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Failure to defend the skies will result in Ukrainian bloodbath

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Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukraine have won the respect of the world. Picture by Una Heaton

Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukraine have won the respect of the world. Picture by Una Heaton

Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukraine have won the respect of the world. Picture by Una Heaton

Sir — Watching Putin and the invading Russian forces on television is like seeing Yeats’s The Second Coming unfold: head of a man, his blank gaze, pitiless as the sun, anarchy loosed, innocence drowned, darkness, nightmare.

As the Russian military continues to attack Ukraine, destroying towns and cities and slaughtering its citizens, and Putin threatens nuclear war, economic sanctions will not be enough to save Ukrainians who are desperately fighting to save their country.

Things will fall apart if Ukraine cannot hold. Faced with the threat of such apocalyptic evil, Ireland must contribute to the EU’s purchase of lethal weapons, as well as donating some of its own weapons (and providing generous humanitarian aid).

Most importantly, Europe and Nato need to step up to the plate by providing a no-fly zone. One way of doing this to minimise the risk of wider retaliation is to lease fighter-jets which are given Ukrainian markings and which are flown by Ukrainian pilots and volunteer pilots who are given dual Ukrainian citizenship.

Failure to defend the skies will result in Ukraine being wiped off the map. We should turn off our televisions if we are just to be spectators of a bloodbath and war crimes. 

Chris Fitzpatrick, Terenure Road East, Dublin 6

Putin took advantage of a distracted West

Sir — I am Russian. Little over a week ago I woke up to a world that I never thought could exist, a world where Russia was at war with Ukraine.

I am still trying to comprehend this inconceivable fact. After all, Russians and Ukrainians over the age of 30 were born in the same country — the USSR — and we spoke the same language. We are neighbours, Slavs. We have shared history, culture, religion and so much more in common. I am worried we will never recover from this catastrophe.

This is my attempt to try to understand what is happening and why. I don’t claim to be an expert. I am likely wrong, but I must try and make sense of it all.

I don’t think EU citizens have the same sense of being part of an international “family of nations” as I had growing up in the Soviet Union where, like so many others, I am from an ethnically mixed family.

The break-up of the Soviet Union was a huge shock, but we suddenly had more athletes to cheer on at the Olympics, as even though “we” had 15 countries instead of one, they were all still “our” people. There was so much to ensure we stayed friends. Yet it seems it wasn’t enough.

Two weeks ago I was confidently telling people: “War will never happen. Ukrainians are our brothers and sisters. Russian nation was born in Kyiv.” I was wrong.

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I suppose I could say that Russia was worried about eastward expansion of Nato. I could also say that it was too tempting to point a finger at Russia as a threat. However, none of this can explain the events we are witnessing now: the blood spilled, the destruction caused, the families torn apart, the relationships ruined.

I could, like many people, say Putin has gone mad. But I don’t believe it. He’s an intelligent strategist; he usually has a long-term plan. I think, however misguided, he is doing what he believes is best for Russia. I don’t know what he thinks it is. None of this is going to repair Russia’s relationship with Ukraine or Russia’s reputation in the world.

I do wonder if the Russian president would have sanctioned the attack had the West not been so weak and divided, distracted by luxury beliefs (like gender identity), its citizens engaged in cancel culture and victimhood Olympics.

Is it any wonder that Putin saw his chance to use the opportunity of a weakened West to do what he thinks is best for him and for Russia?

His belief is misplaced, and Russia will pay a high price for it, but he believes that “strong Russia” is the one that stopped bowing to the West and is carving its own path. As do many Russians.

I started writing this letter on the Thursday the war started. I had to stop and start a few times. It’s too difficult, too painful. The guilt, the shame. I do hope no more people will die. I do hope we will all heal. Eventually.

Name and address with editor

Open our hearts and homes to Ukrainians

Sir —It is heartbreaking to read about the desperate plight of women and children fleeing from Ukraine. I hope that the Irish people will open their homes and hearts to these unfortunate refugees. It is the least we can do. 

