Monday 24 October 2016

Let's be clear-eyed about our 'allies' in the United States

Published 21/09/2016 | 02:30

Then US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in 2009. Photo: Reuters
Then US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in 2009. Photo: Reuters

Billy Keane writes, "All through the recession, the Americans were our only allies" (Irish Independent, September 19). However, it was the US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner who, at a conference call with the G7 finance ministers in November 2010, torpedoed the haircut offered by the IMF, which would have helped Ireland to reduce its massive bank debts.

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This is not to say that Ireland can find better allies than the US - for example, in 2010, the German banks had a €21.3bn exposure to the Irish banking system, so Germany opposed Ireland's efforts to enforce losses on certain categories of bank bondholders.

And in 2013, Britain accused Ireland of losing billions of tax revenue due to the US companies routing their earnings from the UK to Ireland. However, at the same time, we should look at all superpowers with the examining eyes of Sherlock Holmes, rather than the roving eyes of Maureen O'Hara in 'The Quiet Man'.

Mr Keane writes, "An té nach bhfuil láidir, ní foláir dó a bheith glic" ("He who is not strong has to be clever").

Well, we expect the Irish in America "to back us up", yet we don't even grant them voting rights. Now, how clever is that?

Grzegorz Kolodziej
Bray, Co Wicklow

Papal infallibility: a bad idea

Apart from her work, the most striking feature of the life of Saint Teresa of Calcutta was her persistent experience of the absence of God and regular doubts about God's existence. This dark night of the soul seems to have been a feature of the lives of many of the saints. .

The notion that religion or science provide certainty offers precarious comfort to those who feel adrift in an uncertain world.

One of the most debilitating temptations is to create intellectually safe places in order to survive the ambiguity of living and to escape from ideas at odds with our own. This shows itself in various forms of withdrawal from the world, either in adopting the bogus certainty of some religious practices or fundamentalist scientism, being seduced by the notion that science or religion deliver certainty.

When Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French physicist and writer, doubted his beliefs and prayed for the simple faith of the Breton fisherwoman, he was not praying for ignorance but for enlightenment.

What we all have to face is the weakness of reason; it is easy to get things wrong. We must not over-estimate its function in our lives.

It is more realistic to preserve a moderate scepticism. This is not so much the age of reason but the age of trying to be more reasonable.

Sadly, the church has been late in facing up to the fact that it is not a peddler of certainty. The idea of papal infallibility, however limited, should be confined to the museum of very bad ideas. The Irish bishops opposed it. Some cynics have suggested that they thought they themselves were infallible.

Pope Francis, with limited success, has sought to stem the exercise of power and control in the church, evident in the suppression of individual voices of dissent, as in the case of Father Tony Flannery.

The exercise of power is no substitute for the exercise of insight and inspiration.

Philip O'Neill
Oxford, UK

Lack of respect for the anthem

Like many in my age group, in their late 50s or early 60s, compiling a scrapbook of newspaper photographs of the stars of hurling and football was a popular pastime for me.

I can still picture the great Wexford team of the Rackards marching in a perfect straight line behind the Artane Boys' Band. This parade was a revered part of the big GAA occasions.

I watch what passes for this parade now, and wonder why they bother. The players seem to see it as a limbering up exercise, walking two abreast, carrying water bottles and waving to people in the stand. I even saw a Mayo player in the semi-final, soloing with a ball at the end of the line. Players should be made to partake in this parade in a respectful manner, or else, drop it completely.

Likewise with our national anthem. Players now treat it as a bonding exercise rather than standing to attention, and they break away long before the end.

The GAA hierarchy allows this display of disrespect to continue.

They might take a look at international rugby or soccer matches and note how the anthem is observed.

Tom O'Keeffe

Furrowed brows?

Let us hope for good weather at the Ploughing Championship ... otherwise we might have some furrowed brows.

Tom Gilsenan
Beaumont, Dublin 9

End barbaric hare coursing

"Our land is his land. We never forget that."

So reads the heading over a striking colour picture of an Irish hare that appears in a Bord na Mona newspaper ad. The message relates to the excellent conservation work that the board has done on over 80,000 hectares of Irish landscape for a multitude of precious flora and fauna.

While I commend this highlighting of the hare's entitlement to its habitat, I wish that Bord na Mona's concern for wildlife in general and this wonderful creature in particular was shared by our politicians, especially the ones in power.

Successive governments have failed to protect this jewel of our wildlife heritage from deliberate, stomach-churning cruelty.

Coursing clubs continue to wield a vice-grip on TDs and senators, who know only too well that hares can't vote. In just a few days, at the end of September, another coursing season will commence.

An animal celebrated in Irish folklore, song and literature will be treated as a mere pawn in a stupid and grotesque game of chance. In scenes eerily reminiscent of Ancient Rome, fans will roar as each timid little creature runs in terror from a pair of salivating, blood-crazed dogs.

Hares will dodge and swerve and evade, but many will succumb to canine speed and strength.

They'll be pummelled or mauled or have their brittle bones crushed. And the gamblers will watch the performance unfazed, marking their cards or slugging whiskey.

The Irish hare is a unique sub-species of the mountain hare and a rare survivor of the Ice Age of 10,000 years ago.

Some day, a government with guts will ban this obscenity that calls itself a "sport".

John Fitzgerald
Callan, Co Kilkenny

Irish Independent

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