Sunday 23 October 2016

Forgive us, Ibrahim

Published 19/06/2016 | 02:30

Ibrahim Halawa
Ibrahim Halawa

Sir - I go about my life, like so many Irish citizens - parent, sibling, employee, partner - on automatic pilot.

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I react to life when required to do so but otherwise plod along.

Occasionally, I squint in the direction of the Free Ibrahim Halawa campaign to find, that three years on, he is still not home and I lose a little bit more faith in humanity and increase my hope that there's a God.

Why is it not our most pressing concern, our most burning issue to free him?

Ibrahim, pictured, is our son, our brother, our neighbour, our friend. His three years should not have been three hours. I pray that he will be freed soon and that he finds it in his heart, if he has the strength left to do so, to forgive.

Rose Servitova


Co Limerick

Deadly outcome of homophobia

Sir - The horrific slaughter of people in Orlando at a gay club should focus the minds of all of us, but especially those in positions of influence, who fuel anti-gay propaganda which in turn prompts homophobic attacks.

It is reported that the killer's family suggested the attack may have been a hate crime aimed at the LGBT community. Here in Ireland some unionist politicians should be more circumspect in their choice of language when arguing the issues of homophobia. DUP MLA Jim Wells resigned as Health Minister following criticism of his claim that children who are raised by same-sex parents are "more likely" to be abused.

Despite its claims to represent all views and differences, the DUP has for decades led verbal and legal assaults on gay people. From its Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign, to its opposition to civil partnership, to its current proposed conscience clause.

Remarks like those uttered by Mr Wells feeds attitudes that lead to homophobic attacks, provides succour and encouragement to homophobes, and sends the impression that the Northern state condones homophobia.

In 2007 as a junior minister in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, the Department which is charged with promoting equality and responsibility for introducing the Single Equality Bill, Ian Paisley Jr in an interview with Hot Press magazine said he was "repulsed by homosexuals", saying they "harmed society".

In 2008, before her liaison with a teenager was exposed, then DUP Cllr Iris Robinson said she viewed homosexuality as "an abomination" and urged homosexuals to seek psychiatric help.

However, the DUP does not have a monopoly on the issue of homophobia in the North. The former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party Tom Elliott nailed his colours to the homophobic mast by announcing in 2010 that he "would never attend a Gay Pride march".

There appears to be an absence of internal recognition within the DUP regarding the offence their publically stated views on homosexuality cause, and how depressingly predictable that such comments can still command a considerable degree of support in the North.

Indeed, these outrageous comments by elected representatives which would be a cause of opprobrium in civilised society worldwide, are not alone tolerated, but widely trumpeted by many seeking election to political power in the North. This being the case, these homophobic opinions must be challenged from outside.

Tom Cooper,

Dublin 15

Unsuitability of hospital site

Sir - I want to thank Dr Eamonn Faller (Sunday Independent, June 12) for his heartfelt article regarding the proposed new children's hospital's unsuitable site.

He paints a picture of a very sick child and the ordeal it will be to get that poor child into the new children's hospital in James's Street, a nightmare for sure! Minister please, please listen to the people who know what they are talking about.

Margaret Murphy,

Blackrock, Co Dublin

Justifying the 'new politics' of country

Sir - Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, will no doubt have read Gene Kerrigan's excellent piece (Sunday Independent, June 12) about "new politics" in Ireland. This piece could easily have been written by Mr Ross before he became a minister.

How do you respond today, Mr Ross, to the "new politics" you are supporting, including, in my opinion, the quote of the week from Gene: "(In Ireland) schools are religious training academies first, educational resources second"?

Damien Carroll,


Dublin 24

Too much ranting over Enda Kenny

Sir - Gene Kerrigan's column (Sunday Independent, June 12) was the same as usual, a continuous rant on the Government and Enda Kenny in particular. I doubt, in his opinion, if Enda is capable of tying his own shoelaces. Time for a change.

John Curley,


Co Dublin

Facing realities of women and drink

Sir - Wise woman, Niamh Horan! She has obviously taken to heart the words of one Henry David Thoreau: 'it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things'.

