Letters to the Editor: Beaten, but no defeat
Madam – My glass is certainly half full.
Eight weeks ago I made a decision to run in this year's local elections in Galway City West Ward. Within a week I had my posters and leaflets printed. I had assembled a team of canvassers, which grew to over 30 by the end of the campaign. I ran a short six -week canvass, erecting 100 posters, and canvassed 5,000 houses in that time. I started as a complete unknown in political terms.
Two-hundred-and-seventy people of this ward thought I was the best person to represent them on City Council. By the time I was eliminated on Count 5, I had increased this to 401 votes, which was approximately a third of a quota.
I loved the campaign. I annoyed my friends to come out canvassing with me on sometimes dreadful evenings. I learned so much during this time. I realise I have fantastic friends who shared the highs (mostly) of the campaign and the roller coaster of tallying (highs and lows).
I put myself forward on the issues I believe in. It is truly heartening to realise the support there is for me, from people who voted for me to people who were involved in the campaign. I may not have won a seat on Galway City Council but I have achieved in other ways. It is in no way a defeat.
I wish to congratulate everyone who was elected and commiserate with those unsuccessful this time. I'm confident the new faces on City Council will bring new ideas and a new energy. I wish them the very best of luck.
Tommy Roddy, Independent candidate, West Ward, Galway
Voters' fury was fully predictable
Madam – I refer to the front-page article 'Coalition feel the fury of the people at the ballot box', written by Jody Corcoran, John Drennan and Daniel McConnell (Sunday Independent, May 25, 2014). The term 'coping class' is mild to say the least, when it comes to the reality of how it is for thousands of people. To find oneself struggling six years on as a direct result of Fine Gael and Labour's brutal austerity measures, which were dumped on us devoid of sensitivity or empathy, is unacceptable.
'A dejected minister, Pat Rabbitte, said: "In Ireland people don't march down Grafton Street and break windows, but by God they vent their vengeance in the ballot box".' This speaks volumes. This statement was made after the Government took a massive election "wallop". Thousands of people (including myself) took to the streets all over Ireland over the last few years.
Is Mr Rabbitte saying that we were not noticed because we didn't break windows on Grafton Street? The fact is that Mr Rabbitte and the Government chose to blatantly ignore us and our genuine cry for help in an effort to alleviate unnecessary suffering due to their continuous austerity measures.
Why is it that the Labour Party and Fine Gael appear to be surprised that they suffered such a strong meltdown in the elections? I could predict the recent election outcome along with many of us out here. Sadly the Government is totally disconnected from us.
The answer for Labour and Fine Gael is actually very easy and definitely not rocket science. In an effort to answer the question, let me first point out my own personal circumstances.
I have worked all my life and paid all my taxes. I did not reach out to social welfare when my marriage broke up and left me to rear two children on my own. I worked hard to put a roof over our heads and food on our table. I lost my home that I had worked hard for. I became suicidal and nearly left the planet while trying to pay mortgage, banks, etc, having lost my job. I am now on illness pension and on the local housing list. My children are grown up, and my son had to emigrate due to the recession and my grand-children live in America.
By the time I am nearly 70 I just might get social housing, but in the meantime I have to put up with landlords who are prepared to overcharge for rent – and get away with it.
I reached out to various political parties and councillors for help and support and all the many doors were not just closed to me, at times they were slammed in my stressed, lined, aged face.
Taking into account that I am only one of thousands out here who have experienced all of the above (and it's only the tip of the iceberg, believe me), I am one of the 'lucky ones'. There are copious others suffering far worse situations than me.
(Name and address with Editor)
A window has opened
Madam – When I find myself agreeing with Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, May 25, 2014), I become very, very frightened. Nevertheless, his call for a pragmatic Social Democratic presence in our politics articulates something for which some of us have been calling for some time. Certainly since the eruption of our current socio-economic crisis. In fact, much further back.
Suddenly, a window of opportunity has opened. Responding to the clear if brutal message sent by the voters to this Government as a whole, but particularly to Labour, Eamon Gilmore has acted with honour and pragmatism. His resignation makes possible the reconstruction and remodelling of the Labour Party and its role in Irish politics and society, but also very much more. Just conceivably, a refreshed agenda for the Irish people.
