Monday 24 October 2016

Letters: There can be no peace without understanding

Published 18/08/2014 | 02:30

Kurds protesting at a demonstration in Germany
Kurds protesting at a demonstration in Germany

Peace and not war is what we need. On June 28 1914, World War I started. It finished on November 28 1918. Still debate occurs as to why and who started the war.

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It matters little. There were 37 million casualties. Many thousands of these were from Ireland. There were 60 million casualties in World War II, estimated at nearly 4pc of the world's population at the time. Now, in 2014, we see the horrific killing of innocent citizens who are trying to defend themselves against the might of bombs and guns from those that possess such weaponry.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of these situations, we are again witnessing the slaughter of innocent children, with entire families being wiped out. The United Nations was set up to resolve world conflict in 1945, with the agreement of over 50 of the world's most powerful countries.

The UN has the moral authority to work towards resolving conflict and intercede where borders are in dispute, pressing each country to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

What is happening in a number of countries often goes unreported. Religious fanatics are carrying out horrendous atrocities. People are being persecuted for their beliefs. Encroachment on neighbouring countries has led to years of conflict. Is the UN failing or is it simply unable to carry out its function because of the veto of other countries?

The manufacturing of arms is going on at a faster pace than ever.

Sales are booming in the strife-torn areas of the world like the Middle East, Eastern Europe, parts of Africa, North Korea, and parts of Latin America. The total spend is $1.75 trillion, according to the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database 2013. As Albert Einstein said: "Peace cannot be achieved by force, only by understanding."

Dermot Hayes

Ennis, Co Clare

Riddle of the red squirrel

They say the red squirrel is a victim, under threat of extinction, usurped by the grey invader, but what if they are wrong?

Perhaps the answer is evolution. Maybe the red squirrel has adapted and changed in unison with the environment. My theory is entirely based upon my observations. Living in close proximity to woodland has the advantage of frequent encounters with wildlife and the disadvantage of an outside chance of a brush with a serial killer.

Fortunately, I have had the pleasure of many visits from a variety of creatures, with no predators larger than a bushy-tailed fox thus far. But the most clandestine, unpredictable and true urban chameleon is the squirrel.

A red coat is great camouflage in the trees, but in the concrete jungle a grey coat is practically an invisibility cloak.

One moment I'm sipping my morning coffee looking at the cute little pack of fur balls scurrying across the lawn, when suddenly I notice something, something positively Darwinian, as they roll and jostle at play revealing red fluffy bellies . . . and on closer inspection, quite a few patches of red fur mottled throughout the grey topcoat. Eureka! The red is the grey - or more accurately, was the grey.

Michael Coffey

Harolds Cross, Dublin

Cupla focal . . . and an expletive

I am indebted to a retired national school teacher for making my entire week by telling me the following true story from their days teaching in a Gaeltacht area, back when most rural schools consisted of one teacher, and any stranger was assumed to be English-speaking - such was the scarcity of visitors coming to such remote locations.

Surprise visits by Department of Eduction inspectors were not unknown, if not actually the order of the day, and on one such occasion the teacher in charge was late in arriving but the doors were open to admit the pupils.

The inspector, not wishing to break protocol by entering the school uninvited, decided to wait in the entrance porch for the arrival of the headmaster. Over the hubbub of chattering pupils fighting over which seat to take in double-desks, he heard an unidentified scholar, who couldn't have been more than seven, say the immortal words: "Cé hé an b*****d ins an halla''?

I reckon you do not need to know any Irish at all to translate what was said. For sheer brilliance, brevity, clarity and an ability to voice a young person's insatiable curiosity in any language, but especially Irish, this ranks right up there with another life-changing question - "Who made the world''? - but even better.

Liam Power

Ballina, Co Mayo

Fitzgerald's UN grilling

An Irish Government delegation led by Frances Fitzgerald was recently summoned to attend a meeting of the UN Human Rights Committee.

The delegation duly obliged and to all intents and purposes assumed the bearing of a group of bold school children being told off by the principal. They certainly did not give the impression they represented an independent state with a sophisticated constitution which has been the model for many other newly formed states. One would have hoped Ms Fitzgerald would have told her overbearing inquisitors that as a "sovereign republic", Ireland will not be bullied by a non-elected supra-national quango.

Eric Conway

Navan, Co Meath

Sky's the limit

It would appear that we can't bring a tiny bottle of our shop-bought water onto a plane, but a pilot with an artificial arm is allowed to fly the thing. We are truly living in a world gone mad.

Robert Sullivan

Bantry, Co Cork

Robin Williams's legacy

The death of Robin Williams continues to provoke debate, even as his fans worldwide accept the reality of his passing. Everyone has their favourite movies, but I especially liked his performances in What Dreams May Come, with its depiction of what the afterlife might be like, and Jakob the Liar.

I treasure the scenes in the latter movie in which his character pretends he's receiving good news (from a non-existent hidden radio) about advancing allied armies drawing closer by the day, giving hope, albeit by devious means, to the oppressed Jews in the ghetto for whom hope could mean the difference between life and death.

His comic genius turned frowns into smiles, enhancing life via the "best medicine". What a tragedy that an immensely talented man who made countless people laugh should opt for a mode of departure from life that has broken hearts around the world and drawn rivers of tears.

Depression affects so many. Though it may be a cliche to say it, I'd like to think this wonderful man's untimely death will act as an incentive to all victims of this illness to seek help and support.

It can affect anyone at any age, and with the Leaving Cert results concentrating young minds nationwide, one's heart goes out to any teenager upset by a perceived failure or lack of progress.

The message should ring loud and clear: falling short of achieving one's objectives is never the end of the world. There's always another day, another opportunity, and always help, advice, and support, regardless of what dark clouds appear to smudge the horizon.

People close to Robin Williams have asked that he be remembered for his creative genius. Perhaps his life, and death, will also serve as a reminder that hope needs to be kept alive, and that whatever the problem, suicide is not the answer.

John Fitzgerald

Callan, Co Kilkenny

Irish Independent

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