Doug Beattie, the Ulster Unionist Party leader, is so devoted to the silly notion of adding to his party by ‘slabbering on the green slippers of Irish Nationalism’ that he made the utterly bizarre attack upon Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice as was reported in today’s “Belfast telegraph”.
Beattie claimed that the perfectly rational request from Mr Allister of the health Minister: “What precautions are in place to prevent citizens of the Republic of Ireland from availing of free Covid-19 testing kits and facilities in Northern Ireland” was “unfortunately divisive”, adding that he “simply cannot understand this nonsense”.
He tweeted: “I’d happily share with my neighbour, the same neighbour who sent ambulances & crews to help us fight Covid … or put up helicopters to help us fight bushfires.”
Mr Beattie told the Belfast Telegraph that it is only “sensible” for anybody from the Republic crossing the border to be able to access a test if they need to. “It helps everybody if they use it and they know whether they have Covid or if they don’t… Covid does not respect borders,” he said.
Jim Allister’s question arose from reports that Northern Ireland pharmacies in border areas are regularly turning away people who have travelled from the Republic to pick up lateral flow tests (LFTs) provided free on the NHS. In the Republic those seeking LFTs have to pay between €5 and €8 per test. They will not be handing out free tests to anyone who seeks one from north of the border!!
Beattie’s attack on Mr Allister shows that he truly leads a party many call ‘The Upside-down UselessParty’! The question we would ask ‘Dumbo’ Beattie is this: “Have the ambulances and crews he claims the Irish Republic sent to help us fight Covid or the helicopters put up to help us fight bushfires, come to us FREE, without charge?”
I most assuredly doubt that such would be the case. That is not how foreign governments ‘help’ the UK! One has only to think of the £millions paid to France to obtain their help in the ‘migrant’ crisis! It was reported in Westminster in 2020 “The government has paid £114 million to the French government in order to stop illegal immigration originating from that country since 2015 (Parliamentary Answer, 16 June 2020)”. How much more has France received since that date?
I am sure that the Irish Republic helps in a similar fashion!
If that is indeed the case, why should the NHS provide free tests to the foreign citizens of the South?
None in Northern Ireland would be resentful of any surplus supply of LFT tests being shared with the Irish republic, if there is a shortage of such tests there, on the same basis as it is likely it has shared the ambulance crews and helicopter referred to by Mr. Beattie and on exactly the same basis that LFT test producers supply them to the NHS – money up front!
We have the example of Joseph to follow in such circumstances.
“And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do. And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt. And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy [corn]; because that the famine was [so] sore in all lands,” Genesis 41:54-57. Please note the words ‘sold’ and ‘buy’!
I recall that while I was a member of the Stormont Assembly in the early 1980s, and a member of the Assembly’s Agriculture Committee, the question of sharing with Ethiopia some of the surplus provisions accumulated in the ‘food mountains’ existing within the then EU. That resulted in the response from aid agencies that a free supply of food would actually do far greater harm than good. If a people received free food than they would cease buying from whatever meagre supply existed in their land. That in turn would cripple the local supplier from attempting to grow what he could for the next year. Consequently the need was thus heightened by the apparent kindly gesture of sending in free food.
I never forgot that lesson.
Only the Lord is able and willing to supply man FREELY with all that he needs for deliverance from his temporal and eternal miseries.
“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32.
We as individuals are certainly urged to share what we can with the needy around us. However, there is a limit to that form of charity. When it comes to a nation aiding another nation then it must be done much more prudently and with care, lest “the latter end is worse with them than the beginning”.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
11th January 2022.