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Belfast Zoo has problems, but the city council can help eradicate those by seeking adequate funding

I was dismayed to read Rebecca Black's report (News, November 1) about the accreditation problems for Belfast Zoo, as I'm sure both campaigners for and against the zoo were.

As members of the zoo, my family and I find immeasurable worth in this place. Our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter adores the place. However, I would accept that the zoo is, in places, in a shocking state. But I think this fault lies squarely with Belfast City Council.

The keepers we have spoken to are professional, passionate, caring and, frankly, amazing with the animals they look after. And, from what they have said, the council has missed a multitude of opportunities for external funding and support - including the offer by a local company of two Land-Rovers, only to be turned down by the council as this company wanted their branding on them and the council refused this.

To see a zoo done really well, go to Dublin. Here, the funding from local companies makes a huge difference.

Most notably for us, it is impossible to throw things to the animals, due to appropriate defences from the public, unlike in Belfast, where idiotic people throw crisps to chimps daily.

We learned that a baby sea lion died due to a bag of crisps getting lodged in its throat and causing an infection. The public need to be educated more effectively.

UUP councillor Chris McGimpsey has his views, but suggesting that we give even more glowing screens for our children to stare at in order for them to learn about exotic animals is, at worst, irresponsible.

I would appeal to people not to boycott this place, but to support it; to urge the council to seek funding for each enclosure, therefore improving the living conditions and making it a place of learning and enjoyment for all.



Ulster Scots trying to claim CS Lewis absurd

It would be remiss of me to deny a tremor of scepticism on receiving an invitation to attend the recent CS Lewis exhibition launch in the Linen Hall Library. The presentation would reflect the influence of Ulster Scots on his life and his writing.

In his opening remarks, Ulster Scots Agency CEO Ian Crozier placed Lewis alongside Seamus Heaney by way of his literary contribution to the Ulster Scots language/dialect.

Notwithstanding the excellent talk on the genealogy of CS Lewis, what he contributed to the Hamely Tongue, as I perceive it, shone dimly to the point of non-existent and to compare him with Heaney in that respect is an absurd assertion.

Seamus Heaney used more Ulster Scots words in one stanza (14 to be exact) of his tribute poem to Robert Burns than CS Lewis used in his entire literary career.

While appreciating the Ulster Scots Agency's desire to claim such a literary giant as Lewis, where will it end?

Do they have more surprises on their bandwagon of prominent people whose contribution to society reflect the influence of Ulster Scots? Mahatma Ghandi? Che Guevara?

I think we should be told.



Brexit now heading for long, drawn-out battle

This has the makings of a constitutional crisis - a potential stand-off between the Government and the courts. It is not about whether the UK can, or should, leave the EU. Unless parliament takes a different view, that issue has been settled by the recent referendum.

The question is: does the Government have the power to start the withdrawal process? Or does it need the express permission of parliament first? The High Court says it does; so far, the Government has disagreed.

The Government has been given permission to appeal. If the appeal proceeds,it could be heard by Supreme Court judges in December.

We also anticipate the Scottish and Welsh governments will seek permission to intervene, so their arguments can be heard as well.

It is also at least possible that the parties in the recent Northern Ireland Brexit-related case will also apply for permission to intervene, so their arguments can be heard at the same time.

The Supreme Court might hand down its decision before the end of the year - although, with so many parties, and so much at stake, this cannot be guaranteed.


By email

Make poetry and not war to solve conflicts

Religions are based on scripture, which is mostly poetry. So, it only makes sense that religious conflict must be resolved through poetry and not through politics, negotiation, or war.

I propose that all religious conflicts be redefined poetically, so that they can be resolved without bloodshed, winners, or losers.

So, let's sharpen our words, not our swords; send missives, not missiles; and apply our minds to metaphor, simile, rhyme, meter and prosody, but not pomposity, animosity, ferocity, atrocity, or monstrosity.


By email

Information sought on McCooeys actor John

I edit the website and I'm working on a profile of local stage and screen actor John McBride.

He is perhaps best known for his character Sammy McCooey in Joseph Tomelty's legendary BBC Northern Ireland-produced radio series The McCooeys, broadcast in the years 1949-1955.

Any information that your readers may have on John would be gratefully received.


Please share stories of The Who in Belfast

It is more than 50 years since The Who exploded onto the British music scene to become one of the world's most iconic rock bands, famed for hits like My Generation and Pinball Wizard.

But they started out playing around the clubs and ballrooms of the UK, earning a reputation as a hard-working group honing their craft as a live act.

I am writing a people's history of The Who and hope some of your readers may have seen them perform in their early days, perhaps even one of their appearances at the Ulster Hall in Belfast in June 1967.

I'd love to hear from anyone who saw the band perform around this time and who'd be willing to share with me their memories.

I can be contacted on, or by letter at 1 Totnes Road, Manchester, M21 8XF.



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