The distress will pass
Published 13/12/2015 | 02:30
Sir - As I read Emily Hourican (December 6) speak so bravely about her recent cancer diagnosis I was in bed recovering from my fifth session of chemotherapy.
I found myself back in August getting news I honestly was not expecting. I was back there talking to my children and I could feel the tension in my stomach build because that was the hardest thing I ever had to do; as a parent you develop instinctively the role of protector.
You avoid people who bring negativity and distress to your family, and yet here I was going to be the one who was responsible for allowing everything they took for granted to be shaken. I felt guilt for bringing this into my home. I have an 11-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl and a husband who is my rock.
Emily is right though, children are caught up in their own lives much more than we realise and this is a good thing.
This is necessary for their survival and growth. Children are resilient. They are stronger than we think. I can identify with Emily's fear. I remember telling my mother, "I can do this; I'm ready for this..."
Unfortunately, my body and mind were not that confident. For the first three weeks of my first session of chemotherapy I lost control of everything... I couldn't sleep, I couldn't switch off, I was beaten with overwhelming fear and anxiety. I thought that I would feel like this for the next five sessions. I had two A&E visits and infections... I didn't think that I would be physically or mentally ready for session number two.
I wasn't coping until the nurses in Sligo Oncology Day Ward saved me. Just in the nick of time, and there I was in my chair the following Monday starting session two.
The kindness I have experienced throughout the past months has overwhelmed me at times. Family, friends, neighbours and new friends I have found on the same journey have sustained me, propped me up and carried me.
I will have my final treatment on the December 21 so Christmas week will be a quiet one for me. All Christmas songs make me cry, but that's nothing new! Hearing O Holy Night on Christmas Day will be a highlight but Christmas will come again, and again and again.
My husband told me one day, this too will pass. It has been used for years and has stood the test of time. It is my mantra now. I have trodden it into the dunes in Strandhill. I have whispered it to the waves. I have woken in the middle of the night saying it over and over. This too will pass. Emily, this too will pass.
Unionist bigotry fuelled IRA
Sir - I am an Alliance Party voter/supporter for over 20 years. I have never been a Sinn Fein/IRA supporter, even thought I come from a Catholic-nationalist background.
Some of your columnists take a very strong anti-Sinn Fein line and probably rightly so. However, I would say that there would have been zero support for their murder campaign if Catholics had been treated fairly in the years since the foundation of the Northern state.
Catholics were treated like dirt by people like Brookeborough, etc. It was only when Captain Terence O'Neill came along that a more moderate form of unionism was to be seen. But he was destroyed by bigots.
Most Catholics would have lived reasonably happily in Northern Ireland if they had been treated fairly. In 1969 when Catholics asked for equal treatment they were met with RUC and B Specials armed with machine guns, and loyalist mobs behind them.
That was what caused the growth of the IRA and the horror that followed. It was all very predictable, and sadly and tragically inevitable.
The HSE still lacks empathy
Sir - Our treasured baby, Caoimhe, died very soon after birth on February 11, 2009, at Limerick Maternity Hospital. We had a massive battle with the Health Service Executive over six-and-a-half years. It finally admitted liability after five-and-a-half years and we got an apology on the day before Caoimhe's inquest on September 16 of this year.
Our case was part of the Health Information and Quality Authority report into the Portlaoise investigation and our case featured on Prime Time and various media. We got a settlement in the High Court last year. After reading Dr Rhona Mahony's article in the Sunday Independent (December 6), it made me think: has the HSE learned anything from the last few years?
Not once did she mention open disclosure or a duty of candour on the part of staff who are guilty of poor performance; or even what means most to the families affected by same and that is to simply say "sorry".
The one thing that stood out in her article for me was the infant mortality statistic of 3.6 per 1,000 births, which she states are excellent outcomes by any measure.
Let me tell you it is not an excellent outcome if that 3.6 statistic includes your own precious child.
Our biggest problem with the HSE was the institutional attitude towards families who want answers to why their loved ones died.