Labour's prime objective is not to save this Government or to save the party or even to save the seats of individual members. The goal must be to save and revive the presence in Irish politics of that distinctive Irish constitutional social democracy for which the Labour Party stood traditionally.
Whoever Labour chooses as the new party leader must be able to articulate and communicate a vision. A vision for our people in a century where everything on the planet is changing at an unprecedented pace – and a terrible ugliness, not a beauty, is being constructed by default.
Time is not on Labour's side. The autumn Budget and an election more likely to be in 2015 than 2016 pressurise decisions which, ideally, would be slow and methodical in the reaching. It may well be that Labour has left it late and that we must settle for a two-election strategy, with some parched and hungry years in the wilderness. But if the prize were to be a truly Irish Republic, which cherished all the children of the nation, it would be more than worth the wait, the sweat and tears.
Maurice O'Connell, Tralee, Co Kerry
WWI halted bill
Madam – A Leavy (Sunday Independent, May 18, 2014), mentions the undemocratic nature of the failure of the 1914 Home Rule bill. I agree with the assertion that the lack of implementation of the bill likely engendered the Rising of 1916. But the British government did not dictatorially decide not to pass the bill. They declared it be postponed indefinitely due to the outbreak of World War I.
A Leavy is correct that militant unionism likely played a part in the reluctance of the government to implement the bill, but we must note that the Welsh Church Act was also delayed. Indeed, the two bills were formally suspended with the passing of the Postponement Act of the same year. So both bills had obtained Royal assent, and were only to be deferred for the duration of the war. This would have been fairly common knowledge at the time, so it is slightly inaccurate to suggest that nationalists felt the bill had been abandoned autocratically, and so decided to act in an undemocratic manner.
Rather, the postponement of the bill likely contributed to a sense of frustration on their part, given the elongated nature of the "Great War".
P English, Cahir, Co Tipperary
Labour has only itself to blame
Madam – The analysis of the demise of the Labour vote in the local and European elections by your political correspondent, Daniel McConnell (Sunday Independent, May 25, 2014), made very interesting reading. The Labour Party has no one to blame but itself for the collapse of its vote at the polls. Its partnership, if one may call it that, with a right-wing party's policy of austerity measures was bound to bring this about. The party founded by James Connolly and James Larkin to protect the interests of the working class has surrendered what principles it may have had to the neo-liberal agenda – hence the collapse of its vote in working-class areas.
There is no doubt that the party has overseen harsh cuts which have impacted on the middle classes, but this is also true of the working class. For your political correspondent to state that the party has protected primary welfare payments to poorer people is disingenuous to say the least, as he is continuing to perpetuate the myth propounded by the party.
Ever since the party entered into coalition with Fine Gael, the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, has implemented cuts to Jobseeker's Benefit, Jobseeker's Allowance and Invalidity Pension.
Following the last Budget, when a person on the Invalidity Pension reaches 65 they have the payment increased to bring it into line with the State Contributory Pension.
But a person with the required prsi contributions on attaining the retirement age of 65, used to get the State Transition Pension of €230.30, similar to the State Contributory Pension. Now the State Transition Pension has been abolished, and they have to sign on and only receive the Jobseeker's Benefit of €188 until they reach 66. All of this was implemented by a party founded to protect the working class and poorer sections of this society.
Dr Tadhg Moloney, Limerick
Party must make hard choices
Madam – So finally some of the hitherto obedient Labour classes have said enough is enough and called time on the unfortunate Mr Gilmore. The Irish public should take note that had the seats of these eight Labour TDs not been in danger, Mr Gilmore would probably have been trotting out the same old, "We must listen..." party line on national television. It is a scandalous situation that the people have been ignored, and it has taken the electorate to force an about-turn.
Now that the knives have been resheathed, it is time to consider where Labour went wrong – apart from becoming Enda Kenny's personal canine pet, that is. Labour needs to return firmly to its roots, and fight as a lone party for power. If it is true to its policies, the public will vote for it.
This means opposition to the water tax now, before it is too late, and not the dilution of the proposed bill as we have seen previously. It means demanding that those responsible for the collapse of this country are brought to justice.
