Saturday 20 April 2019

You have the last word

As 2017 winds down, our Letters Editor Tom Coogan looks back at what Irish Independent readers taught us over the past 12 months

The country’s voice: Irish Independent readers had a lot to say in 2017
The country’s voice: Irish Independent readers had a lot to say in 2017
Poem: British PM Theresa May
Funny money: One reader makes an observation about Christmas sales

Tom Coogan

One immutable fact down the ages is that all politicians pay respectful attention to what the dogs in the street are saying; by which they mean the voters. In truth, however, your average Doberman, Jack Russell or Bichon Frise has more to think of.

If politicians really wanted to put an ear to the heartbeat of the nation, they would focus on the contents of the letters pages of national newspapers.

It is here that you will hear the true articulation of the country's voice at its unvarnished best.

There were simply too many wise and insightful words flowing through the columns of these pages over the year to do them justice.

But I offer below a small sample of what moved our letter writers to pick up their pens.

On the homeless crisis, Billy O'Hanluain, from Kimmage, Dublin, wrote:

"At low tide you'll find all the salty jewels, that the deep water couldn't bear to swallow. In summer, they sleep under voluptuous chestnut trees, in that season of green and plenty, light and romance, they are forgotten, just as we forget the dark braille mornings of November that frost finger, tip taps around the edges of the months of light, waiting to pounce with an embrace of damp and dark.

"Autumn comes, with its bouquets of nicotine hues, burnt brown chords and sweet withered bloom. They might shiver in a methadone mesh of autumn leaves, that rustle with a new meaningless school term beginning but we are mute to their shivering and songs.

"Come Christmas, their sleeping bags and cardboard bloom like the holly, the ivy and every one takes notice, a rare plant, that to appease our numb, fingered conscience, we notice, and carol sing for, plastic bucket, coin jingle jangle for, ding dong merrily on high for.

"Oh, we might run a 5k candle lit charity jog for them... but run we will... away from them... now, to speak to them that might only upset how beautifully they bloom this time of year. Best throw them a gentle coin..."

Our perpetual deference to economists, the new high priests of the times, was cautioned against by Philip O'Neill, from Oxford:

"Economic thinking, as we know it, is driven by a particular view of human nature, a view that assumes that competition will always trump collaboration in the effective creation of wealth. The fact that the world's richest 1pc accumulates more wealth than the remaining 99pc fuels the suspicion that economic theory and practice is based on a questionable ideological bias, favouring those already wealthy.

"Economists seem to have set up camp in a world of their own making, where poverty is seen as a small price to pay for economic success, evading the moral demand that government economic initiatives should work equally to the advantage of all."

John Cuffe, from Co Meath, summed up the attitude shared by many to the banks when he held that:

"Michael Davitt did the Irish nation a service with his famous Three Fs: Fair Rent, Fixity of Tenure and Free Sale. This was achieved under Draconian British rule under the Land Act of 1861. The Irish Independent's headline of today tells us our people are under attack from foreign vulture funds.

"When the bank bailout of 2008 was done, was it to replenish the wealth of the few off the backs of the many? How long will we put up with this? If Fianna Fail have the national interest at heart they will pull the plug on this embarrassing mish-mash of a so-called Government.

"We are dealing with flesh and blood here folks, not balance sheets."

On the vexed subject of Brexit, Alison Hackett, from Dun Laoghaire, was sufficiently inspired to turn to poetry on the plight of Theresa May:

"The PM in Florence was stuck

politically down on her luck

her party gone mad

while Boris was bad

what could she say but oh f**k?"

While Ivor Shorts, from Rathfarnham, was struck by the need for prayerful reflection in Leinster House:

"If our politicians in the Dáil and Seanad believe that praying to a supposed divinity before the commencement of each day's business for 'holy inspirations' and 'assistance' with their 'every word and work' will actually help them, then heaven help us all.

"Do our politicians really believe that any supposed divinity would have nothing more important to do in the whole wide universe than check out every day what nonsense is taking place in both houses of the Oireachtas?"

And staying with religion - a new one, 'shopping' - Tom Gilsenan, in Beaumont, has this observation on Christmas sales:

"I recently noted, in a particular sale, that there was a 50pc discount on slippers and dressing gowns. So one can actually snooze... and not lose?"

Mr Gilsenan also offered some more sage advice for our leaders :

"More and more these times, over the airwaves (including leading politicians), I hear 'nothing' being pronounced as 'nawtin' and indeed 'nuhhing'. So my message is... 'whatever you say, say nothing'."

May we also wish you all a very Happy New Year. While we could not publish all your letters each was read and richly appreciated.


Tom Coogan

Letters Editor

Irish Independent

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