Friday 30 September 2016

Church at Christmas

Published 03/01/2016 | 02:30

'The church, which was packed to capacity, was aglow with lighted candles everywhere and the electric light dimmed. The choir was better than anything I heard on TV over Christmas and there were dozens of little children present' Photo: Depositphotos
'The church, which was packed to capacity, was aglow with lighted candles everywhere and the electric light dimmed. The choir was better than anything I heard on TV over Christmas and there were dozens of little children present' Photo: Depositphotos

Sir - Eilis O'Hanlon's article 'Childhood Ghosts at Christmas' (December 20) described not going to Mass as the plus side of a modern Christmas.

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While I enjoy reading some of Eilis's articles, I do not agree with some points in this article.

If Eilis was to come down the country on Christmas Eve and go to Mass in a small village, it would open her eyes. In our local church, the sight of a beautiful Christmas tree outside was a welcoming sight.

The church, which was packed to capacity, was aglow with lighted candles everywhere and the electric light dimmed. The choir was better than anything I heard on TV over Christmas and there were dozens of little children present. At the end of the beautiful ceremony, Santa and our priest prayed at the crib beneath the altar.

After Mass, dozens of little children were allowed to touch the statues in the crib and little ones chatted about Santa.

At least it was an hour away from TV and the media.

In our house years ago, Christmas was about family and neighbours calling. Yes, we watched our favourite programmes on TV too.

Everyone has their own way of enjoying Christmas but to visit a church on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning - no matter what religion you are - is a very fulfilling experience.

A Jordan, Enniscorthy

Targeting the grey vote

Sir -  Philip Ryan reports (December 29) that the Tánaiste Joan Burton promises to increase the State pension by €25 over the next five years to lure the "grey vote". While no one would begrudge anyone struggling on social welfare, one can't help feeling that this proposed policy is cynical in targeting our older citizens while nothing is mentioned of others such as those with profound disabilities who arguably are more vulnerable.

While our neighbours in Northern Ireland receive lower social welfare payments, they actually have a well funded and managed universal health care system. I suggest that the Tanaiste and this Government develop policies that will fix our broken health system first and that this may benefit our elderly more in the long term, as they could access the care they need, when they need it.

Frank Browne, Dublin 16

The vision for a better society

Sir - It seems fair to suggest that Irish governments have mistakenly conducted the nation's business simply as an 'Economy' for far too long, often resulting in examples of seriously fraudulent or greedy leadership.

With the end of the first 100 years of our beloved Republic in sight and elections expected in February, it's opportune for the Irish people to expect a more thoughtful political environment where people's quality of life is measured in more sophisticated metrics than GDP and GNP. It is time now for Ireland to be managed as a valued Society rather than a sterile Economy.

To this end, and in the knowledge that soon our door-bells will be under pressure from political wannabees, I offer the following thoughts - Hopes for Election 2016 - which can be usefully used as either mental prompts when questioning canvassers about their party's vision for a better society, or shared as widely as possible, family to family and friend to friend, so that we plebeians outside of the political system might this time wisely vote for a common cause and make our aspiration for a richer society a reality.

So, for election year 2016 let's hope:

That this time we find a leader who is not just a politician, but a statesman or woman with a vision to build a successful, but ethical and inclusive society, and who promises to value that vision before ego or power or personal wealth or party.

That we, the voters, wisely mandate the building of a thoughtful and fair society which expects high standards of its politicians, business executives, religious leaders, and all of its members.

That we all learn to recognise that trace of greatness in ourselves and others as we work to make Ireland an outstanding example among the nations of the world.

That our grandchildren may look back on election year 2016 and be proud to remember a statesman who added a bright new epoch of 'right-living' to Ireland's story.

Happy 2016 to all,

Aidan Devon, Glenageary, Co Dublin

Eamon de Valera and minorities

Sir - As the biographer of Robert Briscoe (Robert Briscoe: Sinn Fein Revolutionary, Fianna Fail Nationalist and Revisionist Zionist, Peter Lang, Oxford, 2015), the Irish State's only pre-war Jewish TD, I want to take this opportunity to reinforce John P Collins' argument that Eamon de Valera was on a personal basis, sympathetic regarding a 20th Century Irish minority faith group (Letters, December 27).

