Courage of Martin O'Donoghue
Sir - The late Martin O'Donoghue (Obituaries, Sunday Independent, July 29) was a member of the Justice Kenny-led commission on the price of building land. The late Bobby Molloy (then minister for local government in a Fianna Fail government) set this up in 1971.
It was an attempt to limit the political manipulation of land values. Many see this as a major source of wealth creation, if not the only way of getting rich. We are all only too well aware of the disastrous effects of that cast of mind over decades. During the years of the Celtic craziness, this obsession was fuelled by low standards in private banks, lax regulation, poor planning and tax breaks. We are still living with the effects of these policies and practices.
In evidence to the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry (April 25, 2015), Dermot Gleeson (former AIB chairman, Attorney General in the Rainbow Coalition 1994-97, member of the Constitutional Review Group 1995-96) drew attention to the Kenny report by pointing out that "the legal intellectual spade work in relation to the price of building land has been done".
Given Martin O'Donoghue's courage in standing repeatedly for election and taking ministerial office, I hope that he has left us an account of the forces that resulted in the Kenny recommendation being left on the shelf during his time as a member of the Oireachtas.
Perhaps he changed his mind from the insights of the OECD-supported teams (of which Martin O'Donoghue was also a member) which produced the reports Investment in Education, Science and Irish Economic Development in 1966.
These reports pointed to more open sources of the economic activity needed to sustain our common good.
We must heed call on equal treatment
Sir - Justice Richard Humphreys's call (Sunday Independent, July 29) for proper legal analysis of the meaning of the Good Friday Agreement is to be welcomed. There has been a dearth, if not a complete absence, of such much-needed examination, against a background of constant subjective, and usually politically driven, interpretation.
Humphreys is right in his observation that at the very heart of the agreement lies the principle of parity of esteem, further augmented, it should be added, by the obligation on the sovereign government in the same paragraph to "afford just and equal treatment for the identity and ethos of both communities" (Article 1 (5)).
What this provision means in practice has not been judicially adjudicated upon as yet. We are presently awaiting the outcome of an application by a client before the High Court in Belfast that the official British government policy of flying only the Union Jack on government buildings in the North of Ireland breaches the parity of esteem provision in Article 1 (5) of the agreement.
The flags issue is but one of a number of areas where the meaning of the parity of esteem provision may be implicated.
The outcome of this case could have important ramifications both for the British government now, and, potentially, for our Government in the event of a vote for Irish unity.
The provision for parity of esteem applies to both nationalists and unionists and regardless of the constitutional status of the North. So it is crucial that its legal meaning and therefore its implications for governmental action are beyond any doubt. So far, the absence of such clarity and the consequential uncertainty has diminished the restorative potential of the Good Friday Agreement to no small degree.
Why I'm out on the TV Dragon
Sir - As a campaigner against bloodsports I will not be voting for Gavin Duffy if he gets to run for President. Others may admire his brilliant business career and TV role as a Dragon, and help him on his way to the Aras but I'm definitely out.
He's a member of the Louth Hunt and a former chairman of the Hunting Association of Ireland. I hasten to add that he is perfectly entitled to hold those positions because fox hunting is legal in Ireland, unfortunately.
I'm glad he's seeking a nomination though because it affords the many Irish people who disapprove of setting dogs after foxes and hares for fun to query his support for such activities. Eight years ago, he was to the forefront of a nationwide campaign by an alliance of pro-blood sport associations that aimed to block the passage of a Fianna Fail/Green Party bill to ban stag hunting.
I remember hearing Mr Duffy's powerful voice, amplified by megaphone and echoing around Waterford as I stood outside the Tower Hotel during the Green Party Annual Conference in 2010. He was addressing an assembly of hunt sympathisers who were picketing the hotel.
While disagreeing with his sentiments, I must say he spoke well, recalling for some of those who heard him a description of Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address or Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech. He wasn't quite that good, I thought, though a nifty orator nonetheless.
But I would remind this charismatic and articulate foxhunting fan that politics, too, can descend to the level of a bloodsport. Presidential campaigns are no exception. They may even get nastier than any local or general election as the big day draws near. Will Mr Duffy enjoy the much-trumpeted thrill of the chase when he is on the receiving end of the hunt?
One shudders at the fate of previous candidates who were pursued mercilessly by the media hounds, their past deeds and utterances dug up with the efficiency of a spade and terrier gang unearthing a bolted fox.
This is no time to beat EU drum
Sir - One in six people born and educated in Ireland live in another country. For Donegal and other border counties this is arguably one in five - or even greater.
The last few decades have seen rural and coastal communities wither and die on a scale comparable to the Highland Clearances of 200 years ago.
As UK/Irish relations deteriorate, it is only a matter of time before British newspapers pick up on this and we are confronted by 'failed state' headlines. Why are we still beating the EU drum?
Back to front
Sir - How on earth Gene Kerrigan keeps his sanity is beyond me (Soapbox, Sunday Independent, July 29). His factual weekly articles tell of the continual inanity of government, a Government that gives one the impression it is incapable of doing even as simple a task as fixing the housing or health service deficiencies.
If James Joyce were alive today, would he rename his great work Finnegans Wake "Irish Politicians in Slumber Deep"?
But Joyce would then have the first sentence on the first page, and not the last page, as it currently is.
Come to think of it, perhaps this is the reason TDs continue making the same idiotic mistakes over and over: they read Finnegans Wake back ways!
Sir - Stupidity, it seems, is no longer the prerogative of World War I generals. It can now be applied to ministers and senior government officials, who have reportedly included Cathal Brugha Barracks (42 acres) on a list for potential public housing development.
