A proud day at the track
Sir — There are sports where Ireland can compete at the highest level. I’m thinking about boxing, golf, rugby union, athletics, equestrian sports and maybe cycling, plus a few more. However, I believe that horse racing is where we not only compete at the highest level, but excel and lead the field, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Last week’s victory by 24-year-old Joseph O’Brien, in training the winner of the Melbourne Cup (the race that stops a nation) is phenomenal and unprecedented.
Trainers from all over the globe have endeavoured to achieve this feat for years without success, but this young man — who has been training horses for only 18 months — has got his horse, Rekindling, to that Mecca of horse racing.
Not only that but his father, Aidan O’Brien, trained the runner-up and another Irish trainer, Willie Mullins, prepared the third-placed runner. The aforementioned Aidan O’Brien has also trained more Group One winners this year than has ever been done previously.
Both father and son, Aidan and Joseph, have brought glory to our small country.
More importantly, they have done this with great humility, dedication, teamwork and pure class.
We should be so proud of them. I definitely am.
Pat Burke Walsh,
The poppy as a mark of respect
Sir — It’s hard to credit that when a politician, and especially the leader of the country, decides to honour the fallen Irish of World War I by wearing a poppy in the Dail, it leads to controversy.
Predictably, there is always a backlash in this country, by certain members of the public when anything is done to honour the Irish who died in World War I.
It should be remembered that a large proportion of the Irishmen who fought in that war were doing so in the belief that they were fighting for Home Rule. A great many of these men would go on to fight in the War of Independence — Tom Barry and Emmet Dalton for example.
A lot of Irish families would have been touched by World War I. If people want to wear a poppy as a mark of respect, then they should be able to do so without having to listen to abuse from certain quarters.
Remembering the men who fought in a war, that would come to be seen as a tragic waste of human life, is quite a natural thing to do for any nation which has had heavy losses.
However, in this country there are those, who in a heightened state of jingoism, which seems to be brought on by any reference to World War I, start to make their own references to the 1916 Rising.
The men of 1916 were undoubtedly brave, who gave their lives for a cause they believed in, and Ireland commemorates these patriots freely.
The same should be true for the World War I Irish, and yet it’s not, so one would have to ask why it isn’t? It’s now the 21st Century, after all.
State’s obligations on human rights
Sir — Colm O’Gorman’s letter (Sunday Independent, November 5) yet again gives ample evidence that Amnesty International’s relentless campaign for the deletion of the Eighth Amendment is bringing the very concept of human rights into disrepute.
Human rights do not exist because of states, monarchs or opinion polls. We have human rights because we exist and have needs, and hence rights in common with every other human being who ever lived.
The State’s obligations are threefold: to acknowledge, respect and vindicate these rights.
The Eighth Amendment gives each unborn child — in the eyes of the State — an equal ‘right to life’, irrespective of parental background, health or socio-economic circumstances. It wisely and explicitly states that the ‘right to life’ of the mother cannot be jeopardised, when vindicating the ‘right to life’ of the unborn child.
Contrary to his assertion, there is no obligation under international human rights laws to remove any law prohibiting the intentional killing of the unborn.
It is most alarming that any organisation purporting to champion human rights would constantly omit to acknowledge that each year thousands live, precisely because abortion is not fully normalised in this country, thanks to this article.
The very basis of civilisation is “to live and let live”. The protection of the most vulnerable is basic to the function of the law.
If we deny the ‘right to life’ to any human being, we have no basis upon which to claim it as a human right for ourselves.
Stigma around abortion changing
Sir — This year marks the 50th anniversary since the introduction of abortion legislation in Britain. Since 1967, abortion in Britain is permitted if “the pregnancy has not exceeded its 24th week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family”. It considers the physical and mental health of the woman. It also acknowledges the woman’s social situation and the impact of further pregnancy on her “existing children in her family”. It understands the financial responsibility of parenthood and prevents the reinforcement of poverty on the family.
