"Dublin can be heaven with coffee at 11, and a stroll in Stephen's Green.
There's no need to hurry, there's no need to worry, you're a king and the lady's a queen..."
Sir - I was gutted to hear that Bewley's is closing down. Way back in the 1950s and 1960s, my mother used to bring myself and my siblings in there fairly regularly.
On one occasion my mother ordered a plate of small iced cakes and our eyes were out on sticks and our tummies could not wait to taste.
She went into the powder room and came out a few minutes later - only to find that the cakes were almost gone.
She screamed at us - with her eyes, you know the way mothers do - and said these cakes were a shilling each, not for the whole plate. We all had a quiet journey home.
I never would have thought of Bewley's closing. One could smell the aroma of coffee at the top of Grafton Street beckoning everyone to come in. It was filled with mahogany and stained-glass art and culture.
There'd be many a story written there and it seemed to bring alive Grafton Street with its heart-warming Dubliners and beautiful streets.
Kill, Co Kildare
They’re a young lot for 70-odd
As I sought to celebrate my new freedom, I went for a stroll in Palmerston Park in Rathmines, Dublin, last Thursday afternoon at 2.30pm.
I was struck by the number of remarkably youthful ‘septuagenarians’ there.
Some were kicking footballs, practising hurling or playing games. Others pushed prams, walked their dogs, jogged or cycled past me in groups. Surprisingly, they all bore a remarkable resemblance to young families and teenagers.
I pointed out the age rule for access at this time politely to the adults. My remarks were ignored or greeted with laughter.
A notice on the gate restricting access at this time might help.
Ontario Terrace, Dublin 6
Shameful how we burden the young
Sir — I must agree with two points Eoghan Harris made in his biting column last Sunday.
First, the age/vulnerability question. I’m 75 and find it shameful that economies can be shut down, both in Ireland and internationally, because of governments being prepared to deal with pandemics at a ruinous cost to the young and the economically active, and to the benefit of an elderly minority.
Next, the open-and-shut case for face masks, which echoes what I’ve been preaching for months. Why are the ‘experts’ so devoid of basic common sense? There will be a heavy price to pay in the UK for such craven ineptitude. Under no circumstances should Ireland follow them in their folly!
Here’s good health to Eoghan Harris
Sir — In reading the ‘Harris’ article last week, I got a shock after the first two paragraphs. Eoghan informed us that, and I quote: “His dormant prostate cancer had woken, roaming around other areas.”
The rest was lost to me.
I got to know Eoghan through text messages over the years. A lovely man. I do hope he recovers to good health. My thoughts and prayers are with him.
Glenties, Co Donegal
No candidate should now suffer fail grade
Sir — Education Minister Joe McHugh’s decision to provide Leaving Cert candidates with calculated grades rather than an exam is understandable against the backdrop of Covid-19. But a few issues of due process concern me, as the State Examinations Commission (SEC) has washed its hands of the process, as with the Junior Cert.
Surely, it is a fundamental right of a candidate to make a case to their calculators. Each candidate should be entitled to submit their own grades prediction for consideration by the school. In a short submission of about 100 words per subject, the candidate should outline why the grade is deserved. It’s worth noting that, unlike the SEC results appeal system, the candidate, in this process, is not entitled to challenge the calculated grade once it leaves the school.
To protect the calculators, it needs to be made clear that canvassing or any attempt at bribery or persuasion by a third party on behalf of a candidate could result in the calculated grades being withheld and proceedings against the third party. All such attempts should be recorded by school authorities.
Because of the amount of time lost in school due to Covid-19 and the distress caused to the candidates, every candidate should be guaranteed at least a pass grade in each subject, a minimum 30pc at higher level, 40pc at ordinary/foundation level. That is the least these resolute young people deserve.
Thanks to the agony of uncertainty and indecision, no candidate should suffer a fail grade after such an ‘annus horribilis’.
Tralee, Co Kerry
Predictive system creates problems
Sir — The Leaving Certificate has been cancelled and a predictive scoring system is to be used. This is fraught with difficulties and will raise issues of opportunity and fairness.
A high-performing student from a state school in a socially deprived area could be rated lower than a mediocre student from a private school in an affluent area. A pay-for-grades scandal is likely just around the corner.
This new system will see difficulties, anomalies and inequality. It will also be subject to legal challenge and the State will need to establish the bona fides of this equivalence scheme.
This is not the last we will hear of the debacle but at least students can a take a break from the books. Everything will work out in the end.
Clare Village, Dublin 17
Let’s guarantee them all a pass
Sir — I am delighted to see that our Minister for Education has cancelled the Leaving Certificate examination. This is the correct decision to avoid further contagion or extra stress.
These surreal times have been a learning experience for each and every one of us. All students should be guaranteed a pass at the least.
Kilcoole, Co Wicklow
Don’t let this hurt less advantaged
Sir — I have every confidence Irish teachers will rise to challenge of assigning predictive grades. But it will be a steep learning curve and there will be hiccups.
One reservation is that this will reflect too accurately the grades pupils would have got if they had sat the examination. This is due to the standardisation of predictive grades with the bell curve used from year to year to maintain grade consistency being also applied to the predictive grades process. Also the performance of individual schools over the previous five years being used to maintain the status quo.
In the traditional exam there is no way of compensating pupils who come from disadvantaged backgrounds but whose potential is often greater than pupils from advantaged backgrounds but who receive higher grades. Progressive teacher assessment can address such issues. And the sky won’t fall down as predictive grades replace the traditional Leaving Certificate.
