Monday 14 October 2019

Despite negative opinions about civil servants, they’re the ones who keep the show on the road

Anger: Teenage students protesting on the streets of Paris yesterday. Photo: AP
Anger: Teenage students protesting on the streets of Paris yesterday. Photo: AP
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

In his reply to me (Letters, Irish Independent, December 6), Richard Barton trots out the usual list of generalisations, bar-stool anecdotes and half-baked analyses of the type beloved of the commentariat.

He accuses me of missing the point while failing to address my analysis of at least part of the reason for the anti-public service bias in the media and, consequently reflected in public opinion.

He quotes the level of sick leave. Closer examination will reveal that most of this occurs in areas where younger junior staff members interface with vulnerable members of the public and experience verbal abuse, threats, being spat at and so on, as they convey decisions based on policy which has not been decided by them but at a senior and, ultimately, political level. I had experience of this myself as a younger officer many years ago, though I personally never took sick leave as a result.

In private sector organisations, they can call security to deal with unacceptable behaviour. The public service cannot generally do this as the people involved are citizens with a right to service and this is as it should be. However, stress caused by this kind of behaviour does make people ill.

He says those "who do show up every day do not really achieve much". This is a subjective view and a sweeping statement for which he offers no evidence. Does he believe the civil servants had no input into the Northern Ireland peace process, for example? When the country is left without a government for a period due to a hung Dáil, how is it that the wheels of government continue to turn?

When the sizeable pay cuts, which have not yet been reversed, were introduced, the rhetoric increased in intensity with each measure rather than the reverse. Recent news reports from France indicate how lucky Mr Barton and his ilk are that they were not living there at the time such measures were implemented.

Not that any French government would implement them. They would not dare.

Sean O'Donnell

Monkstown, Co Dublin


Language about cyclists in article was appalling

On Wednesday, an article was published in the Motors section of the Irish Independent discussing the issue of cyclists breaking red lights. This article, written by an anonymous RSA expert, compares cyclists to "busy bees" throughout the article, and at one point, describes us as "swarming masses".

Dublin cyclists are a thick-skinned bunch, and we're well used to abuse on the road. But the danger of rhetoric like this coming from the RSA is that it will legitimise dangerous preconceptions held by a small minority of drivers.

In September, there were three separate incidents caught on camera in which taxi drivers used their vehicles as weapons against three different cyclists.

In each case, the driver swerved at the cyclist numerous times trying to knock him down or cause him to crash. On the third occasion, the driver chased the cyclist to the wrong side of the road, nearly causing a head-on collision with another car in the process. These three incidents happened within a month of each other, all in Dublin city, but the silence from the RSA was deafening.

The vast majority of people would never dream of chasing and assaulting someone with a knife or some other deadly weapon. Yet put them behind the wheel of a car, and put a cyclist in front of them, and a few people are suddenly comfortable with assaulting a complete stranger with potentially lethal force. This is what happens when you dehumanise cyclists, when you encourage certain drivers to view us not as human beings, but as "swarming masses".

While the language of the article was appalling, its content was little better, and should seriously call into question the knowledge of this RSA 'expert'.

The writer doesn't offer any data to back up the claims being made, instead opting for a series of personal anecdotes. Not mentioned in the article is the fact that the vast majority (88pc) of cyclists do not break red lights, according to the RSA's own research. Nor does the writer tell the reader that red light cameras installed in the city centre showed that 77.1pc of red-light jumpers were in cars, vans, or taxis, while just 12pc were on bicycles. And these data don't even include drivers who accelerate into amber lights. When you compare these numbers to the modal shares for the different vehicles types, it becomes clear that drivers break red lights at least at the same rate as cyclists.

This ultimately begs the question, why has this RSA expert never written an incendiary, inaccurate, and frankly dangerous article like this about the behaviour of drivers?

Lest we forget, drivers, not cyclists, are the ones who have the capacity to kill with ease on our roads.

Arran Bolger

Clonskeagh, Dublin 14


One James Joyce fan they must have seen coming

I note that somebody has paid €17,000 for a pair of spectacles owned by James Joyce. Should the purchaser simply have gone to Specsavers?

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

Why a book makes the best gift this Christmas

That was a lovely letter by Billy Ryle on how the wonderful Groucho Marx loved reading books ('Groucho knew the gift of reading would last long beyond Christmas', Letters, December 3).

Billy also quotes children's author Tom McCaughren on the joy of reading a book - "discover the magic between its covers". Tom discovered - as a child - his Narnia in a cupboard full of books. A treasure trove of adventure stories, 'Treasure Island', 'The Wind in the Willows', etc, which awakened in him a lifelong love of reading.

Some wise advice from Tom for this time of year: "A gift of a carefully chosen book can have a far more lasting effect than the latest overpriced gadget."

Brian McDevitt

Glenties, Co Donegal


Let's reclaim this word hijacked by homophobes

Last night, as my wife and I were agonising over whether we should ban our grandchildren from listening to 'Fairytale of New York', I mentioned that, in the Longford of my youth, 'faggot' was used as a term of contempt, derision and abuse by women towards other women, as in "that stuck-up oul' faggot".

She recalled that when she was young in Clones, her mother often called her a "bould little faggot". Perhaps it's time to reclaim the word from the homophobes.

Tom Farrell

Swords, Co Dublin


Political correctness has now become dangerous

I'd like to commend Michael Kelly for addressing the ludicrous issues in his article in such a heroically patient manner (Irish Independent, Comment, December 7). I don't know how he did it.

Now the use of phrases such as "killing two birds with one stone" have been decreed offensive by the holier-than-thou, politically correct brigade, and an academic at Swansea University has suggested that lawmakers should impose a ban. It seems such sayings not only objectify animals but, God help us, run the risk of offending vegans.

What the hell is wrong with these people? (And I know, by using the words "these people" I'm probably guilty of the recently invented crime of 'othering' but who cares?)

It's stating the obvious that the phrases mentioned are totally innocuous and are incapable of causing offence to any normal human being. However, the utterances and actions of these offence junkies could cause a great deal of harm. For instance, if these terms were made illegal, what happens if a journalist or broadcaster uses them, even inadvertently? Their careers could be potentially hampered or even ended. Someone's life could be ruined - and all just so someone else can feel nice and smug by demonstrating how wonderfully sensitive and 'awakened' they are.

Political correctness has not just gone mad, it's become dangerous.

John O'Connor

Killarney, Co Kerry


Exclusive private schools are not very Christian

Irrespective of the closing of the 'entry into third level' gap between fee-paying and public schools, the advantaged can indirectly buy their way into third-level colleges.

No doubt this will be disputed but why do some parents pay substantial fees for their offspring to attend private schools? And save us all the old palaver about other aspects of these schools' curricula being the reasons for choosing these schools.

What is more galling is that nearly all of these schools proclaim to have a Christian ethos. I'm sure Jesus Christ would be proud of exclusive fee-paying schools and the use of public money to support them.

Joseph Mackey

Athlone, Co Westmeath

Irish Independent

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