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North still divided

Sir -- At the end of John-Paul McCarthy's article (Sunday Independent, April 3, 2011) it states that the writer "holds a doctorate in Irish history from Oxford." Well, good for him, but is that relevant, when in his piece he writes not as an historian but as a polemicist?

In his hatchet job on Olivia O'Leary, his thesis seems to be that Northern Ireland was a normal part of the UK where Catholics/Nationalists lived on roughly equal footing with Protestants/Unionists.

This is absurd, as any number of historians with doctorates could tell us. NI was a deeply unjust state.

On Joe Duffy's Liveline programme on RTE this week there were very moving accounts from people bereaved during the Troubles.

One was from a woman whose sister, a young Catholic teacher, was murdered by the IRA. Another was from a man whose mother, a Catholic, was murdered in retaliation by Loyalists. Yet another was from the daughter of a young man murdered by the British Army. It was striking how little bitterness was displayed by these good people. However, listening to them, it was clear Northern Ireland is still a divided, dysfunctional and scarred society.

Surely it would be better if John-Paul McCarthy and his ilk turned their minds to ways and means of improving this situation rather than indulging in pointless holier-than-thou recriminations.

Niall Ward,

Hampton, London

Sunday Independent