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Letters: Intertwined history of our old churches should be cherished


Gail Walker's piece on 'Churches such as St Patrick's ...' (July 18) reminds me of the last time I passed Donegall Street's St Patrick's Church, some years ago.

 I felt it a great pity, on reading the history plaque outside the church, that there was no reference to Lord Castlereagh, the then Foreign Secretary, being amongst the donors to the earlier St Patrick's - Castlereagh having donated 100 guineas to its building.

Again on recently passing the Presbyterian Church in Rosemary Street, the history plaque outside now omits reference to Alexander Stewart being of the congregation in the 18th century.

A link between St Patrick's and Rosemary Street Presbyterian, and more, is thus missed in that Alexander Stewart was the grandfather of Castlereagh - whom Henry Kissinger rates as one of the UK's great foreign secretaries and of whom John Bew has recently written an appreciative biography.

And so continuing the link down to St George's Parish Church in High Street.

The recently published history of St George's by Brian Walker has a print of the original St Patrick's, above a report from the Belfast Commercial Chronicle on a marriage ceremony of a Roman Catholic bride and a Church of Ireland bridegroom being jointly solemnised - probably in the parish church of St Anne, where the cathedral now stands - on December 24, 1816 by the rector of the recently built St George's Church (which was not licensed for marriages until 1817) and the curate of the recently built St Patrick's.

These are the inheritances (and what went wrong - the faults not being all on one side alone) that all too many of our young people nowadays know all too little about.



Bonfire Commission would solve problem

We need sensible leadership from unionist leaders now over bonfires or the unionist community will walk into the same mess it faced over marching.

Anyone over 30 remembers the years of Drumcree riots, where young Protestants were led into the arms of Satan by those who told them that marching a traditional route was a right worth fighting for.

Some politicians built their careers by talking tough over marching; eventually this led to the unwelcome Parades Commission.

Now the same political leaders are boasting that this was the most peaceful Twelfth in many years while conveniently ignoring the fact that it was peaceful because our parades kept to the decisions agreed with the Parades Commission.

The same pattern is being repeated over bonfires. DUP MLAs rush to condemn Belfast Council for implementing the rules relating to funding of parties in Sandy Row - funding was withdrawn because the bonfire broke the rules and the DUP clearly felt there should be no penalty. By contrast when the Sandy Row bonfire caused significant damage to a number of flats, the only advice the DUP MP seems to want to offer residents is that they should claim on their insurance. (Why should these residents face higher insurance premiums because of a failure by those in charge?)

Unless this issue is resolved before next summer, there is no alternative other than for people to start campaigning for a Bonfires Commission to mirror the work of the Parades Commission.

The rules could be very simple; any bonfire over 8ft tall needs to be registered with the Bonfire Commission and have a certificate from the Fire Brigade indicating it is located appropriately, with smaller local bonfires being dealt with as currently. No doubt there will be howls of protest from politicians desperate for votes, but once they realise that ordinary unionist people like myself will support this change the politicians will follow the people.


Worrying signs from Fermanagh Twelfth

As another Twelfth of July passes I thought it was a fitting time to pass some comments on the procession within Fermanagh.

An early start of 10.30am due to the television broadcast actually worked surprisingly well as everyone knew to be at the Assembly field by this time.

However, the lack of the authentic Twelfth atmosphere leading up to this point was noticeable with no music audible from bands and lodges parading to the Assembly field and this factor was a significant minus.

The field and venue of Lisbellaw was greatly lacking in toileting facilities. This is a terrible disadvantage to everyone in attendance particularly those with disabilities, the elderly and females - this is an issue that must be addressed by County Grand lodge.

The parade itself was more compact than usual due to the live broadcast and this was an improvement, however, there were significant periods when there were stoppages of several minutes at a time which were rather infuriating, coupled with the fact that most bands refused to play music when the parade was motionless which was also disappointing.

Within the procession it was noticeable that there was a reduction in the number of bands on parade in Fermanagh and these bands are a great loss to the Orange community of Fermanagh and nothing is being done to reverse this trend. Lodge numbers continue to dwindle and one wonders if anything being done to address this?

Far too many stragglers within parades are wearing jeans and casual clothing including some who claim to be juniors - this is unacceptable. Some words of praise for Newtownbutler district, Ballinamallard accordion, Churchill and Lisnaskea silver as well Tievemore pipe band, however as with many of the lodges, some of the bands are in dire straits.

Overall while there have been disputes over the actual figures on parade in Fermanagh we can all agree they are dwindling and very soon it's going to end if immediate action is not taken, how one craves for those good old Orange Twelfths of yore in Fermanagh.


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Tobacco firms should be made fund hospitals

In addition to control measures "to create a smoke-free generation", community service could be used to make tobacco companies face the consequences of their anti-social actions.

Public health minister Steve Brine could make them fund and run hospitals and hospices to exclusively treat and care for their sick and dying victims.



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