Saturday 22 October 2016

Raising of grievances

Published 05/06/2016 | 02:30

'It must be pointed out that there are many kind and helpful assistants in stores, but sadly the attitude of a small minority can give shops a bad name' Stock photo: Depositphotos
'It must be pointed out that there are many kind and helpful assistants in stores, but sadly the attitude of a small minority can give shops a bad name' Stock photo: Depositphotos

Sir - During the week I heard a radio interview with the ombudsman, who suggested that people should be able to make complaints to the HSE without fear of repercussions. However, raising grievances can sometimes cause more annoyance for the complainant than the recipient of the charge.

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Recently a relation of mine was unhappy about the standard of service in a local store and contacted the shop to express his disappointment.

A few weeks later while browsing in the same premises, he was accosted and taken to task despite the staff member not having sufficient proof of the complaint being made by him.

There is an old saying that the customer is always right, but obviously not in this case here, with the patron also wrongly accused of rude behaviour. The man in question left the store in an upset state and will not be going back there again.

It must be pointed out that there are many kind and helpful assistants in stores, but sadly the attitude of a small minority can give shops a bad name. Of course, customers who feel they are poorly treated have the choice of going elsewhere and that is what my relation is doing.

Siobhan Murtagh, Navan, Co Meath

Committed to self-reliance

Sir - A senior source within Renua was quoted (Sunday Independent, May 29) as stating that the party was seen as a "prickly, snarky Catholic" party who "are hectoring and lecturing people".

The answer, seemingly, is to change name and rebrand with the advice that "orthodox Catholics had to get with the programme or jump ship".

This is a first - an unnamed spokesperson for a political party using the term Catholic as a term of abuse.

So much for the pluralist, freedom-of-conscience ethos that its founders based the movement on, which encouraged the coexistence of different interests, convictions and religious beliefs. Where now is the promise of open and engaged discussions while respecting other points of view?

The reality is that it is the senior source that is out of step.

Renua will continue and will grow, and not because of a rebranding or a name change.

It will happen because the party is committed to a tolerant acceptance of differences both internally and externally.

It will happen because it is a party committed to self-reliance of individuals and of communities and will work for the economic mobility of all our population. It will happen because the party members have a vision for our country that transcends the conventional oppositional left-wing, right-wing spectrum of politics.

It will happen if senior sources resist following their own agenda and actually work with party members instead of lecturing and threatening them.

Michael O'Dowd, Renua candidate Louth/East Meath, Drogheda, Co Louth

Take care in water, avoid deaths

Sir - Water safety should be a priority over the summer months, but many deaths in the past do not deter people from taking big chances with their lives. We are likely to have a string of drownings, as usual, before the summer is out.

There are always deaths due to swimming out to far, ignoring warning signs, drinking before entering the water or eating heavily, cold shock, ponds and lakes that are very deep despite a placid and inviting appearance, diving off rocks and cliffs, not wearing life preservers, not paying attention to rising tides and getting trapped.

So many for the want of a bit of care.

Maurice Fitzgerald, Shanbally, Co Cork

At last, a woman telling it as it is

Sir - Wow! And wow again! At last a woman journalist with the guts to tell it as it is. That was my response to the article by Niamh Horan ('The sisterhood don't like the truth - women can't have it all', Sunday Independent, May 29). I had watched her enunciate that truth on Brendan O'Connor's Cutting Edge on RTE and I applauded her courage, because, from personal experience, I knew quite well how the "perpetually outraged", as she so aptly described the radical sisterhood, would react.

Niamh suggests that we need a revolution in how we approach work. I couldn't agree more. So let's start by defining exactly what we mean by "work".

The sisterhood obviously believes that mothers who choose to stay-at-home and care for their own children are not "working". Yes, they do.

In a major Status of Women report back in 1993, they called stay-at-home mums "a private benefit" to their husbands and unworthy of payment for their work. Stay-at-home mums objected to the insult at the time, but their voices were soon silenced by the perpetually outraged sisterhood, who were fuelled in the furnace of capitalism and who had the full backing of the media even at that time.

Child-caring is work, hard but precious work, whether it is carried out 8/7 outside the home of 24/7 by mothers in the home. Article 41.2 of our Constitution recognises the value of the 24/7 work in the home, stating that without it the common good cannot be achieved. Niamh Horan is right to stand by her view.

