Friday 30 September 2016

Encroaching on our fellow creatures' natural habitats

Published 04/11/2015 | 02:30

A magnificent red deer stag
A magnificent red deer stag

There are roads in the low glens of Tipperary so wayward that you will only find them via willpower and a belligerent determination to get lost. There are hidden copses so secluded that human ramblings feel like a vaguely criminal act, such is the clamour of animal life thriving there.

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It was while driving in such a place that my mother and I met the stag. Rounding a bend we found his still and soaring bulk had swallowed up the width of the road. We swerved. He leapt. Accident was averted. The beast was gone.

It was one of those breathless encounters with the natural world that is as startling as the realisation of your own mortality: a reminder that this land you grow to develop a sense of ownership towards is shared with creatures whose pathways through it are as ancient as the soil and stone they're cut from.

We hadn't missed the stag - he had avoided us. This was his patch. He knew the lay of it.

The pending cull of the deer population in Killarney is as sad as it is perhaps unavoidable. We humans will continue to explore, expand, encroach. The animal kingdom will always fail to grasp that the boundaries of the land have shifted. Conflict is inevitable.

However, it is hard to say sometimes exactly which of the species among us has wandered into the other's way.

Cate MacGabhann

Clonmel, Co Tipperary

 

Parable for our time

Readers' views on the RTÉ Angelus slot stirred up familiar forms of unreflective atheism and equally unreflective expressions of religious belief. Thankfully, these were tempered by more persuasive arguments about the importance of political and religious neutrality in what issues from a publicly-funded TV service.

The usual strident voices drowned out the many, less vocal, intelligent Christians, secularists and atheists who offer imaginative and persuasive reasons for their beliefs. They do not live by mantra but by engaging in more authentic thoughtful discussion, providing relevant reasons for their views.

It is incumbent on all of us to improve the quality of our differences. We are still dogged by various forms of fundamentalist religious belief that, unfortunately, find their way into some religious education provision. We sometimes provide children with straw arguments that do not survive into and beyond adolescence when they can no longer shelter from the chill winds of reality.

Additionally, the Gospels are occasionally presented as historical narrative, failing to see the significance of different, and sometimes contradictory, accounts of key moments in the life of Christ. We are not dealing with botched history here but with imaginative recalling of impressions and memories.

Moral truths were often embedded in parables such as that of the Good Samaritan. Aesop's Fables and the moral of these tales have been told to children and invoked in our discourse for generations - for instance, warning us not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

A parable for our time is the story of a divorced mother, having re-married, who went to communion with her young son. The priest gave her a blessing and passed on. Her 12-year-old son broke his communion wafer in half and gave one half to his mother.

We do not ask: "Is this story true?" Rather, we ask: "What truth is embodied in this story?"

The same applies to the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Philip O'Neill

Oxford, UK

 

Multi-tasking . . . on a bike

On a recent wet miserable Friday evening as I drove through Santry, I was mightily impressed by the dexterity of a female cyclist as she guided her machine, using one hand, through heavy traffic. Her other hand was busily employed texting. That said, her bicycle was well-illuminated. Even the phone exuded a bright light.

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

 

Enda, the Army and ATMs

Surely Enda Kenny should have considered using the Defence Forces to protect us from the banks, not the other way around?

Conan Doyle

Kilkenny

 

A clunky collection

On reading Rowena Walsh's review (October 31) of Cecelia Ahern's latest novel, we are told that "the prose can be a little clunky at times". Turn the page and Sarah Webb tells us that the writing of David Walliams "can be clunky at times". On the same page Darragh McManus tells us that 'Slade House' by David Mitchell is - you've guessed it - "pretty clunky in places".

An amazing coincidence for a word that's hardly to be found in everyday use. Is there a movement afoot to ensure "clunky" gets a fair crack of the whip?

Tom Bulfin

Bruff, Co Limerick

 

Remembering the Great War

A two-week Great War Remembrance art exhibition opens tomorrow in the library in Mallow, Co Cork. This exhibition represents the culmination of just over six months of work, and I must thank Cork County Library and my colleagues in Mallow library for affording me the opportunity to show it.

To my knowledge, this is the first exhibition of its kind to be held in Mallow library. It remembers the Great War of 1914-1918 and the Irish and Commonwealth soldiers who fought in it, including my grandfather, William Keating, who served in the Royal Artillery for the duration. Although badly wounded in the latter part of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, he later returned to active duty at the front and thankfully survived. Many were not so lucky, and the many cemeteries and memorials of Flanders and the Somme bear poignant and sobering testament to this.

The number of Irishmen who served in the British and Commonwealth forces in the Great War is uncertain, but it is thought to be certainly in excess of 200,000 and may have been as high as 300,000 - a significant proportion of the adult male population of the time.

Sadly, their memory was neglected as a matter of policy in this country for almost 90 years, but the shame lies not with the men who served, who fought and who died in their thousands in the trenches of the Western Front, on the beaches and in the ravines of Gallipoli, or those who perished on the sea or in the air, but rather with the State and the people who chose to forget them.

Peter Keating

Address with editor

Irish Independent

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