I always scan letters to newspapers.
Published: 14 September 2021
Contributors know they have to be brief to be published, so they often can sum up very pithily what columnists tease out at much greater length.
This, last week, in the Irish Sunday Independent, impressed me greatly.
The context was the pillorying of Simon Coveney, the foreign minister. Now I am no fan of Coveney, for many reasons.
The second most important for me is what he has done to get the Republic a reputation for being the most anti-Israel in Europe (but, hey, he needed the votes of many Arab nations to win Ireland a seat on the UN Security Council).
The first is what I see as his ham-fisted — often sectarian — meddling in Northern Ireland.
What is pretty low down my list is that he allowed himself to be relentlessly pressurised by Katherine Zappone, a remorselessly progressive and shamelessly pushy American LGBT activist (who for complicated reasons related to the unintended consequences of proportional representation was once an Irish government minister and from 2020, having lost her seat, became a full-time US-based volunteer in the Joe Biden presidential campaign) into appointing her Special Envoy to the UN for Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
When it emerged that he had not got round to telling the Taoiseach about this, it became a media storm and Sinn Fein, of course, made the most of it, denouncing cronyism and threatening a vote of no-confidence.
I was not alone in finding this even by their standards staggeringly hypocritical.
Yep! The party that exercised its patronage in Northern Ireland by giving safe seats and jobs to old jail comrades, and whose strategy throughout the island is influenced by the (unelected) IRA Army Council, accuses democratic political parties of cronyism — hoping, as usual, that what happens in Northern Ireland stays in Northern Ireland.
So I cheered the 75 outraged words from Chris Fitzpatrick of Dublin 6.
“The hypocrisy of Mary Lou McDonald and her party never ceases to astound me. Bloated with moral indignation at the political misdemeanours of Simon Coveney, Sinn Féin continues to defend the indefensible past actions of unrepentant Armalite-toting killers, car-bombers, incendiary-planters, kidnappers, knee-cappers, baseball bat-wielders, bank-robbers, racketeers — as well as the kangaroo-court judges, executioners, and gravediggers of the disappeared.
“Before deciding on further actions against Coveney, Sinn Fein needs to review its moral indignation scoring system.”
Unlike letters, readers’ posts reacting to published article do not have to pass an editorial test though they are sometimes axed for fear of legal action.
I thought this one from Douglas Templeton in the Comments of the Scottish section of the London Times was a 209-word cracker that would resonate with many Northern Ireland readers being bullied and bored by nationalist activists pushing the United Ireland agenda.
“I read many articles in the Times which imply that independence would happen, if only the economics were right and we had a competent ‘government’ in Holyrood. I reject that assumption. I am a Scot, born in Scotland, living in Scotland. I love my country; I am proud of its history, its culture, its sense of humour and fair play. My career was in England, my daughters were born in England. I feel equally at home in London as in Edinburgh, many of my friends are English.
“My forefathers fought under British standards alongside their English comrades in the mud of Flanders and on the beaches of Normandy. I rage at the SNP for wishing to break these familial, emotional and historical ties between the nations, and for creating daily divisiveness in our society. They have even appropriated the flag of Scotland; the saltire is now umbilically linked to Scottish independence.
“To me, and many like me, the SNP brand is toxic, their current and previous leader more so; their daily infantile grievances agenda shames our nation. History will not judge them kindly, nor remember them fondly. My country is, and remains, the United Kingdom. We are not all a parcel of rogues, bought and sold for English gold.”
You don’t have to be a unionist to wince with recognition at the phrases “daily divisiveness” and “daily infantile grievances”.
I am an unrepentant Brexiteer and admit that the result of the referendum on EU membership was divisive — though not in the way that breaking up the United Kingdom would be — though I blame a lot of that on the sore losers dubbed Remoaners. But for Sinn Fein, just like the SNP, every day is dominated by the search for yet another weapon to try to force a vote on a constitutional issue that neither the Scots nor the Irish (north and south) want and to use that issue to hide their own incompetence in government.
An enraged Times commentator, Michael Glackin wrote as pithily as a letter-writer of Nicola Sturgeon’s “squandered” hundreds of millions on failed business initiatives and that “seven years into her tenure as first Minister, Scotland is suffering from collapsing public services, particularly in health and education, falling investment, low productivity, a youth unemployment timebomb, the highest drug death rate in Europe, and record numbers of children living in poverty” while she talks on about another referendum.
God help the Republic if Sinn Fein takes power.