I JUST wanted to take a moment to thank you for your news article on the plight of post office branches – it was excellent and well received by the CEO of the NFSP and noticed by our customers and no doubt your wider readership.
Thank you Andersonstown News for covering the story regarding the Padre Pio chapel.
WAS it a Tory faux pas not inviting Mary Lou McDonald to the Protocol talks with the British Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State, or was it a deliberate insult to Sinn Féin and their voters?
THE cost of living crisis is expected to take centre stage in the next Stormont administration and rightly so, but the rights of LGBTQ people must not be forgotten.
I AM pretty aware of Wolfe Tone's (and his family's) life because of other United Irishmen connections.
AS I sat in St Peter’s Cathedral on Tuesday 11th May awaiting the outcome of the coroners verdict on the massacre in Ballymurphy 50 agonising years ago, I was trying to imagine how all the families were feeling. As someone who followed the inquest over a long year, I was anxious. As I, to a certain extent, knew really in my heart what it is like to search for some truth and justice for decades. The first time I suppose most of us heard about the terrible slaughter of innocent people gunned down by British Paratroopers was in St Mary’s Hall on the Falls Road, when members of the Ballymurphy families stood up one by one and told their brief stories of how their family members were gunned down. So as I and hundreds more in the audience waited for the roving mike to go round the hall, my hand was raised right away, I spoke briefly about our brother Paul Armstrong, who was brutally tortured and murdered on 8th November 1974 by the UVF, he was just 18-years-old. Over the years some people would say to me, Gerry why are you continually asking questions regarding the brutal murder of Paul? My answer is simple: If I don’t speak of Paul, then who will? I have been constantly told to forget the past, get on with your life, move on. Here is the stark reality: that night in St Mary’s College, if the families hadn’t spoken, would they have listened and heard the coroner without reservation find every single loved one they lost declared no threat to the soldiers, and that they were unarmed and completely innocent. They waited 50 years to hear what they all new, but now the world knows.
‘PLANNING for a Strong Economy in a New Ireland’ will bring little comfort to those living in socially deprived areas across the North. I read the introduction to new Ireland’s Future document and whilst I welcome the report and the first sign of actual figures in this debate for unification, it fails to address the fact that for over two decades we have had a power-sharing Executive in place. It fails to acknowledge social deprivation levels in the North. Instead, it focuses solely on partition and the crippling effect on the economy and, of course, ‘The Brits’. Political parties here, to their credit, are localised and often work ‘on the ground’ but how have they managed to shape legislation to address social deprivation? There are many issues that need resolved before we step into a New Ireland and I aim to highlight a few. I would like to ask Ireland’s Future if they have visited the areas and taken account of the crippling effect of anti-social behaviour and all too common drug dealers? I would also ask where are the strong anti-drug messages from the parties who represent these areas? Where is Sinn Féin’s call to report drug dealers to the PSNI and where is the public campaign to root out these elements that literally suck the life blood out of many communities? There is a clear link between poverty and drug crime in the areas included in the NIMDM reports and the PSNI crime figures. I would therefore ask the serious question of what has changed for the people living in the areas in terms of opportunity and quality of life? Belfast (N), Strabane and Derry regions remain the poorest and most deprived despite 23 years of power sharing. Who is going to see parts of this ‘New Ireland’? They have heard the same rhetoric for the GFA and this was the sea change that would bring prosperity and stability to those communities – yes, the sectarian violence has stopped and nobody supports a return to violence. But since 1998 until now (give or take a few years of hiatus) what has changed for those people and why should they, working class communities, buy into this ‘New Ireland’ when they have already been part of something that largely failed them? Sinn Fein have a lot of convincing to do and it is in their wards or districts that poverty levels remain highest, which exposes the fallacy of their leadership – they have all but erased the term ‘working class’ from their literature (you will struggle to find this on their website or in their speeches). In fact, they only refer to working class loyalists when they are discussing failed leadership from their Unionist counterparts. We can blame the DUP for RHI and austerity, but Sinn Féin were willing partners and were tasked with the role of the night watchman. They failed miserably and they have failed to protect the most vulnerable – Unionist leaders called for ‘civil disobedience’ over the flag dispute; Sinn Fein arranged a march against austerity but only brought down Stormont for three years over an Irish Language Act and pressures from RHI – poverty and deprivation are trumped by party politics. They have demonstrated a willingness to share power but not responsibility. Are they the