Friday 15 November 2019

Infertility aid would increase birth rate

Country music legend Big Tom McBride
Country music legend Big Tom McBride
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Sir - I would like to comment on Philip Ryan's article (Sunday Independent, April 15) about Minister Katherine Zappone's introduction of 'baby boxes' to all parents of newborn babies in our maternity hospitals.

This initiative is part of the Government's development of a 'baby boom strategy' aimed at increasing birth rates to counteract the increasing economic demands posed by the country's ageing population. According to the article, the minister is examining a wide range of new policies to encourage families to have more children, due to declining birth rates in the country. Apparently, a high-level taskforce led by Minister Zappone is examining a wide range of new policies to encourage families to have more children.

Perhaps if the minister and her Cabinet colleagues considered supporting the thousands of couples in Ireland who are unable to have children of their own, it could go in part to solving the decline in birth rates.

The cost of fertility treatment is prohibitive for many as they are forced to attend clinics privately. There is no official register of people who suffer with infertility problems in Ireland, and despite the promises of the current and previous Ministers for Health, legislation has not yet been introduced. Thousands of people have been let down over the years due to the failure of our public representatives to address this issue.

Surely a way to help solve the problem of declining birth rates would be to subsidise fertility treatment through our health service and provide the proper support to those who are unable, through no fault of their own, to have children?

Cllr Deirdre Donnelly,

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, County Council,

Co Dublin


Abortion is no way to get a baby boom

Sir - Your heading 'State's baby boom strategy in bid to increase birth rate' (Sunday Independent, April 15) was startling in view of the efforts now being made to legalise abortion here up to 12 weeks of pregnancy through the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Is it not somewhat ironic that Ministers Zappone, Doherty, Harris and Bruton, who have been active in supporting repeal of the Eighth, are now setting out to ensure an increase in our birth rate?

Would it not be more beneficial and more honest to support those with crisis pregnancies rather than offer the solution of abortion, the deliberate killing of the baby?

If Ireland votes to remove the only protection in the Constitution for babies in the womb, it will undermine the message that all life is precious and worthy of all necessary support.

Rather than 'baby boxes', could we have supports put in place to ensure that unborn babies are not denied the right to life, the most fundamental right of all, but are valued and protected as the weakest and most vulnerable in our society? Anything less will do untold harm to our reputation as a caring society.

Surely we will, as the only country in the world giving an opportunity to vote on the issue of abortion, not succumb to the multi-billion abortion industry and allow legislation for the killing of innocent babies in the womb?

Mary Stewart,

Donegal Town


Irony of minister's view is astonishing

Sir - I was astonished to learn that the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, "is examining a wide range of new policies to encourage families to have more children" (Sunday Independent, April 15).

This is the same person who is a stalwart of the Repeal movement. So on the one hand, she wants an increase in the birth rate, and on the other, she is calling for the legalisation of abortion. Is she even aware of the bitter irony?

Eric Maughan,


Co Cavan


We can't disregard our democracy

Sir - I have heard and seen a lot of comments recently like 'Would you trust a politician?', 'Politicians will do whatever suits them' and similar phrases from campaigners who want to retain the Eighth Amendment in the Constitution. They are telling citizens that the politicians they elected to legislate on their behalf should be ignored and that people or bodies who are not accountable to the electorate and who cannot be recalled democratically should decide on whether the Eighth Amendment stays or goes.

I find this trend very worrying. It seems to me that it rubbishes democracy and that it is disturbingly in line with the notion of a 'managed democracy' where someone who 'knows better than the rest of us' makes the decisions. We are seeing examples of this loss of democratic rights in many parts of the world.

I have often criticised the record of various governments in failing to provide for basic social needs, such as housing or medical care, and been disappointed by election results.

But even when it didn't suit my way of thinking, I have accepted voters' decisions.

I have never argued against the validity of their vote or that it should be ignored.

