Emotions of Christmas
Sir - Brendan O'Connor (Sunday Independent, December 24) does the State and its citizens a truly worthy service by illuminating the authentic enduring Christian magic and emotional nuances of Christmas, as it was and how it should/could still be. Highlighting, with a compelling personal candour, his raft of seminal pre-Christmas experiences at various concerts and church services (including the stunning inspiration of a funeral with its powerful community essence and generosity of spirit abounding).
Brendan's various commentaries cover a vastly varied tableau, and while they may tilt frequently towards the acerbic zone, one always detects a genuine empathetic thread with an innate caring disposition. He may of course lambaste political decisions and key players associated therein, but that is only to identify and support the suffering needy or marginalised victims affected by self-same decisions. His wit, when invoked, is supremely honed, yet never of the merely glib or flippant mode - not a cheap gibe in sight, or nothing opportunistically vacuous. More a persuasive and convincing insight, always worth considering.
His final paragraph reporting on his pre-Christmas 'epiphanies' could well be written into Bunreacht na hEireann with bountiful rewards for all: "And maybe if Christ's values were more in vogue now, more part of the system, we'd have fewer kids in hotels this Christmas, fewer people ripped off by banks, maybe old people would be less afraid in their homes and maybe all of us wouldn't have to search so hard and spend so much to try and find the meaning of Christmas."
Heightened awareness of lives
Sir - Around this time of year, we mark three dates which have much in common.
The winter solstice or shortest day of the year, falling on December 21, held significance in ancient cultures as a time of birth/rebirth. In the northern hemisphere, this marks the beginning of the lengthening of the day as the long, dark nights of winter begin to shorten. It brings a sense of hope of better things ahead.
December 25 celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, whose life forms the basis of Christian religions which make up the largest number of followers at over two billion people worldwide.
New Year's Eve into New Year's Day marks the end of one year and the start of another.
For many people, these dates coincide with time off work, time with family and friends and time for reflection. We can bring to mind people who were with us at these times in the past, people who walked the earth but whose time has ended.
We can reminisce on the year gone and also look forward to the year ahead. We can look at things in our lives that we are unhappy with and, if we are brave, we can actualise the changes we would like to make.
The aforementioned dates bring a heightened awareness of our lives whether for good or bad. Things which we may have been mildly unhappy with may suddenly cause us greater distress. However, we can use this time productively to spur us on to greater and better things.
Many, many years ago as a 16-year-old schoolboy I remember a classmate exclaim excitedly: "You learn something new every day," as if it were some great revelation he had suddenly discovered. I wonder if he still feels this way nearly 40 years later. I hope he does.
This time of year is a time of renewal.
We need to keep our minds active, open to change and continue on the path of continuous learning in all aspects of life.
Sometimes, we all need a little reminder to encourage us to make the changes which can ultimately lead us to live more fulfilling lives, no matter what the short-term pain is. We are alive, and while there is life, there is hope.
Gross inequality of democratic deficit
Sir - You might well wonder what Philip Ryan's article 'Neutrality is different now, says Varadkar' and Cormac Bourke's article 'Radical action needed to solve housing crisis - Archbishop' (Sunday Independent, December 24) have in common. I want to show how they are inextricably linked.
The Government has hurriedly signed a European military pact with no critical debate with its citizens. This pact is seriously flawed because the EU is merely an economic alliance run by bureaucracies, rules and regulations that are without a political pact and therefore undemocratic.
This democratic deficit in the architecture of the EU has in the last seven years allowed gross acts of inequality against small, proud nations who have borne the brunt of austerity resulting in previously unheard of levels of hardship for citizens in Ireland, Portugal and Greece.
An economic conglomerate with a military pact sounds a lethal concoction for continuing powerlessness for small nations and not one that will bring the EU any closer to the wishes of the people.
This political deficit at the heart of the EU is one of the main reasons why Ireland has our worst homelessness problem since the Great Famine. Hats off to the Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, for calling for radical action and a new political plan for social and affordable housing to be built immediately.
