Sir - Eoghan Harris and others have questioned the advisability of the Leo Varadkar visit to the Orange Order and the Feile in west Belfast (Sunday Independent, June 10). While these issues are, of course, debatable, it may be appropriate to give those involved the benefit of being considered well-intentioned, if not wise.
But contrast all of that with Sinn Fein's mean-spirited objection to the honouring of Seamus Mallon by bestowing on him the freedom of Drogheda.
In the past week, or so, we saw this country also honour the memory of two Irish soldiers who died while serving with the UN. Given its track record, I assume Sinn Fein would not support this honour seeing that those two heroes were murdered by the Shinners' pals in the PLO.
Seamus Mallon is one of the giants of Irish history, who tried to bridge the gap between communities in a peaceful and generous manner. Seamus has also something in common with another Irish hero, Tom Crean, the great Antarctic explorer because Sinn Fein also objected to the erection of a statue to Tom in his native Annascaul, though Mary Lou McDonald was happy to unveil the statue of Sean Russell, a Nazi collaborator, in Clontarf.
But Mary Lou and Michelle O'Neill will continue to pose as representing new and liberal politics, advocating respect and inclusiveness and pseudo liberal guff so acceptable on RTE.
These are the same people who are refusing to restore power-sharing because they are not getting enough "respect". What petty-minded hypocrites.
Has Harris got a hidden agenda?
Sir - It seems Arlene Foster, Eoghan Harris and Mairia Cahill are all opposed to the Taoiseach launching Feile An Phobail (Sunday Independent, June 10). At the same time, they themselves have all attended and spoken at the same festival. Are we living in the twilight zone?
I do appreciate that Mairia Cahill has suffered greatly and deserves great respect in relation to her horrific abuse, and indeed Arlene Foster may have been indulging in a little political point-scoring, particularly as Gavin Robinson DUP MP, and then the Lord Mayor of Belfast, himself, launched the festival in 2012, and spoke in remarkably similar tones to An Taoiseach.
However, in relation to Eoghan Harris, I am extremely disappointed. Recently he has seemed to have lost all sense of balance in his political commentary. Indeed, his column now reads more like an advertorial for Micheal Martin.
It was notable, that in his comments after the recent referendum, he couldn't bring himself to even name An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. In relation to Feile an Phobail, Eoghan criticises the Taoiseach for launching the Feile and then goes on to say that he, himself, spoke at the Feile. His Jesuitical explanation and self-exculpation puts one in mind of Bill Clinton's 'but I didn't inhale' moment.
One has to ask, is there an agenda here compromising the necessary balance of even polemical writing? If so, it is hugely sad, particularly in a columnist such as Eoghan Harris.
North looks to the future - not past
Sir - To the average person reading your paper last weekend, one might have thought Leo Varadkar made his way to Northern Ireland for the sole purpose of visiting the Orange Order and launching Feile an Phobail, dutifully ticking both of the "orange" and "green" boxes.
Even further mis-characterising the spirit of the Taoiseach's visit, some commentators in the Sunday Independent were perpetuating the old idea of "us" and "them" politics, suggesting that by launching the Feile, West Belfast's pride and joy as Ireland's largest festival, Leo Varadkar has cynically engaged with a "Republican" event to pave the way towards a coalition with Sinn Fein.
There are two things wrong with this poor commentary. Firstly, there is the continued suggestion that Northern Ireland is solely comprised of republicans and unionists, with no one in between worth mentioning. However, more frustrating to me, as a business leader in Northern Ireland, is that his other engagements were hardly mentioned. There was little recognition of the conversations that were probably the most relevant as Northern Ireland reaches 18 months with no functioning Executive and only nine months away from Brexit.
Meetings with cross-border bodies, leading all-Ireland businesses and a civic engagement meeting at Queen's University, including representatives from the majority of business organisations, higher education and the community and voluntary sector were all passed over in favour of the attention-grabbing headlines.