Nora Bennis, NCR, Limerick

An acceptance of others' life choices

Sir - I refer to Niamh Horan's article (Sunday Independent, May 29). I can only assume that Ms Horan was secretly hoping to court controversy when she wrote this. The title of the article itself, 'The sisterhood don't like the truth - women can't have it all', was a clear indication that she was seeking to, as she said herself, "rile the perpetually offended". Except really all she did was add to the burden of the perpetually over-burdened; men and women who want to have a family and thus, in Horan's eyes, want to have it all.

Admittedly, I did not see Brendan O'Connor's show which sparked the initial Twitter outburst (though I am now sorry I missed it) but I gathered from a quick Google search that Ms Horan didn't hold back when launching her tirade on the modern Irish family.

This family unit is already struggling with rising rents, disputed water bills and increasing childcare costs. Now it must face a critic who believes such units are a selfish manifestation of parents' wishes that do not factor in the child's future well-being.

Hmm thanks for that.

In my opinion, Ms Horan's article skates too much between self-defence, an attempt to resolve the modern parenting crisis (as she sees it) and a ridiculous suggestion that we modern women go on reproductive strike.

It is a bit all over the shop with no one goal in mind except perhaps to continue the online debate she had sparked after her RTE appearance. Admittedly, she does make one good point in relation to how we could use technology to "promote flexi-time and remote working". Had she focused the majority of her article on more sensible suggestions like this I might have listened.

Instead I couldn't hear her more sensible statements underneath all the mud-slinging and attacks on parents who are, at the end of the day, just trying to do their best.

Personally, I do not believe a woman who chooses not to have a child is selfish. Far from it; it takes a lot of courage to make such a big decision and then the confidence to deal with the know-it-alls who will constantly call your life choices into question. However, neither do I believe it is selfish to have a child. I have a little daughter. I do not think I was selfish to have her.

Yes, you can argue we have children because we want them but then by that logic almost everything we do is selfish. I ate breakfast this morning because I wanted to because, well, ultimately I want to live. Yes this seems like ridiculous reasoning but so too is Horan's suggestion that women go on a "temporary reproductive strike". An interesting take on the problem of overpopulation.

I feel the real issue here is that she just wants to be given the right to live her life without the judgement so often thrown at childless women. She wants the freedom to live her life on her own terms… or perhaps she just wanted to garner some attention in the Twittersphere.

Either way I hope Ms Horan might realise that the best way to be free from judgement is to stop judging others and accept we all make different life choices; one is no better than the other.

Ann-Marie O'Doherty, Waterford

(Niamh was not responsible for the headline - Letters Editor)

Such wisdom in two paragraphs

Sir - I have to ask myself, why did I keep reading the first two paragraphs of Niamh Horan's article last week (Sunday Independent, May 29, 'The sisterhood don't like the truth - Women can't have it all') over and over, again and again?

The answer is simple, these words are pure magic and such wisdom from this young lady.

Please Mr Editor, let me repeat: "Life is all about choices. We have only a short time here so the most important question is how to make the most of it. There is only one trip on this merry-go-round so the sagacious advice is to find what you love, and then do it.

"People who know the joy of self-actualisation live life on their own terms. They don't feel the weight of social expectations and stereotypes".

Wonderful wise words for all of life.

Once again I say, bravo Niamh! Bravo!

Brian McDevitt, Glenties, Co Donegal

Beckett and Dylan

Sir - Although Declan Lynch (Sunday Independent, May 29) is being 'positive' when he says that Bob Dylan is not a poet, ("he was also a singer and a guitar player - and he was often accompanied by a band"), he would be surprised to learn that somebody who disagreed with him on this point was none other than Sam Beckett.

I presume Declan remembers the classic documentary about Dylan's 1964 tour of England, Don't Look Back, made by D. A. Pennebaker, who later thought about making a film about Beckett. He went to Beckett's flat in Paris without expecting The Spanish Inquisition. Beckett knew exactly what he was famous for and gave him the third degree about Dylan, to whom he referred as, yes, 'The Poet'. No film ever resulted from that meeting.

Frank Desmond, Cork City

Procrastination is maddening

Sir - I think that Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, May 29) has put in to words what an awful lot of people are thinking about the crime situation.

