Give garda chief a break
Sir — It was gratifying to see one brave journalist (Sunday Independent, November 27) draw attention to the continuous vilification of my former colleague and now current garda commissioner, Noirin O’Sullivan, by people who are not worthy to tie her shoelaces, aided of course by many reporters forever ready to put the boot in.
While I was a serving member, she was a hard-working member of then ‘Mockies’ in Store Street, who was never afraid to go in among the druggies, who often swallowed the drugs to avoid detection.
I remember she would go into the cells with them, and wait for nature to take its course, which many of her critics nowadays would never undertake. She then had the task of sifting through this mess with her bare hands. This was before the invention of the apparatus which now segregates the drugs from their surroundings. She also did this awful task with a smile on her pleasant face, which she retains to the present day.
Are her detractors aware of this? Give her some respite.
John N Barry,
Malahide, Co Dublin
Echoes of Simon and Garfunkel
Sir — Thanks to Brendan O’Connor for his enjoyable article, ‘We all came, to look for America’ (Living, Sunday Independent, November 27).
It made me wish I could have been there.
I wanted to let you know of an incident at an earlier concert which echoes some of Brendan’s comments.
We were visiting Dublin in July 2004, and my wife, our daughter and I went to the Simon and Garfunkel concert at the RDS. The concert was good but some of the higher notes were either omitted or should have been.
On the way out my wife and I were in among a group of people younger than us. One young Dublin wit looking at us askance (you could see that he was thinking, “They’re a bit old to be at an open-air concert”), and said loudly: “Jayz, you must remember the originals!”
Thank you again for an enjoyable read.
Long mission puts IRA record straight
Sir — There has been discussion on sectarianism in Ireland 1911-22 in your paper, and, I feel, some clarification would help.
My wife, Joan, and I have been working for about five years on CO 762, a file in the UK’s National Archives in Kew, Surrey. It contains claims of people who suffered after the Truce (July 11, 1921) because of their religious or political views.
The file records the work of the Irish Distress Committee (1922-3) and the Irish Claims Committee (1923-30) and is contained in 3,632 files in 200 boxes. We now have a database of 4,023 files and almost 16,000 photographs (Joan has a callous on her camera finger).
The database is searchable under 11 headings, not including religion, but does include a summary of each claim.
I have read each claim. There were regional variations in the cause of complaint. But let’s briefly take Cork.
East Cork claims, possibly due to barrack towns like Youghal, were largely about boycotting small businesses which sold sweets, cigarettes and alcohol to soldiers.
The Mizen Peninsula claims involved compulsory billeting by armed men on the run arriving at the homes of lone bachelors and spinsters, very often non-Catholic, late at night demanding food and a bed.
There is a strong indication that many of these visitors were not house-trained and the bedding had to be incinerated after the event.
The murderous campaign in Bride and Bandon Valleys has been fairly well documented in recent years and Gerard Murphy has covered the Cork city variations on the theme — Masons, YMCAs, all fair game.
But I feel that one of the most poignant and relevant statements was in Eoghan Harris’s RTE film An Tost Fada when Canon George Salter told the story of the old IRA man who called George’s father to his deathbed to seek forgiveness for the murder of people of his “flock” — surely an admission of sectarianism.
As one who grew up in a Republican household (1935-55), and was a FF supporter into the 1970s, I regret what I then stood for. But we hope our work will ensure that future generations will not lack for historical evidence of sectarian and tribal agendas on the IRA side.
Cal and Joan Hyland,
Rosscarbery, West Cork
Bishop should set an example
Sir — The Bishop of Elphin (Sunday Independent, November 27) may be unaware that Syria has more than half-a-million Palestinian refugees, and has been under occupation and attack by the Israeli regime for decades.
He may also not know that the Syrian bishops have asked Europe to end its sanctions on Syria.
Syrian Christians have been protected by their secular government, and are grateful for this protection.
