A Pope's friendship
Published 21/02/2016 | 02:30
Sir - The news which emerged during the week about the friendship (could I say loving friendship) between Pope John Paul and the intellectual Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka is a wonderful and heart-warming story.
The life of a priest is a lonely one. A life in which he goes through all of the experiences each day, whether good or bad.
The joyful moments and the sad ones are brought home to an empty house. It is a lonely life in which men struggle all of their life.
Women in particular will have been happy to read the account of the friendship between the two which was based on mutual respect and admiration, one which did not infringe on the celibate existence of the priest.
Harry Mulhern, Dublin
Time to ask the question
Sir - With the recent violent killing of two people, law and order and the security of the State has become a big issue in the General Election.
Therefore voters should remember the atrocities and murders carried out by Sinn Fein/IRA over a long 30 years. For example out of 3,600 who were killed during the so-called troubles, Sinn Fein/IRA were responsible for half of them.
This organisation also did untold damage to our economy and caused mayhem to our emigrants living in England with their bombing campaign.
I remember very well when four IRA thugs were robbing post office van in Limerick and shot dead Garda Jerry McCabe in cold blood and wounded his colleague.
Voters should ask every Sinn Fein candidate do they agree with what the IRA did and the damage they did to our country over a long 30 years. The present Government has managed to recover the economy and has created 140.000 jobs to enable them to maintain welfare payments with an increase payments in the last budget. If Sinn Fein was to be in government with its mad economic and taxation policies it would be unable to pay these payments. Anyone with a bit of sense or care for our country should not vote for Sinn Fein.
Noel Peers, Graignamanagh Co Kilkenny
Trusting Sinn Fein with law and order
Sir - Martin Ferris and other Sinn Fein deputies visited the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe and welcomed them out of prison.
How could voters trust Ferris and Sinn Fein with law and order in Ireland?
Fr Con McGillicuddy Killarney, Co Kerry
Gwyneth's healthy recipe for life
Sir - After reading all the madness of gangland killers and Election news in the Sunday Independent last week, it was a welcome relief to read a wonderful, healthy quote from actress Gwyneth Paltrow in your 'Quotes of the week' section (Sunday Independent, February 14).
No doctor could have put it better.
"I believe in exercise, eating well, drinking lots of water, sex, sleeping and being among people who make you feel good."
It may be stating the obvious, but wow, is this lovely actress not right or what!
Brian Mc Devitt, Glenties, Co Donegal
The accuracy of election polls
Sir - I have read much criticism of election polls in newspapers recently and while some criticism may be justified, as someone who has studied polls and bet on elections over the last 45 years, I feel I can give a balanced opinion of them. Polls are not always accurate certainly, but let us take a look at the outcome of the elections they claimed to forecast over the last 45 years in Ireland, Britain and France.
The first election I placed a small bet on was the Irish general election of 1973. Early polls gave the incumbents Fianna Fail victory, but as election day approached, the opposition (Fine Gael led by Liam Cosgrave and Labour led by Brendan Corish) overtook Fianna Fail until polls claimed 1pc difference and too close to call. I bet IR£10 on the coalition - the momentum was with them.
On the night, just one seat gave victory to the coalition parties. The final count for that seat went well past midnight and when the result was announced at 1.30am some reporter phoned Mr Cosgrave's house for his reaction to his party's victory, only to be told by his housekeeper he had retired to bed at 11pm with a cup of cocoa, without knowing the result!
Imperturbable, unflappable, a sense of proportion in life? Surely the ship of state would be safe in the hands of a man who had cultivated such a passion of indifference to success or failure in life.
Forty three years later Mr Cosgrave is still with us!
In the French presidential election of 1981 a similar scenario unfolded. Early polls suggested Mr Giscard d'Estaing the incumbent president would win a second term but as the first round polling day approached the polls began to narrow until Mr Francois Mitterrand was neck and neck. The following Sunday in the second round Mr Mitterrand won by just 50,000 votes - less than 0.4pc of the electorate at that time. Were those polls accurate? You bet! President Francois Mitterrand's father worked for the French Railways SNCF, and it was said in France at the time, were it not for the fact that 90pc of SNCF employees voted for him, he would have not had that slim 50,000 vote majority that made him president.
