Cynical view of Joe Biden’s visit not reflected in rousing reception
Sir — I found some of the writing and commentary on the visit of US president Joe Biden remarkably cynical.
From the moment it was announced that Mr Biden was coming, some in the media set about creating their narrative by pooh-poohing the “old man”.
The general message was that Joe was irrelevant and young people nowadays are not interested in shamrocks and shenanigans.
The message was that we are above that now, a smarter, more outward-looking nation.
But surprise, surprise: quite a lot of young people wanted to see and hear the president of the free world.
And, yes, they did have shamrocks and shenanigans, dancing and playing Irish music for hours in Ballina.
They were celebrating their culture, not kowtowing to any-body, but proud and cultivated, educated and energetic.
Mary Robinson, as always dignified and respectful, recited a poem about immigration, not in a submissive way but with an acknowledgement of the value of Irish people at home as well as all over the world.
The people of Ireland, young and old, are proud of their country, its history and culture, and don’t feel the need to apologise for it.
The attitude that we don’t need sons and daughters of immigrants coming here to remind us of our colonial past, that we are above that now and would prefer if history was confined to the archives, is akin to the attitude of our neighbours to the EU.
“No man is an island” — we need to hold on to that piece of wisdom.
Angela Kirrane, Claremorris, Co Mayo
Protests shock us out of lazy complacency
Sir — I have mixed feelings about the use of direct action to highlight causes, but one can only admire people who put themselves in harm’s way in an effort to halt climate change, fight the all-pervasive might of the oil industry, or alleviate the plight of animals.
The sight of a person climbing on to a table at the World Snooker Championships bothered me far less than seeing someone throwing soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, but that’s only because I have a passing interest in art and none at all in snooker.
But such protests are all about making us feel uneasy and getting our attention. When I watched activists storm the Grand National, my thoughts strayed to a protest of another era, one that helped to change the course of history: at the Epsom Derby in 1913, suffragette Emily Davison threw herself in front of the king’s horse.
She wanted to highlight the fact that women were denied the right to vote. She died of her injuries. That protest brought the suffragette campaign to new heights, and helped to win people a basic human right that should never have been denied to them in the first place.
Sitting on a “whites-only” seat on a bus in Montgomery in 1955 resulted in Rosa Parks being arrested, brought to a police station, and treated as a criminal, but her action highlighted the injustice of racist laws.
I’m not suggesting that every direct action protest is necessarily the ideal “way to go”, but often the inconvenience occasioned by the protest pales to nothing beside the enormity of the issue being highlighted.
Youthful protesters invading the course at Aintree is less disagreeable, I believe, than the deaths of three horses at the same event.
And the odd traffic jam or hold up due to a disruptive climate change demo ought to be less worrying than the prospect of all life on the planet ending because we continue to pollute and poison our oceans, rivers and lakes and turn the very atmosphere into an invisible plastic bag to smother us all.
Unfortunately, pressure via high visibility action is necessary and it works. Without it, every conceivable form of injustice, oppression, and cruelty would get a free run.
John Fitzgerald, Callan, Co Kilkenny
Council helped me after rental eviction
Sir — I feel I have to write to you regarding my recent stay at a Dublin homeless centre.
I was evicted from my rented accommodation through no fault of my own as I was a model tenant with a glowing reference from the landlord.
I am in my 60s and was placed in the centre until suitable accommodation was found. I entered the hostel with great fear and trepidation but due to the dedicated, professional staff I was soon put at ease.
A hostel is not the perfect place to stay but thankfully my stay was fairly short and with a very happy ending due to the team there and to the placement team at Dublin City Council. I cannot thank them enough.
So, for the record, a big shout-out to all the staff at Dublin City Council.
Name and address with editor
Famine comparisons sound a jarring note
Sir — Comparing contemporaneous society to the Famine is definite proof, if any were needed, that the teaching of history is absolutely vital.
A cursory glance through Famine-era records would quickly clarify that: binge drinking was not an issue but starvation was definitely widespread.
Nobody appeared to be using fake tan with abandon.
Obesity was about as common as hen’s teeth.
