Wednesday 26 October 2016

Where are the Davitts of today to protect the rights of tenants?

Published 28/05/2016 | 02:30

Land League founder Michael Davitt Photo: Keith Heneghan / Phocus
Land League founder Michael Davitt Photo: Keith Heneghan / Phocus

We read today that one of our "Overseas competition banks", which the Finance Minister worries that the new proposed legislation will frighten away is in the process of selling a tranche of loans to venture capitalists. This is in addition to the mortgages that Nama has disposed of.

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The last time this happened in Ireland was under The Encumbered Estates Act 1849 by an English parliament.

In 1849, over 7,000 estates were sold into the hands of middlemen who bought speculatively. Their sole object was to make a profit. As a result, smallholders were evicted without compensation because they had no legal rights, the land being bought and sold over their heads.

Now, almost 170 years later and with our own Government, the "right of private property" is still supreme.

In 1849, WE Gladstone, who later became British prime minister, said that the act was "passed with lazy, heedless, uninformed good intentions; and its effect was disastrous", and was responsible for the ensuing land wars in Ireland.

Fortunately, the tenants of 1850 had politicians like Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell, and the Land League to look after their rights. There are no Parnells or Davitts in Leinster House today.

Hugh Duffy, Cleggan, Co Galway

The wrong arm of the law

We hear a lot of talk from Garda representative bodies regarding the "lack of Garda resources". Perhaps there is some element of under-utilisation at play? My son was forced to pick up rubbish which did not belong to him by an overbearing guard in Airside, Dublin, the day after Gareth Hutch was murdered. When he said it was not his rubbish, he was advised to "Change his attitude" and questioned about his driving licence and insurance. Perhaps the resources could be better utilised to focus on the law-breakers instead ?

Name and address with Editor

Long summer for politicians

We learn that our politicians may not 'sit' for three months this summer. Hopefully, some of them will not stand for the idea.

Tom Gilsenan, Beaumont, Dublin

Social housing desperately needed

Everyone accepts we have a housing crisis in this country; rents are sky-rocketing and people are homeless as a result. Increasing rent supplement rates can only be a temporary solution, as rents will most likely rise in response. Therefore, a more permanent solution is needed.

The tried and tested method of providing good, affordable homes for those on low incomes in years past was social housing. This sector has been sorely neglected of late and needs to be revived. It would go a long way to alleviating the crisis if the Government were to commit to spending a figure that matched the several hundred million it spends annually on rent supplement to local authorities and voluntary housing associations to build such housing over the course of, say, the next five years.

Such a programme would ultimately pay for itself, as rent supplement costs would decline in response. More importantly, there would be a greatly improved quality of life for those on low incomes from the increased supply of secure and decent homes that would be available to them.

Revd Patrick G Burke, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny

Learning from physical education

I am now 80 years of age and have been teaching and coaching children and youths for more than 60 years. This work was in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scandinavian countries and, latterly, in Ireland.

I have had the privilege of working in elementary and secondary schools as well as in numerous colleges and universities. I believe this long service and breadth of experience places me in a somewhat unique position to comment on the quality of education conventionally offered to students in Western countries. My observations, then, are based upon teaching myself, and watching the teaching of others, in literally thousands of gymnasiums and playing fields across the globe.

The following are things I believe warrant serious consideration by the educational establishment and the general public if we are to truly provide quality educational programmes for our students and to enhance their physical culture.

In schools and other institutions, students are universally exposed to a subject that is generally called 'physical education', often abbreviated to 'PE'. This term suggests that the physical welfare of our young will be nurtured and developed in our schools. The reality, in most situations, is that school physical education is considered to be of little importance and is only in the curriculum because of tradition or legislative diktat. For the most part, children and youths are exposed to group-oriented physical training (as opposed to 'education'), units of instruction in activities that bear little relation the needs of many students, and inane games and contests that at best are diversions from the normal humdrum of school life.

Little attention is given to the individual needs and interests of students or the integration of physical culture in their lives. Often, teachers devote a disproportionate amount of time to the athletically gifted and neglect those who have the greatest need for the leadership needed to develop their physical and cultural potential. At best, PE as 'taught' today is organised recreation where the good get better, those who need help most are overlooked, the activities are of little consequence, and a modicum of unrelated physical activity occurs.

Teachers of physical education will be quick to protest this abrupt criticism of their subject and how it is taught. While I realise that there are exceptions, I would ask teachers and readers to cite any meaningful experiences they have had in the subject; to recall situations where their physical development was properly monitored, recorded and developed as a result of programmes; and instances where programmes and activities made a significant positive difference in students' lives.

I welcome dialogue on these matters.

Dr Gary Pennington, Cootehill, Co Cavan

Hero ambassador's Irish lesson

The brave actions of His Excellency Kevin Vickers, the Canadian ambassador to Ireland, are to be commended as going beyond any expected sense of duty, even when considering his former position as sergeant-at-arms. It seems to me that a somewhat curious issue arises. The ambassador is posted here because the Canadian government, like its counterpart in the US, can appoint persons from outside its foreign service as an ambassador. I wonder whether any consideration has been given to such a practice in our country, given the supposed new approach to politics?

Johnnie Mc Coy BL, Church Street, Dublin 7

Irish Independent

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