From the closure of Collins Barracks, they must know the replication elsewhere of the military facilities in the Brugha would cost hundreds of millions and take many years to complete. They must also have been briefed on why, for security reasons, it is essential to have two military barracks in Dublin, one north and another south of the river.
Colonel Dorcha Lee (retd),
Sir - Eilis O'Hanlon's article (Sunday Independent, June 29) on Ivan Yates states "Irish radio needs more rebels like Ivan Yates to say what we think".
I'm presuming she did not agree with his remark that he "was not impressed with the people of Donegal" when they were the only constituency to vote No in the abortion referendum.
I am proud my constituency voted against abortion and demonstrated compassion and care for the most defenceless of all, the baby in the womb.
While Mr Yates stated that "I am also very comfortable having opinions that swim against the tsunami of groupthink", he then criticised Donegal people for ignoring the groupthink which during the campaign abandoned facts and truth for emotion and lies.
Ms O'Hanlon is somewhat optimistic when she states "there's still an appetite out there for thought-provoking conversation" when there is very little evidence of this with political correctness stifling all proper debate and a lack of courageous journalists willing to swim against the tide, with Ms O'Hanlon being an exception. Hopefully, we will see others follow her example.
Mary Stewart (Mrs),
Well said, Ciara
Sir - While it shocks me to learn of the power the Church still holds over women's health care in 2018, it is heartening to read the strongly written words by a young, outspoken female doctor, Dr Ciara Kelly (Living, Sunday Independent, July 29).
I congratulate Dr Kelly on her courage to name "the elephant in the sitting room" regarding the Church's blatant manipulation of power and its refusal to adhere to the laws of this country when it comes to not only abortion but IVF treatment, sterilisation, etc.
I agree with Dr Kelly when she says "it is time for the state to change the way we do business with the religions in our hospitals. It is patients who should get to make decisions about what medical care they receive".
Suffice to say if this change does not come about soon I will not be the only other woman to stand with Dr Kelly "in front of the diggers".
Sorrow as the family takes off from home
Sir - I read with great sadness the article by Barbara Scully, 'Travel is a wonderful gift but that magnet home is where the heart is' (Sunday Independent, July 29).
The middle of my three sons left for Vancouver a month ago and the eldest is off to Melbourne in a matter of days.
At this stage I feel that I can't keep up being positive for a moment longer… reassuring each other that travel is good for them, that it helps them become more independent and makes them grow up, reassuring their grandmother that of course she will see them again and they will be home before we know it.
I am also very conscious of their younger brother facing being an "only child" in the house for at least a year.
How will we cope without their weekly sessions of Love Island, First Dates and the mammoth three- and four-hour sports sessions on TV at the weekend?
How to cope with looking into the bedrooms and finding them clean and tidy and unlived in, rather than their normal cesspits?
The weekly shop has already become an ordeal, looking at the favourite cereals and bars that I no longer need to buy.
I know the time will go quickly… the eldest has already spent a year in Austin. But that doesn't help either. Every morning of their time away they are on your mind first thing and every night they are the last thing on your mind, converting the time difference and trying to imagine what they are up to.
So I agree with Barbara that travel is a wonderful gift, but their homecoming will be a greater one.
Social workers are overburdened
Sir - Cormac McQuinn's article '5,355 reports of suspected child abuse' (Sunday Independent, July 29) states that Minister for Children Katherine Zappone believes that mandatory reporting is working.
But as a previous chair of the Irish Association of Social Workers, I must advise that our members believed that mandatory reporting per se would not protect or improve the welfare of children. As a society we have been taking child protection seriously in recent years. The Church, voluntary organisations and schools all have robust child-protection policies in place.
What really protects children is sufficient numbers of experienced social workers working closely with those who have concerns and then having the time to follow up and support families who are struggling to care for their children.
Flooding Tusla with reports of all child-protection concerns, no matter how minor, has the potential to result in overburdened social workers missing the serious cases as they try to filter out all the reports.
The fact that Tusla cannot retain staff and experienced social workers continue to move to less-stressful jobs does not augur well.
Shameful face of Gaelic football
Sir - Michael Enright (Letters, Sunday Independent, July 29) bemoaned the state of Gaelic football. Surely the real issue for a long time is the off-the-ball thuggery and verbal in-your-face diarrhoea.
For a long number of decades the top brass has given both the blind eye compounded by the deaf ear. Consequently, if anyone in Ireland wishes to commit either ABH or GBH the GAA pitch is the place to do it without any fear of prosecution due to the "what-happens-on-the-pitch-stays-on-the-pitch" mindset.
Gaelic games played by men could be a wonderful spectacle game by game throughout our population and could be a big tourist benefit, too.
I have no doubt that the best displays today are performed by the ladies on the pitch. Tremendous sportswomanship.
Celebrate people's warrior
Sir - Are you satisfied with the President of our country?
Would you like him to serve for another seven years?
Is there someone else out there who you think might do a better job?
The President, whether it be a man or a woman, is looked on as the official hand-shaker for Ireland.
President Higgins is both a poet and a human rights campaigner. His wonderful poem, The Betrayal, shows the understanding of his fellow man.
For those hoping to become our next President, it might do well to remember that achievements in business or the accumulation of wealth, matter little as references for the post of President of Ireland.
President Higgins during his tenure has been able to put all foreign heads of state at ease when they are visiting our country.
Michael D comes from a humble background and is looked on as the ordinary people's warrior.
You'll do for me!