Friday 20 September 2019

Abdicating responsibility

'With almost 10 million tourists visiting Ireland last year, the dearth of public toilets is a scandal.'
'With almost 10 million tourists visiting Ireland last year, the dearth of public toilets is a scandal.'
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Sir - The chronic need for the provision of public toilets in Dublin is an appalling indictment of past and present city councillors who like to project Dublin as a modern European capital city.

If past exertions by our city fathers on this issue is an indication of future endeavours, then Ireland will remain a third world country when it comes to providing public conveniences for natives and visitors alike. With almost 10 million tourists visiting Ireland last year, the dearth of public toilets is a scandal that ridicules the Draft Dublin City Development Plan 2016-2022 calling for the provision of more public conveniences.

Dublin City Council continues to abdicate responsibility to provide this much-needed service and seems content to depend on shopping centres and other private outlets to provide this service for citizens. With an increasing number of pubs and hotels displaying signs on their premises advising people that toilets are for customer use only, one is expected to spend money purchasing food or drink in advance of using the toilet. And to think that this country had aspirations to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup finals and even flirted with the idea of bidding for the hosting of the Olympic Games.

Tom Cooper,

Dublin 6W


A fitting tribute to Irish heroes

Sir — I was deeply moved by Alan O’Keeffe’s feature ‘These Irishmen were the real heroes’ (Sunday Independent, May 27).

It was a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives in the cause of peace.

I am now in my 80s and have had a life-long interest in and admiration for our Defence Forces. As a young man I served in the FCA, as it was then known, and from it I developed a deep interest in all the activities of the professional army.

I have had the great privilege as a bishop of visiting serving battalions on four occasions in Lebanon. I am sure that such visits could be quite a nuisance but I was always received warmly and cheerfully. These visits gave me considerable insight, not only into the outstanding efficiency of the troops but also the skills displayed in peacekeeping.

Soldiers are trained to be aggressive, but a peacekeeping role is very different, and diplomacy with firmness must take first place. This was noteworthy, to give an example, when approaching a Hezbollah checkpoint where no chances could be taken in such a volatile and delicate situation. 

On several occasions I was taken to visit those lonely observation outposts where a small number of men had only the visit of the water truck to relieve them during the day.

I have seen also the interest soldiers have taken in the people living in their battalion area, for instance building protective walls around a school which was frequently in danger from violence.   

Nevertheless, while taking all this interest and fostering good relationships with the people they still had to be vigilant at all times for danger was ever present, as Alan O’Keeffe pointed out poignantly.

Leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land some years ago I discovered a little church well away from the crowded waterfront in Tiberias. On entry I saw only two small memorials, one on each wall. On them were the names of two Irish soldiers killed in the Golan Heights who were laid in this church overnight before being returned to Ireland for burial. Two more heroes were at least remembered in a foreign land — it felt very lonely in that little church.

Once again, thank you for that article of remembrance.

To my mind those serving in the cause of peace are the best ambassadors we have, as I have pointed out many times.

To the deceased heroes, may you rest in peace, and to those still serving may you be kept in peace and safety.

Bishop Walton Empey,


Co Carlow


Cartoon was offensive to the Catholic faith

Sir — I wish to make a complaint about the highly offensive cartoon published prominently on the back page (Sunday Independent, May 27).

This cartoon included the caption in block lettering ‘‘THE ROSARECTOMY’’ and depicted a caricature of a medical surgeon announcing ‘‘… MISSION ACCOMPLISHED … OBSTRUCTION REMOVED …’’ holding aloft a set of Rosary beads over a female patient lying in a hospital operating theatre with the words ‘MNA na hEireann 25.5.18’’ on her cover sheet.

As you are aware, the Press Council of Ireland’s Code of Practice, in Principle 8, advises that “the press shall not publish material intended or likely to cause grave offence or stir up hatred against an individual or group” identifying a number of headings including the category of “religion”.

Your cartoon is offensive to Catholics and makes a mockery of the Rosary prayer which honours the Blessed Virgin Mary and celebrates the mysteries of the life and death of Jesus Christ. 

Many Catholics have a particular devotion to the Rosary, which is deeply revered as the centrepiece of the traditional prayer in the home and at family funerals.

For a mainstream media outlet such as yours to refer to the Rosary in such a contemptuous fashion is more serious than just being a one-off insult.

