Country of contrasts
Published 30/08/2015 | 02:30
Sir - What a contrast we saw in the Sunday Independent last week (August 23).
We saw many testimonials which highlighted what well known people loved most about our little country (LIFE magazine).
Elsewhere, people from all walks of life shared with us the location of their favourite places in Ireland and enlightened us about why they love these places so much (Living section).
These contributions would make any Irish heart swell with pride. In sharp contrast to this feel-good reading, we were also reminded in several articles (including Gene Kerrigan), of the glaringly obvious fact that we live in a grossly imbalanced society.
How is it that we in Ireland can afford to pay excessive salaries to incompetent politicians - but we can't afford to solve the worsening problem of large numbers of ill people left for days on hospital trollies, or to provide decent schools and places to live for our citizens?
Bob Morris, Dublin 24
A sad reflection on the North
Sir - Last Sunday's paper was dominated by events unfolding in Northern Ireland. In fact, the letter of the week told the story about the amount of time our Government spends dealing with Northern problems.
Even the sports section had a North versus South conflict with the Kerry and Tyrone game at Croke Park; it may have been described as a game, but this was warfare.
A few months I was in the United States where I had lived for many years. On a Sunday afternoon I went to an Irish pub. What I did not know but was soon to find out was that6 this was the unofficial HQ for fans of an Ulster GAA team in the area. It was late evening and they were celebrating an earlier victory over "a southern team". Not a team from South America but an Irish team from south of the border.
As the drink flowed and the celebrations grew louder, the language told their story. These Northern boys were the bravest and best in any sport or contest. The Southern boys were trash.
With a liquored version of Sean South of Garryowen in full flow, it was time for me to leave that pub.
As a Kerryman, who was born a few fields away from Headford station in Kerry; the location in 1921 of one of the largest ambushes, and as a young lad, I knew all the local IRA leaders before I knew the alphabet.
I wondered where I went wrong, or who steered me and many others in the wrong direction.
Tramore, Co Waterford
Why is RTE so circumspect?
Sir - Why has RTE consistently used the word "assertion" in connection to the PSNI position on the continued existence of the IRA while not similarly qualifying Sinn Fein's denials?
Sinn Fein's press release uses the same unusual wording.
SF must own up to past wrongs
Sir - The IRA's confirmed involvement in the brutal murder of Kevin McGuigan in Belfast is creating a credibility problem for Sinn Fein, given its mantra that the IRA has left the stage and isn't coming back.
But whatever about the IRA's shadowy existence after the stake of peace was driven through its murderous heart a generation ago, there is one step that Sinn Fein could take that would kill off the remaining cancer cells of so-called "armed struggle" - issue a statement renouncing, not only the shootings and bombings, the abductions and "informer executions" that "went wrong", or were not authorised or had unintended consequences, but the entire IRA campaign. With Sinn Fein possibly poised to play a role in the formation of the next government, it could do itself and the political process a huge favour by formally conceding that the "armed struggle" should never have happened in the first place and was morally wrong from start to finish.
How does Adams know so much?
Sir - After reading the Sunday Independent regarding the PSNI report that it is almost definitely certain that the IRA were involved in the murder of Mr McGuigan, can anyone tell me how Mr Adams knows so much about the IRA's activities - especially when he is not a member?
How can he be sufficiently well informed to categorically deny IRA involvement?
When my relation, Detective Jerry McCabe, was murdered by the IRA, Sinn Fein came out with a similarly emphatic denial.
The bereaved will remember forever
Sir - Who, might I ask, in their right mind would believe that killers for hire will suddenly disappear on anyone's say-so?
The leaders of terrorist groups in the North are probably just a handful who dictate to the so-called volunteers. Many are easily led, They all end up in prison or killed while the struggle, as they call it, goes on with their leaders thinking up ways of making more money.
Rats and rattlesnakes survive on the downfall of others - only those who have lost a loved one will forever remember.
Is free speech still safe?
Sir - Now that we know the Provos haven't really gone away in places like Belfast, should we be more circumspect about taking the piss out of them here in our republic? (Sunday Independent, August 23).
The problem of the "lads" not growing old gracefully could give some the willies if we thought it was safe to go back into the world of free speech, without the old threat of subtle indicators to shut the hell up by way of nasty anonymous threatening letters or a bullet in the post for the most daring of transgressors.
Bantry, Co Cork
Now is the time to ask questions
Sir - Gerry Adams, never a member of the IRA, yet again appears to know everything that is going on within that organisation and is capable of knowing what they have and have not done. How can this be?
Our Garda Commissioner writes to a Sinn Fein member to confirm that the gardai have no information relating to PIRA criminal activity, and now reaffirms same, when the dogs in the street know that such activity is rampant, North and South.
For example, does anybody enquire as to where diesel sludge comes from?
Letters provided by the British government to the 'on the runs' and now confirmation that ongoing criminal activities would have a blind eye turned to them, point up the arrangements made that we - the public - were never made aware of. Chickens coming home to roost, comes forcefully to mind.
If ever our elected representatives need to start openly questioning Sinn Fein, their relationships and everything they stand for, it is surely now.
There is a general election upcoming in this country in the not too distant future, the outcome of which will be critical to the ongoing well-being of this State. Elected representatives are elected to do the best for the country and it is high time they started to put the country and its well-being first, ahead of their own re-election prospects.
Stillorgan, Co Dublin
Play deserves a revival
Sir - In her article on the playwright Tom Kilroy, Emer O'Kelly mentions Double Cross, his play about role-playing and fiction-making in the lives of two Irishmen - Brendan Bracken, the British wartime minister for information, and William Joyce, the Nazi propagandist and wartime broadcaster.
