Friday 30 September 2016

A defeat for Hillary would be bad for the future of democracy

Published 01/08/2016 | 02:30

Democratic US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally in Youngstown, Pennsylvania Picture: Getty
Democratic US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally in Youngstown, Pennsylvania Picture: Getty

In her article (Irish Independent, July 30) Niamh Gallagher tells us that "women have a harder job than men in getting elected."

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The under-representation of women, the majority of the population, in the decision-making forums of what are supposed to be representative democracies is one of the major faults of democratic rule worldwide.

Marginalising the talents, perspectives and interests of such an important and vital majority is not in anyone's interest.

Yet, as acknowledged by Ms Gallagher, Hillary Clinton's second attempt to become the first woman to be the most powerful politician in the world is meeting with much opposition.

At the same time, the arrogance-will-get-you-everywhere attitude of Donald Trump, her Republican opponent, is being praised by commentators and is never out of the media headlines.

Ms Clinton is an experienced and capable politician representing mainstream democracy. This mainstream democracy has kept totalitarian extremes at bay since World War II.

She is also a member of the female majority of the population which has been politically marginalised for centuries. One would worry for the future of democracy if she does not become the next president of the US and its first woman president. This is especially the case when all she has opposing her is Mr Trump, a representatives of the arrogant, the patriarchal and the near totalitarian.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin 13

Neutrality must be put to the vote

There is a compelling case for holding a referendum with the aim of incorporating into our Constitution Ireland's status as a neutral country.

This has been mooted in the past. Circumstances have, however, changed. In particular, there is an urgency arising from the militarisation of Europe - particularly over the last two years.

The purported justification for militarisation is the supposed threat that 'a resurgent Russia' - this is the key phrase inserted in the US and Nato narrative - poses to Europe, and especially Eastern Europe.

This narrative was reinforced at the recent Democratic convention to select its candidate for the US presidential election. This 'threat' is a disingenuous and dangerous fallacy, reinforced by propaganda and serving an agenda wholly at odds with peace in the Europe.

It has been conjured up from the intervention of Russia in the Ukraine, and, specifically, from the annexation and re-integration of Crimea into Russia. This intervention was driven in large part as a response to the foolish and provocative decision to encourage Ukraine's membership of the EU, and, by extension, participation in its Nato-led military strategy. It is wholly different in nature to the circumstances under which US-led Nato intervened in Iraq.

The effect has been a ratcheting up of military action, and reaction, between Nato and Russia. The recent Nato summit put in place the infrastructure for war. Russia has announced its intention of responding to the deployment by Nato of men, heavy equipment and missile systems, effectively encircling Russia. No country - least of all the US - could countenance this emasculation of its security.

The momentum towards military engagement has now gained traction that will be difficult to reverse. The 'defence' industry - more properly titled 'the war industry' - has the strongest incentives to push for militarisation. The gravity of the situation simply hasn't sunk into the public mindset, brought up on watching 'war' from the safe distance of TV and video games.

Russia is not the USSR. Its priorities are the rebuilding of its economy and infrastructure, including the modernisation of its defence capability to ensure stability both within its own borders, and globally - particularly in the Middle East. This does not remotely equate to a threat to Europe. In any event, the military capability of the US dwarfs that of Russia, in terms of assets and the number of bases from which to project those assets. Russia's defence budget is a fraction of that of the US.

That said, in a volatile political environment in Europe, with newly deployed offensive weapons systems, it would take little to trigger Article 5 of Nato's newly expanded 'mutual defence' clause, leading to war.

In the Cuban missile crisis, it was only the moral force of President Kennedy in resisting the urging of the military establishment to launch a pre-emptive strike that prevented a nuclear catastrophe. Today, the Democratic Party is coming from a very different place.

The EU and Russia have a shared interest in peace - not war - on the European mainland. The Irish people were deeply opposed to the war on Iraq. In that tradition, there is the strongest case for holding a referendum. No country can avoid the consequences of war. But Ireland can best advocate for a deceleration of militarisation - and a focus, instead, on opposing Isil, which threatens both Russia and Europe - as a neutral country, confirmed by referendum.

Professor Ray Kinsella

Ashford, Co Wicklow

Hate is not the answer to terror

That unspeakable atrocity in France last week called to mind for me stories I heard in primary school years ago: of priests who risked all in the dark days of Irish history, knowing there was a price on their heads, that they faced the ultimate penalty for upholding the deep religious faith that meant so much to them.

Looking back on those Penal Days, no reasonable person would take the side of the tyrants who persecuted people for their religious beliefs or practices in those times. The ultimate effect of the persecution was to blacken the persecutors and elevate those unjustly persecuted.

Likewise with the cold-blooded murder of Fr Jacques Hamel as he celebrated Mass for his parishioners. His killers achieved nothing. They represent a vile perversion of everything that is positive and truly decent in all the great religions, an ideology that seeks to bring despair where there is hope, death where there is life and hatred where there is peaceful inter-ethnic co-existence.

The best response to their attack on a defenceless, inoffensive man of faith is not to turn in hatred against any other religion, but to embrace all faiths as essentially manifestations of goodness and a search for meaning in a troubled world.

People of all faiths and none can salute Fr Jacques Hamel as a martyr for the cause of religious tolerance worldwide.

John Fitzgerald

Callan, Co Kilkenny

The bank of good and bad

Heard the one about a banker who met the devil one night? The devil said that he could make him powerful and very wealthy.

"What do I have to do in return?"

"You have to give me your soul as well as the souls of your wife and children."

"OK. What's the catch?"

Richard Barton

Tinahely, Co Wicklow

Irish Independent

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