In France votes are counted while voting takes place on the day of the election, so the result is announced at 8pm when the polling booths close. President Mitterrand was to make his inaugural speech at 8.30pm.
Renowned lawyer, historian, acclaimed writer, President Francois Mitterrand was the most cultured and literate president France had ever had. I listened intently to his victory acceptance speech, like President Obama, Mr Mitterrand had a penchant for 'Le Bon Mot' or 'La Phrase Resonnante' the poignant phrase, and he ended his speech with "To all those who await a better fate I say tonight your time has come". It was heavy stuff but then he was the first socialist president since the war.
It was however, a bittersweet victory. Unknown to France or the world, he was already suffering from the cancer that would haunt him throughout his two terms in office and led to his death in 1995.
Only three people that night knew of his illness, his personal physician, his wife and one close confidante.
The years 1981-1982 were also a busy time for election watchers and punters in Ireland. There were three great general elections within a period of 18 months. In all three, the polls predicted extremely close results. So close, parties were dependent on Independents to pass legislation and keep them in power. Garrett FitzGerald's first coalition government fell on the issue of imposing VAT on children's shoes. One Independent voted against it and the government fell. These elections saw the first betting on choosing winning candidates in marginal constituencies introduced by the bookmakers Sean Graham. Polls in these marginal constituencies had to be really accurate if you were to choose the winner and not lose your money. Believe me, the polls were accurate and many punters had good wins. By the 1987 election this format of bet was gone.
In the British general election of 1993, the Labour Party led by Neil Kinnock contested the conservatives led by John Major. Early polls favoured Labour to win over the conservatives by 4pc to 5pc, even more in some polls, but on the morning of the election the final poll gave the conservatives a 1pc lead. It was too late for me. I had already placed my modest bet, but once again polls proved their worth in tracking public opinion.
In the 2007 French presidential election between Madame Segolene Royal of the Socialist Party and Mr Nicolas Sarkozy of UMP, all polls gave Mr Sarkozy a comfortable lead over Madame Royal and they were correct. Mr Sarkozy won by a comfortable majority.
Current scepticism about polling companies comes, I believe, from the gross error made in predicting the outcome of the referendum on the abolition of the senate in Ireland. Here polls were predicting 20pc-25pc in favour of abolition. On the day, Ireland voted to retain the Senate. It was an enormous error and no polling company has ever offered satisfactory explanation for it.
Leon De Sachy, Dublin 11
Exploiting the Boss's visit
Sir - It seems that not just Croke Park is delighted with the news that Bruce Springsteen is to perform two concerts at GAA Headquarters. As soon as the dates of the concerts were confirmed, some hotels doubled and even tripled their prices for the relevant dates. Hotels all over Dublin and beyond, not surprisingly, have reported a surge in bookings as fans from around Europe and Ireland seek a room for their stay in Dublin.
One Dublin city centre hotel is reputedly now charging €630 a night for a room that normally charges €280 a night. This is blatant exploitation and profiteering. This fleecing of visitors by mercenary hoteliers should draw the ire of Failte Ireland. With tourism numbers reaching record levels in 2015, and the country on target for growth of six per cent in 2016, it is difficult to justify the retention of the 9pc VAT rate.
Exploitative hoteliers' coughs could and should be softened by the removal of the VAT rate of 9pc. Without question, this reduction in the VAT rate loosened tight wallets and created jobs leading to a steady recovery in the sector.
However, following an in-depth study into the performance of the tourism sector in Ireland in 2014, the OECD called for Ireland to return hotel VAT rates to 13pc on the basis that tourism numbers had risen to pre-crisis levels and therefore the subsidy should be withdrawn.