They died with their guns blazing
Sir — In the introduction to his interview with Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (“The man who would be Taoiseach”, Sunday Independent, April 26), Philip Ryan explained the photograph of Martin had been taken adjacent to the Leinster House memorial to Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins.
He continued: “The latter was murdered by anti-Treaty republicans supported by Eamon de Valera during the Civil War.” He added: “And Martin could even be in the Taoiseach’s office on the centenary of Collins’s death in August 2022.”
It would have been too much to expect that Martin himself would want to puncture the feel-good factor of his full-page spread.
But I was surprised at the failure of a single other Fianna Failer to dispute that characterisation of the party’s founder in the following Sunday’s letters page.
It would seem that a silent clause in the FF- FG framework for Martin becoming Taoiseach involves the erstwhile Soldiers of Destiny rolling over and accepting the caricature and character assassination of Dev in Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins movie as a founding myth for the projected inter-party marriage.
Michael Collins had been neither murdered nor assassinated. Nor, indeed, had been his anti-Treaty opponent, Cathal Brugha. In military engagements during the Treaty War, both Brugha and Collins were killed in action, each with their own guns blazing.
Finglas Road, Dublin 11
GAA the language of one tribe only
Sir — Joe Brolly in his Sunday Independent column last week gave us an insight into the world of the GAA north of the Border during the Troubles. He vividly recalls the horror of the IRA bombing Frizzell’s fish shop and the murder of 14 people by the UDA in the week that followed.
Joe says the GAA was a bright spot in a grim world. He is at pains to say the GAA was not, as described by Peter Robinson and Gregory Campbell, the ‘IRA at play’. I am sure Seamus Mallon of the SDLP, former Armagh footballer and implacable opponent of violence, would have agreed.
Joe writes that they played with the feeling of ‘ourselves alone’ and were doing it for ‘the greater good’. The GAA, he says, ‘was our language’.
We can’t get too carried away. Through no fault of its own, it is and remains the language of one tribe only. It doesn’t span the two traditions. The headline should have read: “The Troubles gave nationalists a sense of identity.”
However, in the south the GAA has in recent times been ecumenical in its approach. They hosted a rugby game between England and Ireland in Croke Park, where 14 civilians were killed by crown forces in 1920. And Queen Elizabeth visited GAA HQ in 2011, though she resisted the urge to try hurling.
The Troubles are probably too recent and raw for any great leap forward. But when the time comes for sporting detente, the GAA will not be found wanting.
Normal people and the sex they have
Sir — While I have not read Sally Rooney’s book, nor seen the television series, I have read of some people in Ireland describing the series as pornography.
Last Friday morning on an Australian radio station, it was talked about by phone-in listeners. Mainly female, and of varying ages, each spoke highly of the show’s educational value. They also mentioned that the respect shown by Connell to Marianne was important for young men to see and understand.
Alas, there will always be people who think sex is pornography whereas, in a loving relationship, it is indeed a tremendous joy. Sex education rarely focuses on the true joy love between two human beings actually is.
Of course, being a Sligo man I too called in, to be told: “You speak just like Connell!”
Farming is not the climate culprit
Sir — The stand-out side-effect of this pandemic has to be the way our greenhouse gas levels have plummeted.
We continually hear of a vastly improved atmosphere. Planes, ships, trains, trucks and cars have all ground to a halt. The burning of coal, oil and gas for industry and power generation has been greatly reduced. All the culprits in the destruction of our planet have had their wings clipped while farming, whipping boy of the climate debate, powers on and feeds the world.
It is tempting to suggest this is Mother Nature striking back and sorting a problem humanity dithered over. The big question is whether, when this is all over, we will go back to the way we were with rampant consumerism driven by the fossil fuel industry?
Will we continue to listen to those who wish to confuse and divert attention from fossil fuels.
In Ireland, we have 10m acres of permanent grassland, unsuitable for anything else. The only way humanity can gain food from this land is through grazing it with animals. They then produce methane which is eventually converted to CO2 and is subsequently reabsorbed by the new grass, and so the cycle continues. What a wonderful, planet-friendly, closed loop eco-system, with fantastic by-products called meat and milk.
The upshot of all this is that, since it is the same methane going round and round, there are no new emissions and so the real emissions from agriculture are low — around the 6.6pc mark.
Those who wish to measure what greenhouse gases agriculture produces, but wish to ignore what it sequesters, are clouding reality and misinterpreting facts.
What bothers me most is that all this is in the public domain, and if I know it then other people know it. The people in the Green Party probably know it too but for some reason it doesn’t suit them to accept it.
So what’s their agenda? It’s certainly not the future of the people living on this planet.
Murroe, Co Limerick
Yearning for our return to Ireland
Sir — I live in England but am of Irish descent and am lucky enough to have the Sunday Independent delivered to my home every week. My mother was from Co Monaghan and father from Swinford, Co Mayo. I have two sisters who live in Ireland and several other relatives around the country.
I am an avid fan of Brendan O’Connor’s articles but I was amazed to read last Sunday that, due to the coronavirus, he is most looking forward to “getting off this island”, whereas we cannot wait to be able to visit Ireland as we do every year.
The attraction of great food, beautiful countryside, lovely people and the Guinness are much more of a draw.
Our concern is when and how we are going to be allowed back into your beautiful country.