing will be built? There has been talk over the past while that multi-story apartment blocks could be built on the site. That would be contrary to the wishes of the residents of Carrick Hill, whose preference is for traditional family houses. Anything other than that would be a recipe for disaster and would be strongly resisted by the residents. Those political parties, including Sinn Féin and other organisations who supported the demolition of Unity Flats, will be expected to once again support the residents of Carrick Hill in opposing the construction of any more high-rise monstrosities in Carrick Hill ever again.
Time for news channels to reset moral compass
For almost 10 months now the war in Ukraine has been raging with all the horror that war brings to the innocent. However, in my opinion, you would be forgiven that the rest of the world is living a charmed life. Whether it’s the BBC, CNN or Sky all of the reporting is exclusively focused on Ukraine. I believe that a war on European soil trumps all. There are countless millions facing starvation this winter in the Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iraq and the horn of Africa. Meanwhile billions of pounds are being spent on weapons of death for Ukraine while the ‘non-Europeans’ are airbrushed by the western media. The organisation Unicef and other charities are currently doing sterling work trying to alleviate the suffering in all of those places. I think it’s well past time for the likes of the BBC to reset their moral compass and to reassign some of their journalists that are currently in Kyiv.
People must make voices heard over A5
I attended the mid-inquiry meeting into the A5 dual carriageway scheme in the Strule Arts centre, Omagh last Tuesday evening.
The economic and road safety need for the new dual carriageway is well documented and supported by a vast majority of people, however, there is an unrepresentative minority who remain opposed to the scheme and are determined to block it. This is a critical moment now for people who support the scheme to make their voices heard.
You can do so by emailing the Planning Appeals Commission on firstname.lastname@example.org and/or making an oral contribution to the Public Inquiry when it resumes in 2023. More details of the inquiry and how to respond can be found on www.pacni.gov.uk.
DECLAN McALEER MLA
Sinn Féin, West Tyrone