Thursday 29 September 2016

Letters: Crisis is easily solved

Published 14/06/2015 | 02:30

Why is First Communion such an elaborate spectacle nowadays?
Why is First Communion such an elaborate spectacle nowadays?

Public statements by the Catholic clergy are no more my business than they are Gene Kerrigan's. And I usually find myself competing with him for levels of criticism of the church.

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However, I must defend one particular priest - namely the one in Ennistymon who apparently criticised a Traveller's communion dress. It is unfortunate that his criticism was taken to be 'anti-Traveller' - it could be a valid criticism, irrespective of whom he was addressing.

Also, given how negligible, by historic standards, attendance at Mass in Ireland currently is, why is First Communion such an elaborate spectacle nowadays? The short answer is that, despite everything, Communion in Ireland is not a religious event.

It is a case of keeping up with the Joneses, or ahead of the Murphys. Certainly if all the parents who spent so much money outfitting their kids so lavishly for their communions were themselves regular mass-goers, then the Catholic Church would simply not have a crisis.

Frank Desmond, Turners Cross, Cork City


Sir - I have no wish to bring the entire commentariat down on my head but I am finally compelled to put pen to paper to say that Colm Mc Carthy (Sunday Independent, 7 June) is wrong - again.

Despite complaining for years that councillors were rezoning too much land - and for all the wrong reasons - he now complains that we are not rezoning enough land - and for all the wrong reasons.

For the record there are 440 hectares zoned for residential use in the Dublin City area. Applying the 120 units per hectare standard this is enough for 50,000 housing units. Enough to meet demand for about the next 10 years. Obviously there is a need to plan for further ahead which is exactly what city councillors are now doing through the preparation of the City Development Plan.

The truth is, it was not Dublin city councillors who avoided their responsibilities. Rather national government over the last twenty years, advised by people like Colm Mc Carthy, emasculated local government and minimised the possibility of coherent and integrated planning. Meanwhile the banks, key players in the market so loved by Mr Mc Carthy, financed the collapse of a sensible housing sector with an objective of providing sufficient and quality housing. In most of this Mr Mc Carthy was an ever present player in that band of commentators who, eleven times out of ten, were wrong.

Councillor Dermot Lacey, Donnybrook, Dublin 4


Still dealing with boom fallout

Sir - Colm McCarthy's article on the housing crisis (Sunday Independent, 7 June) concluded that responsibility for the many of follies lies with local authority members.

His central argument is that local politicians under pressure from existing residents simply will not approve new zoning for development.

As someone who was elected for the first time just over 12 months ago I know that across the country, county councillors like me are still dealing with the fallout from the boom - unfinished estates, unpaid development levies and private management fees.

One way to address concerns about new developments within existing communities is to link new housing with local improvements, like taking a more flexible approach to development levies, so that they can be used to improve roads and other amenities in areas where construction takes place. But as it stands, current planning regulations require that all funds collected be applied as capital for public infrastructure and facilities for the approved development.

The other key challenge is providing proper infrastructure and amenities. In Fingal 24,000 houses could but built it would require €80m being spent on services. There is inadequate water, sewage and transport infrastructure.

Nearly half of all the land banks are in Fingal with the two largest in Swords and Blanchardstown. Each could provide about 7,500 homes if sewage problems were fixed.

During the boom, thousands of houses were built, but the infrastructure needed to service those new communities was lacking. Inadequate school provision had an enormous effect on families. Building houses and developing land cannot be done in isolation. Planning requires a national strategic plan with minimum standards that provide the basis for sustainable communities to develop.

Councillor Justin Sinnott, Swords, Co Dublin


Listen to coshed patients' relatives

Sir - I feel very strongly that Emer O'Kelly's article, 'Is chemical cosh really an outrage against dignity?' (Sunday Independent, 7 June) is very unfair to the people who are campaigning against the illegal use of anti-psychotic drugs in nursing homes.

Ms O'Kelly wonders "if campaigners against sedative drugs are really putting the patients first?"