Syria had a Christian population of 1pc before the civil war. Israel has reduced its Christian Palestinian population to less than 2pc, due to its brutal oppression. Russia, a deeply Christian country, is assisting the Syrian government in defending its diverse citizens from terrorists funded by the apartheid regime and others.
Perhaps the bishop should follow Pope Francis’s example and invite some Syrian Palestinian refugees to stay in his official residence? This is the sort of Christian example we need, not his useless and dangerous words.
Dr Joseph O’Neill,
Hamilton Street, Chester
Bertie’s digging a bit too deep
Sir — As dig-outs go, Bertie Ahern’s invitation to return to the Fianna Fail party by a motion passed at a constituency meeting is one excavation a little too deep for some.
It must definitely be the silly season.
New Ross, Co Wexford
Many will not mourn tyrant Castro's death
Sir - In his comments on Fidel Castro's regime (Sunday Independent, November 27), Michael D Higgins stated that: "The economic and social reforms introduced were at the price of a restriction of civil society, which brought its critics."
Where were the critics brought afterwards?
I'm pretty certain that it wasn't the Hotel Copacabana.
Could our President, who is normally alarmingly articulate on these matters, come up with a less robust response when alluding to Castro's appalling record on human rights?
He could have been talking about planning difficulties, or the regulations pertaining to hedge trimming, or slurry spreading in the tourist season in my native West Kerry.
The Cuban leader was a tyrant, a benevolent one, as tyrants go, but a tyrant nonetheless.
Like many of these ogres, he had a predilection for nepotism. In an act that would have caused Brian O'Nolan to chuckle, Fidel, in his late 80s, handed the steering wheel of the state over to his brother. No fuss. As the comedian Tommy Cooper would say: ''Just like that.''
Nine days of national mourning were declared in Cuba, but I'm quite sure there are many victims of his abuse of power who won't be mourning their deceased despot.
Our President regards Castro as "a giant among world leaders". I beg to differ.
Ashtown, Dublin 7
Higgins' eulogy on dictator all wrong
Sir - I refer to President Higgins's eulogy (Sunday Independent, November 27) on Fidel Castro.
A couple of questions: does he approve of Castro's comrade in arms, the murdering psychopath Che Guevara?
And can he tell us how many Americans died while attempting to cross the stretch of water which separates Florida from Cuba, in order to escape the American capitalist hell to get to the promised land of the workers' paradise?
Cavan, Co Cavan
President's farcical Fidel political gaffe
Sir - I feel President Higgins made a political error in his fulsome praise of Fidel Castro following the Cuban's demise. His statement came very shortly after the announcement and it seems like a knee-jerk reaction and shows his true political colours and leaning.
The statement smacks of innate hypocrisy. A simple message of condolence to the Cuban people would have been more appropriate.
The President should be reminded that he is an elected president of a democratic republic, with a fully functioning Constitution which treasures freedom and liberty. Therefore, he should be mindful of that fact and reflect this in any statement he makes and not praise a dictator in the terms he has.
He has ignored his constitutional responsibility by issuing a statement that is clearly in breach of that responsibility.
Old Bawn, Dublin 24
Cuban leader was a secret peacemaker
Sir - I refer to the item which criticised comments that were made by President Higgins on the passing of Cuban leader Fidel Castro (Sunday Independent, November 27).
The President's comments are more informed than those of his critics, as he referred to Cuban citizens who have benefited from health, education and other areas which were sadly missing under the previous corrupt dictator, Fulgencio Batista.
Perhaps the world only got to see one side of Castro because the peacemaker side of him died with the assassination of US President John F Kennedy.
People will remember the delicate relations between America, Cuba and Russia after the Bay of Pigs disaster in April 1961 and more so by the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 when the world sat on tenterhooks as to whether a nuclear war was about to erupt.
President Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev ignored their military advisers and averted confrontation. The Cuban missiles were removed and America removed its military threat to Russia from Hungary. The leaders chose the peace option instead of war.
