Belfast Telegraph

A message to Mary Lou: if you want to unite Ireland, you must unite its people and leave war cries where they belong - in the past

Bad start: Mary Lou Mary Lou McDonald speaking at Sinn Fein’s special Ard Fheis, where she was elected the new party president
Bad start: Mary Lou Mary Lou McDonald speaking at Sinn Fein’s special Ard Fheis, where she was elected the new party president

By Lindy McDowell

Dear Mary Lou McDonald,

You don't know me so I expect you must be wondering why I chose to bother you with unsolicited mail at this busy juncture in your career.

But open letters seem to be a bit of a thing these days. Even that "smarmy" Leo Varadkar has been attracting a few, so why not one for you?

In your first address as Sinn Fein leader, you talked about how you wanted to win a referendum on Irish unity aimed at (presumably) us northern unionists with "respect, graciousness and generosity".

Fine words.

Unfortunately, however, offset somewhat by your closing cry in the same speech of "Up the rebels, tiocfaidh ar la".

Far be it from me to tell any political leader how to do her job, Mary Lou.

But if you really are serious about advancing outreach to those of us from a Nordie unionist background, I think it might be necessary to point out that using a slogan forever associated with a decades-long campaign of sectarian terrorist slaughter doesn't exactly inspire hope that you entirely grasp the concept of respect.

Intermittently, in the past, your party has launched itself on a similar 'outreach to the Prods'.

Party members tasked with heading this up have included (God help us!) former bomber Martina Anderson who was, at one point, grandly styled 'Director of Unionist Outreach'.

Trust me, Mary Lou. If you don't see how Martina might have been a poor choice for the role, you really do need to get up here.

And meet the odd Prod.

Because we truly are not all, as regularly portrayed by your friend Gerry, privileged and bigoted backwoodsmen and women. Nobody ever did condescension, Mary Lou, quite like Gerry Adams. A man so concerned about his legacy he himself, tellingly, has left the tiocfaidh ar la-ing far behind.

This is the same Gerry who will never admit to ever being in the Provos. But wants us all to know he's been in Pilates.

In rewriting his history, this same supposedly "rebel" leader has gone from deep republican green to a shade that today might best be described as hipster smashed avocado.

Gerry never did manage to crack the unification thing.

And you won't either, Mary Lou, unless you accept it isn't the unification of the island of Ireland that's key.

It's the unification of the people of Ireland.

The unification, in particular, of the people of Northern Ireland, unionist and nationalist. Gerry believed that could be achieved easily. If only those pesky unionists would just catch themselves on and become republicans.

Do you see it as that simplistic, Mary Lou?

You need to learn a bit about us unionists up here. You might even be stunned to discover just how very few of us are from that background of privilege Gerry suggests. Unlike yourself who had what I would regard as very much an elitist upbringing, many hundreds of thousands of us Protestants come from the hard working class. We are council house unionism.

Bigoted backwoodsmen? Sure, you'll find a few, as in any section of the community.

But there are many, many too (like myself) who will have no problem with gay marriage, whose only objection to the Irish language is seeing it used as a weapon (by Sinn Fein), and who want to see an Assembly that works to improve life for all of us who live up here.

Which brings us back to that "tiocfaidh ar la" speech sign-off of yours.

Perhaps in the moment, last weekend, that did seem like an appropriate rallying cry.

But, Mary Lou, it was also the rallying cry of a murderous terror outfit whose only real 'achievement' was the needless, horrendous butchery of hundreds of men, women and children.

And whose long campaign of sectarian hatred served only to paint that border you so want to see removed a deeper, indelible, bloody red.

It's 2018, Mary Lou McDonald. You need to wise up.

Their day has gone.


Human rights get cold shoulder from Kim

Kim Jong Un obviously didn't get the memo on grid girls following this week's display of what's been described as his "army of beauties" cheering on the combined Korean team at the Winter Olympics.

The girls are indeed beautiful. Modestly attired in Communist red puffa. Here's the thing, though. Unlike the unfairly maligned grid girls, what freedom do these young women really have? Like many another feminists, I do care about the objectifying of young women. But I also care about human rights.

Which is why I worry more about the Kim cheerleaders than those girls currently earning a decent living as the "army of beauties" at Formula 1. Or, indeed, the North West 200.

Don't destroy Oxfam over few bad apples

We moved house recently.

And we did what I imagine most people do when they're downsizing.

We gave a lot of stuff to charity shops.

In our case a massive cache of books to Oxfam.

I don't for a second regret that, even in the light of those recent horrendous stories about Oxfam officials and lurid allegations about what may have happened in disaster areas where the aid agency was working.

To my mind, none of this detracts from the good work still being done by so many good and honourable workers back here whose priority is, and always has been, helping people. They too have been betrayed.

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