Give older people ownership of lives
Sir - Honesty, straight-talking and a reluctance to toe the line sometimes can hamper you when you see an injustice, but never give up when you think your point is valid.
Today, we are becoming more institutionalised. It is far more important to defend the institution than protect older people. To us, that is indefensible. Older people should not be the property of any institution.
Their answer to everything is more control, more centralisation, less democracy and less democratic input and we, the older people, are the ones who are suffering. Institutions should respect and treasure the democratic decision-making of older people. We should feel ownership of our own lives.
Older people should be able to work for a few days a week after retirement age so the economy can be more productive than it has been in a more rigid society.
Today, high levels of informal employment are likely to persist in developing economies, so creating jobs is as important as spurring growth. We must invest in rural Ireland, in rural people, infrastructure, technology, social protection and keep the local shop and post office, especially so older folk can get a pint of milk and not have to travel miles for it or do without.
We need policies to close the gap that exists between the cities and the rest of rural Ireland, between the rich and the poor, between the young and the old.
We must persist in our hopes and our talents so we live in an Ireland that is safe and friendly.
Today a lot of small towns and villages are losing their young ladies to foreign fields. They are the regeneration of those towns and villages. Lose them and the show is all over.
In a sustainable community we should feel safe from crime, violence and persecution. This is why it is imperative to have garda stations in rural Ireland.
There are a few issues that bother the older people today, such as when you see that to produce you need permission from people who produce nothing. When you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in good but in favours. When you see people getting richer by grabbing and pulling than by work and your laws don't protect you against them but protects them against you.
When you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice, society is facing the dreaded day.
Moral courage is a rare commodity. It is the one vital quality for those who seek change. Every time a person stands up for an idea to improve the lot of others, they stand for a ripple of hope. Those ripples can one day bring down the mighty.
You cannot lecture others by power, it is not a game when you're using the lives of humans as pawns. The power of people is much stronger than the people in power. Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the US, once said: "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty."
Yet another stealth cut to our benefits
Sir - We received recently a very belated, though welcome, increase of €5 a week in our old age welfare payment. It was some recompense for deductions of about 15pc in that payment during the preceding austerity years. This is contrary to the official blurb that we pensioners had suffered no reduction in that period. It was achieved by stealth reductions to our benefits.
The latest is the recent decision by the dysfunctional HSE to no longer cover the prescription cost of MacuShield under the hardship scheme.
It is a supplement taken by those in danger of, or suffering from, macular degeneration (and eye disease leading to blindness). MacuShield is the UK's most recommended eye supplement. It contains three nutrients essential in the treatment of this form of eye disease.
I'm sure the HSE has not withdrawn the cover (€20 a month) on clinical, but rather on niggardly economical grounds. It is to be hoped that this disgraceful withdrawal of cover will not be a case of "the ship being lost for a ha'p'orth of tar". Another stealth reduction of a benefit - bang goes the fiver.
Who should protect our skies?
Sir - Paul Williams's report (Sunday Independent, April 2) that a secret bilateral pact between Ireland and the UK has allowed British fighter jets to operate over the State will, no doubt, ruffle a few feathers.
However, the suggestion that such a pact was negotiated without the input of the Air Corps is both bizarre and unacceptable. The GOC Air Corps, which is also director of military aviation, is the sole competent authority to advise the Government on matters of military aviation and national air defence.
Of course, it serves to remind us that the Air Corps still has no interceptor capability of its own.
In this regard, it is never acceptable that our Government might disown its responsibility to protect our skies, simply because it is not willing to provide the Air Corps with the means to do so. If other neutral countries can afford to have such a capability, why not us?
In some of my many submissions and articles on Irish defence issues, I have pointed out options on how the Air Corps could be given the necessary capability, including the relatively inexpensive option of leasing Gripen fighters from Sweden, as recently arranged by the Czech air force.
In the meantime, such co-operation with the UK makes sense, as a temporary measure, in the same way as both nations co-operate on search-and-rescue missions. It does not compromise our position of military neutrality any more than it might undermine the UK's membership of Nato.
Finally, I am bemused at the idea that the British taxpayer might be footing the bill for Irish air defence. Maybe it is not such a bad idea after all!
Colonel Dorcha Lee (retd),
Sir - With the recent scandals of the Tuam babies and other institutions, nobody has mentioned the good work the Legion of Mary has done for unmarried mothers.
I grew up in North Great George's Street in the Dublin inner city in the 1950s. At the end of the street there were five houses that the Legion of Mary owned.
They bought them to help unmarried mothers to have somewhere to live and look after their babies.
The condition of the houses was not great but it was an option instead of having to give up their babies. Most of the mothers found it hard as there was no unmarried mothers' allowance at that time.
However, a lot of the children I knew grew up to have good lives thanks to the Legion of Mary.
Lack of compassion for those sad parents
Sir - On reading Anthony J Jordan's article (Sunday Independent, April 2), I was heartened by the successful outcome of his quest to prove Antonia Marie was baptised. He must have been greatly relieved.
There was such a lack of compassion and understanding by the Church for parents of unbaptised children. For years, the latter was refused a Christian burial in consecrated grounds. Abandoned by the clergy, it was left to distraught parents to clandestinely bury these pitiful outcasts in unmarked graves.
Parents found little consolation in knowing their loved ones were in limbo. Their babies were barred for ever sharing in God's happiness. More distressing, they would never be reunited with them in the next life.
Since Vatican II, limbo has been quietly dropped. There is no mention in the 1992 catechism. The modern Church, however, has not unequivocally distanced itself from the 'theological hypothesis'.