Today, there remains great stigma surrounding abortion but the extent of stigma is always changing. Issues of homosexuality, unmarried motherhood and divorce have been greatly stigmatised in our past. While homosexuality was illegal in Ireland until 1993, same-sex couples existed long before then. Unmarried mothers were sent to institutions to repent for their sin; now single mothers are no longer institutionalised and are for the most part largely accepted and supported in society. Divorce was illegal until 1995, yet couples still separated informally. Contraception was not legalised until 1979 yet couples still used contraceptives either by travelling to the North, or by requesting the contraceptive pill for cycle regulation or other menstruation reasons. In 1978, roughly 48,000 women in Ireland were using the pill for cycle regulation. Likewise, abortions happen in Ireland every day. Abortion is not a modern phenomenon.
Termination of pregnancies has been practised for centuries. While medical terminations did not take place, efforts to induce abortion have been exercised: vigorous exertions, physical beatings, jumping off tables and sheds, use of coat hangers, iron hooks, swallowing a mixture of laxatives, herbal mixtures, or drinking large quantities of gin. Additionally, information on contraception was outlawed in Ireland from 1935 until 1979, while information on abortion was illegal until 1992. British telephone books were banned in libraries across Ireland because they contained the numbers and addresses of abortion clinics in the UK. Thanks to Google, we now have access to all of this information at the touch of a button. Irish people can now buy abortion pills online. These pills are approved by the World Health Organisation and are listed as essential medicines.
In the past, Ireland has always been slower in terms of progression of gender rights. However, the past few years have been positive for Ireland’s progression in human rights legislation. In 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world where same-sex marriage was passed by popular vote. There has been a growing grassroots movement from the Repeal the Eighth Campaign and a referendum has been announced for May 2018. After 51 years of travel overseas, and illegal abortions in bedrooms, 2018 will be the year we can change this.
Reformation and nationalism
Sir —Your columnist, Mr Eoghan Harris, writes: “Finally, returning to the Reformation, the first thing to say is that it left little mark on Catholic Ireland” (Sunday Independent,
I find this bizarre, unless Mr Harris has an extremely narrow view of the Reformation. Ireland is littered with the ruins of monasteries. Many former Catholic church buildings are now in the possession of the Church of Ireland, a direct result of the Reformation. A significant number of Catholic priests and people were put to death, many others sent into slavery, which would probably not have happened without the Reformation. Many Catholics also lost their lands and possessions. Perhaps he feels that there was no link between the Reformation and the oppressor, but I find that hard to credit.
I suggest to him that the connection between nationalism in Ireland and the Catholic Church has been so potent, historically, because the Reformation was so anti the native Irish identity. So perhaps without the Reformation, there’d be no Sinn Fein. Isn’t that an interesting thought?
Kiltegan, Co Wicklow
The challenge of overseas players
Sir — Your correspondent Neil Francis (Sport, Sunday Independent, November 5)makes a case that any Irish international rugby player that chooses to make a career outside Ireland deserves to be ostracised from the national squad and will not play for his country again. In doing so, he ignores the fact that this may be considered a restrictive practice, particularly given the relatively short career of a rugby player often cast adrift at age 34 or earlier through injury and, most likely, without any qualification to sustain a future career and with little career guidance from their province or country.
I suspect that this “policy” will be challenged in the courts sooner rather than later.
He certainly ignores the fact that three members of the current Irish squad are foreign nationals who qualify for Ireland under a dubious three-year residency rule, each of whom have explicitly ignored the wishes of their home union to ply their trade abroad. It is an extraordinary double standard that he and the IRFU seem to condone and by default encourage.
It is difficult to categorise these players as anything other than mercenaries.
Unless something changes, we may see a majority of Ireland and other international teams made up of such players and the game we all cherish changed irrevocably.
It is in the interests of all rugby unions and clubs across the world to address and embrace the issue and ensure their players can ply their trade as is their right wherever they wish and still be valued by their country with the necessary infrastructure and support in place to sustain the integrity of the game of rugby union.
