5 JANUARY 1974, Page 4

Sir: I have been a reader of The Spec tator

for many , many years, frequently with profit, but I take very grave exception to one phrase in your leading article on the Irish question. The phrase "oppression of the Catholics for 50 years" is used of the Protestant majority. That is manifestly untrue. Restrictions, inequalities, inequitable treatment of parts of the minority there may have been, but not oppression. The word belongs to Spain, to Russia, to Czechoslovakia (latterly) and others we could all mention. The deepest tyranny in that period was exercised by the Roman Church over its members ensuring that they never accepted the position of Northern Ireland, and, by teaching an opposition to Protestantism, ensuring their present drift to Communism. Some say the Church of Rome is changing. I am pleased to hear it. It is time. In every other way the article was humane, compassionate and even helpful.

Desmond Shaw 12 Osborne Drive, Belfast