I am glad to see the Catholic Church entering this debate. For too long, the institution has stood on the sidelines calling these social problems issues of charity and hand-outs.
It is not good enough to emerge from the financial crash with any percentage of our population living in cardboard boxes on the side of the street.
The direction taken by the Government is becoming quite grave - a military pact to serve whose interests? Proposed legislation for zero tolerance for taking one drink and driving, and yet a laissez-faire attitude to the homeless children.
Are we willing in 2018 to engage in the fight needed to convince the Government that this is IOU - Intolerable, Oppressive and totally Unacceptable?
Dr Geraldine Mooney Simmie,
Faculty of Education and Health Sciences,
University of Limerick
Keep magic of crib
Sir - Why is there no issue with the dark symbolism of Halloween these days as represented by replica human skeletons, flashing skulls, imitation headstones, witch and vampire costumes when the symbol of Christmas, the simple crib, is deemed so offensive that our delicate sensibilities must be protected from the very sight of it as seems to have been the case at Beaumont Hospital.
What are these people so afraid of? Do they think that the mere sight of a crib will cause our eyeballs to spontaneously combust in their sockets, contributing further to the scandalous build-up of trolleys in our hospital corridors?
What does this situation say about where our culture is at right now? Not in a good place, I contend because if we take Christ out of Christmas, all that will remain will be a shopping spree and a big dinner (if we're lucky), and the last bit of true magic in this clogged and crowded world will have been lost.
Phantasmagoria jobs drown reality
Sir - As Ireland's unemployment rate continues on a downward trajectory, one could be forgiven for thinking that the jobs market is offering meaningful and fulfilling roles, providing financial and emotional ballast to a person's well-being. Not so.
Welcome to the Ireland's jobs phantasmagoria where fantasy drowns reality in a vat of vacuous job titles like 'Customer Success Guru', or 'People Manager', with a wage unlikely to give your bank account financial indigestion.
If you wish to apply for these positions with their fantastic interfacing duties, employers seek flexibility, doublespeak for 'You will be employed to do one role but will not always end up doing this role but another equally fantastic role' or 'You have to be available when we want you and however long we want, but you still are a valuable full-time member of our team'.
Employers are applying a Tinder process to interview seekers. Offer an interview to those who meet one or all of these criteria - an age profile that laps upon the shores of 20s, born within an Eastern European postal district or can be employed using the Community Employment Scheme, state-sponsored farming of people to positions that offer a short-term future and all the long-term employment prospects of one-handed juggler.
Looking for employment in Ireland is soul-destroying, devoid of fairness. No matter how hard you try, your effort is wasted.
The era of employers offering genuine sustainable jobs with a defined role and a working week, which allow you to commit long-term to your employer's business, appear to be over.
Ireland may achieve technical full employment by the end of 2018, but behind the number lies a constituency of employment seekers of all ages, skill sets and nationalities that are being rejected by employers motivated by the sheen of a balance sheet rather than the application of human capital.
Economists didn't learn from crash
Sir - It is almost 10 years since the economic crash and we appear to have learned nothing.
We are reaching the crest of another boom which, when it collapses, will have far greater consequences than that of 2008.
Economists have fed us a menu of rubbish regarding what caused the catastrophe a decade ago and how we should react to avoid such a situation in the future. They fail to appreciate that economic conditions have been utterly transformed and the ideology of growth and work sufficiency is no longer adequate to manage the new situation.
Economics are basically about production and distribution of the goods and services required and desired by the human race.
Economic history is fraught with the inability to ever produce enough or transport it to where it was most needed or even to know where the need was. Slightly more than 200 years of industrial revolution enhanced economic conditions greatly as indicated by an eight-fold increase in human population and great improvements to life expectancy and living conditions.