Niamh has hit the nail right on the head in her article ('Women need to face facts about the link between rape and drinking', Sunday Independent, June 12). She says it's time to start a conversation and I am more than happy to join in. I do hope others will too.

I'd like to point out, though, that while I agree that excessive drinking is a major factor in rape, it is not the primary factor. Women who get drunk and get raped are first and foremost victims of a toxic culture. And this is the "fact" that most people are not yet prepared to admit. As Niamh said they "would prefer to live in the comfort of denial than face up to the realities of the world".

Contemporary sexual culture, the "hook-up" culture, is toxic, not just for young women but for all of society. But young women are paying the highest price, physically, emotionally and even spiritually.

Every young person is desperate to belong, to "fit in". And the hook-up culture insists that to belong you must follow the "herd" mentality. Everyone is doing it.

You must get drunk and you must get sexually active, and you must do it often.

Many women feel awful about it and have no idea why, because, as Niamh says, nobody wants to face the realities. The "herd" tells them: "Lighten up!" "You had fun. Big deal!" "Why are you so hard on yourself?" But the pain doesn't go away. It's hard to heal when you don't know you've been damaged. And the despair and shame that these women who hook up feel is real. (And we can't blame Catholic guilt this time because most are not Catholic).

As I already said, contemporary sexual culture is toxic for young women, and until women stand up and acknowledge that fact, despair, sadness and regret are going to be the underlying chord structure of their very lives. We fail an entire generation when we withhold from them the "wisdom not to do desperate things".

Nora Bennis,

Co Limerick

Let's have a proper discussion on EU

Sir - Dan O'Brien (Sunday Independent, June 12) writes that "almost everyone in Ireland … believes a Brexit would be bad for us". O'Brien's 'almost everyone' does not include me. The fact is that you cannot have a valid public opinion in the absence of a vibrant public debate. There is no such debate on the EU in Ireland, and there hasn't been in decades. Now, when the Brexit issue is covered in our media, it is treated in an invariably one-sided way.

A few weeks back, RTE's Marion Finucane programme held a discussion about Brexit, with six people participating. All six supported Britain remaining in the EU.

Last weekend, Clare Byrne Live also had six guests. When it came to talking about Brexit, five were opposed. The dissenting voice, Mr Paul Murphy TD, offered interesting but idiosyncratic arguments, which in no way reflected the calls for national sovereignty and democracy embodied in the British Vote Leave movement. Let's have a comprehensive national discussion on the good and the bad that the EU has brought Ireland, Mr O'Brien, and then you'll see how 'almost everyone' thinks.

Dr David Barnwell,

Department of Spanish,

NUI Maynooth

Prisoners of Brussels

Sir - In our prison system, there are some inmates who, at the end of their sentences, have become so institutionalised that they do not wish to be released.

In the UK, far too many people have permitted themselves to be affected by this same phenomenon with regard to the EU. We have one final chance to break free - or we must settle for a life sentence - bossed by Brussels prison officers - because we are too scared to let ourselves be released.

Kathryn Illingworth,


Poor Garda management

Sir - Having just read Jim Cusack's article, ('Jargon-filled Garda renewal plan fails to address the forces malaise' Sunday Independent, June 12), I was horrified to learn that Commissioner O'Sullivan is being allowed to fill more than two dozen senior appointments before control of this task is transferred to the new Policing Authority (PA).

It beggars belief that, despite the PA's sharp criticism of Garda management, following the publication of Judge O'Higgins's report on the so-called 'whistle-blower' affair in Cavan, the Commissioner still retains the responsibility to fill these very senior positions.

Mr Cusack's excellent piece is littered with phrases like, "truly shocking levels of ineptitude", "multiple levels of mismanagement" and "quite shocking organisational deficiencies" when describing findings from various independent reports on Garda management, and Ms O'Sullivan is about to make 12 senior appointments to "steward the force through the next five years of modernisation" from within the very ranks that were party to this ineptitude!

Don Byrne,

Dublin 5

The murder of Jerry McCabe

Sir - Eilis O'Hanlon wrote a very incisive column (Sunday Independent, June 12) in which she described the killing of Det Garda Jerry McCabe in Adare as murder. She further explained that "Of course we're not supposed to call it murder, but most people agree with Ann McCabe, who said it was plain murder, it wasn't manslaughter".

