25 May 2006 Edition
Since Michael's murder, some commentators have tried to revert to the tired old "both sides to blame" line. The PSNI first said that there was a fight between sectarian gangs. However, it turned out that Michael and his two friends were not involved in any fight but were chased by a 20-strong before he was beaten to death.
It is well past time that the media stopped pedalling the insulting "warring native tribes" nonsense. Three Catholics have been killed and many injured by loyalist gangs in the past nine months. In contrast there have been no killings and very few sectarian attacks in majority nationalist areas like South Down, South Armagh, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Derry. I believe it is no coincidence that councils where Sinn Féin and/or SDLP have a majority have a policy of sharing power with ALL parties, including the DUP, which have a mandate. On the contrary, in unionist dominated councils like Ballymena, Sinn Féin and the SDLP are excluded from even the most trivial positions and are sometimes shouted down while trying to speak.
The obvious lesson is that, to defeat sectarianism, the two governments must stand up to bigotry and not allow the DUP and UUP to continue to exclude any democratically elected party from sharing power in the north.
Dr Sean Marlow,
There has been much debate recently regarding the roots of sectarianism in the North, and it is clear that many people continue to see this as essentially a reflection of religious intolerance between Protestants and Catholics. This is a fundamentally flawed assumption and the dissemination of this crude analysis makes it all the more difficult to tackle the true roots of sectarianism in the six counties, which are, in reality, purely political. Of course there is a religious dimension to the type of sectarianism that recently led to the tragic murder of Michael McIlveen in Ballymena, but only in terms of acting as an identifier or cue for the victim's perceived political beliefs, in much the same way that a person having a Gaelic name or wearing Gaelic sportswear could be associated with a particular political viewpoint.
The notion that Michael and others were murdered because of their religion, provides a dumbed-down apolitical analysis, which too many within the so-called independent media are only too happy to espouse. Michael was murdered because he was perceived to be a republican/nationalist, not because of his perceived opinions regarding transubstantiation, the immaculate conception, the confession of sins, or the authority of the Pope. I very much doubt that those who perpetuate these attacks even attend Church, or could identify any fundamental theological differences between the Church of Rome and the reformed Christian denominations.
Even when this distortion is explained, there are still those who maintain that religious intolerance is at the core of the problems in the North. Perhaps the following hypothetical scenario might help them see the truth. It's 2006 in the North of Ireland, but not as we know it. There are no republican or nationalist political parties, just unionist. Northern Catholics have for many years abandoned their aspirations for Irish unification, and are now very comfortable with a British identify, fully supporting all manifestations of British political and cultural identity at all levels of society. There are no Irish speaking nursery, primary, or secondary schools. There are no Gaelic sports played. All Catholics can be clearly identified as British. In this context, do the doubters believe that sectarian attacks on Catholics would continue?
Fine Gael and Irish
I wish to express my absolute disgust regarding Fine Gael's recent policy decision on the Irish Language. I feel that this is a stunt by Fine Gael to attract the anti-Irish language vote particularly amongst naïve young people.
It is clear that many Irish people feel that Irish has no use in their lives and that secondary school pupils in the 26 counties hate their Irish classes at school. In my opinion, scrapping compulsory Irish for Leaving Cert. students is not the answer. The Irish Language, especially within the education system, needs to be completely reformed. A curriculum which concentrates on speaking the language instead of concentrating on grammar needs to be adapted. More important than anything is how the language is taught. Instead of just being taught as an academic subject, it needs to be taught as a living language, something that is a part of our identity. If it is not taught in a way that inspires a pupil to want to learn it then there is no wonder that young people resist it so much. The image of the language also needs to be reformed. Young people today feel that it is an old, dead language and associate it with the likes of Peig and old thatched cottages in rural Galway. If we are to succeed in reviving the language a modernised image needs to be out there. I feel that there is huge potential within Sinn Féin to be the driving force behind this renewal and revival.
Ursula Ní Shionnáin,
Civil War information sought
I am researching the Civil War period, in particular the 77 Volunteers executed by the Free State. I would greatly appreciate any information e.g. last letters or photographs of the following executed volunteers.
Volunteers Joseph Spooner executed Beggers Bush Dublin 30 Nov 1922, Patrick Farrelley executed Beggars Bush Dublin 30 Nov 1922, 1923 Leo Dowling Portobello 8 Jan, Sylvester Heaney Portobello 8 Jan, Terence Brady Portobello 8 Jan, John McNulty Dundalk 13 Jan, Thomas Murray Dundalk 13 Jan, John Clifford Tralee 20 Jan, James Melia Dundalk 22 Jan, William Conroy Birr Offaly 26 Jan, Patrick Geraghty Portlaoise 27 Jan, Joseph Byrne Portlaoise 27 Jan, John Newell Tuam 11 April and Edward Greanney.
I intend to launch Seventy Seven of Mine said Ireland a book containing biographical material on the 77 Volunteers in late summer 2006.
Mr. Martin O'Dwyer,
Cashel Folk Village,