Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Wrong message sent in letter to Taoiseach

Editor's Viewpoint

Any letter signed by 1,000 people is worthy of attention, and yesterday's open letter to Leo Varadkar by northern nationalists is certainly worth considering.

Published in the Irish News, it appeals to the Taoiseach to "defend the rights" of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland due to Brexit and the political stalemate here.

There is clearly dismay among unionists at the obvious appropriation of concerns about rights by an exclusively nationalist consensus in the letter.

They detect an inference that unionists do not care about rights, and that they are unconcerned about the implications of Brexit. Such assumptions are unfair, and cannot go unchallenged.

The Taoiseach has made strong interventions and statements about northern politics of late, and these may have encouraged nationalists here to assume they have a special relationship with Dublin that is not shared by unionists.

What is unfortunate is the divisive tone of the latest letter which, deliberately or not, serves to underline the divisions within Northern Ireland.

It is particularly worrying that the letter does not recognise the Good Friday Agreement as the foundation document for the relative progress over the past 20 years.

This is hardly surprising, when people are preoccupied with the concerns of only one side. This makes it more difficult to promote the ethos of a new politics that is supposed to be about "a shared place".

It is sad that two decades of relative process can be simply brushed aside at the stroke of a pen, as people either consciously or unconsciously walk back into their own familiar political and community silos.

In contrast, the Belfast Telegraph published a letter from Alan McBride who suffered grievously through the loss of family during the Troubles.

Mr McBride rightly called on Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill to have a meaningful debate. This was a heartfelt recognition that the solution to our political problems must come from within.

To appeal over the heads of your fellow citizens to the leader of another country, as the signatories of the letter to the Taoiseach have done, is to seek an external solution.

If Mr Varadkar has the interests of Northern Ireland at heart, as we hope and assume he has, he would mark this letter from northern nationalists "Return to Sender", with a note on the envelope for them to talk to their unionist neighbours here, and not to him.

Belfast Telegraph

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