Letter: Business risks from terrorists

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article ('Trapped in a fool's paradise', 1 September) seems to suggest that in Northern Ireland a significant class of businessmen, untouched by the Troubles, actually wants them to continue and so ensure the continued flow of government money into the province.

It is true that some businessmen in Northern Ireland are personally untouched by the violence, but many more, particularly in the retail trade or catering, have had their premises destroyed by bombs - sometimes more than once - and their trade blown away, their employees killed and their own lives threatened. Many have suffered intimidation and protection demands.

It is true that over the years of the present Troubles, many businessmen and professionals, who would normally have been members of and active within the Unionist Party, have tended to withdraw. Some joined the Alliance; some are now joining the Conservative Party; many, as you say, concentrated on business and career. But they did this out of despair and frustration, and even disgust, not to enjoy the good life and hope that nothing changes.

They are certainly not living in a fool's paradise; indeed, like the rest of us, they are most probably hoping against hope that the talks make progress, and that all parties to them display the flexibility and breadth of vision that you claim to detect in the SDLP.

They would probably take strong exception to your suggestion that the province is 'subsidised by Westminster', or that such 'subventions' would not continue indefinitely after a political solution. The troops are in Northern Ireland because there has been a sustained terrorist campaign against the community here; British money is here because this happens to be an area of the United Kingdom with exceptionally high unemployment and serious economic problems. Neither is here to oblige the Unionists.

Yours sincerely,