Government still refuses to see why we choose to protest
Politicians and some sections of the media have recently been telling me why, for the first time in my 50-odd years, I recently walked in protest against the Government. Apparently I was there because of a "lack of communication" and I was suffering from a "lack of clarity" on the issue of Irish Water.
Allow me the space to "clarify" and "communicate" with those politicians who apparently have the insight - some might call it arrogance - to be able to inform me of my motivations for protesting. The charge for water can't be seen in isolation, because this new tax (and it is a tax) comes out of the same wage packet as all the other taxes heaped upon us by this Government under Enda Kenny. The Government was given a mandate by us to stand by their promises to reform the body politic and protect this country and economy from the predations of the international financial community and the so-called 'austerity' programme proposed by the EU.
Not only did Kenny's Government fail to do this, it actively conspired with the banks and the EU to implement these same measures.
Can we now ignore all the years of accumulated emotional and political baggage around the 1916 Proclamation? Just look at what it says: "We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible . . . The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally."
Are we not entitled to this, after so many years of self-serving politicians paying lip-service to such high ideals? And to those who would scoff at such an idea, who would dismiss such talk as pipe-dream idealism, I would say that without idealism, without those dreams, we forsake a vital part of our humanity and have truly been defeated and become soulless slaves serving an inhuman economic machine.
Most founding states rightly begin by stating such noble aspirations and measure their success by how close they come to achieving them - in much the same way that, as individuals, we aspire to embody all the noble human virtues. We accept these virtues may be impractical or even unattainable, but it is the holding dear of, and the struggle to remain close to, such ideals which gives our lives real purpose.
These ideals of citizenhood are not the property or sole province of any race.
They don't get votes in an election. But their protection and promotion nourishes the soul of a nation. I refuse to give up on these high ideals.
As things stand, the quality of our political leadership is summed up in a few lines from the poem 'The Secret People' by GK Chesterton:
"They have given us into the hand of the new unhappy lords,
"Lords without anger and honour, who dare not carry their swords.
"They fight by shuffling paper; they have bright red alien eyes;
"They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.
"And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs.
"Their doors are shut in the evening; and they know no songs."
This is why I recently walked the streets of my town in protest.
Dungarvan, Co Waterford
Lessons from the Celtic Tiger
The first serious signs of economic growth since the death of the Celtic Tiger do not call for unconditional celebration, as economic recovery does not imply equitable distribution of the fruits of growth.
Many economists see inequality as the price we pay for growth, whilst others find little overall relationship between inequality in wealth and rates of growth.
What seems more obvious to me is the negative impact of the relationship between levels of individual wealth and access to political power and to productive resources.
Governments have to trust their civil servants and advisers in making economic decisions.
They work with the very inexact science of economics, where significant margins of error characterise their efforts. By the very nature of the job, governments can get things badly wrong.
There are two separate threads to economic life.
On the one hand, we have the finance sector involved in gambling with money; on the other hand, we have innovative entrepreneurs creating new businesses, new products and jobs to go with them.
Though the small to medium-sized enterprises (here I include farming) form the backbone of the economy, rewards in the finance sector are increasingly disproportionate and undeserving.
This arises from the concentration of political and market power in the finance sector, rather than from the sector's greater contribution to economic growth.
In the Celtic Tiger years, the wealth of the country was hijacked by the ineptly regulated failing banks, with the collusion of some senior politicians and business barons, leaving a carcass for the rest to pick over.
This is the setting where our young people feel powerless and at a loss as to know where their lives are taking them.
Many leave the sorting house of school with little hope of employment or a place in third level institutions.
This is a very debasing world, where so many struggle to preserve their dignity and self-confidence.
Oxford, OX1 4B, England
Politics is still a man's world
I note that in her article (Irish Independent November 24) Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald didn't mention the name of one other woman in the entire world who provides an example of the type of female leadership she is talking about when she called for more women in politics.
There have been plenty of female leaders in all sorts of different countries - particularly in countries were equality is vastly below any western country - yet when it boils down to it, are any of those women any different to the men they replaced. Are the lives of women in India, Pakistan or elsewhere any better for having had women leaders?
In the case of Ireland, what type of woman does she mean when she says she is creating a 'talent bank' of women to serve on state boards, presumably for positions that are never advertised and appointed following a public and transparent process?
Some change that'll be, and what's the bet that all of the women chosen will just happen to have links with Fine Gael and Labour.
Perhaps the reason the Irish public is not as keen, as Ms Fitzgerald would like, on choosing candidates based on their gender, is because there is no evidence, in the Irish context at least, that the women who do get through the political system turn out to be any different to the men.
The various women who held senior office over the last two or three decades are as responsible for the mess the country is in as any of their male counterparts who protect us from more women like Heather Humphreys.
Canary Wharf, London