Thursday 27 October 2016

Delightfully old-fashioned event must soon look to the future

Published 30/08/2016 | 02:30

New Rose of Tralee Maggie McEldowney. Photo: Frank McGrath
New Rose of Tralee Maggie McEldowney. Photo: Frank McGrath

Kirsty Blake Knox has a point: the Rose of Tralee does indeed reflect changing attitudes to young Irish women in the new millennium (Irish Independent, August 27).

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It was years ago now that I heard a Rose announce in the Adelaide Irish Hall in South Australia that whereas she knew she was supposed to say, after dancing a vigorous 'Siege of Ennis', she was "positively glowing" the fact of the matter was she was "sweating like a pig".

The young colleens I saw in the wee hours in Ennis at the Fleadh the week before last surely typified the high-spirited independence of young Irish women today.

Their antics as they cavorted in the pouring rain, glasses in hand, up and down the streets of Ennis, was truly a delight.

One came up to me - a complete stranger - to share my umbrella and said: "There's room for two of us under there. Good man!"

Later, another quipped as I walked past her with my trousers rolled up (to keep them dry): "Are ye going hiking, are ye?"

Two others were trying to ride a shopping trolley down O'Connell Street. If these young women in the streets of Clare are any guide, the real question raised by Kirsty's fine piece on the subject is how the tension between the old and the new in the Rose of Tralee will play out, and whether, and in what way, this delightfully old-fashioned event can continue on into the future.

Terry Hewton

Adelaide, South Australia


Maths - it just doesn't add up

It's back to school/college and state exam results time. As I write, the Junior Cert results have yet to be published. And the importance and critical place and function of mathematics is promoted as though the truth of maths is written in stone.

Many have come to realise that Father Christmas and the tooth fairy are illusionary.

Why have so many allegedly intelligent people not realised that mathematics is also imaginary. If we do apply qualitative analysis to quantitative data, we are promoting unreality as reality.

My father once brought year-old heifers to a fair. His neighbour brought a similar number of year-old heifers to the same fair. Many buyers looked at both lots of heifers; my father got a much better price for his heifers than his neighbour. And buyers in the old days were not undiscerning as to how they spent their money.

The €10 note I have in my pocket will not be the same €10 note tomorrow. Money, or its value, like all things is constantly changing.

Can we say a tree or mountain is a certain height when that height is in a constant state of flux?

If good qualitative analysis had been applied to our Celtic Tiger growth/surpluses, would we have ended up in the mess we did?

When people say figures don't lie, be very careful. Surely others have realised that maths as we have come to accept it is possibly the greatest illusion of all time. Will I one day be nominated for a Nobel prize for stating what people will in future say was so obvious?

Mathematics as a quantitative quantity is a false god aiding the development of simple minds. Or is it?

Joseph Mackey

Athlone, Co Westmeath


Desecration of Jewish graves

The appalling desecration of 17 Jewish graves in Northern Ireland last week should shame us as a nation. The gravestones were smashed and knocked over last Friday at a municipal cemetery in West Belfast.

When police arrived at the scene, they found smashed pieces of glass on the overturned headstones. Eight young people are said to have carried out the attack with hammers and blocks, with a larger crowd looking on, according to DUP assembly member William Humphrey.

The hatred exhibited towards members of the Jewish community is a stark reminder of a visceral contemporary anti-Semitism, which sadly seems to have resurfaced in elements of the Irish State that conflate and justify this ancient hatred as an appropriate response towards Israel.

This is, of course, nonsense, some Jews do indeed support Israel, although many more do not, just as some Muslims support radical Islam and it is clear many more do not. To universally portray a vulnerable ethnic minority as responsible for the actions of a state whether real - as in Israel's case - or imagined - as in the case of an Islamic caliphate - is racism of the worst kind.

As both a state that prides itself on fair play and neutrality, and a nation of people who condemn prejudice, we should loudly call out these thugs who have sent ripples of fear through Ireland's small remaining Jewish community, just as we would vociferously condemn an attack on the gravestones of Protestant or Muslim citizens of our country.

Dr Kevin McCarthy

Kinsale, Co Cork


Burkini ban is itself offensive

As a proponent of political secularism, I find reports of armed police making a woman in Nice remove her clothing worrying, and ironic.

A Nice tribunal has found that the burkini was "liable to offend the religious convictions or (religious) non-convictions of other users of the beach", and "felt as a defiance or a provocation exacerbating tensions felt by" the community.

No one has the right not to be offended. This is an argument that we secularists use in relation to blasphemy laws, but it swings both ways. In any event, I do not see the rationale for a police-enforced burkini ban. Concerns about religious clothing in the wake of recent terrorist killings have been proffered as justification.

I don't recall the demented truck driver who massacred innocent people in Nice wearing a burkini, nor would it be an integral part of the modus operandi of a terrorist attack by a woman.

The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (religious police) in Saudi Arabia have rightly been criticised for enforcing a dress code among women.

Is it not ironic that the police in France - the great bastion of liberté, égalité and fraternité - are now doing it too? Perhaps they should be renamed 'Le Comité pour la promotion de la vertu et la prévention du vice'?

There has been an increase in sales of the burkini since the ban was introduced. There have been reports of non-Muslim women buying and wearing them in acts of solidarity. Are the police going to arrest and fine all these women?

What about women who wear wetsuits, or women who suffer from sun allergies? Are they to be told that they must remove their clothes on beaches too?

Individual rights, such as how one dresses, should only be compromised where there is a risk to others. The ban will not do anything to combat Islamic extremism. If anything, it will do the opposite.

Rob Sadlier

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

Irish Independent

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