Many of us have plenty of room and can accommodate them. There are so many houses with only one or two people in them!

Sally McDonald, Ballinacarrig, Carlow

If you think it’s mad now, wait for Trump

Sir — It’s emboldening to see the West displaying this strong determination in isolating the Russian economy.

Putin works on the belief that the West may be bigger economically than Russia, but he also believes the West does not have Russia’s capacity to absorb pain nor Russia’s ruthlessness in inflicting heartache.

This is the thinking of a psychopath and that’s why it’s important the West continues to try and pre-empt Putin’s next move.

It will be an immense challenge for the West when it comes to maintaining these imposed sanctions. Once their novelty wears off and the costs begin to bite, will the challenge of sustaining them be maintained?

The biggest fly in the ointment is that it is possible that after January 2025, we will no longer have the US as an ally if Trump returns to office. It’s essential that everyone now involved in stopping Putin must prepare for that eventuality too.

John O’Brien, Clonmel, Co Tipperary

Appalling decision by Daly and Wallace

Sir —As an Irishman and a European, I am appalled at the decision by Clare Daly and Mick Wallace to abstain from the vote in the EU Parliament to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

They can hide behind whatever ideology they choose; even De Valera at his worst could see that Irish neutrality could be an ambiguous term when needed.

As to their ‘anti-war’ stance; how many people have died in wars, here in Ireland and abroad, so that these two people can have the freedom they now enjoy?

Paddy McDermott, Cappincur, Tullamore, Offaly

MND is not incurable, it’s just underfunded

Sir — As someone who has been living with motor neurone disease since 2016, I found the recent coverage of Charlie Bird’s diagnosis with MND/ALS a bit disheartening.

It confirmed once again that the media’s interest in MND/ALS is confined to high-profile figures. Much of this coverage is a lazy, ghoulish representation of the condition which raises plenty of interest, but not much in the way of real awareness.

Should the media ever decide to move beyond its superficial, glib portrayal of the condition, the public might discover that there is more to it than fear, suffering and charity campaigns.

Charlie Bird’s courage should not be trivialised, so how about using his case to investigate rather than just observe?

How about raising awareness of people living with and not simply dying from MND/ALS?

How about raising awareness of hope as well as hardship?

How about raising awareness of the most uncomfortable part of the story — that MND/ALS is not really incurable, it’s just underfunded?

William Brady, Cork

Judas comes for Labour’s Alan Kelly

Sir — It beggars belief that after a horrendous couple of years the Labour Party is to dispense with leader Alan Kelly. What brave politicians Labour has within its ranks. Do you think we could send them to Moscow to have a friendly chat with Vladimir Putin?

Though possessed of an abrasive style, Alan Kelly is an honourable man who spoke well and with conviction in his many Dáil exchanges.

The manner of his departure spoke volumes.

At the best of times seeing gawking politicians surround their glorious leader is cringing stuff — but on a miserable Ash Wednesday night, when Alan Kelly wheeled himself out to announce his resignation in front of the media, it was a sickening spectacle.

I wish the best of luck to the new Labour leader. Let’s hope she (or he) has enough time to save the party before Judas comes calling again.

Aidan Roddy, Cabinteely, Dublin 18

2 Johnnies show how far RTÉ has fallen

Sir — The sexist material in The 2 Johnnies has shown how far RTÉ has fallen in its efforts to compete with the worst elements of social media. RTÉ bosses have sat on their hands and watched the “new broadcasters” steal their audience, knowing their income was secured by the licence fee.

As a former employee of RTÉ (deputy financial controller and later head of the management services group), I was aware of the ethos that Kevin McCourt (the first Irish director general, replacing Ed Roth) brought to the station.

He would not have tolerated The 2 Johnnies, nor would his successors, Tom Hardiman, Oliver Maloney, George Waters, and nor would Vincent Finn (my first boss).

Hugh Duffy, Cleggan, Co Galway

My morning prayer list is getting longer

Sir — As a child growing up in rural Ireland in the 1950s, we fervently said our morning prayers. One such prayer which my teacher led went: “Saviour of the world, save Russia.”