It means a return to social values – putting the people first, not just paying lip service. We have seen USC and PRSI imposed and raised perpetually, whilst the underlying reason for imposition has been eroded to the point where even those who have long-term illnesses and rely on being able to afford a supply of drugs are being continuously threatened with the loss of their medical cards – or, as this Government so quaintly terms it, 'reassessed'.
This country needs a real option to vote for. For many years now, a vote for Labour has resulted in more power for the despots in Fine Gael to impose so-called EU law. And whilst those responsible for the mess continue to thrive and the country increasingly resembles the Ireland of 2004 (in particular South Co Dublin), those at the other end of the scale who put their faith in Labour promises have lost their homes, emigrated or joined the record number of suicides. Only a new Labour that returns to its very beginnings can change this. But will Labour take the hard choices or easy street? For the sake of the poorer classes, I hope it is the former.
Brian Parker, Jacob's Island, Cork
Guru Gerry's cult is based on lies
Madam – One issue that puzzles political pundits and many voters about Sinn Fein is the fact that once a voter goes over to this party – and this applies both North or South – they tend to stay there. This phenomenon was very apparent during the Troubles after Sinn Fein stood for the first time for election in the North in 1982. At that time the SDLP had comfortably more votes in the North than Sinn Fein had over the whole of Ireland. Then the votes began to flow towards Sinn Fein. Very few came back.
It was clear that some kind of quasi-religious conversion was the reason for the hold Sinn Fein had on the voters.
In the North, it was a clear conversion from the positive compassionate ideology of the SDLP that rejected violence to a much more negative cynical view of the world that advocated using force to change things in a deeply divided society. In short, it was a movement away from traditional Catholic values and the Christian worldview to a Sinn Fein worldview.
For many voters a vote for Sinn Fein continues to be a step over the threshold of cynicism into a world where everybody else is at fault. They did nothing wrong, they say, and they believe they have all the answers.
The persistence of their guru Gerry Adams to live out his delusion that he was not a leader of the IRA is the acceptance of a lie that every Sinn Fein voter agrees with in the knowledge that it can't be true. There lie the seeds of a dishonesty that underscores their cynicism and brings them to this new religion, founded on lies.
John O'Connell, Derry
The taxing issue of homelessness
Madam – In Niamh Horan's interview with Fr Peter McVerry (Sunday Independent, May 25, 2014), Fr McVerry called for legislation that would make it illegal for the State not to provide a roof over a person's head; he believes politicians need to be embarrassed into action. I couldn't agree more, but when it comes to funding local authorities to provide the required housing, surely some form of local council tax will be required. But we as an electorate can't really be serious about addressing homelessness if we are going to vote for anti-austerity parties that promise to remove any such local tax.
Frank Browne, Templeogue, Dublin 16
Readers' letters share a feature
Madam – All of the major newspapers in this country have something in common when it comes to writing letters to editors: if the issue raised in the letter offers a meaningful, radical, relatively original solution to a national glaring problem, the odds are it will never see the light of day.
Don't agree? Read the letters page of each of the leading national newspapers for the past and future 180 days and prove me wrong.
Vincent J Lavery, Dalkey, Co Dublin
Dater imperial nonsense
Madam – An editorial footnote to Charles Moore's article (Sunday Independent, May 11, 2014) could have forewarned readers that the author was the late Margaret Thatcher's official biographer and that the content of the piece was the Iron Lady speaking from the grave – out-of-time imperial nonsense.
What's happening in the Ukraine is not so much a "power-grab" as a "slap-down"– Russia saying to the old enemy "not in my backyard" – over what many perceive as military encroachment by stealth. All reminiscent of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 when JFK faced down Nikita Kruschev over the basing of Russian ICBMs on Washington's doorstep.
It's tough on the people of the Ukraine. When they needed wise political leadership they got corruption and factionalism at home, exacerbated by seductive voices from Brussels and elsewhere. The fault-lines in the body-politic of the Ukraine have never been a secret. One has to wonder if the curiously named Commission for Enlargement in Brussels wasn't on an Irish banker's-style incentive plan: go for the business, never mind the quality of the asset. This commission/directorate may well have reached it's sell-by date since most of the low-hanging fruit of the enlargement programme is already in the basket; dealing with the complexity of the Ukraine is a political challenge not a bureaucratic one.
All very sad. One misses the reportage of the Skibbereen Eagle!
Michael Gill, Killiney, Co Dublin