Letters to the Editor

Donaldson now standing dogmatically between rock and a hard place


The opening line in Brian Feeney’s article (January 18) ‘There’s going to be a deal on the protocol’: yes, we can agree on that. But if I can extend on what Brian quoted in his article and what are my observations, there is now a stronger agenda to broker a deal. This stronger agenda has come about on the back of the protocol that has become substantially more complicated since the fall of Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. Rishi Sunak, dealing with a worsening world economy, has seen the mess caused by Brexit and not just on the north of Ireland but with the UK in general. He needs help from his nearest trading EU neighbours. He also needs to revisit the bilateral trading arrangements with the US which were paramount to Johnson’s Brexit and which by the way the DUP campaigned for and got.

Speculation has mounted in recent days at least in the eyes of the US that the UK and the EU could be edging towards a breakthrough. Now this is another part of the protocol jigsaw agenda. UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has held talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The UK knows it’s already in trouble over the huge mistake of Brexit. The bilateral trading arrangement was to offset the economic pain of putting up trade barriers with the EU caused by Brexit. The US are heartened with the two sides’ progress since Rishi Sunak became prime minister. There are attempts to achieve a settlement by the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in April for a possible visit to the UK by President Joe Biden. He has been vocal that he will oppose any moves that threaten the GFA. Another action or part of the stronger agenda was by the US to appoint a special economic envoy, Joe Kennedy III, to the north of Ireland. The post is not new, previously known as US  special envoy, and has been vacant since US Republican representative Mick Mulvaney served (2020-2021) during the Trump White House administration. The Irish vote in America is huge and recognised by both parties.

Do you think the UK government or the UK public are going to allow Donaldson to call the shots? The DUP were only the king makers when Theresa May was in power but made the serious mistake when  supporting Johnson with Brexit when the majority of voters in the north of  Ireland voted against it. Donaldson is now standing dogmatically in between a rock and a hard place.

Templeogue, Dublin 6


We need an educational system based on good science

In the last few weeks Schools Entrance Assessment Group (Seag) have been sending out information to schools and parents about the format of the new transfer test that this year’s P6 children will face in November. Despite the revamp and pretence, nothing has changed. Sixty per cent of these children will be told that they are failures and that they can’t go to the school of their choice.

When the 11-plus was introduced in 1944, as part of the Education Act by Churchill’s war-time government, it was done so in good faith. The government introduced it believing that the research had been done and that it was based on good science. We now know that this was not the case.

Sir Cyril Burt, an educational psychologist, who at the time was the chief government statistician, was instrumental in the establishment of the test which was largely based on his research involving identical twins reared apart. Burt believed that intelligence was inherited, that it was fixed and that it could be measured. It’s now widely accepted that Burt’s beliefs were not matched by the research evidence.

Soon after Burt died in 1971, academics re-examined his work, results were too neat, researchers failed to replicate his findings, suspicions multiplied. 

In 1976 Dr Oliver Gillie, the medical correspondent to the Sunday Times who was also suspicious of Burt’s work, began to investigate. He set out to find two of Burt’s research assistants – Miss Margaret Howard and Miss Jane Conway. Despite a thorough search he was unable to locate either and was forced to conclude that they were fictitious names. This fact, in conjunction with other findings, led Gillie to conclude that Burt had falsified his data. The article which appeared on the front page of The Times, October 24 1976, began with these lines: “The most sensational charge of scientific fraud this century is being levelled against Sir Cyril Burt.”

This new format is just another attempt by Seag to normalise a process of discrimination that is anything but normal. So knowing what we know now, why do we continue on with this fraud? We need an education system based on good science and which works for all our children and not just an advantaged few.

Downpatrick, Co Down                                                    


Traditional masculinity

The fate of two sports this past week is revealing. In rugby the RFU banned tackles above the waist for all levels besides professional. This is despite academic evidence that such a rule actually leads to more concussions (BMJ Stokes 2021). This removes an essential aspect of aggression from rugby and has been met by widespread condemnation from the grassroots who were not consulted. In the second sport, Power Slap, a new televised league was launched by Dana White. Power Slap involves standing in front of your opponent as they slap you as hard as they can in the face. You are not allowed to move.

Aggression in rugby is controlled, disciplined, and allied with skill. In Power Slap it is barbaric as unlike in boxing skill is not a factor and the damage is certain. The destruction of outlets for traditional masculinity such as rugby creates a vacuum which will be filled with the hyper-masculine violence of Power Slap. Rugby is a great game, for many the game of their fathers and they hope the game of their sons. Let the boys play.

Glenavy, Co Antrim


West seems oblivious to nuclear danger

The major western powers are rubbing their hands with undisguised relish and glee as they continue to foster the ongoing war of attrition between Russia and Ukraine.  The longer they can keep it up, the better from their standpoint, particularly as the human costs in deaths are felt exclusively by the Russians and Ukrainians.  What an ally they have in Zelensky’s corrupt government which seems impervious to the sacrifice its nationals are having to pay to satisfy the west’s bloodlust.

That is not to say that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was justified.

It was no more justified than the west’s previous invasion of Iraq looking for fantasy weapons of mass destruction. These western powers so far seem oblivious to the risk that they could provoke a nuclear war because it is unlikely that Russia will ever accept defeat and must then look for ways to escalate the conflict.

Belfast BT11




Letters to the Editor