Wednesday 26 October 2016

Their belief in peace

Published 22/05/2016 | 02:30

Daniel O'Connell
Daniel O'Connell

Sir - Fergal Keane in his letter (Sunday Independent, May 15) seems to imply that neither Daniel O'Connell nor Charles Stewart Parnell were particularly concerned with the situation of the Catholics in the north east of Ireland during their "great campaigns".

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I have no knowledge of the situation of Catholics there in 19th century Ireland, living under the Crown, but certainly we know with the establishment of Stormont - "a Protestant state for a Protestant people" - the plight of the Catholic minority was greatly aggravated, abandoned to a large extent by the Catholic south in a truncated political Ireland.

The Civil Rights Movement was a sure sign of a risen people. I remember staying in a house in Derry where the family were so initially proud of the marches, but were soon disillusioned by the hijacking of the movement by proponents of the "armed nationalism". As Mr Keane ends his incisive contribution: "They believed in peace from the beginning. They were the majority."

Patrick Fleming,


Dublin 9

Economic rather than social capital

Sir - Richard Curran uses the metaphor 'Tails no longer wagging the dogs in the dairy sector' (Business, Sunday Independent, May 15) to describe the bust up that has been obviously coming for many years

Mr Curran states that "no serious executive is going to undermine their sustainable business model by digging too deep". It begs the question: 'sustainable for who?' An easy question to answer in a society that values economic capital highly over social capital. The quest to maximise shareholder value has come with a heavy price for rural Ireland.

The countryside where Kerry Co-op and Kerry Group were founded - north Kerry - has become one of the most socio-economically disadvantaged areas in the country. The price being paid to Kerry farmers for milk is the same as it was 35 years ago; is it any wonder that farmers feel betrayed? Would any ceo in this country work for the wage that was set that long ago?

Kate Carmody,


Co Kerry

Time to do more for young drivers

Sir - I refer to the article by Claire McCormack (Sunday Independent, May 15) entitled 'Return migrants facing sky-high car cover costs'. The facts are both disappointing and most discouraging to those emigrants who have already returned home, or those contemplating doing so in the near future.

Motor insurance experts say the spiralling cost of comprehensive cover could have a major impact on Taoiseach Enda Kenny's intention to attract home 70,000 emigrants by the year 2020.

Emigrants who have left Ireland for more than two years are being told that their no-claims bonus no longer applies, as it is impossible for insurance companies to check their driving records while living abroad.

A number of young people living in Australia, have been quoted more than 10 times the cost of insurance cover on the same car they drove before they left home, six years ago. They are now being treated as first time drivers. This is a grave injustice.

Conor Faughnan, director of consumer affairs at AA Ireland, says insurance companies should be doing a lot more to reduce the motor insurance burden. Let's face facts, Australia is a country that's legally and culturally very similar to Ireland. There is not even a language barrier. They drive on the same side of the road. In this age of modern technology, it is not an impossible task to properly check whether a driver has a clean history or not.

The National Youth Council of Ireland is calling on the new Government to prioritise and take on board the obstacles that returning expats have to contend with. It is really important that return migrants are welcomed back home, and their transition is made as smooth as possible.

If the motor insurance industry continues to treat returning emigrants as cash cows, this will have a very negative effect.

Tom Towey,


Co Sligo

The oppressed were good at oppression

Sir - It's one thing to dream about a united (not reunited) Ireland but it's quite another to pander to such beliefs like John Doyle's (Letters, Sunday Independent, May 15).

He should know there has never been a time at any point in Irish history, ever, when the island of Ireland was united as one political union. Not when cavemen ruled, nor the Vikings, the Gaelic or Normans, settlements or ascendancy. How ironic that such unity was on the statute books and a legal fact (on hold) by the 1914 Home Rule Act, which the morons of 1916 made sure never became a reality.

Mr Doyle trots off a list of figures and, of course, no one can prove their accuracy which is the whole point I suppose. But it is quite remarkable if he thinks Ireland being ruled by some native class would have made any difference to those figures. The Gaelic families spent as much time killing each other and as they did killing others. Does he really think a native Irish ruling class wouldn't have shot dead other Irishmen if it suited the economic interests? If Irish people were sold into slavery who were they sold by and why is that slavery worse than what happened to people in coastal villages all across Europe?