party of protest they once were? There are historical points to remember here too. Sinn Féin did not create the current power sharing executive – this was the largely to the credit of the SDLP. They did not end the armed struggle – the British Government did and at a time of their choosing; and they have not introduced any meaningful or inventive legislation in Stormont worth speaking of – in fact, Westminster has legislated on their behalf with all the progressive ideals that they claim to hold. We can blame the DUP and their intransigence, but it is not them or themselves alone who hold the power. Sinn Féin have, for a time, been a party of opposition but have not managed to convince enough of the middle ground to jump ship nor have they any legislation to show for in terms of Stormont. This brings me to my final point. If this were a job interview and I was asking the question ‘describe a time when you achieved something as part of a team or dealt with a difficult situation and provided a positive outcome’ I think the silence would be deafening. Personally, I am a Nationalist and have, like many before me, held the romantic view of a New Ireland in my youth – but the reality is stark. I want unification, but not at the expense of social justice and leaving those people in the wake of nostalgia. Nostalgia does not put food on the table or provide stability for families. With a more educated and tech-savvy youth, who are politically active and aware, and an educated middle class who are post-Good Friday Agreement, I would urge extreme caution on the part of Sinn Féin before they decide to push the all-island envelope. The ship is set to sail, but many of our fellow Irish citizens will we be leaving in our economic utopian wake to sink, swim or drown. In the words of Teddy Roosevelt, ‘Rhetoric is a poor substitute for action – if we are really to be a great nation, we must not merely talk; we must act big.’Patrick Flynn, Belfast
PROFESSOR Mike Tomlinson has written a good piece on the origins of Northern Ireland's financial dependency on Westminster and the role it plays in the English imperial project. He argues that the subvention Northern Ireland receives from England would not have to be as great in a united Ireland and that it would result in a more equal and progressive society. His conclusion is that “It is time to stop thinking of the North as a burdensome basket case and instead to imagine what the North brings to the piece.” But he doesn't actually make a case for what Northern Ireland would bring to a united Ireland, beyond the need for a slightly reduced subvention from the Irish, as opposed to the British exchequer. The benefits of improved integration in an all-Ireland economy or reduced duplication of administrative services is not discussed. But most importantly, there is no discussion of the economic and financial benefits of public policies more attuned to the actual needs of Northern Ireland (as opposed to English public policy imperatives) that could be enacted in an all-Ireland context. Ireland has done many things badly, but it leads the world in attracting foreign direct investment and making the most of the EU Single Market. Northern Ireland's heavily agriculture-based economy is also more suited to benefit from EU CAP policies than what are likely to be applied in post Brexit Britain. The Westminster bubble is famously remote from the needs of the regions within the UK. Might a Dublin-based government with ample Northern Ireland representation and involvement not be expected to be more closely aligned with Northern Ireland's real needs? Frank Schnittger, Editor, European Tribune
In 2012, as Mayor of Belfast, I helped to open one of Belfast’s leading tourist attractions, Titanic Belfast. In my remarks, I referenced the different experiences of life with regards to and indeed inside the Harland and Wolff Shipyard; not least my own parish which lived in its shadow and often fell victim to violence, pogrom and attack initiated from within its confines.
NEARLY seven hundred thousand people worldwide have died as a result of Covid-19. In the Republic of Ireland over fifteen hundred have died and in the North over five hundred have lost their lives, although these figures are questionable and could be much higher. These figures will continue to rise depending on how the general public react to the social distancing introduced as a result of this pandemic.
IT was 2013 when the last game was played in Casement Park. Since then Belfast Gaels have been waiting for the day when they would be able to return to their beloved Casement to watch a football or hurling game.
I listened with dismay at the announcement on July 9th that travel to and from Italy, Spain and England would be permitted. A decision rightly described as madness by a health official from the Republic.
Personally I do not care if there are one million Orange Order parades a year, I do not like any parades even if they are republican. They cause lots of disruption and also they are very tribal and if we want a united society we need to do some sort of joint parades or no parades.
Due to the recent spate of suicides in North Belfast I feel compelled to write this letter. Let me begin by extending my deepest sympathy to all the families in North Belfast and further afield who have been touched by suicide. My own family have had their brush with suicide. It was me who was suicidal, it was me who spent several days on a locked ward in a psychiatric hospital and it was me who was so close to ‘ending it all’.