8 August 2002 Edition

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Mala Poist

News Letter takes umbrage

A Chairde,

Laura Friel quotes extensively, if somewhat selectively, from a News Letter editorial in her interesting front page article 'Unionist Dilemma Anything But Moral'.

Unfortunately, she also draws some unwarranted conclusions as to the meaning of our words.

In describing loyalist violence as essentially a security issue, we did not imply, as she infers, that 'no one need trouble their political head about loyalist violence' nor were we suggesting that 'there are no answers to be sought and no sanctions to be taken'.

Had we been guilty of such complacency, it would have been in contradiction of any number of editorials which have consistently and unreservedly condemned loyalist violence against the Catholic community or anyone else.

Even if is she is unwilling to acknowledge it, I am sure Ms Friel understands perfectly well the distinction we made in the context of an editorial which specifically addressed the issue of political sanctions against parties in government. Early in the editorial we stated: "Sinn Féin are in a unique position because they are helping to run the country".

No loyalist party associated with paramilitaries comes anywhere close to that level of power and influence in Northern Irish politics. Consequently, they aren't part of this particular equation.

Neither did we accept, even obliquely, that 'the republican threat is largely a myth'. Ms Friel obviously penned her words before the murder of construction worker David Caldwell but has she so quickly forgotten the Omagh bombing?

The Real IRA's intentions seem perfectly clear and if there are doubts about the veracity of the Provisional IRA ceasefire it is because it has failed, to coin a phrase, to 'inspire maximum public confidence' about its commitment to peace and democracy.

One other point: not being a regular reader of An Phoblacht, I haven't heard the News Letter referred to as 'the Orangemen's tabloid' since I was a lad. More recent independent research shows that 20 per cent of our readership is from the nationalist community (not likely to be Orangemen) and nearly half of all our readers are women!

Geoff Martin,
Editor, The News Letter

Fees by the back door

A Chara,

I am writing to express my disgust at the government's move to increase the registration fees for third level students by almost 70%. It is a typically cynical move in attempting to reintroduce university tuition fees by the back door.

The third level students of today are those that will contribute most to building a successful Ireland in the future. The government have claimed that those students affected will be well able to afford the increase. This is a continual ignoring of the fact that third level students are adults and can no longer be dependent on their parents at home. We students are individuals in our own right and deserve an adequate living standard for the few years they spend at college.

The government has done nothing to tackle the well-documented problems faced by all students starting or continuing college. The lack of purpose-built student accommodation is a major issue. This results in students like myself trekking around Dublin and other cities in search of accommodation. Students may often be left to make do with paying exorbitant rents to live in unsanitary conditions.

The government has failed to deal adequately with the student grants issue. A student grant would no longer even pay for the rent alone in Dublin, never mind other necessities. There are also all the other added costs of books, food etc. The list is endless.

However, instead of attempting to deal with these issues, the government has simply heaped more costs on students. Students should not be seen as whingers always looking for more; students are the future of this country and their education should be seen as an investment in a successful Ireland.

Ciarán Doherty,
Chair, Trinity College Sinn Féin

Gibraltar lesson?

A Chairde,

Observing the rise in republicanism over the last few years, it has become increasingly obvious that eventually Sinn Féin will have the opportunity to become part of a coalition government in the 26 Counties.

In that case, may I suggest we look closely at Spain's tactics in its row with Britain over the colony of Gibraltar. Spain has used its membership of the EU to great effect by repeatedly blocking British initiatives, and it does make you wonder what might have happened in 1981 if Haughey had had the guts to freeze EEC business until in the short term Britain conceded the five demands and, in the longer term, withdrew from Ireland.

Ireland has had this power since 1972. It has never been used and no doubt members of Fianna Fáil will claim that for economic reasons we could not have taken such a risky approach. Thankfully, Ireland has always produced men and women to whom liberty was worth any risk.

John Taylor,
Co Down

Maskey's wreath

A Chairde,

I generally support Mr Maskey's wreath-laying in memory of all those killed in the imperialist slaughter that was World War I and agree with the sentiments of many who have written in support of it.

I'd like to offer a suggestion to Sinn Féin on another event Mr Maskey will be confronted with soon. I've heard that in November he will be obligated to take part in some Rememberance Day event(s). In some ways, I understand republican hostility towards the Poppy, as there is no doubt that the British Army has done horrible things in Ireland and remains part of the problem. However, if Mr. Maskey does take part in such an event, let me suggest that he could focus on remembering those members of the British military who fought fascism in World War II.

Although the Allied effort in WWII was not above criticism (the bombing of cities and the failure to do anything outside the general war effort to stop the Final Solution, were a couple of aspects easily condemnable), I believe that once Hitler attacked Czechoslovakia some kind of war was unavoidable. Once the possibility of a diplomatic solution was passed, I believe the defeat of the fascist states, and the halting of the Holocaust (even if it wasn't a motivation, the fact is that by defeating the Nazis the Allies stopped this genocide) was worth the horrible death and destruction of war. Every mile that the Allies penetrated into Axis territory saved Jewish lives.

I know of course that the Irish government was neutral and the IRA collaborated with the Germans. While I fully accept that this was not based on any ideological sympathy for fascism, it was still wrong for them to do so. Unless they already have, I would invite Sinn Féin to publicly acknowledge that it was wrong of the IRA to have done this and that the Allied effort should have been supported. I believe that struggle against fascism and genocide left no room for neutrality.

To those who say the Irish couldn't support the Allies because of British oppression in Ireland, I would point out that the one American army battallion that saw more combat than any other in Europe was entirely made up of Japanese-Americans, at a time when most Japanese people in America were being interned.

I would also like to say to Brian Anson of France, there's nothing wrong with saying a prayer for the young working-class men London sent to kill and be killed in Ireland. If I had been alive during the Vietnam War, I would have supported the National Liberation Front, but whenever I watch movies about it, I also feel so sorry for those young American men who were put into such a horrible situation. Although it was necessary for the IRA to kill British soldiers, it doesn't mean that they were bad people and I am glad that the recent appology from the IRA also addressed the grief of their families.

Tom Shelley
Boulder, Colorado,

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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