UUP should apologise for ” It’s Not Fair “

Dear Editor,

In response to the comments of Michael McCoy (Newsletter 2 March), I would stress that the UUP should be apologising to the people of Northern Ireland for putting out the sectarian leaflet, ‘It’s Not Fair’.

My comments were not directed at the mass of unionist voters, but rather those in the UUP leadership and the campaign director who are responsible for this publication.

There are very many unionist voters who have always upheld a tradition of civic unionism. Their unionism was based upon a belief that Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom was in the interests of all its people.

Gone is any notion of treating people as individuals, and distributing resources on the basis of need. Instead, the UUP future is all about measuring how Protestants compare to Catholics, and if there is any difference, then by implication it’s just not fair. As far the UUP Leadership is concerned, it is all about so-called ‘Protestant rights’.

There is always going to some degree of differentials in terms of wealth or poverty between different sections of the community. These will occur for a variety of reasons, not all to do with discrimination.

Let’s take the example of their complaints about water charges. They are stating the fact that Protestants will be asked to pay more than Catholics. Is there discrimination going on here, or is this merely a reflection of continuing, albeit declining, differentials in wealth and property size. The import of the warped UUP thinking is that Northern Ireland should be one of divided-up two communities, and both should be paying exactly the same level of tax. Furthermore, they are saying that resources should not be allocated on the basis of need, but a rigorously equal division between two sections of society.

A good many commentators have framed the choice for Northern Ireland between a shared future where people can live and learn, work and play together in safety, versus some form of ‘benign Apartheid’ where the divisions in this society become more and more fixed, and deep tensions within society have to be forever accepted (and never resolved).

The latter is a dead-end road. Unless a settlement is reached, the boiling pot of conflict will perpetuate an inefficient use of money and resources, and curtail people’s potential. It’s a recipe for economic and social disaster.

Of course what is happening in Northern Ireland is very different from what occurred in South Africa. But the concept of Apartheid can be applied to any situation, where arbitrary distinctions are drawn between people based on religion or race. In speaking up for ‘Protestant rights’ rather than the rights of all, this is what the UUP leadership are doing.

I firmly believe that the actions of the UUP leadership don’t reflect the views of a good proportion of grassroots unionists.

I think it is time for unionists to reject this sectarian campaign that the UUP is conducting.

Allan Leonard
Alliance Party

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