Bray, Co Wicklow
Sir — The ban on the use of wild animals in circuses announced by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed is a welcome milestone in the battle to protect sentient creatures from wilful cruelty and mistreatment.
Yet I can’t help but balk at the double standards of the Government. Last year, the minister and his government colleagues led the charge against TD Maureen O’Sullivan’s bill to ban hare coursing, a practice which also involves taking wild animals from their natural environment, confining them in unnatural captivity, and then forcing them to perform for the amusement of voyeuristic human beings.
If anything, hare coursing is crueller than circuses.
Lines drawn in the battle of the sexes
Sir — “The last thing the current furore over sexual harassment needed was to become a weapon in the culture wars between progressives and conservatives” — Eilis O’Hanlon (Sunday Independent, November 5) draws up the ‘battle-lines’ and her favoured ‘rules of engagement’ as she sketches and ‘scotches’ the many variables appending to the avalanche of sexual harassment claims currently imploding and exploding across just about every span and spectrum of societal activity.
She evokes something of a ‘Gradgrind’ approach in her forensic probing for dependable ‘factual’ content in recent inter-gender revelations vis-a-vis unwanted sexual advances and distorted power differentials. It would seem that (male) celebrity breeds an inflated and ‘gender-deflating’ notion of hormonal entitlement, both unbecoming and unworthy.
She rattles off a vast array of exemplars to boost this sad and sordid litany of ‘peccadillos’, albeit that some have been conflated to ‘pecca maggiore’ status, despite their comparatively ‘lower-case’ feel. The thrust of her piece is a clear clarion call to women for concerted unity and collective vanguard action, broaching no messing with mere innuendo or tittle-tattle. Facts or nothing.
I wonder, though, what her take on the grotesque over-sexualisation of young people (especially girls) and women by just about every media conduit (social and mainstream) and all advertising platforms. A total lack of pre-emptive regulation or ethical management of same ‘abuse’ flourishes within, and without much in the way of decency or moral.
I wonder also how she assesses the exponential rise in BDSM among women who have made it through to top managerial/executive positions, and any untoward sequelae arising from same. She might also like to comment on the recurring scenario of post-drunken/post-coital claims of rape, which follow on from ultra-flirtatious patterning coupled with copious amounts of alcohol. These are all fairly imponderable and nuanced, and are likely elusive of mere ‘fact-crunching’.
Eilis sure has a valid point, but facts alone won’t solve this ‘complexing’ and perplexing issue. Nuance, honesty and, perhaps, a campaign against wanton advertising, celebrity addiction and cyber-recklessness can offer some sturdy and steely support to boost her worthy ‘battle-of-the sexes’ strategic impulse.
Lismore, Co Waterford
Right to speak out
Sir — I love the arts, particularly the performing arts, theatre, cinema etc. So reading the main heading ‘Abuse in the arts: the shocking truth’ (Front Page, Sunday Independent, November 5) came as a shock. But so right for people to speak out. Where will it all end?
Glenties, Co Donegal
Prize catch left floundering
Sir — I was astonished to read (Sunday Independent, November 5) the statement by the IDA chief executive, Martin Shanahan, who, after hearing Tim Cook pull the plug on the €850m project for Athenry, say that he was “disappointed”.
That must be the understatement of the year. Leo Varadkar then comes in with a much-belated comment that he will do everything in his power to “facilitate the technical giant in its bid to construct the new data centre in Athenry”.
Has he forgotten that the fish has escaped? This prize catch landed unaided on the deck of the good ship ‘IDA’ was left floundering for two years of planning delays, prevarications, reviews, objections and total ineptness. This prize fish has slipped quietly off the deck for warmer waters.
Can’t these larriers in the Government’s planning authority see that Tim Cook is not for turning. The words of the song will return to haunt them: “It’s so lonely ’round the fields of Athenry.”
Blackrock, Co Louth