In his well argued response to A Thompson's letter of December 20, which reiterated the tried old trope that de Valera was "profoundly anti-Protestant", Mr Collins cited the infamous and egregious boycott of a Protestant business in Fethard, Co Wexford, and pointed out that de Valera immediately "condemned the boycotters".

This was reinforced by Ronan Fanning in his recent magisterial new de Valera biography, A Will to Power, which highlights the complex and multi-faceted through processes of independent Ireland's most dominant political actor.

De Valera was not "profoundly anti-Protestant", if anything, newly available research indicates he was an empathetic individual who did everything possible to aid minority groups within the dominant Catholic-Nationalist political system of the 20th Century.

This is underlined by the support de Valera gave to Robert Briscoe's Jewish rescue efforts in the 1930s. Yes, it was in the context of also furthering an Irish anti-partitionist strategy, but it was also an accurate reflection of a highly unusual personal ecumenical belief system. It is therefore high time that the simplistic demonisation of Eamon de Valera ceased, and that a more nuanced template is imposed on the narrative of an Irish historical giant who like him or loathe him, framed the political and social fabric of an independent Irish state.

Dr Kevin McCarthy, Kinsale, Co Cork

Belle of the hunt and chasing foxes

Sir - Last Sunday Independent's front page (December 27) included a picture of a young woman, dubbed "the belle of the hunt" and her "splendid Irish hunter" all set for a day's foxhunting with the Meath hunt. We were told that this is a "rich tradition" with the "stirrup cup" being served before the hunt headed out into the Meath countryside to spend a couple of hours hounding an unfortunate fox with a pack of dogs.

This image of the "belle of the hunt" is indeed in stark contrast to the horrific cruelty routinely meted out to foxes chased by a pack hounds to exhaustion for many miles across country, the persecution lasting for anything up to three hours or more.

If the fox does find refuge underground, it is mercilessly dug out by the spade and terrier brigade, who use terriers to flush it out, oftentimes resulting in horrific injuries to both dog and fox. The fox is supposed to be "humanely" dispatched, and then thrown to the pack to be ripped to shreds. If the fox is caught over ground by the hounds, it is ripped to shreds while still alive. What a "rich tradition" indeed!

Aideen Yourell, Irish Council Against Blood Sports, PO Box 88, Mullingar

Sir - How nice to see the pretty picture of the wonderful horse and sexily posed girl in her riding outfit on your front page (December 27). What a shame it was all to do with a hunt, a traditional hunt at that with stirrup cups and no need to worry that bad weather could interfere in the fun.

What fun faces defenceless animals scared out of their wits for so called sport on a Christian holiday. Instead of the girl why not show the bloody mess her friends actually cause.

Paul Lees, Clondalkin, Dublin

Need for grown-up discussions

Sir - Brendan O'Connor, in an article entitled 'We finally had a grown-up talk about homosexuality,' (Sunday Independent, December 27) stated that the passing of the same sex marriage referendum "was taken as a victory for a new kind of Ireland, a leap into the future. . . people were contemplating how to use the marriage equality playbook to change our abortion laws."

The marriage referendum was fantastic in that an issue that had been conveniently brushed under the carpet for generations was finally seeing the light of day and everyone was brought into the discussion.

People like myself on both sides of the argument went house to house and engaged with ordinary people on the issue. I canvassed in Galway and Roscommon for the Yes Equality Campaign. For the vast majority of the campaign, people engaged with me and my fellow canvassers in a courteous and civilised manner. We need to have another grown-up discussion in this country now, and it's on the subject of abortion. For years politicians failed to legislate on the 1992 Supreme Court judgement in the X case until Enda Kenny brought in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013.

Mr Kenny has stated that he will be referring the issue of abortion to a 'Citizens Convention' and allow his TDs and senators to vote with their conscience on any move to repeal the Eighth, if returned to power. For this reason I believe it is high time our discussion on abortion needs to begin right now.

The least people deserve is to know where candidates in the up-coming general election stand on the issue.

Tommy Roddy, Pro Life Independent Candidate, Galway West/South Mayo

Americans losing plot over Trump

Sir - I noticed in the article by Barry Egan 'Looking to the future, learning from the past' (Sunday Independent, December 27)) that five of your personalities, to their great credit, named Donald Trump as their villain of 2015. Also, one personality, Nadia Forde, picked as her villain "Isil", which really does put Trump where he deserves, along with the right category of villains.

