Friday 31 October 2014

The real green shoots of recovery

Published 14/03/2014 | 02:30

Spectators enjoying the St Patrick’s Day street parade in New York. Reuters
Spectators enjoying the St Patrick’s Day street parade in New York. Reuters

* The national day is almost upon us. Some time ago I was overseas for March 17 and through the fog of green beer and tinsel shamrocks, I began to wonder about what would make Ireland a better place.

As a little fella, I was taught to say hello to everyone; I was told not to look on people as a means to an end, not stepping stones to be jumped on for advancement, but as brothers and sisters in a bigger family.

Naive, wimpish twaddle, many will agree... especially in a world where self-esteem is measured by bank balances, the car you drive or where you live.

But surely when Saint Patrick plucked the shamrock from the ground, and introduced the concept of salvation, love and fellowship, he was laying down the foundations for a spiritual strength that would survive for millennia.

He did so without the trappings of Rome, or institutional dogma. Treating each other with respect and dignity is too big a deal to be entrusted to any one institution.

Many would argue that our values have been banished like the snakes, as we worship the gombeen-beloved golden calf of casino capitalism.

This is a seductive fallacy.

I look around and I see our incredible young people doing the most amazing things, and I see our elderly enduring unjust things with magnificent fortitude.

I lament that we lose so many of our best and brightest to foreign shores but wherever they go they bring their rich heritage with them. They will shine.

This year I am at home and happy to be. There will be no green beer but there will be gratitude for all the kindness and decency that can still be found in an Irish nation that stoically accepted and suffered so much for the sins of the few, yet still finds cause to celebrate.

So stand up Ireland, the cynics and the "fumblers in the greasy till" have not stolen your soul.

Your spirit is still strong, and that is from where the real green shoots of recovery will surely spring.

D O'BRIEN

DALKEY, CO DUBLIN

BITTER TASTE

* Having just read the article in the Irish Independent about TDs consuming 12,000 pints in the Dail last year, I feel it is my civic duty to protest about deputies paying for drinks out of their own pockets! What is Ireland coming to?

Why are these pints not being paid for by the taxpayer? Having lavished millions on the disabled, the elderly, the underprivileged, and the ill, sparing no consideration to their own pockets and pensions, surely they must be entitled to a liquid sensation or two, as guests of the Republic?

FERGUS O'REILLY

MEALISHEEN LEAP, CO CORK

UKRAINE ON THE EDGE

* Dermot Ryan (Letters, March 13) questions why RTE devotes editorials to the "relative non-event that is the Ukraine" while lamenting that "serious protests in Spain, Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and elsewhere in the EU ... barely got a fraction of the coverage".

Ukraine, though not a member of the EU is of course a European country which has a common border with four EU members. Perhaps Mr Ryan cannot differentiate between domestic street protests in the EU countries he referred to and the real prospect of a sovereign European country being torn apart with the assistance of insidious outside influence.

The "non-event" he refers to is the greatest threat of a war on European soil since the Balkans war in the 1990s and, previous to that, World War II.

JOHN BELLEW

DUNLEER, CO LOUTH

INFANT DEATH DATA

* I wish to respond to your columnist Colette Browne (Irish Independent, March 12).

The data for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDs) is from a published document from the Institute of Public Health, using official statistics from the Department of Health in both jurisdictions along with data from the Central Statistics office and Northern Ireland Statistics.

The report covers the period 1989-1998 and was published in 2001. This is the only all-Ireland report examining the variation in mortality.

In this comprehensive report, on page 29 and 33, the official figures for SIDs are provided for both geographic regions and a figure of a 310pc increased incidence based on annual standardised rates is provided for the Republic of Ireland compared to Northern Ireland.

Ms Browne claims she has figures to show that the incidence of SIDs in Northern Ireland are higher than the Republic of Ireland. I would like to see this evidence. It would represent a four-fold increase in SIDs in Northern Ireland in recent years, a situation which I would find very difficult to believe without credible scientific facts.

With regard to my interview on RTE radio, I was contacted 30 minutes before the programme and asked to participate without any opportunity to prepare. The literature on fluoridation is vast, I cannot be expected to remember every publication or the name of source material especially for something that was a relatively minor part of my report.

DECLAN WAUGH, DIRECTOR

ENVIRO MANAGEMENT SERVICES, BANDON, CO CORK

CREDIT UNION SQUEEZE

* In relation to an article in the Irish Independent ('Finance Minister calls on credit unions to lend more', March 4). Over the past number of years the vast majority of the country's credit unions have been subject to excessive restrictions on lending, as imposed by the Central Bank. The minister is well aware that these restrictions are in operation so I wonder why he has made such a statement now?

Restrictions on a credit unions ability to lend is further isolating vulnerable groups of people who, having being refused credit by banks and building societies, have nowhere else to go. Credit unions have money to lend and certainly want to lend to their members but they are being restricted from doing so. Why is the minister not talking to the Central Bank about this?

SEAMUS KILGANNON, BOARD MEMBER

IRISH LEAGUE OF CREDIT UNIONS

YOURS FAITHFULLY...

* I thank Joe Dowling for his admiring letter but I think he may be misguided in recommending Dr Eben Alexander's 'Proof Of Heaven' as a tonic for the reluctant atheist. I'm not sure if the near-death experience of a neurosurgeon will do much to ease my malaise – but I will read it nonetheless.

Besides that, my understanding of religious faith is that there is no requirement for external proof; that human reason and the miracle of existence are enough to underpin a firm belief in God.

I could perhaps save myself a lot of head scratching and subscribe to Mark Twain's definition of faith: "Faith is believing what you know ain't so."

SEAN SMITH

NAVAN, CO MEATH

NEW POLITICS, OLD HAT

* Having just watched Leader's Questions, I am disgusted by the manner in which Taoiseach Enda Kenny refused to concede that the garda whistleblowers deserved an apology for their treatment at the hands of Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. Indeed he refused to even acknowledge that the whistleblowers had been slighted at all. We've heard a lot of talk from the Government about reform, accountability and new politics.

Surely central to any new politics, should be integrity.

SIMON O'CONNOR

DUBLIN 12

Irish Independent

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