Letters: Learning from the past to plan a better way forward for Northern Ireland

After his imprisonment at a young age, David Ervine went on to live a life of courage

Letters to the Editor

Some railway stations now have shelves where travellers deposit books for others to lift free of charge. Charity shops also recycle lots of used books at low cost as Kindle and online reading becomes ever more popular. Second-hand biographies are often eye-opening and filled with unexpected or new slants. Two have caught my eye in recent weeks.

Uncharted Waters charts the amazing life of the late David Ervine (1953-2007), noted for his bravery in challenging the Northern Ireland community stalemate and being an architect of the Good Friday Agreement.

The book reflects on how, in 1972, a day of bombings in Belfast city centre drew Mr Ervine to join a paramilitary group. During later imprisonment he was forced to honestly appraise his life and to consider how to live much more positively.

A Kinder Story examines how the lives of Eva and Michel Gross were disrupted as a result of the Nazi regime. Michel Gross poses an interesting question (relevant to Northern Ireland readers) in the concluding pages of his life testimony.

He quotes a 1999 speech by Isaac Herzog – the current Israeli president – in which a case was made for having a national monument to the tragedy of “the Holocaust genocide”.

Does Belfast need a public monument to the Troubles in a neutral and shared community space, where the tragic death and injury of so many people can be remembered in a meaningful and positive way? One lesson of the Good Friday Agreement is that it is never too early to start talking about new possibilities and directions, even if immediate progress or consensus seems unlikely.

James Hardy Belfast

Good Friday Agreement not the success it’s made out to be

It seems everyone is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. It does have its merits but are most people looking at it through rose-tinted glasses? If the Good Friday Agreement is so good, how come the Assembly has frequently not functioned for years on end?

The Executive has been collapsed and suspended numerous times, as it is now. That’s a sure sign that things are not healthy.

How come, in the 25 years since, sectarian divisions have remained? In some ways, they have even deepened. Walls that divide communities still tower over neighbourhoods in Belfast and other towns.

Many nationalists place their hope in the Good Friday Agreement as a way to achieve Irish unity and freedom. But how many are willing to admit that it removed all their power of agency to do anything about it? How many will accept that the decision to hold a referendum on Irish unity is entirely at the discretion of a UK minister? There is nothing that anyone in Ireland can do to trigger a border poll.

Lastly, while some may mark the occasion, have people noticed that most unionists no longer support the agreement? Is that something to celebrate or something to be concerned about?

Celebrating the Good Friday Agreement is fine and well, but political honesty needs to be part of such celebrations.

Seanán Ó Coistín An Caisleán Nua, Contae Átha Cliath

Varadkar should tell Electric Ireland to lower their prices

According to newspaper reports, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has sharply criticised Irish energy supply companies for failing to reduce their prices in line with the plummeting of wholesale gas and electricity prices in the latter half of 2022.

The country’s biggest energy supply company, Electric Ireland, is approximately 96.5pc owned by the Irish Government. Is the Taoiseach not criticising the Irish Government, of which he is the leader, when he criticizes Electric Ireland?

If Mr Varadkar really means what he says, can he not compel Electric Ireland to reduce their prices? Is he not, as Taoiseach, the overall “boss” of this state-owned company?

Considering that the profits from their parent company, the ESB, jumped last year from €128.4m to €390.3m, they can well afford to cut their prices.

They say they have increased their hardship fund by €2m to €5m. But nobody wants to go begging to a hardship fund. Most people want to be independent and to be able to pay their own way.

Martin Heneghan Dublin 3

We must equip ourselves to help compatriots abroad

Ireland is in a position where it must rely on EU allies to evacuate Irish citizens. This is down to our lack of aircraft capable of carrying out such missions. We also lack appropriate sea power. I think it is time we served the Irish abroad better.

Eve Parnell Dublin 8