What in God's name is wrong with some American people? Are they losing the plot altogether?

People who are backing him should keep in mind an Austrian-born German politician called Adolf Hitler.

End of story.

Brian Mc Devitt, Glenties, Co Donegal

Without 'fear or favour'

Sir - In an article by Maeve Sheehan and Philip Ryan (Sunday Independent, December 27) relating to the trial and conviction of Thomas 'Slab' Murphy by the Special Criminal Court, Martin Ferris TD is quoted as saying that Sinn Fein believes, "all people should be treated equally under the law and the law applies to all without favour". An a la carte approach!

Surely, the law applies to all not just 'without favour' but without 'fear or favour'. Isn't it because of the fear factor that Mr Murphy's case was heard in the SCC?

Jim O'Connell, Ashtown, Dublin 7

Homeless children versus refugees

Sir - With the news that over 1,000 children under the age of eight are currently homeless in Ireland it is absolutely ludicrous to suggest that we should be taking in more people from refugee camps on the other side of the continent.

Paul Molloy, Tullamore, Co Offaly

Who speaks for the Syrians?

Sir - Having read Fergal Keane's op-ed (December 27), "Haunted by anticipated catastrophe...", I was saddened to see that as he bemoaned the rise of fear and intolerance, the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, the rise of Isil and the terror tragedies in Paris, he used the op-ed as a means of reiterating a tired pro-Nato narrative containing the usual elements of Russophobia and anti-Assad rhetoric.

Having earlier this month returned from participating in a peace delegation to Syria and Lebanon, lead by Belfast-born Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, I can inform Mr Keane that a majority of Syrians support President Assad and his popularity has grown during the current conflict.

Overwhelmingly, the Syrian people refuse the foreign-backed and orchestrated violence in their country from which Isil has morphed, and the Russian intervention in Syria which did more to debilitate Isil in a matter of weeks than America had done in an entire year is very much welcomed by most Syrians.

As Mr Keane writes about Paris in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack as a "city traumatised by sectarian violence", he would do well to remember that whole swathes of the Middle East have suffered the same trauma through sectarian attacks undertaken by a variety of groups, and not just Isil alone, all of whom were nurtured into fruition on the back of the petrodollar from within countries allied to Nato and in the case of Turkey assisted from within an actual Nato member state itself.

I would likewise remind him that the next time he meets displaced Syrians whom he claims have fled "the terror of Assad's bombing campaign", he should keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of internally and externally displaced Syrians actually fled the bombing and terror of Nato and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council)-backed armed fighters among whom were many foreign radicalised young men coming from over 80 different countries worldwide, including the UK, France and Ireland!

We will never move forward in dealing with the threats that currently exist if we persist in a myopic vision of the problem that remains blind to the part played by Western Nato states in causing these dreadful situations in the first place.

Alan Lonergan, Ballina, Co Mayo

Rotate women as Taoiseach/Tanaiste

Sir - In the upcoming general election, it would be unwise to rule out the possibility of having a rotating female Taoiseach and female Tanaiste.

This can be attained in a rainbow coalition of Fine Gael, Sinn Fein and Renua.

I base my theory on the fact that the present Coalition will be decimated, with the Labour Party suffering a huge loss, and that Fine Gael will encourage Enda Kenny to take up a position in Europe; thus allowing Frances Fitzgerald to become the leader of FG, to negotiate the incoming government with Mary Lou McDonald and Lucinda Creighton. Perhaps, even Micheal Martin might allow Mary Hanafin enter her name for the position of Taoiseach/Tanaiste.

Edward Mahon, Clonskeagh, Dublin 14

Give an inch to save the Shannon

Sir - As one who lives in an elevated location in the Dublin area, I can only imagine the misery and despair being experienced in those parts of the country which suffered flooding during the recent storms.

In relation to the Shannon region, is it not more compelling than ever to allow the proposed pipeline, to extract water from the river to supply the eastern half of the country, to go ahead?

Although the proposal is to take just 2pc of the river's water, I'm sure it represents a critical inch or two in the affected areas.

Paul Kennedy, Dublin 5

Sunday Independent

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