Saturday 22 October 2016

Letters: President needs to give more direction on his ethics crusade

Published 28/06/2014 | 02:30

President Michael D Higgins
President Michael D Higgins

It is hard to discern what outcomes President Michael D Higgins is seeking to derive from his Ethics Initiative (Irish Independent, June 26). Does he consider that Irish society, as a whole, is morally bankrupt and in need of radical reform? Should citizens 'unlearn' the customs and habits of generations? That is a tall order.

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A difficulty with his initiative is that he has yet to define what his concept of ethics is. He has suggested the Irish people have moved past the phase of anger and recrimination following the financial crisis, despite the fact that no-one has been held accountable.

Does he consider that ethics are derived from emotion and sentiment?

He is skittish about the concept that value can be measured. But if it cannot be measured, how is society to make progress? Is there any other sophisticated, competitive nation, or enterprise, that does not measure value? Is there a nation that radiates prosperity, progress and vitality where the ebb and flow of the marketplace is not central, albeit with regulation? Is there a sovereign role model that the President is suggesting Ireland should mimic?

Ethics concern well-founded and unambiguous standards of right and wrong that prescribe human behaviour. These are reflected in the context of rights, duties, obligations, fairness, justice and virtue. Ethics underpin other characteristics such as honesty, compassion, decency and loyalty. Ethics provide the basis of a right to privacy, a right to life, a right to safety and a right to security.

Ethical standards are consistent, robust, and thoroughly tested. They are not the faddish product of a village bazaar, nor are they based on some wooly concept of populism and media spin.

It would be helpful if Mr Higgins were to guide us in a more direct, concrete and clear manner as to what he has in mind for a virtuous Ireland that is ethically reformed and the nature of the contribution he is demanding from citizens.





I am writing to you in light of Dublin Pride this week and yesterday being National HIV testing day in the US. I hope that I can speak out to other young gay men to look after their life. I am a 24-year-old man living in Dublin.

Last year, I was diagnosed with HIV. Like many, I was ignorant due to fear and the fact that nobody was ever comfortable talking about it, so, when I got the diagnosis, I had no idea what was ahead of me.

All I was told in the hospital was that it's no big deal nowadays and I probably wouldn't need treatment for years. I think this is not a good approach to tackling the issue. The issue is very serious and shouldn't be portrayed as anything else, just to spare the person's feelings and emotions on the matter.

They don't tell you that many treatments do not work for everyone. They don't tell you that more people are dying from the effects of the medication in the western world than from HIV/AIDS. I realise that the death toll is nothing in comparison to 30, even 20 years ago, but the battle is far from over.

Last year, I went to a comedy show, performed by Panti. Panti openly shared his HIV status to everyone and it was inspiring.

I thought, wow, if Panti has HIV and runs such a successful business and does all the work he does for the LGBT community, anyone could have it.

It was just a few months later that I got my news. I didn't know anyone in this country with HIV and I was in a dark place, desperate to know more from the people who are living with it.

I feel like I have been alone in this – even when it comes to my family, my own father thinks we should be legally obliged to tell people that have to live with us.

I have worked in the restaurant industry since the age of 16. I have come to learn that this is not possible for me any more. Since the recession hit in Ireland, it has been acceptable for restaurants to not give breaks, especially during busy days. I would work up to 21 days with no days off and didn't get breaks to eat a lot of the time. I knew, immediately, I would not be capable of this any more, I was already losing weight and getting sick regularly.

I am at a point in my life now where everything I have ever worked towards is gone. The next thing I am going to lose is my accommodation.

It is true when they say HIV is manageable now, it's something you can live with for a very long time. But I am left asking myself the big questio: can I bare living with this for such a long time?

I don't know.

So, please guys, protect yourselves.




I believe that An Post has released a stamp featuring Edward Carson and John Redmond.

Carson was, of course, the founder of the Ulster Volunteers, the first paramilitary group in the North.

From this, the UVF was formed and, in 1914, received a huge shipment of arms, including 25,000 rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition.

The inscription on the base of Carson's towering statue outside Stormont reads "By the loyalists of Ulster as an expression of their love and admiration for its subject."

I think this is sufficient expression of love and admiration on the island of Ireland and Carson's profile does not need to feature on every letter here.

In Ireland, we appear to have some difficulty honouring and commemorating our own heroes and martyrs. I shall wait with bated breath for the Royal Mail stamp featuring James Connolly.





We all knew what the recent report on Irish drinking habits would contain.

Our drinking habits are the biggest cause of overspending right across all government departments for several obvious reasons: absenteeism; sick leave; drink-related illness; crime; sexual violence; domestic violence; and foetal alcohol syndrome.

Many experts have pointed out that the most vulnerable in society suffer most due to excessive drinking in families. By way of example, let's look at a family where all the adults are unemployed and there are school-going children.

Typically, a few generations may never have worked, so there is no respect for the dignity of work. Very often there is a pattern of drinking, sleeping late and not getting up to send children to school.

Thus, the children miss out, perform badly in school and end up in the same cycle of underachieving. Across all sections of society, parents are giving the wrong message by drinking in front of their children.

Despite all this, what are we doing to break this cycle? We need a movement of sensible people who will try to counteract the madness.





It is disturbing to hear about the epidemic of homelessness in Dublin, and no doubt other locations.

Is it not possible to set up as a temporary solution– something like a camp, perhaps run by the Army?

It seems that any other solution is long term and, in this country, long term is "long" – take, for example, the children's hospital.




Irish Independent

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