At times, I have supported democratic campaigns to persuade people to change their views and their votes.

I support taking the Eighth Amendment out of the Constitution and leaving it for a woman and her doctor to decide what is best.

I respect other people's right to differ but think we should all unite in protecting our electoral democracy from being weakened by people who want to disregard the mandate of elected representatives when it doesn't suit them.

I am very grateful to the people who gave their lives in the past to secure the vote for me.

I don't intend to give it up any time soon.

Peigin Doyle,


Co Sligo


Supporting repeal is not anti-life

Sir - When the people who oppose the repeal of the Eighth Amendment are called 'pro-life', it angers me. I can feel my jaw clenching, my stomach churning every time I see or hear it.

Why? Because the fact that I support a Yes vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment classes me as not 'pro-life'. I donate blood regularly. I am a registered organ donor. I volunteer my time every year as a cycle marshal on the Cycle against Suicide.

But, still, I am not considered 'pro-life'.

I've never had an abortion. There was a time when the Eighth Amendment could have cost me my life, but now I am very lucky to be in a position to be able to love and care for a child if I were to be pregnant.

However, if my husband and I found ourselves in a crisis pregnancy as a result of a fatal foetal abnormality or a risk to my health or life, then we would want to be able to receive care and compassion in our own country rather than face exile.

Does that really mean I am not 'pro-life'? I do not believe so,

Sorcha McPhillips,


Co Monaghan


Big Tom's impact

Sir - As Big Tom, above, had more of a positive impact on the mental and physical wellbeing, health, welfare, happiness and entertainment of more people and over a much longer period, a lifetime, than most, and perhaps all presidents or taoisigh, he should have had a State funeral.

And he paid his way always.

No free meals, free liquids, no freebies, nothing unpaid or put on tabs or on the never never for the taxpayer again to pick up the tab and pay.

RIP, Big Tom McBride.

Margaret Walshe,


Dublin 15


Ode to Big Tom McBride


Big Tom is gone

With him the songs

That lived in the hearts

Of those far away


A village or place

Few may have heard

A place that you loved

A place you were reared


The 4 roads and Gentle Mother

Reminding us all that

We’re going out the way that we came in


Tom was a simple man

No corners or big opinions of himself

The ordinary man and woman loved his songs

The Sunday dance packed to the doors

These were more than fans

He was someone they adored!

Lie easy Tom McBride

You brought so much pride

To your County and your Country

A big man standing up on stage

Reaching out to all

Of each and every age.


Tom McBride R I P


Fred Molloy,

Dublin 15


The phenomenon of Scaraveen

Sir — The cuckoo must be as confused by climate change as the rest of us — as Scaraveen has arrived and I’ve still to hear the “cuck-oo cuck-oo” call of this freeloading bird. Scaraveen comes from the Irish phrase “garbh shion na gcuach” — the rough weather of the cuckoo, which gradually became “garbh shion”, then “Garaveen” and, finally, “Scaraveen”. Folklore has it that Scaraveen is nature’s way of exacting retribution on the cuckoo for the havoc she causes in the bird world. Between mid-April and mid-May, mild spring weather has been known to revert to cold, wet miserable weather, more typical of winter.

The cuckoo winters in sub-Saharan Africa and returns to Europe in early spring. She is a solitary bird, more often heard than seen. The familiar “cuck-oo cuck-oo” call heralds the beginning of spring when the cuckoo returns to our shores. As one of the most infamous brood parasites, the cuckoo lays her eggs in the nests of small songbirds with precision timing. Once hatched, the cuckoo chicks eject the legitimate occupants and are then fed by the unsuspecting foster parents.

The cuckoo chick is already a true master of deception! Unfortunately, we all pay the price for the cuckoo’s misdeeds. Alexander Buchanan, the Scottish Father of Meteorology, in the 19th Century researched the existence of Scaraveen and other unseasonal weather glitches at certain times of the year. Buchanan found there were six such cold and three such warm spells.