Present economic ideology evolved to manage constantly improving, expanding, economic activity which because of its dependence on labour and lines of marketing and distribution, sustained adequate employment which facilitates prosperous community living and contentment.
The introduction of computerisation to what had been a mechanical and electrical industrial revolution caused a surge of achievement which has rendered economic ideology inadequate to manage the most successful economic period ever.
Modern technology can, unless restrained, grossly overproduce causing enormous problems of market oversupply and obscene waste. The ability to produce like never before is achieved by digital automation which eliminates the need for human labour on an unprecedented scale.
Economists have little knowledge or understanding of that technology when they glibly proclaim that technology produces as many or even more jobs than it eliminates.
The scramble for jobs is just beginning. Over the next decade, economies will try to sustain home employment regardless of what impact that has elsewhere.
We must adapt to technological success. Business confidence must be restored by restraint of production, growth economics must give way to sufficiency and adequate employment must be ensured by generating more jobs from less work.
An act of tolerance or a denial of life?
Sir - Gene Kerrigan (Soapbox, Sunday Independent, December 24) refers to the insertion of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, firstly as "never a religious position but an explicitly political stroke" but further in his article states that the amendment is "a constitutional directive based as a religious edict, contrived as a political stroke". Now I wonder which he is claiming it is - a religious edict or a political stroke.
I suppose it is good that he is recognising that the right to life is a religious position but, while I am very proud of my Catholic faith and the fact that the Church has consistently upheld that right, despite all the pressure to do otherwise, I contend that many who have no religion in no way support abortion, the deliberate killing of the baby. It may be of interest for Gene Kerrigan to know that despite his claiming that "there wasn't a snowball's chance that would change" (abortion being illegal here), it was blindingly obvious that it would because of the Roe v Wade case in the US by which abortion was legalised there through the court.
A most interesting fact is that there actually was no abortion involved in the case and one of those named was not aware of the case, although she later became involved in promoting abortion before turning aside from that position and promoting pro-life.
Mr Kerrigan makes the very interesting comment that "the Catholic mainstream, and its sense of tolerance, has insisted on its right to trust its own sense of right and wrong, rather than have its beliefs handed down wholesale".
Now, in many cases, people deciding for themselves what is right and what is wrong may not have very serious consequences, but in the case of abortion we are talking of the deliberate taking of the life of a baby in the womb. How can that be referred to as an act of tolerance when it involves denial of the most basic right of all, the right to life? Mr Kerrigan also refers to "the cruelty in the treatment of women whose babies will never be born to live" without any reference to the cruelty involved in abortion, never mind the fact that no one can with certainty confirm when anyone will die. What about wrong diagnoses and the fact that many babies live much longer than predicted.
"Depriving every woman in the country of the right to decide that very matter herself (abortion)" takes no account of the fact that most abortions are carried out on baby girls. So much for showing concern for the rights of women.
Finally, Mr Kerrigan, despite all the evidence to the contrary, once again claims that the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar was caused because she was refused an abortion. He can get a detailed account of this misconception from his colleague Eilis O'Hanlon's article (Sunday Independent, October 22) and Dr Alistair McFarlane's letter (Sunday Independent, November 5) confirming the positive effects the Eighth Amendment has had and that, if Ms Halappanavar had had an abortion, the infection would have still been present.
I wonder how many times it has to be pointed out that three independent inquests confirmed that she died from sepsis and dreadful medical neglect, before it will be accepted as such and factually reported on.
Women surely deserve better than being told that the answer to a crisis pregnancy is the killing of their babies. Compassion and proper respect for all life, no matter how limited or short, demands this.
Heart-warming story of welcome
Sir - Brendan O'Connor's article (Sunday Independent, December 24) on how his child was treated "like the most honoured guest" warmed the heart of this old man at a time when there are moves afoot to legalise the killing of the little prisoners in the womb, starting with the weakest and working out to those under 91 days. What is the difference between being 91 days old and 90 days - life and death!
Anselm Lovett, Snr,