There were risings across Europe all through history so why were Irish hangings after 1798 any worse or different to the deaths during the French Revolutions or the 1848 risings and many others. Were the deaths during the Jacobite rebellions in the UK different? Ireland wasn't the only country in Europe to suffer catastrophic famines during the 19th Century but we seem to be the only ones who used that misery to play the victim card instead of tackle the inherent social flaws (like Catholic social teaching).

As to Irish people satisfying colonial needs - maybe Mr Doyle would like to do some research on how many Irish overseers ran sugar and cotton plantations in the old South and who were specifically sought after because they treated the slave population the worst. The most oppressed people were not shy about inflicting even worse oppression when given the chance. I'm sure he's aware that his fellow Irish men and women who went to Australia and New Zealand and all over Africa not only imported their religion but also inflicted the same industrial-scale sexual, physical and emotional abuse they applied in Ireland itself.

It's also worth noting that during the famine it was local Irish people who benefited most from the misery of their neighbours and snapped up tenancies with the money sent back from emigrants. It is also worth noting that one of the central points of the Land Acts was to disperse land from the rancher class, (who were Irish and Catholic) down to small tenant holders so they could develop sustainable and diversified farms.

Instead when the land passed from the landlord to the rancher - the only ones who would afford to buy it - it was not passed down any further and they blocked any efforts at reforms.

But if Mr Doyle is still clinging to his beliefs that everything that ever went wrong in Ireland would not have happened if it weren't for an external force, then he can look at our post 1922 history. We inflicted that on ourselves and even in 2016, the results of the recent election show that when it comes down it, the parish pump and the sleveen gene still wins out every time, when it's that or a choice between making a decision based on a national interest.

So if Mr Doyle wants to claim that if the English never came over (at our invitation, let's not forget, and who won because we were too busy fighting ourselves to join forces to fight them) then Ireland might have united at some point in the Middle Ages like Spain or the 19th Century like Italy.

But it is wrong to pander to any nonsense that a united Ireland ruled by a native ruling class would not have had a monarch or a renter ruling class standing on the backs of the poor or the poor of such an Ireland would have avoided the calamities that did happen.

The facts are that Irish people suffered no more or less than their counterparts in other European countries and what they suffered is nothing compared to what the native people of lands colonised by Europeans suffered and to even infer there is a comparison is an insult to the hundreds of millions of people all over the world whose lives will never be known to history but whose suffering is a stain on all our collective consciences.

The lot of the Irish poor was as miserable before the English arrived as it was after.

Desmond FitzGerald,

Canary Wharf,


Toxic versions of Irish history

Sir - In his succinct, history-in-a-nutshell portrayal of Ireland's woes at the mercy of its bullying neighbour, John Doyle (Letters, May 15) reminds me of the toxic version of Irish history that was dinned into us in the 1950s.

His nicely rounded statistics, offered as incontestable facts, leave one wondering why we're not all card-carrying members of illegal organisations.

This concentration on the big pain that leaves us raw, as Heaney put it, only serves to feed the insatiable craving (of some) for vengeance.

Doyle lists the usual litany of horrors that have 'happened' to us, poor, suffering, defenceless Irish. Ergo our nationalism; ergo our anger; ergo our tribalism; ergo our fighting nature; ergo our insecurities; ergo our penchant for Catholicism; ergo our moral adolescence.

We should be thanking the Ruth Dudley Edwardses of the world for offering other perspectives.

Paddy McEvoy,


Co Down

Sabina's right to an opinion

Sir - I wish to comment on Eilis O'Hanlon's article (Sunday Independent, May 15) about the way Sabina Higgins expressed her opinion on fatal foetal abnormality in a recent public forum. Eilis suggests that the president's wife, Ireland's First Lady, should adopt a more demure positioning and present herself as diplomatic and 'listening' rather than being 'evangelical' and sharing her opinion.

I have to disagree with this old hat way of thinking. This etiquette appears aligned with a bourgeois notion of acceptable behaviour in the public forum found in the early part of the 19th Century and before women secured the vote. Ireland is a liberal democratic state where every person, the President and his wife included, can give their opinion on the important moral and political issues facing our society and the kind of society we want to leave as a legacy to the next generation.

