Gentle process of courting
Sir - Teenagers keep their distance in the cautious new world of dating and sex, writes Niamh Horan (Sunday Independent, August 20).
There is no substitute for face-to-face encounters, no matter how slick instant messaging or FaceTime might seem. Social media preserves distance between users, the safety of not fully engaging, of hiding emotional barometers such as facial expression or voice tone.
Dating before the ubiquity of social media was a genuine encounter, where humans met and experienced chemistry, that indefinable, sensual spark that happens through conversation, voice timbre, laughter, body aroma and, as the famous lager ad from long ago went - "The way she might look at you."
The unhurried, gentle process of getting to know someone, finding out similarities and differences via a series of real-life, one-on-one dates is made unnecessary - a Facebook search will deliver a life story replete with favourite hobbies, holiday and party photos. Before a couple have a chance to meet up and try out for chemistry, a deluge of information is available to each party, removing the mysterious elusiveness that is the life blood of getting to know someone. The relationship often fizzles out before it has time to develop.
If proof was required that dating has become almost 'outdated', the irresistible First Dates series featured hordes of attractive, interesting people in their twenties who admitted to never having been on a date or held down a relationship. A cautious new world indeed!
Real aims of toxic Sinn Fein
Sir - The sky is definitely darkening if your contributor Ed Brophy (Soapbox, Sunday Independent, August 20) believes Sinn Fein is about an abiding faith in the State. Sinn Fein is the party whose stated aim not that long ago was to bring down the governments in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.
He also declares Sinn Fein not to be toxic and refers to Ms McDonald by her first names, to give her a softer feel as if she were some benign den mother. This woman is probably soon to be leader of the political wing of the Provisional IRA, a woman who refuses to denounce the atrocities of that organisation. An organisation that carried out similar atrocities against the innocents of these islands as do now followers of Isil across Europe.
Mr Brophy boldly pronounces that the 18-45 urbanites will decide the next election, thereby dismissing the franchise of the over-45s everywhere, with those of us living in the country having no say in the matter. He further declares that Micheal Martin perpetrates the myth that up to a fifth of the electorate is off limits for government. The last time I looked, majority rules and by my reckoning 80pc of the population do not want Sinn Fein anywhere near government.
It is incumbent on all of us of an age that suffered the 30 years of terrorism at the hands of the IRA to continue to educate the younger electorate, including the deluded Mr Brophy, that to use Gerry Adams's own words "they haven't gone away you know".
The irony of Ed Brophy's position
Sir - At the end of Ed Brophy's article (Soapbox, Sunday Independent, August 20) there was a footnote telling the readers that Ed was the chief of staff to Joan Burton during the last coalition government. Joan Burton's Labour Party, as I recall it, was all but wiped out on Ed's watch.
Yet here he was deigning to give advice to either FF or FG on why they should be thinking about a coalition with the considerably less than constitutional, Sinn Fein.
Clearly Mr Brophy doesn't do irony.
Debating facts about spies and informers
Sir — Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, August 13) misrepresents our findings on suspected spies and informers killed in Cork during the War of Independence. This research was presented in a paper to the recent West Cork History Festival. In this I acknowledged Peter Hart’s contribution to the historiography but challenged a core conclusion in his work that ‘Looking over the whole span of the revolution, we can see that the main themes of the west Cork massacre [in April 1922] conspiracy theories, land and sectarian vengeance were prefigured in the executions of ‘informers’ carried out in the previous two years’.
The results of our work provides a good basis to test Hart’s contentions about 1920-21 (the War of Independence period) in the final chapter of his book on the Cork IRA, which hinge on the killing of suspected spies and informers.
The implications of Hart’s findings in the final chapters of his book was that not only was the Dunmanway massacre a sectarian event, but sectarianism also resonated through the earlier killing of suspects, thus raising the spectre of a systemic sectarian problem within the IRA during the War of Independence.