Opening the hand of friendship to members of the unionist and nationalist traditions is, of course, very important. However, failing to recognise the important engagement the Taoiseach had with us business leaders perpetuates the stereotypical view of Northern Ireland as obsessed with national identity, instead of recognising the issues we're actually trying to deal with; for example, Brexit, business uncertainty and a complete political vacuum. Indeed, this is the first time in the two years since the referendum where business and civic leaders in Northern Ireland have been brought together to engage openly in a group setting with a political leader.
The crude analysis around the Taoiseach's visit to Feile an Phobail was presented as a cynical, political appeal to the Republican tradition. Instead of recognising the leadership shown to engage with all members of Northern Ireland's community, the response has, once again, focused on presenting Northern Ireland simply as a divided community. It's that type of mindless labelling that is to blame for the stagnant, leaderless vacuum we are dealing with in Northern Ireland.
To the cynics of the visit, I would like them to consider what the leadership shown last week means to those of us in Northern Ireland, especially in the absence of a local Executive. The idea of rejecting dialogue with entire communities amid accusations of "endorsing" every historical action, or presenting it as a tokenistic gesture to serve other political ends is simply ridiculous - leadership is about engaging in dialogue, especially if you might disagree.
Therefore, I applaud the Taoiseach on his visit and I would suggest that the cynics note that the majority of people in Northern Ireland are focused on building the future, rather than dwelling on the past.
Exam discipline generates skills
Sir - The Leaving Cert is commonly known for creating stress and anxiety among young people of this generation. Some of my friends, who are sitting the most important exam of their lives, are anxious and under horrible pressure by the whole situation.
I see others at ease and overly distracted by video games. At the end of the day, it's down to self-motivation and thorough discipline to study. Fortunately, our stress levels force us to generate these skills and create opportunities for our future selves.
Brexit is declaration of economic war on us
Sir — Dan O’Brien is right when he tells us that Brexit is one of the most important issues in the history of this State (Sunday Independent, June 10). He is also right when he says that “a good outcome is simply not achievable”.
Brexit has historically negative importance in relation to international cooperation in a continent that was reduced to rubble in the past by imperial/totalitarian warfare.
The EU is a union of nearly 30 democracies, each of which signed a treaty to cooperate in matters of mutual interest. Brexit has torn up that treaty and declared economic war on the rest of Europe.
The Good Friday Agreement was signed between the UK and Ireland. Together with the visit of Queen Elizabeth it drew a line under nearly eight centuries of colonial rule. The pre-Brexit position saw very good relations between Dublin and London and an absence of all border controls.
Brexit has torn up that agreement and will reimpose the border to prevent free movement. Given that situation, all our Government can do is treat the UK as a hostile state in the same way the UK through Brexit has declared Ireland. All we can hope for is that the rest of the EU supports us. But we have to come to terms with the fact that Brexit will have long-term negative consequences, not only for Ireland but for the UK and the rest of the EU and for international cooperation worldwide.
Just a voice in the wilderness
Sir — I feel unrepresented in my own country. Politicians, the media, people who I thought would give me a fair hearing on my opinions, religious institutions, international institutions, people who my late parents taught me to trust, have been, to say the least, untrustworthy.
I have come to the point where to say what I am is to be sneered at, treated as if I am inferior in some way, that I should just shut up and mind my own business while serious people get on with running my country. I’ve come to the point where as a person who loves sport, I actually couldn’t care less if any Irish team ever wins a game again.
To live in this country, which I loved unconditionally, is becoming more and more difficult every day. If I had written this letter 10 years ago, it would probably have come from someone who was gay, black, non-religious, Protestant, Muslim or pro abortion. I am none of these.
Ban offensive political billboards
Sir — What do the objections to the Soapbox cartoon by Tom Halliday tell us (Letters, Sunday Independent, June 3/10)? That religious people are sensitive about their beliefs or that No voters lack a sense of humour? I moved to humour in the dying days of the campaign. Undoubtedly I, too, offended many Christians with my cartoon blog posted online, ‘One billboard outside Dublin’, which displayed a message that small children were looking at: “Every time a woman has an orgasm God kills a kitten.”
