Rural areas are being left behind by the recovery
Published 10/02/2016 | 02:30
We talk about a divided Ireland but I never envisaged this division would have such an impact on my life.
Am I talking about Northern Ireland? No. I am talking about the huge difference between the lives of people in the North West and those in 'The Pale'. I am from Sligo - there is no recovery in Sligo, no young people and no hope.
Having tried and tried, I finally gave up on beautiful Sligo and moved to Dublin.
I still feel that by moving I did exactly what the Government wanted me to do.
I've always wondered if all of my generation refused to emigrate, or leave the North West in search of work, would we have forced the hands of politicians?
If we had committed wholeheartedly to poverty for the greater good, remaining in Sligo unemployed and patiently waiting, would it have had an impact?
The reality is we'll never be deemed that important.
Here I am facing into another election in which I know that no matter who gets elected in the North West, we will never get the investment in roads, infrastructure and enterprise that we need.
I'll drive home to vote; it'll take me 2 hours, 45 minutes because there isn't a motorway to Sligo, and the last leg of the journey will be lit up by the endless crosses of over 30 victims who lost their lives on a 10km stretch of road that doesn't seem to warrant investment.
Once there, I'll wander the streets aimlessly, as each weekend I visit another shop, restaurant or pub disappears.
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a shop closes in Sligo and no one is around to hear it, does it matter?
Address with Editor
Are we a post-religious society?
In the context of the imminent election, surely it is time for religious believers, secularists, humanists and atheists to seek a consensus on what sort of human entitlements are fundamentally important and in need of protection?
If we represent ourselves in terms of mutual antipathies and shallow differences we'll weaken our impact on the intentions of politicians.
The secularisation of Ireland continues to gather pace. Secular groups and the Humanist Association of Ireland have done much to focus our minds on specific issues relating to religion, the content of the school curriculum and the Catholic Church's distinctive involvement in education.
The relation of secularism and humanism to Christianity is very close and has much to offer in clarifying the part the Catholic Church should play in the future of Irish life, being one voice amongst others, albeit an important one in that it represents the voices of many. However, non-religious views offer a significant critique of the way things were, allied to some sense of future possibilities for a life that befits us as humans.
The church failed miserably in not attending to the intelligent and thoughtful voices crying out to be heard, including the cry for attention to the sensitive misgivings of many dedicated priests, religious and lay people about the quality of leadership of the church.
Sometime ago, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin warned us against seeing the church as a safe place for the like-minded.
Granted, it is difficult to carve out a purely secular or humanist domain from our overall culture, defined by the norms, values, beliefs and mutual expectations that inform our way of life.
Clearly, we are moving into a post-religious phase. One of the striking features of Christ's ministry was his rejection of religion, seen as various forms of oppression of the lives of the people. It may sound paradoxical, but Christ himself was not very religious, being a Jew operating on the margins.
Defining 'Fiscal Space'
The term 'Fiscal Space' has been causing much puzzlement and speculation of late.
The 'Concise Oxford English Dictionary' tells us that "space" means, among other things, "a continuous unlimited area or expanse which may or may not contain objects."
Our "space" may - or may not! - contain many billions of euro (12 or 10 or eight or four, or less, depending on who you listen to).
Or could it just be that in exploring this 'Fiscal Space', newly appeared out of the black hole of debt and recession, we are simply in the realm of (science) fiction?
Let us, in any case, hope that we can avoid a Big Bang!
James N O'Sulivan
Killarney, Co Kerry
Middle East and environment
Mary Fitzgerald (Irish Independent, February 6) is partly right that plunging oil prices couldn't have come at worse time for the Middle East.
However, the region has been plagued with ethnic conflicts, bloodshed, destruction and environmental degradation.
The air, soil and water now contain gases, fumes, odours, blood and dust and will linger in the atmosphere for decades to come, with profound adverse consequences for humans, animals and plants alike.
The plunge in prices for oil barrels could spur the need to explore innovative and environmentally friendly alternatives, to stabilise the climate and avert human suffering. Such challenges lie at the heart of the climate change agenda and the Millennium Development Goals.
This is the great promise and great cause in the 21st century: hope, opportunity, justice, health and dignity.
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
London NW2, UK
Rugby's mighty oak retires
Paul O'Connell was like an oak tree in Irish rugby. As the poet wrote: "seasoned timber never gives" - he just got more durable with age.
But unlike some, he was never content to be part of the furniture; he only ever stooped to conquer.