I saw a production of it in The Gate in 1986 and a subsequent production in Kilmallock, Co Limerick, some time around 2001.
In The Gate production, Stephen Rea played the two main characters. I remember one memorable scene where Rea transforms from lounge lizard Bracken to the snarling fascist Joyce. It is a fine play and deserves a revival.
Joyce lived in Galway in the early part of the 20th century and Mr Kilroy's papers are with NUIG Galway. Perhaps the Galway-based Druid Theatre Company would stage a production?
Dalkey, Co Dublin
The origins of Big Brother
Sir - Emer O'Kelly mentions Tom Kilroy and Double Cross - "one of his less well-known works". I wonder whether either she or Kilroy are aware that Brendan Bracken is probably the only person in history whose fame derives from his own initials?
As Minister of Information his employees included now famous writers. But the revolting peasant who immortalised both the Ministry and Bracken himself was none other than George Orwell.
In his book 1984, the Ministry of Information became the Ministry of Tr uth and Orwell took Bracken's initials (BB) to give the world Big Brother.
How were millions spent?
Sir - Willie Kealy's article on his six-month saga with Irish Water's First Fix Free scheme (Sunday Independent, August 23), was very well written - and I hope he gets his leak fixed soon.
I empathise with his predicament. My problem was not with trying to get a leak fixed but with just trying to register as an Irish Water customer, but in the end I just gave up.
They couldn't find our address - even though they had already installed a water meter outside our home. I went through the whole process I was supposed to go through. I sent off all the forms fully filled in, but to date I have had no letter back from Irish Water.
One has to wonder what the hundreds of millions of euros in set-up costs have been spent on.
Good luck with the leak, Willie
Sir - It was with much bemusement and non-surprise that I read Willie Kealy's article regarding his dealings with Irish Water (Sunday Independent, August 23). I spent the best part of eight months trying to register with Irish Water just to pay the charges.
We moved into a newly-built house last October. I was twice asked if my house actually existed, as their GIS team couldn't find it, even though I had given satellite coordinates of my house.
As it was a new build, I constantly told the operator that my house was not on any satellite map images yet.
I was asked if I had running water, and where my toilets were flushing to.
There was constantly no record of my calls or my emails. I was given at least four reference numbers, with each one leading to a non-existent file. I was promised callbacks on three occasions - and I'm still waiting.
The final straw was when I was told that my name and phone number were on the system but that there was no property listed. I threatened to go to the press if the situation wasn't resolved, as I wanted to get my €100 water conservation grant and the registration deadline was looming. Just 24 hours later, I was fully registered, was given a WPRN and have received two bills since.
Given what I went through to give them money, I can only wish Willie the best of luck trying to get them to pay out money to fix the leak. I await his next update.
Ennis, Co Clare
The fight against sugar side-effects
Sir - We read with interest, Brendan O'Connor's article 'Are we helpless against Coca Cola climate?' (Sunday Independent, August 23).
He is correct in describing sugar as a health scare. The links between diet and various diseases have been backed up by evidence as far back as 2000, with evidence showing that oral diseases share important common risk factors, such as an unhealthy diet, with the four leading chronic diseases - cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.
Children in the Republic of Ireland have amongst the highest frequency of consumption of sugary foods and drinks when compared with 34 other countries.
Some 37pc of five-year-olds consume sweet food or drinks between meals twice a day. This, combined with the inadequate tooth-brushing habits of Irish children, is detrimental to their oral health. Tooth decay and treatment can be traumatic for a child, it may result in pain, lead to infection (necessitating the use of antibiotics) and may even result in hospitalisation and extraction of teeth under general anaesthetic.
The Dental Health Foundation supports the proposed introduction of a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks. But we should also raise public awareness of the impact of lifestyle behaviours and poor dietary choices including excess sugar consumption and snacking; have a healthy eating policy for all schools; tackle food poverty which includes the absence of the correct type of food; and improve urban planning - cycle tracks, running tracks, etc.
The Dental Health Foundation adopts at all times a socially inclusive, independent, holistic, evidence-based and a multidisciplinary common risk factor approach to its oral health promotion programme.
It is important that all of us who work in the area of health promotion continue to collaborate and to recognise the benefit that the promotion of both oral and general health can bring to the people of Ireland.
Public Affairs Manager,
Dental Health Foundation,
Anna's great achievement
Sir - I read a lovely uplifting story of the talented hard-working student of Colaiste Nano Nagle, Limerick. Anna Kern studied five hours a day in a one-bedroomed house. Her reward was 575 points in her Leaving Cert. Anna has been offered a place at the Royal College of Surgeons - what an achievement.
Congratulations Anna, you are a hero.
You have achieved the best and overcome the worst.
Irish students take note: Anna wasn't driven in a 4X4 to the entrance of the Colaiste, wasn't going home to her own bedroom with a desk and study lamp, lots of heat and her own space.
Make university grants fair to all
Sir - It is preposterous to say protests about third-level grants are an urban vs rural matter (Sunday Independent, August 23).
This is a tactical approach used each year to kill any questions about the fairness of the system, a dreadful discriminatory system where those who pay a lot of income tax and live modest lives are refused grants - while those who pay a pittance enjoy a multitude of benefits, including third-level grants.
Young people in rural Ireland suffer this discrimination in the same way as those in the greater populated areas.
One of the examples given in the past when statistics and information were available was the farm labourer paying PAYE refused while the children of his employer received grants.
There are many journalists who benefited from this system and those people are the first out in defence when the annual distribution of grants is published.
Surely the other side of the situation representing the majority deserves equal exposure in the interest of fairness and equality.