I illustrated this cartoon in reaction to the enormous images of aborted foetuses that the No side posted outside maternity hospitals, and elsewhere. They were offensive to everyone — women, men and children. I know of at least one person who almost crashed her car when driving under one such banner on the N11 and many others who were deeply upset at the reminder of their miscarriages.
In my view, legislation should be enacted to ban, or at least restrict in terms of size and location, all political posters in referendums and elections in Ireland.
Airman (95) says thank you
Sir — The only reason why, at 95 years of age, I can enjoy a full and active life is because of the excellent medical care afforded to me by the Irish medical profession.
Not all Irish doctors are based in Ireland, as we all know.
However, it is often not known or appreciated how significant their contribution was to keeping Irish airmen alive while they were fighting with the Allies for the freedoms our present-day society now takes for granted.
Irish doctors were on hand and instantly available at Allied air bases and also in military hospitals, where they were universally admired for their care, concern, expertise and often their immense charm and sense of humour.
I flew as a member of the all-volunteer Pathfinder Force, as a Lancaster pilot throughout the latter years of World War II and I and my (Irish) aircrew survived a crash landing in radiation fog.
Although badly injured, Irish medical care both on site and after transfer to hospital, restored me to flying duties within six weeks of the crash.
I and many of my fellow Irish contemporaries were the beneficiaries of this level of skill and care, both in the wartime years and throughout the rest of our lives, when many of us returned home, to transfer our wartime learnt skills to help as very experienced aircrew, in the evolution of Aer Lingus, our wonderful national airline.
Now, as we gently pass into our later years, we are still enjoying wonderful care from our GPs and if and when we need them, from their specialist colleagues.
I offer a personal salute, on behalf of myself and all of my contemporaries, to our wonderful Irish medical profession, past and present.
Full name and
address with the Editor
Anthem should be for everyone
Sir — In reply to Stan Darbey (Letters, Sunday Independent, June 10), regarding changing our national anthem to Sean O Riada’s Women of Ireland, may I remind Stan that we are just over decades of scandal involving the awful abuse that boys and men have suffered throughout the 20th Century, some suffered by myself, family and friends, which prompted me to leave school aged just 14 against my parents’ wishes.
The men and women of 1916 have proclaimed a better Ireland for all, men, women and children, all inclusive. We have all suffered in the past 100 years, so to have a national anthem in honour of just women would be extremely sexist. What is it about today’s Ireland that women think everything is about them? Where does that leave equality? If we are to have a new anthem, let’s make it one that includes all, and one that shows that as a people we are stronger — men, women and our future, our wonderful children.
A day to remember Magdalene victims
Sir — It was heartening to see the sunshine light up the faces of the Magdalene Laundry women as they arrived home to Dublin Airport. It was ironic that our young people came in droves to vote the week before, to an Ireland they would like to inherit. The downside of this occasion was that none of the religious orders were there to greet the women and show them the hand of friendship.
Some of them were on their first trip home from their exile and they told their stories of misery and suffering, shame and guilt. Their only crime was that they came from large families and poverty, and became pregnant outside of marriage. Some slaved in the laundries — they lost their names, their spirit, families, their hair, their hopes and, unknown to them, their babies were flying to Boston and New York to wealthy families. You would have to have a heart of stone not to feel for them.
We have St Brigid’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, and now we should have a day to remember the
Magdalene Laundry women. Ireland is a place of saints and scholars, a Catholic country, but where were our Christian values?
The wheel of life has turned slowly. As they were greeted in the streets of Dublin with spontaneous applause from the public and gardai, one lady said she felt like a pop star, she never expected to get this treatment.
Yes, they came home to an Ireland of compassion, diversity and hope for tomorrow.