The latest developments in the Brexit saga which now means that the Northern Ireland Protocol will be implemented just after January 1 given the climb down by Boris Johnson and his government from the contentious clauses of the Internal Market Bill underscores that the light of democracy must be allowed to shine.
It is all the more clear that the issue of restoration of voting rights in EU Parliamentary elections for NI residents assumes a heightened importance for all Northern Ireland residents regardless of whether they hold an Irish or a British passport. Simply put, their democratic rights must be restored in the European Parliament context given the significant role whereby EU funding will continue to be allocated here for years to come on the investment, social development and peace building fronts.
Northern Ireland must have elected voices for all communities in Europe to ensure those funds are spent in the interest of all and not simply administered by an unaccountable collective of appointed bureaucrats. These key concerns are equal in importance to the substantive matters covered in the Northern Ireland Protocol for business and trade. All of these issues also have a direct bearing on the environment and the daily lives of every citizen here.
As we have continued to stress – it is well within the competence of the taoiseach to make this happen.
Having access to the European Parliament with representation for all the residents of the island of Ireland is something Micheál Martin can give effect to within the structures of the EU as noted by the president of the European Council to us in 2018 that Ireland can activate as a member state. The relevance of this to the taoiseach’s stated Shared Ireland goals for all residents of this island no matter what party or identity and regardless of creed, gender or race is clear in the here and now. It would provide an important starting point by being able to access the European Parliament together, in advancing co-operation together on common core issues like the environment, employment and social equality for example.
As we have noted consistently to Micheál Martin and his predecessor Leo Varadkar it is well within the taoiseach’s authority to provide the leadership to make this democratic right real in Europe by championing the rights of all the residents of this island. It will give needed substance to the Shared Island Unit he has created within his own office.
While building roads and bridges on the island are indeed worthy as an objective of the Shared Island initiative the best bridge of all is the one that the taoiseach can build between all the people of this island by ensuring that the citizens of Northern Ireland continue to have access to democratic participation in the European Parliament like the rest of the island of Ireland.
What could be a better place to start and to show the naysayers that the Shared Ireland Unit is indeed more than a talk shop? Again the examples from French territories and Cyprus alike show how these EU parliamentary voting rights can be extended to all on this island.
FRANK COSTELLO and CIARAN WHITE
Ciaran White is a barrister and law lecturer at Ulster University while Dr Francis Costello is an historian and former fellow of the Centre for Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queens University
Let us dispense the vaccine and not the political spin
Rcently on BBC Radio Ulster, they were discussing vaccines, their safety and their efficacy.
One host implied that the Russian vaccine Sputnik V was unsafe as President Putin had refused to take it.
100,000 Russians have already been vaccinated with India set to produce more than 100 million vaccine doses.
To denigrate the Russian vaccine purely because the president has not taken it is unpalatable.
Yet the same presenter has guest after guest extolling the efficacy and safety of the Pfizer/BioNTech, Covid-19 vaccine. It needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees which will prove a huge obstacle when it comes to transportation and distribution.
Will the people who need it most, while confined to nursing homes and indeed their own homes be able to access it?
I am calling on the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister, the Health Minister and the Chief Medical Officer to publicly take leadership of this issue and be seen to take the vaccine first, to reassure the populace at large that the vaccine which they claim is safe is just that.
Let us stick to the facts shall we and dispense the vaccine, not the political spin that keeps the lights on.
Pandemic not an individual rights matter
I have been struck by the number of people who are refusing to avail of the upcoming vaccination programme for Covid-19. The populism of the last decade appears to have linked with a major social attitude of the 1980s, the pursuit of self-interest. Margaret Thatcher’s infamous remark – ‘There is no such thing as society’ – seemed to postulate that the economy could only survive if people watched out purely for themselves. This self-centred philosophy is dominant in the anti-vaccination movement that has been propelled by social media. The message that the value of individual conscience trumps responsibility to others in the community is concerning.
I believe that Covid-19 will die out before the anti-vaccination message. Thankfully a majority of people have admiration and sympathy for the herculean efforts of the national health system and will embrace vaccination procedures.
This pandemic is not an individual rights matter, it is a community protection issue. I look forward to leaders, across all sections of our society, actively rebutting the anti-vaccine arguments.
Striking a serious blow for Ulster
I write to support beleaguered Lord Maginnis. Back in the 1980s Ken Maginnis, as he was then known, flew by British Airways (BA) to London. To his horror he discovered that the butter supplied by BA was produced in the Republic of Ireland. He complained bitterly via the House of Commons and BA responded by providing butter labelled ‘Produce of the EEC (now EU). So there you have it, Ken striking a serious blow for Ulster (well a third of it maybe).
The fact that the EEC butter was RoI butter is neither here nor there.