Sir - So what if our former Taoiseach Enda Kenny has not had a recent hair cut, and was sporting a full-grown beard on his return to his local golf course last week?
Perhaps he could not find a barbers open during the recent lockdown, or maybe in keeping with his relaxed lifestyle nowadays, has decided to adopt the scruffy look.
For a man who got up early every morning during his long political career - and always presented himself in immaculate dress - this is a major sea-change in dress code.
However, no one has ever pulled the wool over our Enda's eyes, and the bald facts are, whatever attire he decides to use in retirement, is neither 'hair' nor there.
Cloonacool, Co Sligo
Generations that shared a view of life
Sir - As I sat looking out of the window on a silent Covid Saturday morning, enjoying the full flavour of my coffee in a sunny pastoral setting, I thought about my grandfather, his grandfather and his grandfather, all of whom looked out on the same view that I now embraced.
I wondered what they enjoyed on a Saturday morning: a mug of warm milk fresh from the cow perhaps, or a newly laid egg freshly boiled. Surely, each one of them, of each generation, had a special moment in the week when they just sat there and absorbed their abundant environment. They did not need a coronavirus to open their eyes to those moments.
Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick
Eurovision, douze points!
Sir — What the heck is it about Eurovision?
I don’t consider myself cheesy, but I think I must have been a very cheesy child. Ever since I can remember, I used to count down the hours on Eurovision Saturdays.
I’d watch avidly, noting my own scores and comments on each song. We used to tape it at home in the 1970s on a reel-to-reel tape. In the 1980s we’d video it and watch the performances over and over, often trying to copy them ourselves, dressing up, dancing, miming, imagining.
We would try to pick our favourites, like choosing from a box of Milk Tray.
Recently, we have had rain and sun from the heavens but a drought from the other elements — no early summer barbeques, no club hurling, no plays, concerts or festivals. There’s no going out to browse for sandals, or communion dresses, or anything else that feeds a human being.
Now we are programmed not to touch, not to sneeze, not to cough. Watch your neighbour — not to covet his goods or his wife but to make sure he doesn’t have visitors.
Well anyway, in the middle of all this gloom, the 2020 Eurovision was just lovely! Nobody won but everybody won. Well done, well done.
Tulla, Co Clare
We must halt the pandemic profiteers
Sir — It is inevitable that there will be a number of individuals and organisations prepared to exploit the effects of the pandemic for selfish and greedy purposes. However, I had not expected such mercenary efforts so soon and so blatantly.
Given its behaviour before and during the economic crisis of just over a decade ago, it’s not very surprising to find that the construction industry, the light-touch regulation enthusiasts, are one of the first ‘‘out of the blocks’’. To read that new safety measures may lead to a 40pc increase in the cost of the children’s hospital and that the cost of building a house could rise by €15,000 and an apartment by €20,000 is detestable.
This kind of wilfully vague chicanery must be ‘‘called out’’ for its opportunistic and intimidating ‘roadmapping’ and immediately renounced because there will be many ready to jump on the bandwagon with no concern for the rehabilitation of this State and its people.
St Thomas’ Sq, Kilkenny
Lives come first, not the economy
Sir — Anthony Hanrahan, citing fellow older person Eoghan Harris in support, proposes that the “economy” should not be allowed to “stagnate simply to save a few ould fellas like myself” (Letters, Sunday Independent, May 17).
When pared back to the basics, this proffers the idea that the economy must take precedence over everything else. What is being suggested here is that life itself is subordinate to the needs of the economy — or at least the life of older citizens who are expected to expose themselves to lethal harm in its service. The idea is, of course, preposterous and is most likely put forward in an attempt to bring some light relief as we all struggle with these dark days that Covid-19 has brought.
That said, we need to be careful when thinking aloud about our current plight. There is only one thing that a bad politician likes more than a scapegoat, and that is a sacrificial lamb.
A story of dignity and humanity
Sir — I just wanted to say “Go raibh maith agaibh” to your newspaper for the articles and photos last Sunday about our nursing homes. You have given back their dignity and humanity to the residents; for too long they have been treated as dehumanised statistics or as a problem to be dealt with.
They were given a voice to articulate their own stories, fears, and hopes. What I find shocking is that nursing home residents make up roughly 0.6pc of Ireland’s population, but about 55pc of our deaths from Covid-19. Maybe our Government should not be so smug when comparing our response to the pandemic with that of our neighbours in Britain and other countries?
Also, “Go raibh maith agaibh” to the nursing homes’ staff. You are in the frontline, keeping our family members safe and well, during the time when we cannot visit. Look after yourselves and your families. And most importantly, “Go raibh maith agaibh” to the residents themselves. For your faith, good humour, “sanctified common sense”, wisdom and patience while you await the end of the pandemic, and visits from your family again. You have a lot to teach the rest of society; if only we’d listen!
Liam O Macdha,
Ros Eo, Co Bhaile Atha Cliath
GAA may still be a force for detente
Sir — Martin McAreavey writes that my letter about Joe Brolly’s recent article suggests that there are two GAAs — one in the North and one in the Republic.
To put Mr McAreavey’s mind at ease, there is still just the one. Alone it stands. However, the association has a different profile in the two jurisdictions. It is the preserve of the minority community in the North, while in the South it is, in the best sense of the word, broadly populist.