The procrastination on all sides is maddening. Why not do what needs to be done and get on with it?

Frank Clarke, Passage West, Co Cork

Song of safety

Sir - I saw the slogan 'Drive to Arrive Alive' on a Cork City Fire Brigade van. I think that speed is probably the main factor in motor accidents. As Simon & Garfunkel sang "Slow down you move too fast" (Feelin' Groovy). Remember that permitted speed limits are the maximum you are allowed drive at and it is not compulsory to drive at the max. When planning your journey, allow plenty of time and maybe as Dr Hook would say, A Little Bit More.

Be careful and slow down going around corners and bends. If you are facing a long journey in the dark at night, maybe you could book into a B&B or a hotel and travel in daylight the next morning. As regards drink, there are some excellent alcohol-free beers on the market that taste like the real thing and cost the same.

Maybe the Road Safety Authority should devise a Safe Cross Code-type of song for motorists. We have the Slow Food movement - how about the Slow Drive one?

Finally, don't rush to be first in the cemetery - you'll be there long enough (forever, anyone?).

Hugh Owens, Douglas, Cork

An alternative to post-exam stress

Sir - On the last Sunday before this year's Leaving Certificate, a debate has emerged over the last few weeks highlighting the pressure on our young citizens about to sit the examination to choose a STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) degree course if they achieve the required points. This pressure has reached an unprecedented intensity, which has been reinforced by a government agenda that has marginalised the humanities, to the point, that any subject outside of the hard sciences is depicted as almost irrelevant.

This agenda has been the biggest political and social force behind the growth of so-called grind schools which have been portrayed as a sure fire way of delivering those required extra points. This is of course, if their parents can afford upwards of €6,000 per annum, a luxury that has introduced an inherent inequality, which has produced a distorted educational narrative.

One of the saddest aspects of this inequality is the lack of pedagogical understanding which underpins the decision of oftentimes frantic parents, to take their children out of a holistic State education system, and immerse them during their most formative life stage, in a system that imparts a ruthless doctrine of exam success at the cost of a balanced education.

Therefore, as a parent of two former LC students, I would like to offer an alternative narrative which is also a passionate defence of the State educational system, it is the narrative of an intelligent and motivated teenager who never had a grind in his life.

This young man worked diligently in a local national school before entering a local community school, where with the help of interested, and interesting teachers, he achieved a maximum LC which was a blend of humanities and hard-science subjects.

Subsequently, this young man resisted multiple external pressures to study medicine, engineering or law and undertook an arts degree eventually specialising in philosophy, a so-called dead discipline. His parents supported his endeavours secure in the belief that if you love a subject you will be good at it, and if you are good at it, there is an important place in society for you.

In April of this year, that young man secured a fully funded PhD scholarship to Colombia University in New York. Colombia is an Ivy League university ranked in the global top 10 of every ranking system that matters; it also prizes lateral thinking and independence of thought above all else.

I suspect, if this young man had taken the easy route and studied what his points (rather than intellect) had indicated he should, i.e., a STEM degree, he would not have been simply unmotivated, but also unhappy.

I will leave it to the reader to decide if this is an allegorical tale designed to defend an increasingly marginalised and underfunded State education system, or whether it is the profound appreciation of a parent who saw the holistic benefits of a community-based education based on student, school and parental cooperation. I offer it merely as an alternative for the hundreds of thousands of stressed parents pondering life-changing decisions for their children.

Dr Kevin McCarthy, Co Cork

Brexit scare stories

Sir - While I can understand in one way the fevered attempts of our Government and business leaders to persuade the Irish community in the UK to vote to remain in the EU, I also feel a growing resentment.

As a returned member of the now suddenly valued 'diaspora' it strikes me as tragic that this intense concern for our opinion wasn't evident as we were forced generation by generation into heart-breaking exile.

Like all Irish families, we could have perished on the streets of Kilburn for all any government here seemed to care. It's staggeringly insensitive to now expect people to vote not in their own interests or those of the society they have been forced to live in, but rather to accommodate hysterical and unverifiable prophecies about the effect of a UK exit upon this country.

Scare stories about armed border posts returning to the North, or Irish people not being allowed to live in the UK, are ridiculously transparent attempts to manipulate people.

Patrick Doggett, Walkinstown, Dublin 12

Sunday Independent

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