30 October 2008 Edition
Divisive British Army parade
In all the hue and cry for and against the proposed RIR parade on Sunday some voices have remained silent throughout.
Does the British Secretary Of State, Shaun Woodward have nothing to say on this contentious issue?
Especially when it was the British Ministry of Defence who applied to march in the first place.
After Belfast City Council had a split vote 26 to 20 for a Civic Reception, it should have been obvious to the MOD and NIO that a parade for the RIR would divide the City in two.
Yet they went ahead against the wishes of those who had loved ones murdered by the British Army and are totally opposed to any glorification of war either in Ireland, Iraq or Afghanistan.
It is this lack of respect or equality for the victims of British Army violence that hurts the most.
Why will Shaun Woodward not sit down with these grieving relatives and hear their harrowing stories of loss.
Maybe then he will think again about an RIR coat trailing provocative exercise through the streets.
British Army parade glorifies war
When British soldiers returned to Britain after years of torturing and oppressing Irish citizens in the North of Ireland they were never given receptions or welcome parades. They just went back and got on with their lives. Most are now suffering from post traumatic stress and other related illnesses, eating into the health budget. No glory there most people would agree.
There are hundreds of volunteer aid workers (unpaid) in war torn Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world, giving their time to help the victims of battles that are not of their making. These volunteers do this work quietly without any reward or credit or indeed any welcome home parades. Gayle Williams was buried in Afghanistan this week after a modest ceremony. She is a hero and the world has many people like her who travel to countries where there is conflict to help the indigenous population. They deserve to be paraded for all to see how they represented their country by helping others, not killing their families.
There will be those in the Royal Irish Regiment with Irish passports who will take part in the coming Belfast parade. It’s not too late to pull out now on behalf of all of those that have suffered in Ireland as a result of British misrule; the Bloody Sunday families for example, Derry 1972 and Dublin 1920. Having this parade in Belfast is like inviting the Paras to Derry.
Universal entitlement to medical card
I must challenge the narrow and short-sighted view on the medical card issue expressed by Paul Murray (Mála Poist, 23 Deireadh Fómhair). The granting of the medical card to over 70s established the principle of universality for a section of the people. The progressive political response to that is to welcome it and to demand that the principle be applied generally. That is exactly what we in Sinn Féin did. Paul falls into the Fianna Fáil trap by going on about “retired High Court judges or tycoons like Tony O’Reilly retaining medical cards”. If the same logic were applied then free acute care in public hospitals to which all are entitled, medical card holders and non-medical card holders alike, would be abolished.
Likewise Paul’s position would require universal free access to primary and secondary education to go the same way as the over-70s medical card.
The reason poor families who need the medical card are denied it is not because the resources are used for over 70s but because the overall resources of this economy have been shamefully misused by successive Governments, for example the provision of massive tax breaks to the developers of private hospitals. Now that schools are losing teachers and class sizes are getting bigger should we means test pupils and make the children of families over a certain income go to private schools? Should we means test hospital patients and send the wealthier ones to swell the coffers of the private hospitals?
Or should we ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share in tax so that decent public services are available to all? I think most readers know the answers.
Mícheál Mac Donncha,