This difference is why former Tyrone great Sean Cavanagh was vilified for having the temerity to mention that Northern Ireland is part of the UK. Once upon a time, there was no shortage of the ‘‘mullahs’’ in the South either — I remember during the ‘‘ban’’ Con Houlihan saying that attending a game of rugby “could get a member of the GAA cast into exterior darkness”.
For the moment the GAA is a bit away from being a force for detente between the two communities in the North — but that scenario could change, just like the association has changed. And by the time Mr McAreavey’s Antrim reach another All-Ireland in hurling — which I hope is not too far away — there could be a scramble for tickets on the Shankill Road.
Blackhorse Ave, Dublin 7
Be sensible and keep your distance
Sir — No doubt I will be judged as a begrudger and told to “get a life” — but I was shocked at the lack of social distancing around south Co Dublin last weekend.
It was like party central. The pier was packed and there were huge crowds milling about.
Early on Sunday, I turned back from my favourite bathing area as it was so crowded you would have had to get changed half way up the steps.
On telling people this on the way back up, they continued their descent with their kids.
By 8.30am last Monday, there were already queues the whole way around the hardware store.
And it is not teens but more mature people who are disregarding the social distancing…like the few people who have been saying every morning to me that it was easy to get over the barriers to swim.
There are not enough garda cars to be everywhere. A bit of common sense has to prevail.
Mentally, I don’t think our elderly would have the stamina to go back to stage one of this again — and I think it is also important to keep everyone with underlying conditions in mind. By all means go out and enjoy the weather but let’s be sensible.
Name and address with editor
Golf club is still alive and well
Sir — I read with interest the article by Dermot Gilleece on golf club problems where he mentions the demise of certain clubs — and in particular the one in Balla, Co Mayo.
Well, Balla Golf Club has not disappeared. The club moved to a new location in 1925 and was played on until World War II started in 1939. They were also the inaugural winners of the County Cup in 1929.
Today, Balla Golf Club has been changed to one of the best and most picturesque 18-hole par 3 courses in the country and we still like to think of ourselves as the most sporting golfing community in the world. Dermot, you’ll be welcome anytime.
Danny Lyons (captain 2019),
Balla, Co Mayo
Rich irony from our politicians
Sir — One has to smile when two of our best-paid caretaker politicians say ‘‘there is no such thing as free money’’.
Rathcoole, Co Wicklow
Later confirmation is an adult decision
Sir — “A generation may never make their confirmation” is the very apt headline on Wayne O’Connor article (Sunday Independent, May 17), pointing out the strategic difficulties in carrying out confirmations this year before children leave national school for secondary school.
As a former Catholic secondary school teacher who served in three dioceses in south-east England, my experience has shown me many of the positives of delaying confirmation until the age of 15, when 60pc to 70pc of young Catholics opt for the sacrament.
What happened to those who did not opt for the adult commitment of confirmation at 15? In their early and mid-20s and later, a great many took part in parish-based RCIA programmes, sometimes coinciding with marriage preparation. Approximately 1,000 adult Londoners have received confirmation at Easter ceremonies each year for the last 10 years.
Is now the time for Irish dioceses to move from what Pope Francis once called “the sacrament of farewell” to the creation of the sacrament of adulthood?
Killarney, Co Kerry
The cost saving of having no exams
Sir — While all eyes were on the will-they-won’t-they moves by the ASTI regarding the Leaving Cert, I found myself thinking it would be interesting to find out the huge amount the Department of Education is going to save by cancelling both State examinations this summer. There are many aspects to this:
+ Payment to supervisors of all practical work;
+ Invigilation payments for the actual annual exams — both the presence of invigilators and their travelling expenses;
+ Payment to assistant examiners which averages €2,500-€4000 at Junior Cert and €3,500-€6,000 at Leaving Cert. Higher averages go to advising examiners, senior advising examiners and chief advising examiners;
+ Department payment for registered postage in sending scripts to and from assistant and advising examiners and the exam centre at Cornamaddy;
+ Payment for rechecks, although small by comparison, is accountable.
Approximately 60,000 would have sat the Junior Cert and the same for Leaving Cert. Candidates at Junior Cert take, on average, nine to 13 subjects and at Leaving Cert six to eight. There are higher and ordinary levels in the majority of
subjects and a minority at foundation level.
Take one core Junior Cert subject level which would include 80-100 assistant examiners, 10-12 advising examiners, one senior advising examiner and one chief advising examiner. Multiply that by the number of subjects and levels and you will get the picture.
Gowran, Co Kilkenny
Being productive isn’t always easy
Sir — Stefanie Preissner always starts her column with the question “Is it just me, or...?”
In one of her very honest and excellent articles entitled “I coped, that’s it” she asks whether she is the only one feeling bad for not making the most of their downtime? She even goes so far as to “make myself feel inferior even during a global pandemic”.
I have no doubt many of us would relate to feeling the same. For example, my aim was to have read at least five books by now. Dream on.
Glenties, Co Donegal
Virus has more than human cost
Sir — Here are some simple numbers that might give us some perspective.
Ireland has had 1,600 Covid-19 deaths. Our deficit this year, due to Covid-19, according to Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will be €30bn.
That’s €18.75m for each death.
Rathbeggan, Co Meath