Let's look after our statues
Published 06/12/2015 | 02:30
Sir- Ruth Dudley Edwards' illuminating article 'Leave the statues alone: they're part of our history' (November 29) has a resonance with plans that are currently being considered much closer to home.
While not tainted with the 'embarrassing baggage' of Thomas Jefferson and Cecil Rhodes it seems some of our well known monuments on College Green are in danger of being toppled from their perch in the interests of progress. Dublin City Council are presently seeking redesign submissions for the pedestrianising of this area with the stated intention of relocating the Henry Grattan and Thomas Davis monuments to a spot as yet to be determined. I hope those with responsibility for the reconfiguration process pause to reflect on the historical associations of the Bank of Ireland and Trinity College and their relationship to these monuments.
Taking Henry Grattan in the first instance; the former House of Parliament, now Bank of Ireland, was once referred to as 'Grattan's Parliament'. Perhaps the Bank would agree to rehouse this illustrious gentleman in the concourse of their own building. Perhaps it could be repositioned on Foster Place once the proposed removal of the existing plane trees has been carried out. One way or the other, to give the monument its context, Grattan should remain within view of the former Parliament Building, there is nowhere else in the city with the same connection.
Moving on to the Davis monument; I wonder did anyone survey the monument site, if not, they should know that a plaque laid by President Sean T O'Kelly in 1945 is still there embedded in the ground for all to see.
It's a matter of record that huge crowds turned out in September 1945 to commemorate the centenary of the death of Thomas Davis. Photographs show thousands lining the streets of Dublin for various events including the president marching down Dame Street flanked by be-medalled 1916 veterans. On that occasion he dedicated the site on which a statue to Thomas Davis would in due course be erected facing his old Alma Mater, Trinity College.
It was not until the 1960s that the Davis monument was finally realised, but what a contribution it makes to College Green. From time to time, students give a wintery appearance to the fountain by introducing washing up liquid, but Davis stands magnanimous above it all. As we rush headlong into next year's commemoration events, we should also reflect on the legacy of great men like Davis and Grattan and celebrate what these monuments represent. They are our history and should not be removed from the buildings to which they are associated.
Climate change part of life
Sir - Last weekend saw the arrival of 40,000 delegates and 6,000 journalists in Paris to highlight concern for global warming and climate change (November 29).
Dire warnings of imminent disaster were articulated by Prince Charles who declared that there was little time to avoid climate catastrophe and Jim Yong Kim who predicted that the impact of climate change would destabilise countries.
Lighten up people! The world has been changing and evolving since the very first moment of Creation/Big Bang. Change implies progress. To change is to grow. Species become extinct as their niche within nature becomes obsolete and are replaced by different ones better suited to the new environment. The dinosaurs of 60m years ago have been surpassed by the phenomenally successful mammals of today among which our own human race takes pride of place.
The climate change of 10,000 years ago saw the retreat of the ice sheets which had precluded the flourishing of flora and fauna on the European continent.
Even if the polar caps were to melt, think of the opportunities this would present for plants, birds and animals to establish fresh colonies within the new ecosystems of the previously inhospitable frozen wastelands of the Arctic.
Rather than wringing our hands Hamlet-like over the passing away of former things, which is the inevitable consequence of inhabiting a rapidly changing world, let us look forward to and embrace the new dawn being ushered in by the wheel of eternity.
Herculean task of sustainable energy
Sir - Following the Paris climate change conference it is worth noting the combination of actions that engineer and environmentalist Dr Saul Griffith calculates would be necessary to achieve an average energy usage of 5kW for every person in the world by using mainly sustainable energy sources (currently in the US, usage is 11.4kW while in Bangladesh it is 0.2 kW).
Given a period of 25 years to achieve this, the following would be required: two and a half full size nuclear power reactors would have to be constructed every week, a three megawatt wind turbine erected every three minutes, 250m of solar panels constructed every second, and finally, bio energy would require the equivalent of four Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with genetically engineered bacteria, every second.
This does not take into consideration an increase in global population. It seems that the world has quite a herculean task ahead in its pursuit of sustainable energy.
English landladies and the Irish
Sir - The 'No Blacks, No Irish' signs were for real (Letters, Sunday Independent, November 29).
In the summer of 1961 I arrived in London for the first time. After passing a number of B&Bs with the signs, near Euston Station, I was directed by a helpful policeman to the Kings Cross area. "There are Irish-run B&Bs up there, "he said, and he added "Be careful, every second B&B is a 'knocking shop'."
Having grown up in Athlone and Galway, I had never heard this expression, but presumed it was a place where you could get a knock over the head and be robbed.
I need not have worried. The first doorbell I rang was answered by a large lady with a Donegal accent. I noticed the Child of Prague statue on the hall table and a picture of the Sacred Heart on the wall. I was in good hands.
It was only years later, when I read John B Keane's novel The Contractors, that I understood why the English landladies of that time were so afraid of taking in the Irish. What they had against black people I never found out.
Savagery awoke old hatreds
Sir - My thanks to Paddy McEvoy (Sunday Independent, November 29) for providing an insightful and informative context to the scenes depicting the Irish in Britain as described in my letter (Sunday Independent, November 22).
Regarding the raw feelings generated by Ireland's neutrality during the war, he is absolutely right. One might point out however, that as the 1960s wore on, things got palpably better, due no doubt, in large part, to the massive contribution made to the re-building of the country and the manning of factories and service industries by Irish labour, not to mention the sterling work of dedicated Irish nurses which helped to sustain the NHS.
Sadly, as fate would have it, Irish Republican savagery reared its ugly head yet again, wreaking havoc on the lives of many and bequeathing a legacy of enmity that will take generations to abate. In the meantime we have at least the consolation of Adams's glib assertion: "It's good to be Irish in Britain now."
Mr McEvoy's point, "We Irish are adept at holding the Diaspora picture at a convenient angle,..." is well taken.