Following the above events, Kennedy and Khrushchev communicated by private letters. The two old enemies were looking at what they had in common and were seeking a better relationship between the two great powers.
Khrushchev also encouraged Castro to talk to Kennedy and a series of communications via intermediaries commenced between Kennedy and Castro in the months prior to Kennedy's assassination. Castro expressed interest in speaking with Kennedy with a view to re-establishing diplomatic relations with America - this was to the backdrop of the CIA seeking to assassinate Castro.
On the very day Kennedy was assassinated, Castro had a meeting with the intermediary to advance the contact between himself and Kennedy. When Kennedy was killed, the talks between Castro and Washington died. Castro made attempts to continue the communication with President Lyndon Johnson but never received any response to his approaches. Had President Kennedy not been assassinated, it is very possible that America and Cuba would have re-established diplomatic relations and the world would have seen a different side to Castro - a peacemaking side. Instead, Cold War politics resumed and the rest is history.
Bart D Daly,
Mount Merrion, Co Dublin
Let's live for today and not in the past
Sir - That was a most moving story and a powerful piece of writing from Barry Egan (Sunday Independent, November 27) in last week's paper. It brought back memories to me of how I helped reconcile a father-daughter and a father-son before it was too late. I wrote a song with Don Mescall called Precious Words and it will make you cry, but it will also help you to know that you are not alone. Don's dad dropped dead beside him at a hurling match when Don was only six years of age. He didn't even get a shot at it.
Life is short and brutal. All that matters is today.
Profound article touched my heart
Sir - Barry Egan's article, 'I talk to God but the sky is empty - especially at Christmas time' (Sunday Independent, November 27), was the most profound piece on grief and loss I have ever read. Thank you, Barry, for putting into words something so personal and real.
Chaplain David Keating,
Lonely hearts and an absence of light
Sir - The cry of the heart emanating from Barry Egan's article, 'I talk to God but the sky is empty - especially at Christmas' (Sunday Independent, November 27), brings us close, I believe, to the original meaning of Christmas itself.
It is a cry that articulates the deep human loneliness which steals into the hearts of so many of us during these bleak winter months of November, December and January.
We not only feel the absence of light during these dark days, but often, too, the absence of love, and the absence of loved ones. And while it is true, yes, that the head seeks an answer to the question of innocent suffering and death, and rightly so, it is the human heart, like a child in the night, that asks the deeper and more urgent question: "Mammy, daddy, are you there?"
For the adult, this question becomes simply, but more profoundly: "Am I alone?'' The dignity of the human person needs more than a festival of light and good cheer in order to penetrate such inner loneliness.
What the Christian message offers us at Christmas is an encounter with a living presence that is "the light of mankind, a light that shines in the dark, a light that the darkness cannot overcome" (John 1:5). The Christ child is God's assurance to us that, "I am with you always, yes, to the end of time" (Matthew 28:20).
Fr Freddy Warner SMA,
God desires only what is good for us
Sir - In the interests of truth, I feel that I must stand up for the Judeo-Christian God, who believers, such as I, call Father.
Two separate feature articles in the Sunday Independent last week (November 27) make the case that diseases like cancer come directly from God.
The late Dermot Morgan's son, Ben, claimed: ''If there is a God, he hates me... why would he give me cancer?" Your regular columnist Barry Egan spoke of God "handing out another dose of cancer to a baby".
I'm sure both of these misguided gentlemen have their own good reasons for attributing nastiness to God, but I assure them, as a person who has spent his whole life seeking to know, love and serve that same God, that He is a loving Father, who loves each of us exactly as we are, and who desires only what is good for us.
Scripture tells us in unequivocal terms that sickness and disease have come into the world through sin, and against the direct wishes of God.
It is true that God allows sickness and disease to flourish in our world, according as sin multiplies, but this is a price mankind pays for the gift of genuine free will.
Rosses Point, Co Sligo