Of all groups of people in Ireland, Mna na hEireann have experienced more than their fair share of being denied a voice in the public sphere to express their opinion and make their contribution to this important democratic task.

Geraldine Mooney Simmie,

Faculty of Education & Health Sciences,

University of Limerick

The smoking ban

Sir - I refer to Finian McGrath's recent short-sighted comments concerning the smoking ban.

Our members have worked tirelessly to enforce the ban on smoking in workplaces in the 12 years since its introduction with almost universal success. A recent study by the TobaccoFree Research Institute Ireland found that an estimated 3,700 smoking-related deaths have been spared because people are less exposed to second-hand smoke. Mr McGrath refers to smokers as 'soft targets'.

May I remind the Minister of State for Health that the legislation was not designed to act against smokers but rather to protect the health of those who through no fault of their own are exposed to second-hand smoke? May I also suggest that it would be in everyone's interest if Mr McGrath was to support the strategies outlined in the Tobacco Free Ireland plan, including supporting, encouraging and motivating smokers who wish to quit.

Peter Gaffey,

Chair, Environmental Health Association of Ireland,


Just don't forget the victims, please

Sir - In regard to Niamh Horan's article on the life of prisoners in jail (Sunday Independent, May 15), she might follow it up with an article about the victims and the reoffenders.

Too often we focus on the criminals and forget the tragedies they created and the lives they have ruined. The criminals' imprisonment is the consequence of their actions, the victims did not have that luxury.

I am not a screaming, "hang them" guy just an ordinary, law-abiding man with a family who all pay their taxes. I do, however, feel it is time we stopped rewarding bad behaviour and the punishment delivered by the courts acts as a deterrent. While I agree prison should be used for rehabilitation I do firmly believe that with organised crime on the increase there is a need for a reappraisal of money and time spent on TVs and game consoles for criminals.

The money and time would, in my opinion, be better spent in preventing crime, such as more gardai on the streets, or even, God forbid, pay the gardai a living wage. This is not a rant - just a point I think Niamh missed in her article. I wish her well.

Ray Heffernan, Dublin 5

A lovely feature

Sir - Thoroughly enjoyed the many images of Niamh Horan spread across last Sunday's edition. Can't remember the associated article, but that's not to take from the presentation.

Mick O'Brien,



Dealing with mental health

Sir - What a truly heartbreaking letter 'The sad scourge of suicide' (Sunday Independent, May 15). When you start reading about teams losing two players to suicide it brings home the huge extent of the problem. I can feel the frustration of the young man who wrote the letter.

We need to talk about and deal with mental health. It has got to the stage that there are very few families who haven't been touched in some way by the horror of suicide. All the budget needed cannot be raised purely by the heroic efforts of people involved in Darkness to Light walks and Cycles against Suicide… the Government has got to get involved. Please, let's all lobby our local politicians to put suicide prevention at the top of their agenda.

Mary Quinn,

Dun Laoghaire

Architect of my own unhappiness

Sir - Brendan O'Connor and Olivia O'Leary have acute observations about unhappiness. Alas, though they are excellent observers of life I believe they are missing the simple truth. A smaller amount of people will have clinical depression and will need medical attention. After that they can find stability and happiness by simply changing their thoughts.

Depression paints a frightening picture of devastation, havoc and unhappiness wrought in so many people's lives. The scourge of depression can also lead to suicide by unfortunate people who in their deep-rooted despair feel they cannot cope any longer. One writer backed up a medical image that depression is a deadly disease. I would like to take issue with that image of depression. My life's experience taught me otherwise. I would not live my youth again. I am 86. I was born with severe hearing loss and in 11 years of schooling I suffered physical beatings and mental trauma which led to severe depression. For many years I did not seek medical help. Then one day I made an amazing discovery.

I looked inwards and found I could tap into the bottomless well of strength which we all possess. In giving honest answers to myself I made the discovery that I was the architect of my own unhappiness. I was feeding so-called depression with negative destructive thinking. I was elated to discover that depression is not a physical entity... I found that I changed my life for the better almost overnight. From this evolved my maxim: 'We are the products of our own thoughts. We are what we feed our mind with. Change your attitude, change your life.'

Dermot Cooke,


Sunday Independent

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