Monday 26 September 2016

After Paris, questions for us all

Published 26/11/2015 | 02:30

Muslim men observe a minute's silence after their prayers inside Birmingham Central Mosque to remember the victims of last Friday's attacks in Paris
Muslim men observe a minute's silence after their prayers inside Birmingham Central Mosque to remember the victims of last Friday's attacks in Paris

I wish to respond to Dr Aislinn O'Donnell's article in the Irish Independent (November 20).

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Dr O'Donnell tells us that teaching about world religions and ethics "might counter the risk of Islamophobia in Europe and the increased potential for discrimination that we are witnessing". Simply put, one cannot "witness" either "risk" or "potential". At best, such things can be inferred.

If Dr O'Donnell means that adherents of Islam have experienced increased discrimination in the immediate wake of the Paris murders, then a few well-documented examples of concrete, significant injuries might be convincing.

But if instead, Dr O'Donnell means only that, post-Paris, some of Islam's adherents feel less comfortable with their neighbours, then, although such a regrettable situation has a claim on us, as do all of society's many ills, this is not the crisis which demands the community's immediate attention.

Why? Sometimes a minority subjectively experiences feelings of victimisation because it has been actually injured by wider society. But this is not always the situation: sometimes the subjective experience of victimhood comes about, not for objective reasons, but only because the minority stereotypes its neighbours' thinking. A considered judgment as to which is going on in our shared post-Paris Europe requires solid evidence.

Furthermore, Dr O'Donnell downplays the potential benefits of the UK's new counter-terrorist legislation and programmes by pointing out that they are based on a "discourse about radicalisation" supported by "scant empirical evidence". But in regard to the educational reforms she proposes - ie, teaching about world religions and ethics - she puts forward no empirical evidence at all. Instead, she only notes that her proposals "might" or "could" lead to benefits, and she asserts in a wholly conclusory fashion that such education is "part of a good education and part of understanding the human story".

Likewise, Dr O'Donnell never explains what she believes caused the Paris murders and similar past events or what she believes could counter the formation of the sort of personalities that display all too great a willingness to engage in murder and mayhem on a grand scale against civilian targets.

In fact, we all know that it is this very real possibility - the omnipresent depressing likelihood of future Paris-like attacks - which is the urgent crisis that demands our immediate attention and our best efforts. All our lives and our children's lives depend on it.

Seth Barrett Tillman

Lecturer, Maynooth University Department of Law

IFA made only one mistake

That IFA overpaid their chief executive is beyond doubt and the leadership need to take the blame for this, especially when we have lived through a few years when excess was in check everywhere. It was a bad blunder.

It does, however, need to be put into context. It is one mistake in what is a very proud record. Farming organisations in Ireland are the envy of Europe.

As for Éamon Ó Cuív of Fianna Fáil questioning how IFA gets its money from farmers and telling IFA how to run the show, I recall that Mr Ó Cuív was a senior member of the Government that left this country in a horrendous financial mess.

It is now seven years since the collapse of the economy and the best Fianna Fáil can do in the polls is 18pc. I would bet strongly that farming organisations would do better than 18pc acceptance by their members. Mr Ó Cuív clearly has a lot of work to do to improve the credibility of his own organisation.

John Murphy

Glasnevin, Dublin 9

Better-paid teachers are better

I note from a report in yesterday's Irish Independent that Irish teachers may be among the better paid in the OECD. I also note from the World Economic Forum's 2015-2016 Global Competitiveness Report, published last September, that the Quality of Primary Education in Ireland is ranked 8th highest out of 140 countries; with Singapore (3rd) and New Zealand (5th) the only English-speaking countries ranked ahead of us. Canada (10th), Australia (12th), UK (27th) and the US (29th) are all ranked behind Ireland.

In that same report, the WEF ranks the quality of Ireland's Higher Education System (Secondary and Tertiary) as 9th highest in the world. On those performances I would be inclined to conclude that maybe Ireland's teachers deserve to be well paid.

Séamus Long

Monaleen, Limerick

Telling it like it is

Once again, Ian O'Doherty has the courage to publicly address one of the fundamental issues facing the democratic states of the West, an almost paranoid fear of being labelled as Islamaphobes.

He unambiguously states "we are also in a truly unique security situation where both the police and the public are cowed by the fear of being accused of Islamophobia. Ultimately, we are expecting people to guard us against a threat that they won't even mention by name, as if militant Islamism was the terrorist equivalent of Voldemort".

To deny this is not merely distorting the reality of Islamic fundamentalism which has as a core tenet an anti-western, anti-Semitic ideological basis; it is also denying a rational empirical piece of hard evidence. If individuals or organisations refuse to accept this indisputable link, and keep arguing that factions of the Muslim community do not have an intuitive anti-Semitism, than we can never address one of the main cultural forces of radical Islamisation.

Dr Kevin McCarthy

Kinsale, Co Cork

Divorce on the cheap

The lawyer quoted in your weekend edition stated that the cost of the uncontested divorce in Ireland could be in excess of €20,000. Some time after divorce in Ireland became legal, a friend contacted me and told me that she was going to get a divorce from her long-separated husband. He had no objection and there were no property or custody issues. She told me that she had contacted a lawyer who quoted a fee of several thousand euro. I told her to go down to the bookshop and that she would find a book there with the title "How to get a divorce in Ireland" or a title to that effect.

About four months later she called again to inform me that her divorce had been finalised. The total cost, including the price of the book was €19.

Jim Finan

Curragh, Castlebar

Irish Independent

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