I didn’t know where Russia was and why we needed Divine Intervention, but it looks like God didn’t hear us so well.

It would be fitting right now to pray again, this time: “Saviour of the world, save us from Russia, Trump, Johnson and Farage. And God, while you’re at it, save us from Ires Reit too (and in case, dear God, you don’t know who they are, they’re Ireland’s biggest landlord).”

And while he is at it, he could send us a few honest politicians who can debate with each other and work honestly towards solutions.

Mairéad Nic Sheoin, Brompton Court, Dublin 15

Russia and the UK put history on repeat

Sir — In an article last week, Máiría Cahill told us history need not be lived again.

That is ironic given that Russia is repeating history by invading Ukraine, and the UK recently repeated history by voting to dismantle the most advanced effort at international cooperation in a Europe with a history of centuries of conflict.

It is difficult to see that either decision will have any consequence other than the painful living again of a sad history.

Anthony Leavy, Sutton, Dublin

Giving a voice to the most vulnerable

Sir — Seanad candidate for Trinity College, Ade Oluborode, took the view in your Letters page last week that her candidacy was a way of giving back to Irish society. As a candidate myself, I would seek to give a voice to the most vulnerable in Irish society, if elected.

My charity background has focused on tackling issues of substance abuse and homelessness. During my upbringing, substance abuse was a destructive reality in my household. Having witnessed the torment it can cause, I became involved in setting up initiatives to help those trapped in a spiral of
addiction.

Women often carry greater feelings of shame and social stigma, particularly if they are mothers. Through my work, I have seen how the grasp of addiction can come between a mother’s love for her child.

I witnessed one mother have her children taken away by the State. Today she recognises the decisive shift in her life came when she joined Tiglin women’s rehabilitation centre.

We provide a secure environment staffed by trained care workers and allow women to re-engage with the community.

In Tiglin, we recognised deficiencies in state services and sought to fill those gaps. Lives are lost in these gaps.

In Irish society, there is a growing disconnect between the most vulnerable and the State.

In my candidacy for the Trinity seat, I want to apply the knowledge and experience I have gained through decades of on-the-ground charity work.

Aubrey McCarthy, Punchestown, Co Kildare

Changes vital to save consultant posts

Sir — Ken Foxe’s report on hospital consultant jobs is very revealing (Sunday Independent, February 27). However, it suggests there are many explanations for the lack of consultants.

The first is the training pipeline for consultants.

Each year there are far more trained doctors/registrars who are interested in becoming consultants than there are consultant training posts. As a result, many high-achieving doctors emigrate and do not return.

This is a pity, given that Ireland provides their initial training. It might be wise to review their provision of postgraduate training.

The first recommendation is to expand the provision of training posts in Ireland.

Secondly, the jobs advertised are for 39-hour weeks. In fact this is probably the minimum hours as the contract does not hide the fact that some contracts are 12-hour days over five days a week, 8am to 8pm. One can also take a 24/7 roster.

This is a very long working week. Over half of medical students are female and some might want to combine work and family lives. Job-sharing or half-time posts at 20 hours a week might be another option to entice consultants into existing vacant posts.

Thirdly, while consultant salaries have been criticised for years by some senior HSE personnel, those eligible and qualified for these posts have already worked in hospitals for several years, have done a series of exams, gained extensive management and deployment of staff experience, and written research papers — so these consultant posts are in effect promotional ones, similar to university professors or corporate sector management.

Secretaries-general of civil service departments, for instance, earn €213,859 per annum. Few of the public object to proper remuneration of skilled consultants with clinical expertise provided they have access to them.

There is a crisis in the provision of health services. Its effects have been made visible in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, but that is only one incident. Our huge waiting lists are another.

It may well be the payments and conditions of work for consultants will have to change in order to fill the much-needed consultant posts in all regions.

Dr Evelyn Mahon, Professor Emerita, Trinity College Dublin


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