She should talk to people whose loved ones were given this "cosh." These include patients who are not a danger to anyone. They might walk around, a bit agitated because they had been left sitting with no meaningful activity and they might get on the nerves of some staff. These patients have a constitutional right not to have their bodily integrity interfered with.

The anti-psychotic drugs we are talking about are licensed to treat bi-polar patients only, not to treat dementia patients, and the risks posed far out-weigh the benefits. There are safer drugs such as neuroleptics available, but a patient given this treatment would still have to be handled at meal times and, if necessary, changed. But at least they would not spend their time in a zombie state unable to move or open their eyes.

Ask yourself, if it was your child throwing a bit of a wobbly, would you be happy to quieten them down with a chemical "cosh" and turn them into zombies? Ms O'Kelly should talk to some of those people whose loved ones have been subjected to these chemical coshes. She might then be in a position to understand better the problem and the efforts of those who are fighting to solve it.

Remember, we are not talking about mental health units here. These are nursing homes operated by the State where the families pay €800 per week. Remember too that staff are not looking after the old people out of the goodness of their hearts. They are being paid to do it. And if they are not adequately trained for the job, or cannot be bothered to interact properly, their vulnerable charges should not be the ones to suffer.

Lourda Finn, Kilrush, Co Clare


New mental health rules needed

Sir - Emer O'Kelly's article (Sunday Independent, 7 June) suggests that calls to reduce the use of powerful psychotropic drugs to control challenging behaviour of people with severe mental health conditions and people with an intellectual disability is an unrealistic ideal, due to lack of resources.

Such a position is untenable in the context of Ireland's obligations under international human rights law. In recent months, the Expert Group on the review of the Mental Health Act 2001 and the Government have both agreed that Ireland's regulations on in-patient mental health centres should be extended to cover all forms of restraint. They have accepted that Ireland can do better. There is evidence that mental health services can achieve a dramatic reduction in the use of seclusion and physical restraint when a focussed initiative is implemented that includes leadership, staff training, appropriate policies and procedures, debriefing to the people who receive seclusion/restraint, and monitoring.

In the meantime, the health services should adopt policies to reduce the use of chemical restraint as a matter of priority.

Paddy Connolly, CEO, Inclusion Ireland

Shari McDaid, Director, Mental Health Reform, Dublin 7


Don't dishonour noble dead

Sir - As a former member of The Workers' Party and one who has remained sympathetic to its ideals and principles, I take issue with the article regarding the Official IRA and 5,000 AK47s. (Sunday Independent, 31 May).

I am not in a position to debate the truth or otherwise of the allegations made by Jim Cusack. But I do object most strongly to the references he made to Dessie O'Hagan and the former party president Tomas MacGiolla. Both these men gave the best years of their lives to the struggle against Fascism wherever it raised its ugly head. You have dishonoured these men when they have each departed this life.

Paddy Houlahan, Armagh City, Co Armagh


Emigrants and Dole not the same

Sir - Declan Lynch in his article (Sunday Independent, 14 June) presumes a direct correlation between emigration and reducing unemployment figures. This may appear to be true, but closer examination shows the issue is more complex.

Many people who leave Ireland after getting a qualification have never signed on. There is also anecdotal evidence that the seriously destitute are home birds and have no interest in leaving Ireland for countries like the US or UK where the social welfare system is less generous.

How many countries allow you to collect your social welfare in your pyjamas?

Martin Walshe, Stillorgan, Co Dublin


Back to basics for Church

Sir - I read with great interest and some amusement, Willie Kealy's article  'Church's reality check won't be pleasant' (Sunday Independent, 31 May.)

He summed up, in a most refreshing, articulate and honest manner, the need for a Catholic Church in crisis to reflect on the basic, simple, understandable philosophy of Christ. This means loving your neighbour and living your life by good and tolerant deeds.

The quirky anecdote of the ultra reverence of an honest journalist (I knew him) for a Christian Brother with lifestyle issues (I didn't know him but heard of him) sums up a craven tolerance for many clerics who, by their actions, did not/do not merit such adulation.

