Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Morality is greater than sectarian lines

Bishop Pat Buckley
Bishop Pat Buckley

Editor's Viewpoint

In recent years, politics, both nationally and at local level, has thrown up surprising developments, not least the Tory Party's civil war over Brexit and its fallout in Northern Ireland which has created the most toxic political atmosphere for decades.

But two developments yesterday had even the most fervent political anoraks in the province searching their memory banks to find comparable utterances. The most pertinent was the call by a former SDLP MLA, Danny O'Connor, on social media urging party supporters in the North Belfast constituency to vote for the sitting MP Nigel Dodds of the DUP in preference to his main opponent, John Finucane of Sinn Fein.

Given that the SDLP is not running in North Belfast to give Sinn Fein a better opportunity to seize the seat and add to the pro-Remain vote, Mr O'Connor's comments are astounding.

Yet, on closer examination, he makes a valid case for his decision.

It is based on his pro-life beliefs and the support he received in 2002 from Mr Dodds in jointly launching SPUC's pro-life culture.

And to show that this is not just an intervention in North Belfast, Mr O'Connor says he will support the DUP's Sammy Wilson in East Antrim in Thursday's election.

It takes considerable courage for someone in public life to admit so openly that he is willing to support a party which he fought against all his previous political life. To him, the sanctity of human life outweighs all other considerations and certainly base party politics. It is unfortunate that more politics are not fought on morality rather than sectarian lines in Northern Ireland.

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Mr Wilson is also receiving support from another surprising source - controversial cleric Bishop Pat Buckley, who argues validly that the seat will remain unionist-controlled no matter how nationalists like him vote.

Although he does not agree with Mr Wilson on many issues - most notably his own civil partnership - Bishop Buckley says the MP has been helpful to him in the past and is therefore deserving of his vote.

In the great scale of things, these two interventions will probably make very little difference but they should make us all avoid the myopia that blights politics here. The Orange and Green sectarian political strife will never be broken unless more people agree that the quality, and morality, of life here is greater than unionism or Irish unity.

Pupil’s touching tribute to an inspirational teacher

Many teachers probably never realise the huge impact they have on so many of the young people who pass through their classes.

But a Tyrone schoolboy is ensuring that an inspirational teacher at Drumragh Integrated College, Graham Peters, who died from cancer two years ago will not be forgotten.

He designed a calendar with a positive quote for each day to recall the teacher who loved quotes. And the money raised will go to a local cancer charity where the schoolboy, Jamie Harkin, volunteers weekly. Jamie’s entrepreneurial spirit is matched only by his humanity and Mr Peters would be very proud of him.

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