Sir - I must say I agree with Jody Corcoran's piece in last Sunday's paper, headlined 'The revolution needs more carpenters and fewer master's'.
I am a time-served carpenter who did my apprenticeship between 1976 and 1980. How times have changed. In my time as many as 10 from my class of 30 would have opted for the apprenticeship system with employers. Anco was the training authority at the time and one day every week was spent in school for the theory side and practical exams.
This later changed under FÁS with a new standards-based system with block-release courses in training centres. All of my own apprentices were trained under this system.
Today's students are not interested in any of the traditional trades, which are as relevant and as necessary as ever before. Technology has taken over the minds of the younger generation. Parents don't encourage the taking up of apprenticeships. Neither do their teachers or the career guidance counsellors.
A year or more ago, I sat in my local pub and watched as 15 members of our local GAA club celebrated a win. There was not one building worker among them.
But at the end of the day each of them will need a place to live. Someone will have to lay the blocks, cut the roof, hang the doors. As a country we are going nowhere otherwise and this is becoming more evident on a daily basis.
It is time someone shouted stop to this madness and diverted funding away from the runaway third-level sector and into basic training under the apprenticeship system of old before it is too late. Perhaps it already is!
As I come close to retirement, it saddens me to see the age profile of workers on Irish construction sites today. The country is in danger of losing a skill set that was built up over generations.
Beltra, Co Sligo
Jibe at Healy-Raes smacks of jealousy
Sir - Should the star of the Healy-Rae double act go solo, and is he being held back by his "empty vessel" brother?
Shane Ross in his Sunday Independent article last week portrayed Danny, the lesser known of the Healy-Rae brothers, as an empty vessel. A very strong statement from somebody who is now a member of the club of political failures.
Shane Ross got an opportunity that Michael and Danny did not get. He did get to serve in government. Mary Harney always believed that one week in government is better than 10 years in opposition, but Shane Ross was in government for four years and was then rejected by his electorate.
Michael Healy-Rae and Shane Ross were elected to the Dáil on the same day in 2011. Danny joined them five years later. There are three Healy-Raes on Kerry Co Council. They are almost stronger than Duncan Smith's Labour Party and stronger than many other political organisations.
So come on Shane, admit it. Aren't you just jealous, like so many more of us?
Claremorris, Co Mayo
Praise for brave Labour TD Smith
Sir - I want to applaud Duncan Smith for being brave and principled enough to stand up in the Dáil and tell the Healy-Raes they are privileged and wealthy, and do not understand the working man.
The Healy-Raes like to present an image that they are representative of our country as a whole. They are not!
We all know they get everything for their county, and fair play to them. That's why they get the votes, but they are intensely wealthy. Duncan was right. They are the elite.
Michael Healy-Rae has some cheek to say Labour are useless and then to add that the "Kerry people" know this. How pathetic to use his supporters in this way.
So well done, Duncan! I was impressed by your qualifications - and that you got them while holding down part-time jobs.
If Labour can embrace more Duncan Smiths, they will have a strong future.
Well done, young man.
Cheap remarks won't win votes
Sir - Shane Ross was very unfair in his comments about Danny Healy-Rae in his column. He referred to the Kerry politician as never being more than an "empty vessel" and an "embarrassment".
What does he mean by this? Danny is a hard-working man who came up the hard way. He left school and, never having spent a day in third-level education, came to work in his father's successful plant hire business
Danny is also a successful publican. He declared for politics at the last minute in the 2016 general election and took the second seat in the Kerry constituency. He was also re-elected in February 2020.
He is estimated to be worth about €1.6m. Not bad going for an empty vessel?
Danny is a country man who understands the ways of rural Ireland and how it functions.
Perhaps the powers that be in Leinster House do not understand how things work outside of the M50. But are they really interested? Making cheap remarks about so-called "Leprechaun'' politicians will never endear them to the rural voter.
Cloonacool, Co Sligo
Kerry brothers work hard for us
Sir - Labour's upcoming luminary Duncan Smith made a miscalculation when reprimanding the Healy-Raes when it comes to presenting themselves as working class.
One would have to say that this does not matter one jot to the Kerry constituents. The two brothers have always depicted Dublin as a distant, aloof capital and Duncan Smith seems to be confusing the Healy-Rae supporters with Dublin Labour voters - which is like comparing chalk and cheese.
Irrespective of their wealth, the brothers are always there to support their constituents - rich and poor alike.
Stoneyford, Co Kilkenny
Let TCD make its own mind up
Sir - It is good news and high time that Trinity will have its first woman provost, but it is very worrying to see that one of the most highly qualified candidates was eliminated from standing before the election by a 'review committee'.
It is perhaps no coincidence that this candidate has been outspoken in relation to various issues, including the autonomy of Irish universities and TCD in particular. She has opposed proposals to reduce drastically the democratically elected representation of academics, non-academic staff and students on the board and the imposition of quotas on student scholars.
The choice of provost has been taken out of the hands of the 850-strong academic electorate by a committee which gives administrators the decisive voice - a sign of the managerialism which has taken over our universities and contributed to our fall in international rankings.
This trend is one which will prevent a return to that golden age when Trinity was a great university - the equal of Oxford and Cambridge.
What is College afraid of? Of 850 people making up their own minds at the ballot box?
School of Social Sciences & Philosophy,
Trinity College, Dublin 2
SF violence must never be rewarded
Sir - Eoghan Harris is spot on in expressing his amazement that more than half the FF party are willing to give SF the oxygen of government.
To countenance that without any regret or atonement from SF for the years of murder and mayhem its military wing inflicted on this island is extraordinary. Not only is there no repentance, but often celebration of those who carried out awful deeds.
There are many young and educated people in SF now who were not involved in that campaign, but they have a duty to inform themselves. Those associated with violence should not be rewarded at the ballot box.