It has consequences. People of faith suffer. It contributes to a groupthink attitude, which has a polarising effect on our society.

Your publication adds to this environment as it exemplifies an anti-faith editorial bias. I ask that you publish an apology in your next edition.

Martin Long,

Director, Catholic Communications Office

Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference



Sir — The new Ireland of openness, tolerance and respect for all was certainly not in evidence in Tom Halliday’s scandalous, scurrilous and downright sick cartoon (Sunday’s Independent, May 27).

Is this what the future holds for Catholics in the new Ireland, for those of us who trust not only women but one particular

woman, Mary, Mother of the Church? Now would be a good time to respect the choice of the minority. My faith, my choice.

Rosarie O’Sullivan,

Cork city


Sir — Tom Halliday’s cartoon (Soapbox, Sunday Independent, May 27) was a vile expression of ignorance.

Fr Sean Coyle,



Sir — Working as I do for many years in a Muslim country, I experience great tolerance and gentleness in Islamic values. Hundreds of Irish work in the Middle East. We are all welcome. Exported as a result of trusting banks, politicians and so on. The UAE is one such country of great tolerance for all faiths, including Christianity.

Your publication of Mr Halliday’s cartoon (Soapbox, Sunday Independent, May 27) may seem funny just now. It is also very insulting.

Diversity is about welcome and not humiliation.

Not everybody gets the

so-called joke about the Rosary and the cross. And especially our new citizens.

A cheap laugh at our past when successive governments were more than happy not to pay for health or education.

Tony O’Gorman,



Sir — Did you really set out to insult the very many people in Ireland who have devotion to Our Lady and the Rosary, or, which I hope was the case, was the insertion of the outrageous cartoon in the Gene Kerrigan article (Soapbox, Sunday Independent, May 27) an aberration?

If it were not, publishing this cartoon showed a dreadful disregard for people of faith here and for our heritage which has been passed on to us from past generations who heroically held on to this faith despite persecution and mistreatment.

This same faith enabled them and us to endure the vicissitudes of life and to promote all that is good in our society.

It would indeed be tragic if this faith iswere to be mocked and ridiculed by a respectable national newspaper.

Mary Stewart (Mrs),

Donegal Town


Sir — Did you have to print that very upsetting cartoon by Tom Halliday, depicting the Rosary beads (Soapbox, Sunday Independent, May 27)?

I am a Catholic who loves my Holy Rosary... and how sad it makes me feel, seeing how low we humans can go to inflict pain on each other. Our world has enough of its own pain besides adding more. God Bless.

Bridget Nolan,

Co Kerry


Sir — Triumphalism was shown at its worst with Tom Halliday’s cartoon (Sunday Independent, May 27). To describe it as “below the belt” would only trivialise the democratic decision of the Irish people who voted last Friday. Remember both Yes and No voters still hold the Catholic faith sacred and believe. Tom, it was a very cheap shot and not worthy of your talent.

Michael McAuliffe,

Dublin 4



Sir — I wish to take issue with the cartoon by Tom Halliday (Sunday Independent, May 27).

As a woman and as a Catholic, I found this cartoon to be in very poor taste and extremely offensive.

Siobhan Clancy,

Co Galway


Cartoonist Tom Halliday replies:

Sir  — I never conceive and draw my cartoons with a view to offend.

The cartoon itself refers to the well-known phrase from the pro-choice movement ‘Keep your rosaries off my ovaries’ and is a fairly straight-forward ‘literal’ depiction and play on the words of that.

The teachings of the Catholic Church in regard to women’s reproductive rights have been rejected by a large majority of the Irish people.

Widespread media coverage over the weekend focused on the progressively diminishing influence of the Church in ordinary people’s lives, as acknowledged by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

Again, the cartoon depicts this ‘separating’, further evidence of the increasingly ‘a la carte’ attitude to the faith taken by increasing numbers of people.

This was not a triumphalist take on the referendum outcome. I perfectly understand the deeply held beliefs and sensitivities of those who are greatly distressed by the outcome.

 I offer my sincere apologies to any readers who have taken offence to my cartoon.

It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that when dealing with highly emotional and hotly-contested issues, the medium of the cartoon form itself can lead to the impression that the subject matter, on both sides of an argument, is being diminished or trivialised.