Tom Cooper, Dublin 6W
Time to boycott the old parties
Sir - I have been a Fine Gael supporter for over 40 years and in that time no one could convince me to vote for anyone else. But that has now changed. So which party convinced me to vote for someone else? None other than Fine Gael themselves.
They have unfortunately lost the run of themselves.
This first manifested itself on the evening news when a smirking Michael Noonan said "if you don't pay your property tax I will put the revenue on you". What arrogance. This was followed some months later when again on the news a smiling Phil Hogan said "if you don't pay your water charges I will turn the water down to a trickle".
It is only in these few weeks that they will knock on your door and tell you they work tirelessly on your behalf. Why is it that 166 people out of five million think that they always know what is best for us.
Everyone has to live within their means except the Government. Need more money? Bring in a new tax and if the person on the street gets uppity threaten them with gaol, the revenue, all the forces of the State but please don't ask them to do better with what they have.
So, on the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising I ask you to start a 2016 revolution by boycotting the old revolutionary parties.
D O'Huallachain, Navan, Co Meath
Bonuses for three brave writers
Sir - Do give bonus points to Eilis O'Hanlon, Brendan O'Connor and Willie Kealy for their straight-talking bravery (Sunday Independent, February 14).
Could Murphy's Law be coming into play for both Fine Gael, who used to uphold law and order, and Sinn Fein, who "used" to befriend men of arms. The timing seems impeccable for each of their election campaigns.
It would be great if these three writers got into politics but, on second thoughts, no, their brains would get fried.
Ml Teehan, Tipperary
Putting gangsters out of business
Sir - I loved the no-nonsense article on by Gene Kerrigan (Soapbox, Sunday Independent, February 14). Great journalism in the public interest rather than the pursuit of popular appeal, saying it like it is.
The problem of drug abuse and its distribution being in the control of gangsters could herald the destruction of society.
People who use drugs will continue for some time to need them so they will be supplied. Surely the solution is for government to take over the controlled distribution of these substances at prices that put the gangsters out of business and use the proceeds to educate the public, through the media and schools as we have done with smoking.
Yes it will take 10 to 15 years to be effective, but must be undertaken. Can our spineless politicians ever see beyond the next election?
Martin Dunn, Stepaside
Vultures in control of the market
Sir - Gene Kerrigan writes about the need for democratic politicians to keep the 'vultures' from stripping us bare' and advocates left wing policies [Sunday Independent, February 14]. He is, however, ignoring one or two important facts.
The market economy is anything but perfect, but the alternative centrally planned economy of the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. In that system the vultures not alone controlled the market they also controlled politics and the media.
When he advocates that we vote for the left he is ignoring what happened in Greece when they voted for the extreme left.
For example the Irish government deficit in 2010 was far worse than it was in Greece. Before berating our 'spineless' politicians, Gene Kerrigan should have looked at Greece to see what could have happened to us and to see how much worse the stripping bare could have been. As the Greeks show, left wing politics might not be the best alternative in that scenario.
A Leavy, Sutton, Dublin 13
Sir - Seminal thinkers such as Copernicus and Darwin laid out the fact that we humans are merely an ephemeral species inhabiting a tiny planet revolving around an undistinguished star in one galaxy among billions. One would have thought that their writings would have paid to our narcissism.
The opposite is the case. In today's world everyone's goal seems to be to parade their entire lives on TV chat shows, lifestyle magazines and a multitude of social media outlets.
I'm beginning to think that I must be one of the few people left who has not appeared on a chat show or had my house scrutinised in a magazine.
Do people suffer from this chronic desire to exhibit themselves precisely because they wish to mask the fact that they know they are useless. Perhaps they are only too aware that if the entire human race disappeared in the morning the world would get on fine without us. By all means interview genuinely talented people like Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney, or interesting scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking.
But the rest of you people who possess no discernible talent or intellectual ability please keep to yourselves. You really are of no interest to anyone else.
Colm Stack, Lixnaw, Co Kerry