Among the cold spells were April 14-21 and May 7-14, which is compatible with the Scaraveen period. I’m sure that current meteorologists can offer a more scientific explanation for the phenomenon of Scaraveen, if in fact, it exists at all. Indeed, the much-maligned cuckoo may be an entirely innocent party!

Billy Ryle,


Co Kerry


So wish you had snubbed celebs

Sir — I loved the idea of your little booklet The Best of Letters I Wish I’d Sent (Sunday Independent, April 15). As I said in one of my letters already, this was indeed a wonderful series. Maybe just one little gripe — I don’t think it was necessary to publish the celebrities. Seven more pages for us ordinary folk! I know, I know! Mine wasn’t published! Maybe next time. Anyway, still an excellent series. Congrats.

Brian McDevitt,


Co Donegal


Let’s work together to tackle litter blight


Sir — Reading ‘Blight of litter left in the countryside’ (Letters, Sunday Independent, April 15) really struck a nerve.

To hear that a visitor’s first impression of our beautiful country is that of a litter-filled countryside is utterly disgraceful — not because of what has been said, but, unfortunately, because it is the truth.

I often rack my brain trying to understand how we arrived at this point. We as a country, ‘The Emerald Isle’, have so much beauty to offer. We are lucky to have nature on our doorstep, but it is so painful to walk along my local roads only to be plagued with the eyesore of rubbish littering the grass and hedges — coffee cups, empty bottles, cans, wrappers of all sorts, bags filled with domestic waste. It even goes as far as old mattresses and other unused furniture lying on the side of the roads.

Our communities need to work together to combat this problem that is negatively tainting our picturesque countryside by availing of all the help our local authorities offer and by getting involved in the National Spring Clean this year.

Lauren Woods,


Co Monaghan


Put yourself in their place

Sir — The search for life beyond Earth continues. Scientists are increasingly optimistic of finding other planets hosting intelligent entities that may respond to our radio-telescopic signals.

The late Stephen Hawking urged caution in our efforts to contact extraterrestrial intelligences, in case they prove to be hostile. He had a point: vastly superior aliens, should they decide to visit, might indulge us and treat us with commendable respect and compassion. Then again, they might opt to treat us as we have treated the lesser species here on Earth.

Imagine being stripped and confined and then slaughtered because the outer-space visitors liked the taste of our flesh? The best you could hope for is that the end would come quickly and painlessly and that they wouldn’t experiment on us. If they were especially ruthless and uncaring they might hold us in cruel, scary conditions before killing us.

And if they were complete spacers (excuse the pun), they might torture us for “sport”, maybe forcing us to run from faster creatures with powerful snapping jaws and then, when we got pummelled or mauled or ripped to pieces, they’d laugh their exotic alien heads off and swig from their star-fleet hipflasks.

But no — how could aliens be that nasty? How could they possibly sink so low as to ill-treat and persecute an entire species just because we happened to be inferior to them on so many levels? And advanced civilisations would hardly have journalists writing colour pieces promoting bloodsports. I mean, we humans value our dignity and we don’t deserve to be tormented for fun.

John Fitzgerald,


Co Kilkenny


Action needed — bombing is not

Sir — War is not the solution to the crisis in Syria, but neither is inaction. Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, has rightly stated that the ideal solution would be to stop the funding and arming of extremists that promote regime overthrow.

We need to stop pretending these bombings carried out by the West won’t harm civilians. When has war ever restored peace? It only leads to more unrest and breeds more war.

Fifteen years after the Iraq invasion, we are now realising we were in the wrong. The same thing is happening with Syria, and it seems we haven’t learned anything from the past.

It is clear that blocs are being formed between countries and this makes a third world war imminent. In order for there to be international peace, nations must deal with each other with justice. Otherwise, mankind is seemingly at the brink of a nuclear war looming large over the world.

Fasih Malik,



Sunday Independent

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