Letters to the Editor

Voting trend could see DUP wiped out

DUP party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson addresses delegates at their party conference at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast. Picture date: Saturday October 8, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story ULSTER DUP. Photo credit should read: PA Wire.

LAST week has seen some interesting foreplay from a slate of political figures associated with the DUP on the subject of the inevitability or otherwise of a united or new Ireland/island.

Statements from former DUP leader Peter Robinson have come to be treated as if from the oracle, but does the evidence support his most recent intervention (September 6)?

The former DUP leader describes four voting blocs among the Northern Ireland electorate that designate as unionists, nationalists, ‘others’ and a crucial block that he identifies as those that don’t bother ‘to vote in representative elections but who are much more likely to visit a polling station when their vote could influence the most fundamental issues of nationality’.

There have been two recent referendums on the most fundamental issues of nationality – those of 1998 and 2016.

The turnout in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement referendum was 81.1 per cent, of whom 676,966 (71.1 per cent) voted ‘Yes’ and 274,879 (28.9 per cent) voted ‘No’.

The 2016 Brexit referendum turnout was 62.7 per cent, of whom 55.8 per cent voted to remain in the EU and 44.2 per cent voted to leave.

Compare these results with turnouts at the 2022 NI Assembly election of 63.6 per cent, with 873,787 votes cast, and 61.8 per cent for the 2019 Westminster elections, with just 803,367 votes cast.

The electoral evidence indicates that the fourth bloc which the former DUP leader is counting on has all but disappeared now and, if anything, the third ‘other’ bloc appears to be firming up.

Moreover there is tangible evidence at Westminster elections that, as appears to affecting the incumbent Tory MPs in Britain, in constituencies held by the DUP the electorate are coalescing around the candidate most likely to unseat the incumbent.

The next Westminster elections could see the DUP all but wiped out if that trend continues.

Dr Bernard Mulholland
Belfast BT9


Our anglers are the first responders to pollution

In recent weeks we have finally seen agencies tasked with the care of Lough Neagh find a voice in relation to the fish in the lough. However, only one group has been targeted in their messaging… local anglers.

The Public Health Agency issued guidance that fish from Lough Neagh should not be eaten. Within hours this advice was changed to fish caught recreationally should not be eaten, differentiating from commercially caught fish.

In recent days on BBC radio, concerns have been raised over local anglers’ ability to properly clean fish from these waters. And yet it was also stated that no testing had been carried out on fish caught either recreationally or commercially to ascertain the toxins from blue-green algae in the fish. The onus, they say, is on the private industry to check. Self regulation and self reporting prevails.

I have never in all of my years of angling and working on our rivers heard of one single angler not cleaning and assessing a fish properly. It is one of the very first things anglers learn.

The focus being placed on anglers smears the excellent, evidence-based work that local anglers and their representative clubs are bringing forward both in terms of identifying pollution on our waterways and lobbying for change.

Numerous clubs, on their own authority, have issued guidance to members not to eat the migratory fish coming from Lough Neagh into our rivers. It was the Crumlin & District Angling Association who, after two weeks of pressing, secured a change to the Public Health Agency advice to include ‘fish passing through’ the blue green algae. This remains in place.

Anglers are the first responders to pollution incidents, reporting on them as soon as they come across them, finding a source and alerting the relevant agencies. Our anglers and our clubs are so much more knowledgeable than our agencies and their spokespeople dare to give credit to.

The huge question remains, is the focus on the angling community a fig leaf for our agencies to appear that they are being proactive? These are the same agencies who have failed to bring forward the evidential basis for differentiating on the approach to public health and safety advice on Lough Neagh. Remember, once again… not one single fish has been tested from Lough Neagh for toxins by these agencies.

David Kennedy
Development Officer
Crumlin & District Angling Association


North needs functioning government

I am at a loss to understand why the DUP will not go into devolved government.

I would say the same with other political parties as well. Regardless of the issues, parties need to think of the common good, rather than their own interests.

As a visitor l sense a listlessness in the north.

Education, health, housing, roads, the environment all desperately need attention – Lough Neagh is an obvious concern – and yet their is no government attention and planning being given to address the issues l have outlined and others as well.

No country can live long like this and survive. In time such a country will hit the wall, and its people will lose all hope for their future.

So, for goodness sake DUP, find another way to get your concerns addressed, but for now be in government and play the role you are being paid for and give proper service to your constituents.

It is also your duty to do so, so that ministers of other government parties can do their jobs as well. The north needs a functioning government. So, DUP, be it, play your role, no more, no less.

Denis Ryan
Belfast BT11


Celebrating MS volunteers

I’m delighted to be helping the MS Society celebrate the amazing volunteers who help the charity support people living with multiple sclerosis (MS). We’re looking for people in Northern Ireland to nominate volunteers who have made an impact on people affected by MS. If readers know a volunteer in Northern Ireland who they’d like to see get one of six special awards, please visit www.mssociety.org.uk/VolunteerAwards. Nominations close on Saturday.

Ivo Graham
Comedian and MS Society ambassador


Letters to the Editor