There have been many misused terms to describe this occurrence at Adare.

A Garda security escort had arrived at Adare post office escorting a post mail van, it was suddenly rammed from behind by a big jeep carrying four armed men, who immediately alighted from their vehicle and proceeded to riddle the patrol car and the two detective Gardaí there-in, killing one member and seriously injuring the other. These gunmen then jumped back into their car and fled the scene.

It must be plain to see, there was no raid or attempted raid - as your caption on the page erroneously said - on the post office or on the mail van. The raiders left after carrying out what had all the hallmarks of a well-planned murder.

It is erroneous to describe it otherwise and it has been expounded incorrectly by all media channels for far too long.

Tony Fagan,


Co Wexford

We need balanced debate on abortion

Sir - After Amnesty International's global campaign on Ireland's abortion law launched last June, I wrote a piece in this paper which noted the spectrum of opinions on abortion in Ireland and said: "So let's open up the debate, but calmly, respectfully and truthfully". In the year since then, I have continued to call for and support the airing and exchanging of views.

It was disturbing therefore to see those same words used against me in the title of Eilis O'Hanlon's piece (14 June), 'Will it ever be possible to have a calm, mutually respectful abortion debate?'

On June 9, Ireland was found by the UN Human Rights Committee to have violated one woman's right to be free from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, to privacy, and to be free from discrimination. The decision summarised the various ordeals Amanda Mellet endured and found that Ireland's abortion laws had subjected her to "intense physical and mental suffering".

Ireland helped create and elect this UN committee, and voluntarily accepted its mandate to hear individual complaints. Yet, for calling on Ireland to implement the committee's decision, Ms O'Hanlon accuses me of "overwrought rhetoric". She presents the decision as "another battering ram" in a "siege".

Why is it that on almost every other issue we work on around the world, our naming human rights violations and asking for them to stop is okay; but not on abortion in Ireland?

Contrary to what Ms O'Hanlon says about "attacking those who have yet to be convinced", I have consistently called for all views to be heard. Rather than "denigrating those who have doubts", we are very interested in people's uncertainties. This is why Amnesty International conducted detailed public polling which found the majority of people want more information on the Eighth Amendment.

Our poll found that just 5pc of people personally oppose abortion in all circumstances, though half of them - 2.5pc - would still vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment as they do not wish to impose their views on others.

It is nonsense to suggest that we are in a "new McCarthyite climate" where those opposed to abortion cannot speak. The simple fact is that groups which represent the views of just 2.5pc of the population get disproportionate space in a media climate that demands so-called 'balance'.

Regardless, public opinion cannot be allowed dictate whether or not a state will stop violating human rights. But it is heartening to see that the overwhelming majority - 87pc according to our poll, not 60pc as Ms O'Hanlon claims - want expanded access to abortion.

Colm O'Gorman,

Executive Director,

Amnesty International Ireland

Sir - Eilis O'Hanlon asks if "it will ever be possible to have a calm, mutually respectful abortion debate" and the answer is No, as long as most journalists and commentators are in favour of abortion legislation and, as she said, "admitting to having so-called family values is akin to announcing that you sometimes yearn for a return of the Third Reich".

What does that say about Irish society? Surely having equal right to life for both mother and baby is in no way objectionable? After all equality was the catchword during the Marriage Referendum. Is it now to be abandoned in the case of the baby in the womb?

As regards "being disturbed by the prospect of abortion coming to be regarded as trivial, the easy answer to every maternal crisis", how does Ms O'Hanlon argue against this when viewing the situation in Britain and every country where abortion has been legalised?

Almost 200,000 abortions are carried out in Britain annually and she should be aware that 'limits and rules' are not worth the paper they are written on when abortion becomes legal.

As one who sees the Eighth Amendment as something to be proud of in that every effort is made to save both lives, I have, like Ms O'Hanlon regarding her opinion in favour of its appeal, yet to see a compelling argument for its removal, and I sincerely hope that most people will speak up and ensure that we retain the right to life of the unborn child.

Mary Stewart,


Donegal Town

Sunday Independent

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