Our research challenges this formulation as set out by Hart as it reveals that 69pc of the suspected spies and informers killed during the War of Independence in County Cork were Catholics. This makes these killings fundamentally different to those during the Dunmanway massacre in April 1922 (all of whom were Protestant). The sectarian implications of the latter event were widely understood and immediately publicly condemned by both sides of the republican leadership following the Treaty split at both a local and national level. So it is simply incorrect for Harris to state that there was a shameful silence, more particularly since he cites Erskine Childers’s declaration, which contradicts his claim.
Our findings for the War of Independence revealed that by far the largest category of suspects killed in Co Cork were ex-crown forces (56pc of the total), the vast majority of whom were Catholic; in short this was not a story about sectarianism.
The majority of the 71 victims identified came from poorer backgrounds (eg unemployed accounted for 16pc; unskilled or semi-skilled for 37pc; skilled trades for 10pc) and a majority of victims (eg, 61pc) were killed in the Cork One Brigade area (which included the city and all of rural Cork) in between the territory of the West Cork and North Cork Brigades.
This area accounted for 43 of suspects killed compared to 18 in the West Cork Brigade area, which was therefore less important in this particular matter. Our study reveals that the picture regarding the killing of suspected spies and informers for the War of Independence period in Co Cork painted by Hart, which implies that either sectarian vengeance or land were centrally important is not factually accurate, and now requires revision.
We never argued for one minute, as Harris implies, that there was not even a ‘relatively minor sectarian aspect to the IRA campaign in Cork’ during the Irish Revolution at large. Concrete proof of this is that we have published our detailed findings on the Dunmanway massacre in the journal Eire Ireland in the autumn of 2014, in which we concurred with Hart’s assessment that this event was most certainly sectarian, but we don’t accept his assessment that this was prefigured in the killing of suspected spies and informers in 1920-21. This is what I argued in the paper in West Cork, contrary to Harris’s falsification of our position. In studying the revolution at large we need to distinguish between its different phases; that’s what historians do.
We are already working on covering deaths during the Truce and the Civil War and this will be published in due course, along with our analysis of those findings.
Our findings do not concur with Harris’s evidence-free version of 1919-23 (basically ‘Irish History in the Shadow of the Troubles’ in which sectarianism seems to be the only factor of consequence for the entire period and Dunmanway is repetitively invoked as proof of this for the entire revolution, which can thus be treated as a mini version of the northern troubles.
When we move away from that inaccurate perspective, using multiple sources (not just one) we will be in a better position to gain a more accurate picture of the Protestant experience of the entire revolution, which certainly needs to be told, including widespread emigration, population decline, forced departures, Protestants within the IRA etc.
School of History,
University College Cork
Eoghan Harris writes: As Dr Bielenberg charges me with being “evidence free”, let me use his own figures to prove Peter Hart was correct in seeing a sectarian side to the IRA’s pre-Truce killings of alleged spies in Cork. Dr Bielenberg says that 69pc of suspected informers killed were Catholic — which means that an astonishing 31pc were Protestant. Astonishing because the Protestants were such a small minority. The 1911 Census for Cork county shows, 91.45pc were Roman Catholic, so only 8.25pc were Protestant; in Cork city 88.84pc were Roman Catholic, so only 11.16pc were Protestant. Excluding the British Army and dependants, the Protestant minority falls to under 10pc. Going on his own figure of 31pc Protestant victims this means the 10pc Cork Protestant community was disproportionately targeted. Peter Hart — and common sense — suggest this was for sectarian reasons.
Not a pogrom
Sir — Successive writers and columnists down the years (including Kevin Myers) have mistakenly described the 1904 Limerick outbreak of harassment and boycott of the Jews as being a pogrom. Latest to use this misnomer is Eoghan Harris in his article on the Bandon Valley massacre (Sunday Independent, August 13).
The outbreak of anti-Semitism in Limerick in 1904 was indeed a disgraceful act, fuelled by Father Creagh, a bigoted Men’s Confraternity Director, but it was not a pogrom. A pogrom, according to the latest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, is an “organised massacre of an ethnic group, originally that of Jews in Russia”.
