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:: Letters to the Editor
Buncrana's re-naming an 'Amazing Disgrace'
I am a Down man through and through but a frequent visitor to Co
Donegal, both Tir Chonail and Inishowen. I was therefore interested
in your coverage of the recent opening of the 'Amazing Grace'
While any event that can bring Sinn Féin and the DUP together is to
be welcomed, I feel that Inishowen and Buncrana, in particular, are
in danger of overselling the somewhat tenuous link between the area
and the composition of John Newton's well-loved hymn 'Amazing
Newton's ship docked in Lough Swilly a fortnight after Newton had
experienced a near-death conversion during a violent storm. This was
one of numerous epiphanies Newton had during his lifetime.
His defining one was in Liverpool when, sick with fever, he finally
embraced Christianity on May 10, 1848. So Merseyside would seem to
have a higher claim to be 'Amazing Grace Country' than Buncrana.
Even then Newton's conversion was imperfect as he continued to trade
in slaves for several years thereafter.
It was to be a quarter of a century later that Newton was to compose
his best-known hymn wherein he makes no specific mention of Buncrana,
Lough Swilly or even of the sea.
Inishowen and Buncrana are steeped in history. Colm Cille, the
O'Neills, MacLochlainn and O'Doherty clans, Wolfe Tone, John Doherty
and Agnes Jones are only a few of those associated with the area and
with the town.
The proliferation therefore of tacky mono-lingual signs at every
entrance to and exit from Buncrana welcoming visitors to the area,
now arbitrarily re-designated 'Amazing Grace Country', represents at
once the banalisation of history by soundbite and the biggest
landgrab in Inis Eoghain since the invasion by John De Courcy.
The signs themselves would be more appropriate to Nashville than to
Ireland. Like the polypropylane statue of St Pio at St. Eigne's
shrine, they are demeaning both to the area they seek to publicise
and the individual they purport to honour. After a decent interval
they should be removed and recycled.
Brian Mac Giolla Pheadair (Brian Patterson)
Parents can direct their child's education
As the first phase of the national parental survey on school
patronage draws to a close what will the results mean for Irish
Much opinion has been given in the media about the volume of
response rate, good or bad - but this is missing the point.
The real power of the survey is that parents for the first time,
have a chance to direct the future shape of the Irish educational
This bottom up approach, which has been the defining characteristic
of the Educate Together movement, is giving parents a role in
infrastructure planning that will serve that State and all patron
As for survey numbers and their ultimate meaning, there is a simple
conclusion to be drawn. In all five areas that have published
results one patron body was a clear first choice, Educate Together.
Also in each of those areas the numbers of parents that selected
Educate Together were amply sufficient to support a viable school.
There, surely, is the answer to the fundamental question on this
whole process. Is there sufficient demand in distinct areas across
the country to support the establishment of schools under alternate
Yes there is. The results of the remaining 38 survey areas that will
emerge in the coming weeks will also show viable support for many
more schools under alternate patronage models.
11-12 Hogan Place,