I make no distinction

between aspects of Catholic teaching and any other organisation or individual who may seek to deny anyone their freedom to make decisions in regard to their own lives within the bounds of secular, democratically enacted law. On these grounds, I believe my cartoon is fair comment

Tom Halliday,


Co Cork


Young enthusiasm

Sir — Now that the referendum campaigns are over, reflective claims of the whole thing are being carried out with wholesome civilised rivalry, culminating with dancing in the streets for the victorious.

Being a man of reasonable discernment, I am at a bit of a loss as to the truth of what I saw as a vicious war of words with graphic posters and touchy-feely opposing ones. I decided not to vote (first time in many decades) because it was about what women want so it was not my decision to make for them or against them.

Like the last referendum, the young came home from foreign parts by the plane-load to vote, I hope the enthusiasm for the ballot box extends to taking the trip home when voting in a general election, for example, because the wider national issue of vital and grinding politics also deserves equal attention.

Robert Sullivan,

Co Cork


The murky world of car insurance claims

Sir — I read with interest any articles I see written about car insurance and all of the major frauds that are being perpetrated by the motorist. As one of your contributors (Letters, Sunday Independent, May 27) mentioned, if this is the case why are there no court prosecutions?

There have been very few claims thrown out of court because the judge thought they were fraudulent or the evidence did not quite stand up. The question I would like to raise is: what about the continuous bad practices being knowingly carried out by the insurance companies themselves in cahoots with ‘nominated garages’?

I will give an example, of which I am aware: a driver of a 2001 Micra skidded on ice into a 2005 Fiesta, causing damage to the left front-wing of the Micra and right rear-wing of the Fiesta. Both drivers took their cars to independent, but different panel-beaters, who assessed the damage to the Micra at €300-350 and the damage to the Fiesta at €400-450. Because the driver of the Micra was at fault and could not afford the cost of repair to both cars, he decided to put it through his insurance, knowing he was leaving the country shortly before his insurance would be due for renewal and would therefore not be liable for loss of his no-claims bonus. He was advised, as was the owner of the Fiesta, to take their cars to a garage nominated by the insurance company.

The result was an insurance bill of close to €3,500 to cover the cost of repair to both vehicles. In fact the insurance company wanted to write off the Micra because of its age, despite the car only having 29,000 genuine miles on the clock and in perfect condition apart from a few small scrapes on one side.

The result was that the insurance company paid for the repair of the Fiesta and offered the value (their value) of the Micra less scrappage to the driver of the Micra, who had it repaired for €350.

I cannot be convinced that insurance companies are not aware of this and fraud is the only term I can use where garages are hiking up the repair bills to profit from the beleaguered motorist.

Name and address with Editor


Rena’s great, but Mary was first

Sir — I totally agree with Eamonn Sweeney’s comments on the wonderful sporting career of Rena Buckley (Sport, Sunday Independent, May 27). She stands alone with 18 All-Ireland medals and has the honour of being the first to captain her county to football and camogie titles.

However, a Kerry woman was the first to captain All-Ireland winning teams in both codes. Mary Geaney, of Castleisland, Co Kerry, captained her county to All-Ireland honours in 1976, when Kerry beat Offaly 4-6 to 1-5.

In 1980, Mary captained the Cork camogie team to All-Ireland glory when they beat Limerick 1-8 to 2-2 after a replay.

Keep up the Back Page, Eamonn — I really enjoy it.

Joe O’Carroll,



Special court was for Republicans

Sir — Your editorial (Sunday Independent, May 27) argues that the Special Criminal Court does not carry an anti-Republican bias. This statement is in effect, a contradiction in terms, because the said court was specifically set up to try cases concerned with Republican activity during the Troubles.

It was deemed necessary to set up a non-jury composition of judges to deal with political matters beyond the remit of ordinary criminal courts. The Special Criminal Court is, ipso facto, a tool or organ of the judiciary, specifically designed to bring Republican transgressors to heel.

The question of Sinn Fein being in government was merely a question of time. I argue that there is a convergence of their views with the more progressive wing of Fine Gael, in particular with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Sinn Fein is now the party of the young and female electorate. This was overwhelmingly borne out by Mary Lou McDonald’s, inter alia, incisive arguments in favour of the Yes side in the abortion debate.

Maurice O’Callaghan,

Stillorgan Plaza,

Co Dublin

Sunday Independent

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