This letter is by no means a defence of the Limerick anti-semitism outbreak, but as we are constantly reminded of this blot on our city’s history, would writers such as Mr Harris, in future, please desist from using the term pogrom in describing the events in Limerick of 1904.
Eoghan Harris writes: Although History Ireland and many academic articles use the term “Limerick pogrom”, I accept Denis O Shaughnessy’s point and will not be using the term again.
Life will work out
Sir — Eilis O’Hanlon (Sunday Independent, August 20) urges middle-aged people to “leave the Leaving to the young and stop reliving the past”. She maintains that people talking about their own Leaving Certs many years previously “adds to the pressure on today’s teenagers, who must feel the while country is peering noisily over their shoulders”.
However this couldn’t be further from the truth. When older people speak about their own Leaving Cert results this creates an affinity between the generations and some young people who may have been disappointed may realise that in the overall scheme of things the majority of people find their niche in life irrespective of their Leaving Cert results.
Students have the option of repeating their exams. This may not appeal to many students at this particular time but they can also return to education as mature students after the age of 23. In this instance they may apply for a course by just obtaining the minimum entry qualifications and doing an interview.
To quote the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”. Life is long, for most people their are many twists and turns but if you really want something and are prepared to jump through whatever hoops life throws at you, things will work out in the end.
Don’t discriminate against the mothers
Sir — In response to the letter “Time for equality for all” (Sunday Independent, August 13), I would also like to ask Mr Varadkar not to discriminate against the mothers of Ireland. I too worked all my life. I was forced to give up work in the 1970s to rear my children.
I returned to work in the 1990s and am due to retire shortly, but when calculating my contributory pension they decided to average it over the years I was forced to give up and awarded me a reduced pension. I would also like to ask Mr Varadkar to reverse this very unfair act. I am a HSE worker.
Name and address with Editor
Time to arm frontline gardai
Sir — The recent terrorist attack in Spain, and previous ones, should be a wake-up call to our Government of the potential danger we face. We are assured that the security forces are ready to deal with any threat and that a police force that is mainly unarmed can be ready to respond to armed and ruthless terrorists, which is absurd.
It is clear that if the Spanish police had not been armed and responded so swiftly, the situation would have been much worse. Our Government seems to be operating on the dangerous assumption that it will not happen here. I believe our frontline gardai should be armed as a matter of urgency. Even if there was no terror threat, the number of armed gangs around the country would warrant it.
I find the silence from senior gardai on this matter strange. I know there are some rank-and-file gardai who would prefer not to be armed, but in the world we live in now, these are the tools of the trade.
Canadian lesson in our human rights
Sir — I am pleased to note that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was willing to spend at least a couple of hours discussing the matter of reproductive healthcare and access to abortion facilities with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. For far too long, Irish politicians have ignored this issue on the basis that the matter is supposedly of no interest to their constituents. The consistent evidence of repeated opinion polls shows this is not the case.
The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution denies every woman and girl in Ireland the right to decide how she is treated during pregnancy. And worse, it criminalises those who make decisions outside this restrictive constitutional framework.
The inaction by Irish politicians regarding the reproductive rights of women — which in advanced western democracies like such as Canada are rightly understood to be fundamental human rights — cannot be accepted any longer. It is therefore to be hoped thatthe Taoiseach returned from his trip committed to holding a referendum on removing the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution as soon as possible.
Sir — I refer to Philip Ryan’s excellent and topical report (Sunday Independent, August 20). Might I mention sheltered housing which is not properly recognised or available in this country. Such accommodation for elderly, and not so elderly, persons consists of private independent dwellings, with shared and communal facilities, as necessary. Residents may be tenants or owner occupiers. The Government could urgently explore this matter in their present review which Mr Ryan’s report also covered, as those who prefer remaining in their own homes need more support to do so.
Nursing home care is required by some elderly people but many others just need some basic supports. Owners may well benefit by downsizing and purchasing a sheltered housing dwelling, valuing the quality of their lives, leisure activities, and their independence.