We were bamboozled with talk of complex physiology and grey areas that are not yet understood by our maternity services. Our experience was that they just wanted us to go away and stop troubling them.
She seems not to understand why families take the litigation route. Does she not realise that it is the only way that families can get answers as to why their loved ones died?
The HSE placed every obstacle it could to stop us getting the answers we needed.
She says patients are rightly compensated for harm done. I want to ask her this question: how do you compensate someone for their child's death? Well, we can tell her that there is nothing in the world that can compensate you for that. The death of a child is a nightmare that nobody should have to live through. When you have to fight a so-called caring service like the HSE for simply the truth and an apology which most families don't get, it makes that grief a million times worse.
Dr Mahony's article does have some valid points, but only if you work for the maternity service.
There is nothing in it for people who suffered from medical negligence like we did. In fact, it is disheartening and depressing.
We can only hope that the next generation of doctors and nurses might shake off those shackles of deny and defend that bedevil the current system.
John and Joan Mulcair
Paying a parent to stay at home
Sir - I was delighted to read Brendan O'Connor's article about childcare (December 6). I have a three-year-old boy, and I made a choice that I was going to look after him, which is what we have done, so I miss out on loads of things that I once had, but I have all this time with my boy.
What I don't understand is why we don't swap two free kindergarten years and pay a parent to be at home for the first two years at least.
The budget is already being spent, so why not just swap it over? It would mean that, with maternity leave and the like between both parents, children could be cared for at home for their first three years.
It is a very contentious issue, and one that I think only a working parent can appreciate, but looking after our children is the most important and wonderful thing. In denying them that, we would be doing them and ourselves a major injustice.
I am part of a group of parents who are trying to get a Steiner school in south Kerry to provide child-centred education and diversity.
Thank you for your article. I don't feel any way disempowered by being a stay-at-home mom; in fact, I feel very happy that I made the right choice for my child.
That is what keeps me going when I am about to pull my hair out while running around after a three-year-old.
The season of festive hypocrites
Sir - So it's here again, the season of goodwill and gluttony when hordes of heathens enthusiastically indulge in unrestrained debauchery to celebrate the birth of a Christ they do not believe in.
Well done Eilis on Kelly's faux week
Sir - Congratulations to Eilis O'Hanlon (December 6) for her very witty article 'My week - Alan Kelly'. If Alan Kelly had written it himself, he would have had my vote for eternity, or the rest of my life, whichever is longer.
Thurles, Co Tipperary
Minimum alcohol pricing best route
Sir - In 'Drinks giants in threat to block law on minimum alcohol pricing' (December 6), we were informed that "in September, the ECJ's advocate general, Yves Bot, published an opinion that will make efforts to impose minimum pricing extremely difficult".
In fact, the opinion indicates that minimum unit pricing (MUP) is not precluded by EU law if it is considered a better measure than taxation for reducing alcohol harm. MUP directly targets the cheapest, strongest drinks, which are favoured by those who are alcohol-dependent and the young. However, unlike tax, MUP will not affect all drinks, only the cheapest products, and will have no impact on the price of alcohol sold in pubs, clubs and restaurants.
This allows it to effectively target the drinkers most at risk, while having little or no impact on those who drink in a low-risk manner.
The evidence, as reflected in Canada, shows that MUP can save lives among those who drink in a high-risk manner and reduce alcohol-related hospital admissions, alcohol-related crime and workplace absences due to alcohol, thereby reducing the huge health, social and economic burdens that alcohol harm places on society.
However, MUP is not a "silver bullet" solution. It must work in tandem with a range of other measures, particularly those that address the marketing and availability of alcohol. The Department of Health and Leo Varadkar have recognised this with the measures in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.
Head of Communications and Advocacy,
Alcohol Action Ireland,
Flat-rate tax better for the lower-paid
Sir -Philip Ryan reports (December 6) that 'Kenny to buy off Labour vote with €100-a-week' with Fine Gael's 'radical' alternative to Labour's living wage of €11.75 an hour, which would involve a state top-up of €2.60 on the minimum wage of €9.15.
