Friday 30 September 2016

Letters: A man out of time, swimming against the tide

Published 12/06/2014 | 02:30

Noel Browne
Noel Browne

I read Dr Noel Browne's book 'Against the Tide' 25 years ago and found it to be incredible. I took it down and read it again recently and found it to be totally credible.

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What had changed in the meantime? Answer: Philomena Lee's story, the Magdalene Laundries, the various reports on child abuse, the recent revelations about the mother and child homes and the demise of the staunch pillars of Irish society.

Noel, who was a friend of the mother and child, wrote about the devotion of the Irish women to their religion.

"There is a forlorn hope that the magic miracle of the Mass, or other Sacrament, will fend off that greatest single fear that so many working-class mothers know – the fear of the next pregnancy."

He devoted his medical and political life to the care of the underprivileged – the introduction of the mother and child scheme and the eradication of TB, which claimed the lives of his parents and sister and almost claimed his. Sadly, he appears to have been forgotten.

He made enemies in political and religious circles because he rocked the conservative boat.

He tried to tell us, but we would not listen – perhaps, we'll listen now.





As a year-head in a busy community school who regularly deals with bullying issues, I am in full agreement with your editorial comment (June 10) that the best way to combat the scourge of cyber-bullying is by education. All members of society need to learn that individual rights and responsibilities do not end at a computer keyboard and schools clearly have a role to play in this process.

Regretfully, the capacity of second-level schools to deal with bullying issues has been massively diminished over the last five years by a series of swingeing cuts. Positions such as year-heads and special duties teachers, the very people who can investigate bullying incidences and develop and co-ordinate anti-bullying initiatives, have been axed.

The role of the guidance counsellor, often the first port of call for a student in crisis, has been seriously curtailed and one-to-one counselling time has been halved.

Reducing the already meagre resources available to young people at a time when they most need them makes no educational or economic sense and will likely prove to be far more costly in the long term.

Despite all the cutbacks, teachers and schools will still endeavour to meet the challenge of cyber-bullying in a creative, positive and constructive manner. In reality, schools have been doing more with less for many years. Logic however, suggests that this situation cannot continue indefinitely.





I was not surprised to see proposals for schools to teach lessons against cyber-bullying.

But I'm wondering why we think schools can sort this out? Already schools are expected to teach children about sex, relationships, healthy eating, hygiene, avoiding binge drinking and being environmentally active citizens. Perhaps schools should build places for students to sleep and eat as I'm not sure what exactly is left for parents to do ?





I must take exception with John Clifford's assertion that Stalin's USSR 'freed' Europe (Letters, June 9) during World War II. To quote President Barack Obama's fine words – the brave men from Canada, the US and the UK who landed in Normandy to establish 'democracy's beach-head' in that corner of France – as they were as much in a battle with their enemy's enemy the USSR as they were with Nazi Germany. It is certain if the US and UK had been defeated, Nazi Germany and Communist Russia would have fought to impose their version of tyranny on Europe and liberal democracy that allows revisionists to write letters to a free newspaper wouldn't have survived.

I'm sure the Polish, Czechs, Hungarians, Slovaks, East Germans would disagree with Mr Clifford's assertion that the USSR had 'freed' Europe.

After all, no one was ever shot crossing the Berlin Wall to defect from West Berlin to Russian-controlled East Berlin.

I particularly take issue with Mr Clifford's diminishing of the sacrifice of men like Wing Commander 'Paddy' Finucane who prevented the invasion of Britain (and ultimately Ireland) when Britain stood alone during the period of the non-aggression pact between USSR and Germany, not to mention the merchant sailors of the Arctic convoy who dodged U-boats to supply the USSR.

To describe the Battle of the Bulge and Iwo Jima as 'skirmishes' is offensive to great generals like Eisenhower, who didn't believe in cheaply sacrificing the lives of his men. I also take issue with the statement that the barbaric Red Army (who massacred 22,000 Polish officers), killed POWs at will and systematically raped the female population of occupied Germany was an army of liberation. Russia saved Russia and Russia alone from Nazi tyranny before imposing a longer-lasting and equally vicious form of tyranny on the countries that were unfortunate enough not to be reached by Patton's army.





It was to be expected that Ms Burton and Mr White would identify banking-related debt interest, which accounts for a third of the €9bn annual debt interest bill, and various tax relief schemes, which result in about €7 billion of lost revenue, as areas in which further savings could be made. That is low hanging fruit.

However, what would be a real sign of genuine leadership would be for the Labour Party leadership candidates to explain why they felt it was appropriate for them to accept a pay rise when they were appointed to office. Was it moral that money clawed back from cutting services should be redirected to pay the higher salaries and allowances of Labour ministers?

How can they have nothing to say about the salary of €250,000 being paid to their party colleague President Michael D Higgins, when €100,000 would be far more equitable for the president of a small bankrupt country of four million.

These payments in my opinion are unjustifiable, not to mention immoral. So much for the left leading by example when it comes to fairness and equality.

A sign of genuine leadership from the left would be to recognise that if tax relief schemes, which mostly benefit the well-off middle class, are no longer affordable or justifiable, it must also follow that automatic increments in the public sector cannot be justified either.

It doesn't matter if most of them are paid to frontline low-paid staff because there are plenty of frontline low-paid people in the private sector, in shops, offices and factories all across the country, who work just as hard as those in the public sector, but there's no taxpayer-funded automatic increments for them.

It's easy to have a go at the well-off middle class but it takes real guts and leadership for a Labour leader to point out to the public sector the areas where it needs to change – but it doesn't appear either Ms Burton or Ms White have the guts to do that.



Irish Independent

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