Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Letters: Hate crime laws make a mockery of the courts

On the day that Ku Klux Klan flags appeared in Belfast, supporters cheered those who were getting sentenced for their involvement in the killing of Coleraine community worker Kevin McDaid.

That is not normal, civilised, or acceptable in a society which is telling the world it is capable of government.

Several of those sentenced had previous convictions, which is surely an indication that the law is not working and certainly not achieving the level of shame or remorse that should accompany hideous crimes such as the killing of Kevin McDaid and the brutal injuries suffered by others.

This case surely raises serious issues about the effectiveness of the hate laws as they are presently constituted and their relativity (given that the defendants were loudly cheered in court).

These laws must be reviewed to establish why such behaviour can happen with no indication that hate crimes are on the wane.

On the contrary, the appearance of Ku Klux Klan flags is an indication that the law is to be treated with contempt, as happened in court this week.

There is much to be learned from the tragedy in Coleraine, but if the rising scourge of hate crime is not addressed then there will be more tragedies and more cheering in courts.

JOHN DALLAT (SDLP)

MLA for East Londonderry

Guilt of Harris will outweigh everything else

Although I abhor the activities of Rolf Harris, it is with a certain sadness that I realise that a great career over many decades has been virtually wiped from the pages of theatrical history as a result of the guilty verdicts at his trial. In future Harris will be remembered for his sexual activities and not for his ability to entertain.

Over the years Harris has entertained us on television, in theatres and with Jake The Peg, Two Little Boys and Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport. His ability to paint a picture before your very eyes was an act of great talent.

In the weeks and months to come, will he regret those moments of madness that have taken him from the top of the bill to the bottom of the trough?

Fame is fleeting — never quicker than when found guilty in a court of law.

COLIN BOWER

By email

Honours system needs overhaul

Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris were loaded with honours.

Surely the honours system should be changed to prevent further embarrassing mistakes, the private lives of public figures being as thoroughly and systematically investigated as the Vatican does those of prospective saints, and the names of television celebrities only put up for gongs if it can be proved that praying to them has performed miracles.

PETER FORSTER

By email

Women should help elect Pope

A good way of introducing women into the establishment hierarchy of the Catholic Church would be the designation of female cardinals, who would then have a say in voting for future Popes and, thus, to some extent, encourage policies which would favour women.

My understanding of Canon Law would indicate that Pope Francis could start this ball rolling.

MALACHY McANESPIE

Dunmurry

Where is SF’s shared future over marches?

Where is this shared future that Sinn Fein keeps shouting for in Northern Ireland?

It is certainly not shown at Drumcree, or at Ardoyne, where the threat of violence has prevented the Orange Order from walking along the public highway.

It would appear that Sinn Fein is only settling for its share to be 100% of everything. More than 50 years since I came to Northern Ireland, I have been a spectator when it was possible for me to witness this colourful and festive occasion of a Christian organisation, which doesn’t promote violence, as witnessed at Ardoyne when a concrete block was dropped on the head of a policewoman.

Nowhere in the world has there been a public highway closed for 14 years because of such hatred.

The sooner these highways are open for everyone the sooner the country may be heading for a peaceful future.

PANORAMA

Carryduff, Co Down

Equality display atop a bonfire

I am a tad surprised that your editorial (DebateNI, July 2) frowns on placing the Irish tricolour on traditional 11th-night bonfires — especially given your paper's perceived liberal attitude and support for an equality agenda.

It would take but a few seconds to trim the orange segment from the Irish tricolour before placing it on a traditional 11th-night bonfire, but with great equanimity and no evidence of bias the orange has traditionally been burnt together with the green.

However, you might also argue that this probably goes some way to explaining why the Orange Order, UUP and DUP argue so vehemently to retain academic selection and the grammar school education system.

BJM

Belfast

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