Friday 21 October 2016

High time Swift was allowed to Bloom

Published 12/06/2013 | 05:00

* What do the phrases "promises are made to be broken", "bursting the bubble" and "raining cats and dogs" have in common?

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While the nation's cultural love-in this week will focus on Sunday, June 16, where the scatological and the vegetable (sh**e and onions) will compete with palates that appreciate the "tang of faintly scented urine", as the intelligentsia gaze across the "snot green sea", spare a thought (and a chuckle or two) for the originator of the above well-worn phrases, who on Sunday, June 13, 1713, ascended to the Deanery of St Patrick's Cathedral.

Jonathan Swift coined the phrase 'bubble' in relation to stock that far exceeded its economic value when he penned 'The Bubble: a Poem' (December 1720) in response to the notorious South Sea Company scandal, where many who had invested their livelihoods in shares lost the lot when the "bubble burst".

The following year, Swift wrote 'The Wonderful Wonder of Wonders', a piercing satire on the formation of the National Bank in Ireland.

When we Irish are not talking about the state of the economy or berating our politicians, we return to our other favourite topic, the weather. In 1710, Swift wrote 'Description of a City Shower'. His paean to an impending deluge started thus: "Careful observers may foretell the hour/(By sure prognostics) when to dread a shower." And then he reveals the identity of his weather forecaster: "While rain depends, the pensive cat gives o'er her frolics, and pursues her tail no more."

He memorably characterised the offending harbinger of ill weather as "a sable cloud . . . that swilled more liquor than it could contain/ And like a drunkard gives it up again" and finishes up in his own macabre style with a veritable lashing of the populace below by "drown'd puppies" and "dead cats".

So let's give him his day tomorrow, in many ways he's more deserving of our attention than one James Augustus Aloysius Joyce!

Mark Lawler

Liberties Heritage Association, Dublin 8


* I knew absolutely nothing about the Muslim religion when I arrived to work in Saudi Arabia in 1997. I soon started learning about it. Using my time in the Kingdom, I met with many different people of different nationalities – a lot of these people had one thing in common, they were Muslim.

Almost all of these people had different versions of what the definition of being a Muslim was, some had liberal thoughts; some had extreme thoughts. Diversity is fine by me, all people should respect the beliefs that people have about their religion.

Where it gets to me is when people start using Islam for political gains, and they decide that they can kill and destroy anything they want because it is all for the good of Islam. This is when I get upset that these people are using a beautiful religion for their own greed and power.

Something of a first happened in Turkey last week. The people demonstrating were trying to explain that Islam is a religion and not a political movement. These people are wonderfully brave, and I hope that they will be successful, but I fear that they might not be this time. But I do hope that this is the start of Islam becoming a religion again.

David Hennessy

Rathnew, Co Wicklow


* Recent opinion polls would have us believe that Fianna Fail has been forgiven for its sins and is waiting in the wings for a return to power.

Recent revelations highlight John McGuinness's part in the spending that became ubiquitous during the Celtic Tiger years at taxpayers' expense. Despite this, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has publicly defended his man.

This is surely proof that Fianna Fail has not learnt from its mistakes or changed its ways at all. Defending their man in this way shows that the old Fianna Fail is still alive and well.

Dermot Murphy

Coole, Co Westmeath


* An October referendum has been set for the people to decide on the Fine Gael/Labour Government's proposal to abolish the Seanad. They propose to replace the Seanad with a committee of experts to examine bills and suggest improvements, before being passed into law by the Dail. The debate for the next four months is whether this would be a good move.

There are 60 senators to 166 TDs. The Seanad's primary role is to represent a wide range of views and minority views in Irish society. Over many decades it has become more a place of rescue to save the careers of TDs who lost their seats or first timers who have ambitions to win a Dail seat.

University graduates, trade unions and city and county councillors vote for Seanad candidates and the Taoiseach chooses 11 – usually, but not always, former TDs who lost their seats.

The Seanad helped raise the profile of young human rights lawyer Mary Robinson, who was in the Seanad from 1969 to 1989 before being elected President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997. Another example is Senator David Norris who was a presidential candidate in 2011.

It is politically favourable in our five-year-old economic recession for a political party to say why not abolish the Seanad, as it is expensive. Whether this is a good idea in the long term for democratic checks and balances I don't know. There have been many reports on Seanad reform – each one set aside.

I think that President Michael D Higgins is providing checks and balances in a way previous Presidents of Ireland have not needed to – and more strongly than the Seanad ever could. He has an electoral mandate with about a million people having voted for him in 2011.

He has spoken out in recent months on the austerity measures in the EU affecting democracy in member countries and warned those countries not to lose sight that the EU is a "human" union and not a technocratic one.

The role of the President in offering a check or balance to the Government is stronger than the Seanad. She or he can consult the Council of State and if the consensus is uncertainty about whether a proposed government law is constitutional, the President can refer the bill to the Supreme Court.

The one bill that can't be referred is a financial bill, as it has to be signed into law by a President.

It could even be said that we don't need the Seanad, we have the office of President.

M Sullivan

College Road, Cork

* The Seanad: Self-serving Elitist Anachronistic Nice-work-if-you-can get-it Anti-democratic Dodos.

So why do I think in a democracy we still unfortunately need them?

Ivor Shorts

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16


* A current storyline on the political front reminds me of the fella who always kissed his wife goodbye each morning. The alternative, he said, would mean having to bring her with him!

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

Irish Independent

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