1 June 2006 Edition
Open letter to SDLP leader Mark Durkan
Mark A Chara,
Maybe you could explain to us the rationale behind your party's stance on the question of Irish unity, as there is clear confusion in each and every council area across the North with your Council representatives.
Sinn Féin has tabled a motion to the following Councils on the issue of having the Irish Government prepare a Green Paper on the issue of reunification and for voting rights in Presidential elections and major referenda.
As you can see by the following results the SDLP have no consistent policy on the issue
• Dungannon - 2 SDLP voted against, 2 abstained.
• Omagh - SDLP didn't attend debate or vote
• Strabane - SDLP proposed amendment - wasn't tabled; they abstained.
• Moyle - 2 SDLP voted for, 1 abstained
• Derry - SDLP proposed amendment - wasn't tabled; they voted against.
• Limavady. -SDLP opposed it, voted against.
• Fermanagh - SDLP councillors all supported it.
• Magherafelt - SDLP proposed amendment then voted for original motion;
• Armagh - defeated by casting vote of SDLP chair of council.
• Newry - SDLP amendment accepted instead.
• Coleraine - SDLP seconded motion
• Belfast - SDLP amendment defeated; SDLP did not vote on the original motion.
• Down - SDLP voted against it.
Due to the inconsistency of the SDLP position the motion fell in 8 Council areas and passed in 5.
As a party that fought the last election on being a Republican Party and now has the slogan North South Makes Sense, it is obvious there is little sense in the voting patterns of your colleagues.
In a recent campaign Sinn Féin had over 30,000 postcards signed by people calling for voting rights in the Dáil so it is obvious that the SDLP has again misread the mood of the people.
I would like to know if your party will give assurances that if the motion is retabled will you either use the party whip to support the Irish Unity motion in each council area or give an honest statement to the people on the true position of the SDLP on Irish unity and voting rights for people of the North in Irish Presidential elections and referenda.
Councillor Maeve McLaughlin,
Sinn Fein Party Leader,
Derry City Council
The church and abuse
The astounding claims by senior Christian Brother David Gibson, that abuse claims are some sort of a conspiracy between lawyers and the claimants to get compensation reveals the cynical nature of a church that has completely lost touch with the people. The dogs on the street accept what apparently the church cannot. That is, that abuse was widespread and was systematically covered up by the Church. This is the issue Brother Gibson should be concerning himself with rather than trying to put up ridiculous smoke screens.
His remarks are indicative of a Church that has learnt nothing from the abuse scandal. Thus this is a Church that is extremely dangerous and still represents a danger to children. The Church has never really put its hands up on this issue. Instead we have had evasion and double speak. I have heard nothing from the Church that would lead me to believe that their response to allegations of abuse would be any different today than it was before.
The Church's main preoccupation throughout all of this has been money. It is essential that any damages awarded be exemplary as this would seem to be the only way to get the message to them.
I totally agree with Shane Templeton (18 May) concerning the Richard O' Rawe nonsense. Permit me to make a couple of more point on the matter.
David Berdsford stated in his highly respected book Ten Men Dead, that Michael Allison, then NIO Minister of State, conceded after Joe Mc Donnell's death that "he had received medical advice that Joe Mc Donnell had longer to live". This clearly implies that no deal was ready at the time of Joe's death. Allison even told the ICJP before then that "there was a lady behind the veil": i.e. that it might not be easy to get a possible settlement past Thatcher. Hardly a done deal.
Why would the IRA supposedly scupper a done deal to enable Sinn Féin win elections at a time when theyonly election on the horizon was the Fermanagh/South Tryone by-election which Owen Carron would probably have won whether the hunger Strike was still on or not?
Equality and educational under-achievement
If we want to address educational underachievement we need to offer an education system underpinned with equality of access. We do not at present offer this opportunity because we do not address all of the issues involved.
We need a system which offers a wide variety of educational choices at the age of 14. A system meeting the needs of every young person promoting, valuing and celebrating all intelligences. The reality is that we currently devalue hands-on skills and trades because we don't underpin them with a proper insurance, a minimum wage, or sufficient, quality assured training.
We need to end the exploitation of young people whether they are on a building site or in hairdressing salons, denying employers big or small access to cheap labour. We should close colleges and organisations that fail to quality assure training and protect the enthusiasm of young people. Universities should not be allowed to continue down a road that only allows those who can afford to pay through their doors like an 11+ system for a well-prepped elite that in any event has an increasing number of graduates annually in non-degree employment.
The British government is eroding our education as it stands, squandering on one hand the opportunities that falling rolls offer and on the other hand the promise that educational reform can bring. We need our own administration with our own local, accountable Ministers to make the difference. Equality and social justice are essential ingredients if we are to address educational underachievement, fulfil the human potential of every learner and allows us to meet the needs of our local economy.