Tuesday 25 October 2016

Our four pivotal institutions are badly in need of a revamp

Published 04/07/2015 | 02:30

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin

One of the greatest pieces of writing dealing with the decline and the end of glory days is Lord Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’.

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In it, an old king sitting on his throne reminisces about times past and speculates about making one last voyage, rather than rusting unburnished before the end. There are four institutions in Ireland at the moment who are in the sphere of decline – Fianna Fáil, the Catholic Church, Gaelic football and the Irish language – who each, like Tennyson’s poem, are not entirely without hope.

Fianna Fáil, the great catch-all party, lost its soul along the way, forgot its roots, and is now just a shadow. It needs to do two things urgently: bring more women into the party and win back Dublin. Without addressing both of these issues they will fade away.

The Catholic Church, whose influence 50 years ago touched every facet of Irish society, is seen as out of touch, preaching a Gospel which is not being heeded by many of the young, or by the marginalised in urban sprawls. The Catholic Church needs to consider women priests and also end the celibacy rules. There are those who will argue that to dilute core dogma further, you are undermining the institution. The alternative is worse. If the Church fails to recognise reality, it faces further decline. It will always have a following but is destined for the periphery if it fails to embrace change.

The GAA needs to recognise that the football championship as presently constituted is not working. You cannot have a competition that depends on a few games in August and September to survive. The current format has too many one-sided games, Central Council should introduce a seeding system of the top 16 teams to compete for Sam Maguire. A second competition for the bottom 16 should also be introduced. Both finals could be played the same day.

Finally, the Irish language requires fundamental change to survive. Most people have a love of the language but the method of its teaching in schools turned many people off. The purists need to lighten up and accept that a smattering of the language spoken by a majority of the population is better than a tiny minority speaking fluently.

Why is the Irish language always associated with a brooding ocean and a woman in a shawl looking out to sea?

Decline need not be terminal and, like Tennyson’s poem, need not just hanker for past glories.

The above four institutions are, in their own way, selling a product.

Without fundamental change they will become obsolete, overtaken by a fast-changing world.

Joseph Kiely

Donegal town, Co Donegal


Lots of things to protest about

Surely the tap of support must be running out for our water protesters, and maybe the fact that most people have registered to pay the charges, which will be about €3 a week for a family, made their temperatures boil outside the Dáil this week.

But to those who would like a more worthy cause to protest about, can I suggest our homeless and housing crisis, youth unemployment, lack of community-based health services, and the devastation of the economy of small rural towns, to name a few. 

Frank Browne

Templeogue, Dublin 16


Cowen apology rings hollow

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said to the Banking Inquiry that “we would have been set back 25 years” if we did not bail out the banks. This is no comfort to mortgage holders who have been set back to the point of bankruptcy with payments going back far longer than 25 years, who have been foreclosed and now realise  their work and hard-earned money was all for nothing.

How convenient it is for Mr Cowen to accept responsibility when he is no longer in office for the decision to bail out our rotten banks, and at the same time, accept no responsibility for banks’ regulatory decisions that were out of control with greed and recklessness.

The banks have been saved, the bondholders have been rescued, the IMF has been repaid, but the guy at the bottom has been squashed like an orange under a truck.

Foreclosed mortgage holders have been set so far back that they may have to enrol in primary school again, given the financial hammering they have got from the banks who were very eager to get them into trouble in the first place.

Mr Cowen, the damage has been done to our people whose homes are now being repossessed by the train load. Special interests have been saved and everything seems all right again to those who want to believe it is. But it’s not.

Don’t make us sick with your hollow, apologetic rhetoric – our courts are packed to the rafters with debts cases.   

Maurice Fitzgerald

Shanbally, Co Cork


Greece’s financial strangulation

The parallels between the situation concerning present day Greece and that which faced Chile under the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973, and Czechoslovakia under the reformist communist government of Alexander Dubcek during the Prague Spring of 1968, are striking.

The only difference is that Chile and Czechoslovakia suffered regime change by means of military force, whereas Greece is facing the same fate by means of financial strangulation at the hands of the ECB, EU and IMF.

Kieran McNulty

Tralee, Co Kerry


The left-wing politicians and media commentators, not to mention the occasional right-wing opportunists, who have given blanket support to the negotiating tactics of the Syriza-led Greek coalition Government in the past six months would, no doubt, assert that they do so in the best interests of the Greek people.

They accuse our Government of adopting a harsh and unsympathetic stance in relation to the plight of the Greek people. One must conclude then that these same critics are inspired by the purest of motives in relation to their concern for the Greek people. Domestic political considerations are not part of the purists’ agenda. Believe it? Believe it not? I have recently returned from a three-week visit to my adopted country, Greece, where I lived and worked for many years.

My Greek friends and colleagues represent varying shades of political opinion.

I sincerely hope that the Greek people make whatever decisions are in their own best interests.

Máire White


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