Clearly, this will be less onerous on small businesses, but potentially a big burden on all taxpayers.
An alternative solution to overhauling the social welfare system might be a flat tax - as suggested by Renua Ireland - particularly for low and middle-income earners. This could encourage many people to work that extra shift, particularly those young couples who are currently saving for a mortgage, in the knowledge that a penal rate of tax would not kick in should they work hard enough to earn beyond a certain threshold.
Showing goodness of mankind
Sir - As a regular reader of the Sunday Independent, I must say I really enjoyed your Letters page on December 6.
The letters showed the goodwill of the common people and really made you believe in the goodness of mankind.
The page left a great feeling of comfort and compassion.
Thanks to all correspondents.
Consider impact on agriculture
Sir - Since the Paris conference started, much of the media coverage of the global warming issue in Ireland has been trivial. Some of it amounts to little more than laying most of the blame on the farmers. If they got rid of their belching cows everything would be all right, or so the argument goes. Surely there is more to the debate than that.
The agrifood sector in this country involves over 230,000 jobs. It includes approximately 600 food and drinks firms throughout the country that export 85pc of our food and seafood to more than 160 countries worldwide. Those exports are worth €10bn or more to the citizens of this country.
If we are to curtail that industry in order to meet our global warming targets, as advocated by many non-agrifood lobbies, then the consequences in terms of the economics, the employment and the social infrastructure of many areas in this country need to be examined.
Discrimination was very real
Sir - I have read and re-read the letter from your correspondent Paddy McEvoy and remain perplexed. After almost 60 years resident in London, I can still remember the location of the newsagent's shops where "no Irish, blacks, dogs" etc, appeared. At that time, some shops would have 10-20 cards offering accommodation and as a rule four or five of them would be discriminating. Having lived in about a dozen lodging houses, rooms and flats, before buying my first house, I can recall Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Irish and only two English landladies, and one of them was second-generation Irish. Incidentally, it was not unusual for Irish landladies from urban areas to put up discriminating notices barring their 'culchie' brethren.
W Paul Murphy
Letter ignores human impact
Sir - Just writing to thank James Hogan of Tipperary for enlightening me (Letters, December 6). Here was silly me thinking that the extinction of the Dodo, Carolina Parakeet, Passenger Pigeon, Tasmanian Tiger and others too numerous to mention was caused by human stupidity, greed, depredation.
As to the dinosaur extinction, I was foolish believing an eminent nuclear physicist and Nobel laureate (Luis Alvarez), a geologist (Eugene Shoemaker) when they said that this event was caused by a meteorite six-miles wide striking at Chicxulub in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. This is at a point known to geology as the KT Boundary and marks the time 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs and roughly half the world's other species of animals abruptly vanish from the fossil records.
So when the next extinction takes place (probably the Northern White Rhinoceros, three left) or the great whales (the Japanese are to start hunting them again), we can remark "ah, that's progress."
In conclusion, James, you could have at least warned the people that when the polar ice caps melt, they should learn to swim.
Cut in music funding illogical
Sir - In the last few days, the Arts Council of Ireland has decided to withdraw its funding to Music in Kilkenny, widely regarded as one of Ireland's most active and successful classical music promoters. We present 20 concerts a year to the people of the South East. Music for Wexford, a similar organisation, has also had its funding completely cut.
The loss to the music-loving public is clear. What is less clear is the logic behind the decision-making of the Arts Council. In stopping our funding, the council is destroying precious performance opportunities for many individual classical musicians in Ireland. But that is not all. Many Arts Council-funded ensembles, such as the Irish Baroque Orchestra, Chamber Choir Ireland and Resurgam, are likely to suffer in similar fashion. Our first projected concert of 2016 was to be by the Irish Baroque Orchestra.
Administrator, Music in Kilkenny, Old Court,
Inistioge, Co Kilkenny