In today's liturgy, unbaptised babies are entrusted to the mercy of God in the hope they may be saved. There are reasons for prayerful hope rather than theological certainty.
Catholics who die in the state of grace or subsequently atone for a sinful past in purgatory will find happiness with God. The Church is so confident people are in Heaven it has elevated many to the status of sainthood.
St Augustine, a reformed sinner, was baptised late in life. He had great difficulty with the concept of unbaptised children sharing eternal life with God. He is one of the greatest Catholic saints.
It is such a shame the Church feels in this instance it hasn't the authority to say for definite what happens to innocent unbaptised babies.
Credit to Anthony for honest account
Sir - What a poignant and moving story by Anthony J Jordan - 'Long fight for truth about the baby my wife never saw' (Sunday Independent, April 2). He spoke so clearly and honestly about his quest to find out if his child was baptised after the hospital concerned took over the burial arrangements for the child who was born there. His wife never got to see the child, but he had, in the incubator in which it was placed for its short time on earth.
His subsequent search for what happened to the remains and whether the baby was baptised made for wonderful reading, and so much credit is due to Anthony for his wonderful description of his battle for justice.
It has brought to attention once again the fate of so many babies who were stillborn or died after birth, and whether they were baptised or not.
Anthony writes that in 1977 Bishop Lucey of Cork stated that children who died and were not baptised would never see God.
The graves of those unfortunate children can be seen in many villages throughout Ireland, in unconsecrated ground, a mystery to so many people, but a throwback to the Church's teaching of the time. So what is to be taken from Jesus and his statement, "Suffer little children to come unto me". Of course, the souls of those children went straight up to Heaven, it not being their fault when or how they died without baptism. So thanks, Anthony, for your most enlightening story, how you and your wife coped with your grief and sorrow and how you persevered until you found comfort in the knowledge that Antonia Marie was baptised.
A poorer society as Cooper retires
Sir - After watching the myriad skills of Kerry's Colm Cooper for the past 17 years, news of his immediate retirement from inter-county football at the relatively young age of 33 will be met with much regret by supporters and players of all counties and sporting organisations in Ireland and abroad.
Not just the GAA, but Irish society will be the poorer on his retirement.
His haul of trophies and awards is almost unrivalled in the modern game. What a pity Colm didn't wait until after the Allianz National Football League Final featuring Kerry against Dublin to retire. He would have increased his awards tally with a runners-up medal.
Colm Cooper is part of the current generation of GAA players in rural townlands, villages, towns and cities, and exclusively on the basis of volunteer participation, that turned the GAA into one of the world's largest and most successful amateur sporting organisations.
This generation does not own the GAA, no one does.
We are just the current custodians of this organisation whose sporting and cultural assets are worth guarding zealously. We have a collective duty to future generations to pass on this heritage as it was passed on to us, untainted and unsullied by individual or corporate greed. May I wish Colm well and a heartfelt thank you.
Don't leave Easter out of the egg hunt
Sir - Cadbury's apparent omission of the word 'Easter' from traditional egg hunt events in the UK is another example of political correctness gone mad.
I'm not a big fan of organised religion. I warmly applauded the courage of Salman Rushdie in writing The Satanic Verses, a book that offended many Muslims, though that wasn't the author's intention.
But I equally applauded the makers of the film Life of Brian, which poked fun at aspects of Christianity, and I wrote letters to newspapers decrying the attitude of some Catholic priests who prohibited the singing of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (a song from the film) at funerals.
I'm not anti-religious. I acknowledge the contribution of all faiths and belief systems and the commendable codes of ethics they have developed and bequeathed to humanity. But being afraid to say "Happy Easter" or "Happy Christmas" is unhealthy in a society that purports to be democratic and committed to religious freedom.
I believe that ALL religions should be free to celebrate their beliefs and special feast days or festivals without interference from any rival or different religious groupings.
I would extend that right to atheists and agnostics. They could have their 'Happy I don't believe in any God day' and 'Happy I don't know what to believe day' respectively.
The faction I don't like at all is the political correctness one. Still, to be consistent, I would suggest setting aside one day of the 365 in the year for them too, on which an appropriate slogan could be emblazoned on supermarket products, billboards, and in assorted public places. It could read: "Happy PC day… Now F*** off!"
Rich List millions could fight poverty
Sir - It made me cringe when I read the Rich List (Sunday Independent, April 2). The total wealth of the top 300 in a small country like Ireland amounts to over €100bn.
The whole scenario was presented as an admirable and praiseworthy achievement for those concerned.
While the work and effort involved in achieving this certainly deserves praise, the accumulation of this amount of wealth does not, in view of the poverty, hunger and torture that exists in the world today.
Why on earth would anybody need a million euro, not to mention a billion? Think of all the poverty one billion euro would eliminate in Sudan or Ethiopia or any other third world country.
People with this amount of money should think twice about this, and think of the satisfaction they would achieve if only they put some of their millions into providing food and shelter for these unfortunate people whose lives at present are so miserable.
Honest opinions on McGuinness
Sir - Thank you for your excellent articles regarding the life and death of Martin McGuinness; your columnists displayed an excellent opinion of the non-apologist terrorist (Sunday Independent, March 26).
Writers such as Eoghan Harris, Fergal Keane, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Eilis O'Hanlon, Brendan O'Connor and the many letter writers expressed honest views.
It was wrong of our President to attend this funeral, and to have our national flag flown at half-mast in Dail Eireann, for a man who went to his grave without a morsel of regret or the word 'sorry'.
Gerry Adams is trying his damnedest to rewrite history, let him not be allowed, with the press challenging him every time.
We must never forget the real men and woman of peace.
North Circular Road,