Damaging faux pas could have been easily avoided
The English habitually refuse to learn, or even listen, until they are shamed into it.
That pig-headed attitude (coupled with the pig-headed attitude of many others) is the major reason why this crisis remains unresolved, after more than half a century. When this crisis erupted in the late 1960s, because of English-sponsored unionist abuse of power, the English insisted that it was a purely internal UK matter, and no concern of the Irish government who were doing their best to give sensible advice to the cack-handed Westminster authorities.
That wrong-headed attitude inhibited the search for a solution for years, until pressure from the SDLP and the Irish government forced the English to wind in their brass necks and accept that the Irish government, and elected representatives of the Irish nationalist population in the north, have an absolute right to be involved in working out a new framework for the future. The subsequent Sunningdale Agreement of 1973 was the best opportunity we ever had to achieve a fair and even-handed solution.
However, Sunningdale collapsed because extremists within the north resolutely set about the work of destroying it, and the English refused to defend it.
In the years after Sunningdale the English began again to try to confine any address to the problem within a UK context. Roy Mason tried to insist that it was all a UK law and order issue. Margaret Thatcher’s notorious “Out, Out, Out” response to the proposals of the New Ireland Forum (1982) was a continuation of the effort to shut Irish nationals (north and south) out of the work of restructuring the north.
It failed because of the resolute refusal of the Irish government and the SDLP to go along with it, and because John Hume’s close friend, Speaker Tip O’Neill, gave her a stern dressing down on Capitol Hill in Washington.
The outcome was that Thatcher’s government was dragooned into the Anglo-Irish Agreement 1985, which enshrined in an International Treaty the right of the Irish government to be consulted and to make proposals about the conduct of government in the north.
There can be no backsliding now. Cleverly and Heaton Harris knew very well that the SDLP and Sinn Féin will never be straitjacketed into a purely northern or purely UK context ever again.
Typically for English politicians parachuted in here, they have no in-depth grasp or feel for Irish politics and they obviously haven’t take the time or trouble to read themselves in. If they had even taken the elementary step of consulting the Dublin authorities about the current talks project (which they are obligated to do by the Anglo-Irish Agreement) this damaging faux pas could have been easily avoided. The scope of the Anglo-Irish Agreement has never been fully explored or exploited. Time it was.
Cookstown, Co Tyrone
Deprivation statistics are not an illusion
Over these past few months I have been following the dialogue between former republican political prisoner Sean O Fiach and Sinn Féin activist Manus McDaid in the letters page of the Irish News. Sean appears to have got Manus’s back up by highlighting the levels of deprivation in republican nationalist constituencies like west and north Belfast and west of the Bann. Surely Manus only has to study the undisputed statistics in NISRA over the past 20 years to see that the levels of deprivation in these constituencies has got worse since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and the re-establishment of a partitionist assembly at Stormont.
Prior to this, it was easy to blame the British government and the Tories for under-investment.
However, Sinn Féin and the DUP have had the levers of power at Stormont for more than 20 years. They have headed up the Department of Finance, Health, Education and Communities.
Look at the state of our health service? Look at our run-down, deprived working-class communities. Look at the increasing problems of homelessness and drug addiction. These have been exacerbated under Sinn Féin and DUP ministers. It’s time for Manus to accept the facts of which Sean has so eloquently described in his letter, `Good Friday Agreement has failed utterly to deliver what it promised’
Glengormley, Co Antrim
North should be eligible for Dublin/EU arts funding
Brian Feeney waxes lyrical on the preservation of diversity of opinion through BBC Radio Foyle – ‘Running down of Radio Foyle a disgraceful decision’ (January 11). He quotes Brian Hutton, Ana Leddy and Garbhan Downey on the downgrading of BBC Radio Foyle which will have a negative cultural impact on a city and surrounds which has a rich arts heritage. Then the next day the headline ‘Sadness as Newry paper to close after 155 years of print’ was another blow to the cultural life of the north. The shared island policy in the taoiseach’s office should be pressured to fund a grant to the Newry Reporter via the Arts Council and Radio Foyle should be supported in a deal with Highland Radio and bought from the BBC. Derry and Donegal are not part of the greater Belfast metropolis. Northern Ireland should be eligible for arts funding from Dublin and
New expert group will work to root out carer poverty
Long-standing poverty and the ongoing impact of the cost of living crisis are having devastating consequences for those providing unpaid care for sick or disabled family members in Northern Ireland.
Research from Carers NI shows that one in three local carers are struggling to make ends meet and one in four are having to cut back on food, heating and other essentials to get by. It is a scathing indictment of Northern Ireland that there are carers today going hungry, sitting in the dark and having to rely on help from charities just to get through the week.
That’s why a new Carer Poverty Commission has been launched in Northern Ireland. With input from unpaid carers and poverty experts from across the UK, the commission will spend the next 12 months gathering evidence from local households and designing recommendations for the Stormont Executive to help tackle poverty and destitution among carers.
Any unpaid carer who wants to get involved with our work can contact email@example.com.
Carers NI, Belfast BT1