Sunday 25 September 2016

For a proper sporting model, Ireland should look to Denmark

Published 26/08/2016 | 02:30

A Denmark supporter celebrates after they beat France in the Olympic Handball final Photo: Marko Djurica
A Denmark supporter celebrates after they beat France in the Olympic Handball final Photo: Marko Djurica

David McWilliams's article on Ireland's relative Olympic success, or rather lack of it (Irish Independent, August 24), includes several valid points but also one unfortunate mistake.

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McWilliams compares Ireland to some more successful countries, but for some reason completely ignores one of the most successful country of these and other 21st-century Olympics, namely Denmark.

This is all the more regrettable as Denmark and Ireland are particularly well suited for comparison, being European countries of similar population size, economic development, prosperity and geographical location. According to Mr McWilliams, the five top countries of the last Olympics, as measured by medals per population, were the Bahamas, Jamaica, Croatia, Fiji and New Zealand. For this list to be correct, Fiji should be replaced by Denmark, which won a total of 15 medals and has a population of 5.6 million.

Considering its size, location and wealth, Ireland should be compared primarily with Denmark, as well as European countries such as Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia, all relatively successful at the Rio Olympics. The combined medal haul of the latter three was 29, while their combined population stands at 16.5 million.

The experience of these countries runs counter to some of Mr McWilliams's arguments. They have not engaged in specialisation and focusing on "niche" sports. Instead, their policy appears to be one of variety and equality as regards the distribution of funds and facilities. Denmark won their 15 medals in 10 different sports, and, as some of these are team sports, produced a total of 39 medal winners.

Ireland's unique sporting culture and history, and hence choice of sports, is such that it will probably never be a major Olympic power. Nonetheless, Ireland can learn a great deal from Denmark and the other aforesaid countries.

They all have a far superior infrastructure of multi-sport facilities, more equal distribution of resources, much better physical education in schools, better co-operation between sports and between schools and clubs, as well as more equal gender balance in sports, both in terms of participation and media coverage.

These are factors relating mainly to the grass-roots rather than high performance, to sport as a benefactor of social life and public health rather than sport as the calculated business of medal hunting for the sake of national glory and vanity.

Andrés Eiríksson, Churchtown, Dublin 14

Property companies now too big

I am writing to express my revulsion at a recent story in your paper which stated that Ireland's biggest landlord, Irish property investment firm IRES, has snapped up another 89 apartments along with 145 car parking spaces in an €18.3m deal.

The new apartments are based at Coldcut Park in Clondalkin, Dublin 22, are currently 99pc occupied with an annual passing rent of €1.4m.

The deal brings the total number of apartments under IRES control up to 2,377 in Ireland.

Furthermore, another story in your paper the same day states that a group of UK investors are to pay €72.5m for 197 apartments in Dún Laoghaire, an average price of €368,000 per unit.

The group plans to rent out most of the 129 two-bedroom apartments from €1,800 a month, to €2,000 for penthouses.

A further 41 three-bedroom units are likely to rent from €2,200, to €2,500 for penthouses.

There will also be 27 one-beds which should make from €1,400 per month, to €1,500 for penthouses.

My revulsion stems from the fact that this stock of 2,377 properties should be in the hands of the young people of Ireland, in the form of individually owned, mortgaged homes.

This is what Nama and the Government have done to the young generation of Ireland.

Nama's refusal to sell individual properties to any one individual, instead offering block sales to groups of investors and real estate trusts at knock-down prices, has created companies that are so large they have a hold over the Irish property sector.

JP Byrne, Address with editor

Our record on refugees a disgrace

The death in tragic circumstances of a Korean asylum seeker is of course a tragedy, especially for her six-year-old son who found her body.

In the wider context, it is time to examine the Irish direct provision system which, instead of protecting the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees, actually imposes further suffering on those who live in such unacceptable conditions.

Ireland has one of lowest rates among European Union states of allowing in refugees and asylum seekers, and one of the highest rates of rejecting asylum applications for the few that we do initially allow in.

On the face of it, it would seem that our Government policy on refugees and asylums seekers is to make the system so difficult to enter in the first place, and so uncomfortable and restricted for those who are being processed, that this acts as a deterrent to others who might otherwise wish to seek refugee protection in Ireland.

Given our own Irish history of outward migration, and the real tragic conflicts from which so many people are forced to flee in the most dangerous circumstances, our Government needs to do a lot more to live up to our obligations under the UN Convention on Refugees.

Edward Horgan, Castletroy, Limerick

Griffith no friend of the poor

According to Hugh Duffy (Letters, August 24), Arthur Griffith founded Sinn Féin because the Irish Parliamentary Part (IPP) was doing nothing to alleviate the worst poverty in Europe at that time, in the slums of Dublin.

Really? Can this be the same Arthur Griffith who supported the Great Lockout of 1913 against workers who were seeking a living wage and trade union recognition?

Was this the same Arthur Griffith who told the world that the great Labour leader Big Jim Larkin was nothing but an agent hell bent on destroying Irish industry to the advantage of British industry?

Was this the same Arthur Griffith who opposed the transfer of starving children from the tenements to homes in England for the duration of the Lockout?

Finally, can this be the same Arthur Griffith who seriously proposed installing a German prince on the Irish throne after the departure of the British?

In reality, what Griffith was really looking for and eventually achieved was a revolution where nothing changed and everybody still knew their place.

Eddie Naughton, The Coombe, Dublin 8

Irish Independent

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