Cocaine addiction wasn’t a prevailing concern.
Gender pronouns appeared to be the least of their worries.
Gluing oneself to fences/roads/snooker tables wasn’t a priority.
The list is endless. First World problems are nothing but minor irritations, so let’s not compare them with the horrendous trauma suffered by Famine victims.
Aileen Hooper, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7
Fake Schumacher interview troubling
Sir — The fact that Michael Schumacher’s family is going to pursue a German magazine for creating a fake interview, using artificial intelligence (AI), should be a warning for all of us.
That a chatbot using an algorithm can fake an interview with someone who hasn’t been seen in public due to a brain injury over a decade ago is pushing fake news to the extreme and is very troubling.
While there is much discussion about chatbots, there is little, if any, regulation.
There are societal benefits from using AI, which can in some cases outperform human experts, but its misuse in the wrong hands could have serious and far-reaching detrimental consequences for all of society.
We must demand from legislators, here and in Europe, that regulation governing what AI or chatbots can produce is defined in law.
The fact AI is devoid of any moral decision-making means there are unintended consequences that could affect many people if something isn’t done immediately to regulate it.
Christy Galligan, Letterkenny, Co Donegal
Second-hand? You know it makes sense
Sir — Some people avoid second-hand shops, or they have never gone to one, but buying second-hand is a blessing for your wallet — and the planet.
You can acquire truly unique items you won’t see anywhere else. With the cost of living rising, you can save on clothes, furniture and other items.
We all use second-hand items: next time you eat out or stay in a hotel, remember thousands ate with the same knife and fork and thousands slept in the same bed and used the same linen. We all use second-hand items, just some of us don’t think of it that way.
Claire Mulrooney, Birr, Co Offaly
Sustainability is key to attracting visitors
Sir — It certainly appears Ireland will achieve or exceed its pre-2019 levels of tourism this year. That brings optimism to our country, which so heavily depends on visitors coming here for our economy. On the Dingle Peninsula, where 96pc of businesses are family owned, tourism is our primary profession. With opportunity comes great responsibility: for our guests’ expectations, for preserving our scenic landscape, for nurturing our communities, and for celebrating our language, heritage and culture.
A 2022 Dingle Peninsula Tourism Alliance survey in the US market found 66pc of respondents cited “culture and heritage” as their reason for visiting Ireland. Meanwhile, 18pc of those polled said “connecting with locals” was why they come here. The two go hand-in-hand.
Covid restrictions also helped the Irish discover Ireland.
Our responsibilities for the tourism industry vision across our nation have expanded to include “environmental” and “sustainable” aspects. On the Dingle Peninsula, for instance, we have developed a sustainability charter, focused on preserving our environment and communities.
We have focused on extended stays of our guests and not day trips; farm to table, with local farmers, fishing crews and food producers supplying our restaurants and pubs; tidy towns; and other initiatives that reflect our values and those of our visitors.
More and more, visitors want to go to places where policies agree with their own outlook — as well as their own identity.
A recent Expedia Group sustainable travel study found 90pc of consumers want sustainable options when traveling.
To attract tourists, we must foster a respect for Ireland, for our culture, heritage, communities, people and language, as well as our environment. Without a long-term sustainable approach to who we are, we risk losing the very reasons why people come here in the first place.
Shane Finn, chair, Dingle Peninsula Tourism Alliance
Eoin Ó Broin lacks ambition for housing
Sir —Eoin Ó Broin’s article last Sunday, ‘Let’s cut the excessive red tape and get on with solving the housing crisis’, was a pitch to young people with good jobs in which he said Sinn Féin in government would deliver 8,000 genuinely affordable homes a year so they could rent or buy. Is that the height of his ambition as a would-be minister?
If dispensing with red tape on the back of a long housing crisis only succeeds in delivering 4,000 units above the current Government’s failed projection what hope have our young people? Back to the drawing board, please, must do better, especially when not in government.
I think “yes minister” in waiting needs to recalibrate those affordable stats or young people will see right through the balderdash. And shouldn’t all new builds be affordable for our young people with good jobs?
