Friday 19 December 2014

Letters: Only secularism truly allows religious freedom

Published 17/01/2014 | 02:30

A man holds a crucifix as he stands in a packed Saint Peter's Square where Pope Benedict XVI holds his last general audience, at the Vatican...A man holds a crucifix as he stands in a packed Saint Peter's Square where Pope Benedict XVI holds his last general audience, at the Vatican February 27, 2013. The weekly event which would normally be held in a vast auditorium in winter, but has been moved outdoors to St. Peter's Square so more people can attend. The pope has two days left before he takes the historic step of becoming the first pontiff in some six centuries to step down instead of ruling for life.         REUTERS/Max Rossi (VATICAN - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY)...I
Religious freedom? Gazan law forbids public displays of crucifixes

* People who hold the view that our so-called republic is by majority homogenous in its religious beliefs, often postulate that the apparatus of the State should reflect the beliefs of the majority, hence the retention of religious oaths and other religious references in our Constitution.

Two points on this: firstly, what about the rights of minorities and the fundamental rights of individuals?

Secondly, a question to advocates of majoritarianism in this context: I assume then that you would be consistent in your beliefs and, looking beyond our putatively homogenous little Ireland, would endorse religious majoritarianism when it comes to other states, for example in countries in the Middle East and North Africa?

State-sponsored prejudices against Christian minorities and the subjugation of their beliefs are major issues in these regions. In Saudi Arabia, private Christian prayer is against the law. In the Gaza Strip, half of the Palestinian Christian population has fled since Hamas seized power in 2007 and Gazan law forbids public displays of crucifixes.

Reports from the UK's Foreign & Commonwealth Office and New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran cite evidence of "systematic persecution and prosecution" of Protestants and Christian converts in Iran.

The injustices suffered by Coptic Christians in Egypt are well documented. But should a state not be free to actively discriminate in favour of the majority when it comes to religion?

The point is that secularism, rather than preventing religious freedom, allows religious freedom for all (including freedom from religion).

It prevents any religion from dominating any other and prevents state sponsorship of any such domination.

This is applied on an objective, equal and mutual basis and is designed as a bulwark against religious prejudice and the suppression of religious practice.

ROB SADLIER

RATHFARNHAM, DUBLIN 16

HOW DO THEY SLEEP?

* Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee, former chief executive of the CRC Brian Conlan said: "It is inaccurate to suggest that money donated by the public was transferred directly into salaries of senior executives." He then went on to say: "The CRC pools all its revenue from many sources each year into one fund and applies them jointly to the central overheads which includes some salary allowances."

When you circumvent the obfuscation and read between the lines, it is clear from his second sentence that public donations were used to top-up executive salaries.

Whether it was direct or indirect use of public donations is moving away from the salient point that executives did in fact benefit financially from the public's goodwill.

You can only imagine the repulsion I then felt when it was reported that former CEO Paul Kiely received a golden handshake to the tune of over €700,000, paid for in full from charitable donations. How these people can sleep easy in their beds at night is beyond me.

JOHN BELLEW

DUNLEER, CO LOUTH

RECIPE FOR DISASTER

* Dear Mr Hogan,

Your analogy of making an omelette and breaking eggs is so simplistic. Please remember you are responsible for our eggs. How you keep them, and use them. When you drop them, you are responsible to clean them up. That is your job.

It seems you have given an expensive basket of eggs to others and given up on the responsibility of looking after it. You don't even know how many eggs were broken...

Your job is to control all of this, that is what you are paid for. You have failed! The only recipe you have here is a recipe for disaster.

ANNRAOI BLANEY

CO DUBLIN

* Surely a bonus is an award for achievement -- over and above a recognised standard.

And these Irish Water awards should only be made retrospectively, and not to everyone in the audience. And, even at that, bonus schemes should be self- financing and not paid from borrowings.

But what would politicians know about that sort of economics -- didn't Mr Hogan cover that by exempting himself from any responsibility for micro-economics. His comment that you have to break eggs to make an omelette said it all. But €50m, that's some omelette.

RJ HANLY

SCREEN, CO WEXFORD

* Environment Minister Phil Hogan confirms he did not personally know about the massive spend on consultancy by Irish Water.

If this is the case, Mr Hogan, please do the decent thing and hand the job over to someone who has an interest in how taxpayers' money is spent.

SEAMUS MCLOUGHLIN

KESHCARRIGAN, CO LEITRIM

* For nigh on three years Enda Kenny has been blathering about making "Ireland the best little country in which to do business".

Perchance then Uisce Eire is proof of his wish when a new company can "do" what it wants with taxpayer-owned assets.

The more things change in the Republic of Ireland the more they remain the same. Not even GUBU could describe this most inane Government ever to preside in Ireland.

DECLAN FOLEY

BERWICK, AUSTRALIA

* Have a look under the garden. Perhaps you have a hidden spring down there? If you have, Eureka! Sell your find to the Government at an astronomical price.

It doesn't mind. It will simply pass it on to the consumer. Forget oil ... Water is the new oil.

Why not sub-contract your water out? Instead of car boot sales, we can have water boot markets.

Just bottle the tap water, and start selling it on Sundays to those who can't afford to have water in their houses!

Label it 'Resurrection Water'.

ANTHONY WOODS

ENNIS, CO CLARE

INCENTIVE TO TENDER

* It doesn't make sense in a small country like ours, desperate to create more jobs, that Ireland should be top of the list of countries most likely to award contracts to foreign companies. (Irish Independent Business, December 30, 2013).

This is despite the vibrant up-and-running image Jobs Minister Richard Bruton likes to portray.

Around 28pc of the €12bn worth of contracts awarded by state bodies in 2013 were captured by companies based outside Ireland.

In the literal sense this is a huge 'unnecessary import' for the Exchequer to carry. Such a high level of business being won by firms abroad, according to Tony Corrigan of Tender-Scout, means Irish businesses are missing out on €3.5bn of contracts.

Tendering for work from state bodies costs a minimum of €4,500 for a contract of €25,000 or more. Surely the Government could make it less expensive and offer Irish companies some incentive to tender?

My advice is that Irish companies keep an open eye. When opportunity knocks, throw your hat in the ring. Its sheer negligence to allow the stable door swing open so freely.

JAMES GLEESON,

THURLES, CO TIPPERARY

DOES ONE GO 'DUTCH'?

* Does one go 'Dutch' on a date with Hollande?

TOM GILSENAN

BEAUMONT D9

BELIEVING IN PRESIDENT

* Perhaps it never entered the heads of his detractors, but President Higgins, all praise to him, could have been aiming his Christmas message towards deserving atheists like my good self.

ROBERT SULLIVAN

BANTRY, CO CORK

Irish Independent

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