Tuesday 25 October 2016

Social isolation is the scourge of our so-called affluent society

Published 18/10/2016 | 02:30

Loneliness is a problem in modern society. Picture posed
Loneliness is a problem in modern society. Picture posed

We have far too little research to tell us how many are depressed and close to the edge, living in their own private hell from day to day. Loneliness, or social isolation, is the new modern scourge of our so-called affluent society.

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I was brought up in a small grocery shop in a council estate in Kilkenny with the only public phone for some distance.

Simpler times for sure, where people would gather to buy their three rashers, milk, sliced pan and half dozen eggs.

It was almost a social outing for all concerned and all the problems of that particular household were discussed, be it health, finance or unemployment.

A listening, supportive ear was always available and appropriate action taken when required - support was near at hand.

At the end of your 'bit of business', a simple glance would see my mother running for the 'book', knowing payment was deferred till payday. Now, if by chance 'Rosie' or 'Nan' didn't arrive to do their shopping, I was immediately dispatched to that house to make sure all was ok. Simpler times indeed.

Now our politicians, town planners, architects and engineers have moved us on and built a better, more modern, society where rates are so high that small shops are taxed out of business, our town centres are barren wastelands where only the tumbleweed blows and the only listening ear is 'brass plated' on the seventh floor of the local business complex.

When 'Rosie' wants a new rubber heel for her walking stick, will she spend the extra €5 she got in her pension on a taxi to the modern shopping complex on the outskirts of town knowing that if she finds herself short, unfortunately that simple glance at a cashier will yield nothing? Or will she decide to sit at home hoping somebody calls?

Progress is not only about big business and buildings but also people, young and old.

Small shops and businesses play a huge role in a properly functioning society and enrich in so many ways the social fabric of communities throughout Ireland and as such should be encouraged and protected.

Eugene McGuinness

Bishop Birch Place, Kilkenny

The 'astroturf' pro-life campaign

In his article (Irish Independent, October 14), David Quinn characterises the Repeal the Eighth Amendment campaign as an "astroturf" campaign - ie. one designed to look like a "grassroots" campaign (as when ordinary people protest in large numbers) but which is actually artificial. He says an "astroturf" campaign consists of activists and pressure groups making a lot of noise and that the demand for a referendum did not come up on the doorsteps in the general election.

I find it supremely ironic that David Quinn would characterise the Repeal the Eighth Amendment Campaign in this way. If one were to turn the clock back 33 years to 1983, one could apply precisely the same characterisation to the Pro-Life Amendment campaign.

It too did not spring from the demands of ordinary voters on the doorsteps, there were no protests by ordinary people in large numbers and it too was inspired by a number of activists and pressure groups. They succeeded in railroading the Taoiseach and leader of the opposition of the day into holding a referendum to insert a clause into the Constitution purportedly to protect a law that had been in force for 120 years and which had never been challenged but which has proved to have unforeseen and far-reaching effects which we are still grappling with 33 years later.

Whether the present Repeal the Eighth Amendment campaign or the then Pro-Life Amendment campaign are "grassroots" or "astroturf" is not the issue. The issue is whether the Irish people want to go into the next 33 years with the same clause in their Constitution, a clause which to my mind was then and still is grossly offensive to women, dangerous, sectarian and hypocritical. Let the Irish people have their say on that matter, Mr Quinn.

Michael Nuding

Marlay Wood, Dublin 16

Dublin needs more GAA teams

Tomás Ó Sé (Irish Independent, October 14) telling us that Dublin is successful only because they "have got their act together" is, to quote himself, missing the point entirely.

The argument in favour of having Dublin represented by more than one team in Gaelic games is pretty well unanswerable. Number one, a population of over one million competing with the likes of Leitrim and Longford screams unfairness. Number two, the original local political divisions, which we now call counties and to which we pledge our allegiance, were set up by the colonial power. In contrast, the local government divisions in Dublin were set up in and by an independent Ireland. Why discriminate against counties which were set up by the native government? In addition to having bigger populations, Fingal and Dun Laoghaire, for example, are as legitimate as local authorities as Mayo or Donegal.

The failure of the GAA to act on this is indefensible.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin 13

Kathleen's the complete lady

What a heartwarming interview with Kathleen Watkins on Friday night's 'Late Late Show'.

She was and is the complete lady with so much grace and good manners, so it is for that reason I'm sorry to report: Kathleen, you still owe me half a dollar.

It goes back to 1964 when I worked for Palgrave Murphy Shippers. I was sent to collect some pieces of furniture from your apartment, which was near the rear of the American Embassy on Ballsbridge.

All loaded, I stood to get your signature, but you became a little embarrassed because all you could find by way of a tip was six pennies that were on top of a meter in the hallway.

"I meant to give you half a crown," you said. Ok, Kathleen that was all of 52 years ago, so my half a dollar is now long overdue!

Only kidding - it was a pleasure back then to be of assistance and I can only wish you every success with your book.

That saying about class being permanent is very true in your case.

Fred Molloy

Dublin 15

Halligan's catty comments

Independent TD John Halligan, who is well known for his campaign for a cath lab for the south east, might equally be known for his campaign for a 'cat lab'.

In an interview on the 'Late Late Show' on Friday night, he reasoned that, as cats and dogs are put down if suffering, so humans should be given an option to terminate their lives in the case of "intolerable pain" (which totally ignored the benefits of palliative care).

He then back-tracked to say that he was not equating humans with cats, but if he wasn't, I fail to understand his meaning.

Ruth Bridcut

Bachelors Walk, Dublin 1

Irish Independent

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