Aidan Roddy, Cabinteely, Dublin 18
Baby thrown out with the neutral bathwater
Sir — David Quinn (Sunday Independent, April 16) poses the question: why would Ireland give up neutrality and become just another country which is militarily aligned?
A neutrality which underpins our international status as an independent and impartial voice for peace and the de-escalation of armed conflict. An Ireland which can rightly claim on a per-head basis that it is the most diplomatically powerful country in the world. A country which because of its highly praised diplomacy won a place on the UN Security Council. A neutrality that US president Joe Biden described as giving Ireland “moral authority”.
Ban Ki-moon, former secretary general of the UN, valued Ireland’s input so greatly he stated: “We can look to the future with some confidence knowing that the people of Ireland are so strongly committed to upholding the organisation’s values of peace and security, development and human rights in every corner of the world.”
Why would you throw the baby out with the bathwater?
Andy Hales, Kenmare, Co Kerry
TG4 hasn’t been part of RTÉ for years
Sir — Contrary to the claim in Eilis O’Hanlon’s otherwise outstanding back page article of April 16, ‘RTÉ has a choice: revolution or the slide into oblivion’, TG4 has not been part of RTÉ since 2009.
Christian Morris, Howth, Dublin 13
The contempt of social media firms
Sir — Eilis O’Hanlon tells us that when invited to attend an Oireachtas committee “TikTok and Facebook-owner Meta said no” and “Twitter didn’t bother to reply”.
Are the democracies of the world going to put up with that totalitarian contempt into the future? If that is so, what is our future going to be like with a very small number of people having so much power?
Anthony Leavy, Sutton, Dublin 13
Will E5 petrol still be available in Ireland?
Sir — In the March 19 edition of the Sunday Independent, there is a government notice concerning the introduction of E10 petrol “this year” in Ireland which states “no vehicle changes are needed” for the use of E10 petrol.
To find out more information, the notice directs you to visit www.gov.ie/E10. On the web page, there is a link to a UK site to check car compatibility, where it states that E5 petrol “will still be available in the super grade at many filling stations” in the UK.
In Life magazine in the same edition of the paper, Geraldine Herbert addresses the E5/E10 matter and states: “If your car is more than 20 years old, the added ethanol content may damage the engine… and [the car] should therefore continue to use E5 unleaded petrol.”
Perhaps Geraldine Herbert could clarify whether E5 unleaded petrol will continue to be available in Ireland as in England, and, if so, how is it to be identified at the petrol pumps.
John Vincent Shannon, Clontarf, Dublin 3
Geraldine Herbert responds
There is a huge amount of confusion around the switch to E10 and staff in service stations nationwide are dealing with daily questions on the issue. At the time of writing, it was believed Ireland would follow the UK and other European countries and maintain some availability of E5 following the introduction of E10.
But this will not be the case, and from June 1 it will not be possible to get E5 in a service station. Specialist fuel retail outlets may stock it after that date but that is unconfirmed.
In the case of older or classic cars, there are websites where motorists can check the “compatibility” of their cars with E10, but, unfortunately, if your car is not compatible the current government advice is “there may be conversion services available for low-cost replacement of engine pipes or valves. Please check with your vehicle manufacturer or local dealership or garage if you have concerns about this”.
There is no information given as to what this would involve or, crucially, cost.
Heroes never need to resort to violence
Sir — Innumerable Irish people agree wholeheartedly with Tom Carew (‘Never let the IRA forget horror it inflicted’, Letters, Sunday Independent, April 16), in particular in relation to “those who now outrageously claim there was no other way...”
Not one bullet needed to have been fired against a police officer or soldier in Northern Ireland, let alone the inhumane and indiscriminate car bombs targeting innocent civilians.
How you may ask? Following the peaceful path of Gandhi was one option. Refusing the baiting of the British army after Bloody Sunday, who were using Northern Ireland as a training ground, was the best option for heroes, self-appointed or otherwise.
Declan Foley, Melbourne, Australia
Gaelic football at its best in Ulster game
Sir — Viewing the magnificent Tyrone v Monaghan game last Sunday renewed my faith in Gaelic football.
Anthony Hanrahan, Renvyle, Co Galway