Like Willie, I had the good fortune to attend St Patrick's Classical School, Navan and be taught by a team of great teachers - and probably like Willie and many others, I know and knew many excellent clerics who lived their Christian ideals by their good actions, not by an array of centuries-gathered institutional building blocks of man-made rules and regulations.

These rules, in my opinion, suited, strengthened and preserved the institution, but not the individual. Let the Church "carry neither scrip nor sword" and go back to basics to earn respect, following and survival. Well written, Willie!

Christopher O'Brien-Lynch, Drogheda, Co Louth


We are much safer nowadays

Sir - Geoff Watts (referred to in Eilis O'Hanlon's Radio column of 7 June) is mistaken.

Hunter-gatherer societies were extremely dangerous places. Ten to 20 per cent of their populations died violently. Compare that to 0.03 per cent in modern secular societies.

Tom Collins, Dublin 13


Faith is more than just religion

Sir- Gene Kerrigan's suggestion that the Catholic Church get out of education and health and stick to religion, while a clever sound bite, misses the point at the heart of Christianity.

For practicing Catholics, faith is more than just a religion, it is the living out in action of your faith that makes you a Christian.

Frank Browne, Templeogue, Dublin 16


What makes a good deputy?

Sir - I read with interest Daniel McConnell's article 'Enda's team are mixed bag of bland and blander' (Sunday Independent, 7 June).

According to the article "to be a success in Irish politics, you can be as thick as two short planks, as long as you are accessible, one of the lads, well-connected, loyal to your dear leader and fond of a pint or two."

As someone who is thinking of running in the next general election I believe I fulfil all of the above criteria except I would consider myself quite intelligent. My local 'paper last year described me as "affable and well known," when I ran in the local elections last year. I also enjoy social pints with friends.

Hopefully not being as thick as the proverbial two short planks won't go against me.

Tommy Roddy, Galway


English would stump Shakespeare

Sir - Re Eilis O'Hanlon's article 'Leaving Certificate students still haven't found what they're looking for', (Sunday Independent, 7 June) I agree that education should promote cognitive challenge by inviting students to examine issues which do not always form part of popular culture.

But anyone who performs well in the Leaving Cert deserves credit. This year's question on the values in Shakespeare's play Othello is complex. The comparative questions involve finding a common literary technique between texts, challenging students to compare the author's relative skill over diverse mediums, a play, a book and a film.

English demands students take a panoramic view of the course and a microscopic approach to the question. Even Shakespeare would have some difficulty with that!

Naomi Kloss, Wexford


Maybe it's the cows to blame

Sir - First they blamed the cuddly badger for giving TB to cattle, and now they're blaming the inoffensive deer. Has anyone thought of the possibility that it is the perhaps the poor cow which is the carrier, infecting the wildlife at large.

Let's cull the cows!

Robert Sullivan, Bantry, Co Cork


Bring Brendan back soon

Sir - I would totally agree with your Letter of the Week from Martin Collins (Sunday Independent, 7 June) about Brendan O'Connor.

I lived in London for 25 years and loved to watch Michael Parkinson in action, and Brendan is the first to equal him with his persona, his great skill at listening to his guest, his humour, his sensitivity when dealing with delicate matters and his presentation skills. Why oh why did RTE axe this show ?

All my friends looked forward to watching the show every Saturday - it is a great shame to end it, just when Brendan was really giving of his best. He has great empathy with his guests and also loves to do a bit of gentle teasing, not like some other so-called chat show hosts who are only promoting themselves.

We look forward to seeing him again on the box very soon.

Margaret Troy, Ballyporeen, Co Tipperary


Don't fix what's not broken

Sir - Excellent Letter of the Week in the Sunday Independent (7 June) by Martin Collins - 'Nothing lasts in RTE' - regarding the decision to end the Saturday Night Show hosted by Brendan O'Connor.

On the very night Brendan announced his show was ending, I e-mailed RTE to complain and they wrote back to say: "Brendan has proven himself to be a great talent and we are delighted that he will remain central to RTE One's prime time schedule with a new show".

How right you are Martin, as I fully agree with you about RTE "trying to fix it when it's not broken".

Brian McDevitt, Glenties, Co Donegal

Sunday Independent

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