Culture of celebrity taking over airwaves
Sir - I guess Bruce Arnold (Sunday Independent, August 6) has a point regarding the amount of talk which dominates the RTE radio schedule, but he forgets that the current culture and celebrity fixation ensures that such a formula seems to work as regards maintaining a mass audience. The downturn in advertising is a difficulty that all traditional media are experiencing and would not improve even if a less personality and talk-dominated schedule ensued.
The landscape for music radio now means that all outlets have moved into the centre, with focus groups and radio doctors determining what the output will be. In fairness to RTE Radio, however, at least Lyric (even with the sad loss of Jazz Alley and Reels to Ragas) still manages some interesting music choices as does RTE Radio 1.
I should also point out that when the general public do make it to Sunday Miscellany, some interesting points are made and the audience figures seem healthy enough given the early morning broadcast time.
Too much exposure
Sir - Bruce Arnold's critique of RTE (Sunday Independent, August 6) is very comprehensive. I am surprised that he did not include mention of Sinn Fein or their forerunners, the Provisional IRA, for which Sinn Fein is the respectable front and whose members RTE seem to have an undoubted preference for in any political discussion.
They may be the second largest party in Opposition, but they get more airtime for their representatives than does FF or any of the other sections of the Opposition. Such exposure is tantamount to a mini political party broadcast. When one hearkens back to the murder and mayhem the Provos were responsible for in the North and South of Ireland, I think it is hypocritical in the extreme that they should be given so much radio and TV time to expound their ideas on how the country should be run.
RTE 'not neutral'
Sir - I feel compelled to write to your paper to express my thanks to Bruce Arnold on his excellent article (Sunday Independent, August 6) outlining the rot at the core of RTE.
As he said, RTE does not appear to make any effort to present both sides of the argument in a scrupulously balanced neutral way. Sadly, I feel the same imbalance is shot right through the heart of the Irish media in general.
He rightly points out that, "such broadcasting is in keeping with the one-party state nature of the Irish Republic. We have a change of personal in government, but never a change of government... a reprehensible situation". Rational debate on the public square is a rarity in our society today. So-called liberal Ireland is very superficial. Old values that have stood the test of time and that have arguably enabled us to be a modern first-world country today are subtly and not so subtly scoffed at.
Sir - Bruce Arnold's article (Sunday Independent, August 6) concerning the "once-vibrant organisation" called RTE left almost no stone unturned in its critique of the national broadcaster.
There is one additional stone whose underside awaits exposure: the blatant lack of care given to the enunciation and pronunciation of even the most basic of words in the English language. (Why "BreXit" is pronounced "BreGGZit" in Montrose would be a good starting point). This appalling lack of articulate professionalism is further reinforced by the stumbling and stuttering of many "presenters" who inadvertently cause many, if not most, news bulletins to be intolerable to the ear.
Sir - May I just refer to a letter in your excellent series 'The letter I wish I'd sent' by Brendan Cullen (Sunday Independent, August 6).
He writes about the dreadful brutality of the sadistic monster who taught him in primary school in the early 1950s.
In the second week of the series (June 11), I wrote about my dreadful experiences at the age of eight, in a boarding school run by nuns in the late 1950s.
Brendan's first sentence says it all, as follows: Dear Sir, "I will never forget you, but God knows I have tried many times." Indeed Brendan, your childhood never leaves you, and affects the whole of your life.
Sam's classic song
Sir - In her obituary of Sam Shepard, Barbara McCarthy (Sunday Independent, August 6) mentions several times that he was a cowboy and also that he was a "rock 'n' roll Jesus with the cowboy mouth".
But she does not mention that the defining point of this aspect of Sam Shepard was that he was co-writer with Bob Dylan of the classic 'cowboy song' Brownsville Girl, which is so good that on its own it made the album where it appeared, Knocked Out Loaded, worthwhile despite the rest of that album being completely unremarkable.
Sinn Fein trying to ape the SDLP
Sir - Eoghan Harris and Eilis O'Hanlon are wrong to make comparisons between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and the SDLP in its dealings with Sinn Fein (Sunday Independent, August 6). Apparently, it seems, Sinn Fein wrecked the SDLP, and will do the same to these southern parties if they effectively "behave the same way". The decline of the SDLP can be directly linked to the withdrawal from politics of John Hume and, to a lesser extent, of Seamus Mallon, who has recently suggested that the Catholic Church's position on Sinn Fein also hurt the SDLP, and of course that is true. The reality is that this dominant leadership also affects Sinn Fein, and Gerry Adams's demise or resignation as leader will see the party badly affected.
An example of the true nature of Sinn Fein and how it will never be big in the Republic is in the way it expanded membership from the earliest days.
The reality of much of the senior membership of Sinn Fein "during the war" is that they were recruited from the IRA. The way that the IRA would recruit was to endorse the troublemaking hardmen in a community. These hardmen were kept in check by strong members of the community prior to that. This IRA recruitment undermined the community and left the IRA hardmen in control, with the strong people kept in check. This meant eventually that other hardmen would come along and be kept in check by the IRA, not the strong people who usually voted SDLP.
So the myth that only the IRA could control the hardmen came into effect. What we have today is a Northern Sinn Fein party attempting to cure this anomaly in its membership, seeking elected members without military baggage. They're trying to ape the SDLP and portray themselves as peacemakers. That's largely done for a southern audience, who tend to be horrified by hardline Sinn Feiners. There is no unifying cause that can be used to manipulate the population. Indeed, Sinn Fein knows this and is trying to put on a good face, unlike when they dealt with the SDLP.
