Sunday 20 January 2019

Fake news makes writing and reasoning more vital than ever

Santa Claus? Never in doubt
Santa Claus? Never in doubt
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

The art of letter writing is apparently a dying one, although it should be one that is encouraged, especially in this era of fake news and opinion sent out by some tweeting twits and the (un)social media that so wastefully occupies the time of our youth, and too many other citizens.

Often the only letters we get now are bills and advertising - neither of which we welcome.

Probably the most famous letter to the editor was that of eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon, to the editor of 'The New York Sun', (September 21, 1897), which led to the editorial, 'Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus'. The most important part of the letter really was "Papa says, if you see it in 'The Sun' it's so", a statement that should still ring true for all newspapers, but now faces attack from false news, and missing or misleading news. Although it may seem a simplistic statement, the world would be a better place if everybody wrote letters to the editor.

The basis of this idea is aspirational - it would mean they could read, reason and write, they would have sufficient leisure time to consider issues, they could afford a newspaper and a stamp, or have access to email and, more importantly, would live in a world where it is safe to express an opinion openly. Too many voices are quashed by fear or lack of opportunity. I have found reading the news and the 'letters to the editor', especially my own, a pleasant start to a day, and since I have started writing it is clear from what people tell me about my letters, just how many other people read them every day. The opportunity to read and compare newspapers, and especially their editorials, has allowed me to see issues from many viewpoints and I have then subscribed to some digital versions, although I can only afford a few. The local library allows me access to many more, for which I am very grateful.

Dennis Fitzgerald

Victoria, Australia

Happiness is hidden inside us all

It was Christmas time in heaven. Jesus, Mohammad, and the Buddha were holding a seminar on spirituality. They observed the people on Earth rushing around buying all kinds of things that they really didn't need. People were seeking the Shopping Holy Grail. They thought they could reach nirvana using this method in order to buy happiness.

Amazingly, this did not appear to work. Even after buying everything money could buy, people were still searching for inner peace. Money, luxury and affluence only gave a quick fix before a downer set in. Jesus, Mohammad, and the Buddha were each given a piece of paper by the Holy Spirit on which to write where they thought the Holy Grail could be found.

They pondered upon this. They all came to the conclusion that the Holy Grail was not an object, but a metaphor for something one could not see, or touch, but must instead experience.

The Holy Spirit collected their papers, and read their answers. The Holy Spirit was delighted with their conclusions. They all had written the same answer. They had written: "The Holy Grail can be found hidden inside everybody's heart. Alas, the last place anyone looks."

The Holy Spirit shed a tear, and made a Christmas wish. "If my people could just understand this, then every day of their lives could be like Christmas day."

Anthony Woods

Ennis, Co Clare

Repeal offers simple, brutal choice

One thing is becoming quite clear in the debate on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution: if the amendment is repealed, we will not simply be returning to the position that existed prior to the amendment, where rights for the unborn could be construed by the courts. The repeal of the Eighth Amendment would be a decisive statement that under our Constitution there will be no protection for the unborn, right up to birth.

Following repeal there would be a radical change that would give the legislature and the courts, even if they should wish to offer some protection for the child in the womb, very little, if any, scope to do so.

At the moment, there is no evidence that the legislature has any meaningful commitment to offering any protection to the unborn, except as a stepping stone to gain the acceptance of the electorate for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Nor can we have any confidence that the courts would wish, in the face of repeal, to discover any implied rights for the unborn. In 1983, such rights were made explicit by the amendment. By the repeal of the amendment, they would be unequivocally extinguished.

The Government will probably propose to replace the Eighth Amendment with a provision in the Constitution allowing the Oireachtas to legislate for abortion. It may even publish proposed legislation to limit abortion in certain respects, but as we know, legislation can be changed without reference to the people in a referendum or challenged in the courts, including liberal international courts.

With the Eighth Amendment gone, there would be nothing to prevent a regime of abortion on demand, without reason, right up to birth.

The central question to be considered by the people in the referendum will be: do we wish to strip the unborn, from conception to birth, of any rights or protection whatsoever? Do we want to deny their humanity? Because that is what we will decide to do if we vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment. It really is that simple.

Peter Carvill

Sandymount, Dublin 4

Radical solution to rural attacks

Thursday's editorial 'Cowards who prey on elderly must pay dearly' (Irish Independent, December 21) notes that savage attacks on the elderly, particularly ones in rural isolated areas, are becoming "so commonplace that they are almost accepted as inevitable".

While the Criminal Law (Defences) Bill 2009 introduced welcome changes to home defence, it still lays onus on the home dweller to make sure the force needed for self-defence is within proportion and requires immediate use (otherwise risking manslaughter).

Perhaps there ought to be the establishment of volunteer community units in rural areas, in complete deference to the State, that could be equipped with registered small-calibre arms to rapidly respond via community alarm to the highly organised marauding gangs that prey on isolated farmers.

When faced with such ready, armed response, perhaps only then can the gangs "not be able to strike when they wish".

Stephen Oliver Murray

Dublin 4

Perfect start to Christmas...

The TV Christmas magazines start tomorrow, for the next two weeks.

At 6.45am, on BBC2, the first Christmas movie, and one of my all-time favourites, 'The Bishop's Wife', with Cary Grant, starts the usual collection of classics. So up out of the bunk, light the fire, have a cup of tea and toast, sit back and enjoy.

A wonderful start to your Christmas viewing.

Brian Mc Devitt

Glenties, Co Donegal

Irish Independent

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