Micheál Martin has played an honourable part in upholding the standards of the State here. I see in him traits of Jack Lynch, who was in the end brought down by those in his party who (in the words of Sile de Valera) demanded he "demonstrate his republicanism". Sadly, there are no George Colleys or Des O'Malleys on the horizon this time.
Ballina, Co Mayo
Professor's positive words are a tonic
Sir - I read Professor Luke O'Neill's article on progress on the Covid drugs front several times. Why? Because I felt better for it afterwards. His reporting of this Covid-19 fight has been full of positivity from the start. He gives us great hope for the future.
I don't pretend to understand all he reports but every word comes across as positive, and this is what we need. This is what will help us survive.
One quote from the prof: "Science will restore us to what we were before, even if we are bruised and battered." Write on, professor.
Glenties, Co Donegal
Terrible to be alone with your mind
Sir - The nation is tired. Tired of being locked up. Not in our homes or our 5km radius. But in our heads.
It's terrifically terrible and terrifying to be left alone 24/7 with one's own mind.
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Don't end it all - seek out help
Sir - I have worked since I was 14 years old to help put food on the table and have continued to work hard into my married life. I'm involved in the fitness and wellness industry.
On March 12 last year I had to close my studio doors and hoped to God I would receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, which, thankfully, I did.
I know the theory and strategies of adopting a positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle - but, like most people, I started to struggle over the last few months. A glass or two of wine at night turned into a bottle with the ability to function the next day but, as the months were passing, the demons started in my head. Have I lost my business completely? Will my clients come back? Where am I going from here? There are also other family worries. You get the picture.
I know that there are others living in serious situations and don't feel safe in their homes and I know I am lucky to have support at home - but in the last few weeks I could not see any positivity. Normally I would work things through but I let everything get to me. You would never think it if you met me.
On February 14, having had dinner with my family, a violent argument ensued, which I instigated - and I made the decision I had had enough and would end it all. In my head I thought my family would be better off without me. I took a lot of pills and my last words to myself were "So this is it. This is how it ends", and laid back and waited to let them kick in.
Thankfully, my daughter had the insightfulness to check on me. Her gut told her something was wrong and an ambulance was called. Next day I found myself in a hospital bed. Having heard of the trauma I have put my family through that night I have promised them I will give up drinking, and I will never put them through anything like that ever again. Drink made me decide in a moment of recklessness to end it all.
I do not know what the future holds - none of us does - but I will get there and, yes, there are other underlying issues I have to work through.
If you are in the frame of mind I was in the other night, please talk to someone. People do care.
I'm not religious but I thank God my daughter had the intuition to check on me or I would not be here today.
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Getting it so wrong is deadly, Mr McCourt
Sir - Like many a person who read Angela's Ashes, I was incredulous that the late Frank McCourt had a near-total recall of events and conversations that occurred when he was a small child and subsequently was able to commit these recollections to paper many decades later.
In this regard, I read with interest Malachy McCourt's attempt to reconcile his late brother's memories with the facts in the Sunday Independent of January 14.
I greatly fear that Malachy McCourt's own recollection of events is sadly delusional. Let me give an example.
Malachy McCourt produced a book entitled Death Need Not Be Fatal in 2017. In this book, he stated the following in relation to his family's occupation of a house in Roden Lane, Limerick, in the late 1930s: "The landlord, Sir Vincent Nash, was one of those absentee Irish traitors whose minions never hesitated to evict the family who could not afford the rent that ran about the equivalent of a dollar a week."
Regrettably, I never met my grandfather, Vincent Nash, who died in 1942 - well before I was born. However, from all that I have heard of him from past generations and friends, Vincent Nash was a charitable individual, particularly concerned with the ill-treatment of children.
He was a former medical doctor who nearly died from typhus he contracted while treating the poverty-stricken in Richmond Hospital, Dublin, in the 1890s.
He was also a founder member of the Society of St Vincent de Paul in Limerick and a board member of Leamy School where the McCourts were educated.
He was never an "absentee" from Limerick, as stated by McCourt, but lived in Limerick all his life. He is buried there. Neither he nor anybody in his family ever owned property in Roden Lane, Limerick - let alone evict anybody.
The accusation that he was a "traitor" is a horrifying slur on his good name and is beneath contempt.
As no doubt McCourt is aware, under US law, one cannot be sued for defaming the "dead" who obviously cannot defend themselves - but in this country the living can always call out the misinformed.
Clonalis House, Co Roscommon
Honour our gardaí but not the provos
Sir - Sinn Féin's Wexford councillors wanted to have an online commemoration for the 25th anniversary of the death of a Provo bomber from Gorey.
The only legitimate Wexford commemoration is of Co Limerick-born Det Gda Seamus Quaid (43), murdered on October 13, 1980, by Peter Rogers, a fugitive Provo from Belfast, then living in a mobile home in Bridgetown, Duncormick.
Seamus had 22 years' service, was a father of four and had an All-Ireland hurling medal for Wexford.
He fully deserves our admiration and gratitude and commemoration - not the young terrorist Edward O'Brien, who injured five innocent people on a London bus in 1996 while he was blowing himself to bits.
All democratic political parties in this country need to respect and honour our gardaí and our Defence Forces - not those who would murder them.
Ranelagh, Dublin 6
We all can live in peace if we want
Sir - Me and my late good father both wished for a free Ireland, and he was around when the Black and Tans were all action and abusing women and men alike. He told me a lot of things I don't want in print.
Later, we also had Bloody Sunday in Derry.
But even after all this, I have to say that even the late Ian Paisley deserves credit as he mellowed in the end - and he and Martin McGuinness went on to become great friends.
This proved to me we could all get on with each other if we all tried.
It could still happen.
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