The only way Sinn Fein can deal a blow in the Republic is if they match Fianna Fail and Fine Gael in usual political ways. The SDLP would still be the larger party if they did that up here.
Sacred mandala of your life
Sir - Society will judge us by our looks, as Brendan O'Connor described in his recent article about people staring at his little girl, Mary.
As a teacher in special education for many years, I know those looks.
I am in no doubt that my students, who have moderate intellectual difficulties (according to those who label them to fit in neatly to "normality") also have very many special gifts - they see the person, not the fatness or designer labels one might be sporting on a given day.
As part of the graduation ceremony which I wrote and led many times in school, we made a mandala of the group, highlighting their gifts to us.
This is a poem I wrote as a reflection about the gifts that the students have, and offer freely and without judgment of others.
Name and address with Editor
In our world
Wealth and power.
When confronted by
Control and revenge
Peace and kindness.
Not need makes war
Trust without fear.
If our loves dream
Is somehow lost
To know her precious gifts
In the present moment
On dismal days
When grief and doubt
Our weary spirits
You embrace us
The bright possibility
Of joys dawning
On a new tomorrow.
With grace these
You commend to us
With great fondness.
Take time to
With precious jewels
On quiet golden moments
As your own dear heart
Kindles in the best
Another way of being,
With the rhythm
Mandala of your life.
Time for equality for all
An open letter to Mr Varadkar
Sir - When you were elected Taoiseach you promised you would use your office to promote equality for LGBT both here and in Northern Ireland. This is very commendable.
But what about my equality?
I recently retired and was awarded a contributory pension of a paltry sum of €152 per week. I am one of the many women in this country who has been victimised because I am a mother. I was forced to give up work in the early 1970s to rear my family (no child care facilities of any description available back then) and I returned to the workforce in the year 2000.
Your government in its wisdom decided that one of the ways of solving the finances of this country was to discriminate against the mothers of Ireland. It seems to me that equality for some sections of our society is more important than others.
This act was passed in the 2012 Budget and I would ask you, Mr Varadkar, to use your office of Taoiseach to reverse same on or before the 2017 Budget. Thanking you in anticipation.
Full name and address with Editor
Cowen was cheering news for pensioners
Sir - Every negative word that is uttered about Brian Cowen is diligently reported in the media. I would like to remind people that when Brian Cowen was Minister for Finance, old age pensioners saw a €14 per week increase. All paid the same year.
Unlike the last increase, which was reminiscent of the old joke about the emigrant writing home, "Dear mother, I am sending you five pounds... but not this week". I also know for certain that Brian Cowen would not leave the State to demean himself, walking in a 'Rainbow' parade in another jurisdiction.
The other parties dare not admit it, but if they had been there when the crash came, they would have been left with no choice but the same: our 'friends' in Europe would have seen to that.
Laughter is best
Sir - Well done to Brendan O'Connor for his laugh-out-loud piece on Leo taking over the world (Sunday Independent, August 6). More of the same please in the midst of Brexit, poverty, HSE woes etc. Laughter really is the best medicine.
Mary Stewart (Mrs),
Dreary as you like
Sir - Kudos to right-on Declan Lynch (Sunday Independent, August 6) for highlighting the bland cultural wasteland that was Ireland in the dreary, monocultural 1970s and 1980s.
Before we were exposed to the 'right influences' that improved us greatly, we had to make do with rubbish like Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher, Van Morrison, The Horslips, Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones, The Boomtown Rats, U2, The Pogues, Sinead O'Connor, Christy Moore, Clannad, Blue in Heaven, A House, The Blades etc.
Fortunately, progressive, modern Ireland has bequeathed the world some proper culture with performers like The Script and Nathan Carter and a few others I can't quite think of.
This Jew once saw the good in Myers
Sir - Mark O'Regan describes Kevin Myers's column as having provoked a wave of accusations of anti-Semitism (Sunday Independent, August 6). As a Canadian Jew, I read the Irish press during Israel's war in Gaza in 2009. As Ireland is one of the most pro-Palestinian countries in Europe, I was heartened by those journalists who stood up for Israel. In a letter to the Jerusalem Post on July 12, 2009, I cited the names of those we owed an appreciation - recognising the good someone does for you is a fundamental Judaic ethic. One of them was Kevin Myers.
Jews and Jewish groups who attacked Myers - who seeks controversy, but it is certainly not a journalistic sin - for his alleged anti-Semitism should forgive his minor error, which he acknowledges, close the case, and move on. Forgiveness is another basic Jewish ethic, central to Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement - the most sacred holiday of the Jewish calendar.
The gospel of Elvis
Sir - Perhaps coincidence or what, but the other day I found a little rag-doll (lucky-bag toy from years ago) and about one-and-a-half inches, lying in a corner. When I opened the paper last week - there was Elvis Presley with a replica of same!
Joe Jackson (Sunday Independent, August 6), writing about the 40th anniversary of Elvis's death, said that Gospel music was a source of spiritual ease to Elvis. I always had the feeling from his song Peace in the Valley that he sang in choir when young.
Sure, I believe when he was found dead in a house with a woman - it was his adored 'black' cook, frying banana sambos in lard. He was reading The Shroud of Turin.
I always feel he was spiritual, near to Jesus. He is still in Graceland, I'm sure. RIP.