Issues in meat-eating
Sir - Mary Robinson's recent comments on the connection between a meat-based diet and global warming state the blindingly obvious.
But reducing the production of greenhouse gases is only one of several compelling reasons why people should adopt a vegan lifestyle.
Going meat-free would go a long way towards solving the problem of world hunger. At this very moment, 840 million people in the world are going hungry, while the grain they need is being fed to animals to produce meat for that minority of people on the planet who can afford to buy it.
The role played by meat-eating in causing a range of serious diseases, including heart disease and cancer has been well highlighted by now, as has its role in contributing to the obesity epidemic we are currently experiencing in Europe and America.
But perhaps the most compelling argument of all for eliminating rotting flesh from our diet is that doing so would put an end to the immense suffering endured by the billions of animals reared and slaughtered every year to satisfy the taste buds of people in the affluent west.
A positive Olympic scandal
Sir - Declan Lynch's 'Lance Armstrong, you weren't the worst' (Sunday Independent, September 25) refers to the current TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) which is in the news. Perhaps it should be called 'A Get Out of Jail Free card'.
I think a more appropriate example of "you weren't the worst" was the Olympics in Seoul in 1988.
The 1988 Olympic 100m final was the most controversial race ever run. For the first time, four of the eight competitors broke the 10-second barrier.
But within 55 hours of telling the world that nobody would ever be able to take the Olympic gold away from him, Ben Johnson had tested positive for anabolic steroids - and had been stripped of his title.
Johnson became a sporting pariah, but he was not the only one.
Five of the other seven athletes in the race subsequently went on to test positive or be involved in the use or supply of performance-enhancing drugs, including Britain's Linford Christie.
He was promoted to the silver medal position after Johnson's disqualification.
"Ben Johnson, you weren't the worst."
Saddened over ASTI controversy
Sir - As a former ASTI branch secretary, I initiated discussion at branch meetings of many educational issues. A topic of interest at the time was an earlier 1970s variant of the current proposals for the Junior Certificate.
I understand the problem of teachers giving a national assessment to students in their own community. I am surprised that a compromise model of teacher assessment checked by an external moderator does not seem to have been considered. I found the ASTI helpful and supportive to me as a young teacher. I organised a visit by the general secretary to our branch meeting, which teachers found very reassuring.
However, now retired, I feel saddened to see the ASTI becoming mired in controversy over a quite small step in progressive education. I learned early on that the person who could give the most rounded and accurate assessment of students was their teacher, who was with them every day. It is a pity that we cannot find a way to tap into this very rich resource of teacher knowledge and assessment.
By the way, the only reason that teacher assessment would need external moderation is that teachers would be likely to be too generous in their assessment of their students. What Colm O'Rourke (Sunday Independent, September 25) says about the ASTI is worrying, but I'm sure he knows better than I that vision is part of our DNA.
Unfair to 60,000 students in 2017
Sir - From a parental perspective Colm O'Rourke's (Sunday Independent, September 25) article on what he describes as the ASTI march to destruction deserves closer scrutiny. In particular, there is the unfair and scandalous situation facing those 60,000 students taking their English Junior Cert in 2017.
Back in June 2013 with a child about to move from primary to post primary school I attended a Kerry-wide meeting on the new Junior Certificate sponsored jointly by inspectors from the Department for Education and the National Parents' Council.
At the meeting we learned about the major changes to take place in English and mathematics. In English, we learned that the new curriculum would include classroom-based assessment. But now it seems that is not to be. Our child's school, like so many others, has been silent on the issue. Are we expected to wait until next year's results before we are told that our children's coursework has been ignored and their results seriously compromised?
What, I wonder, are the Department of Education and the National Parents' Council doing to keep us informed? Both bodies seem very silent on what is an impending disaster, which is leaving children bewildered and will be damaging to so many of them. Is the Minister for Children doing anything to alleviate this growing scandal currently facing hard-working 14-year-olds?
Highlighting the suffering of hares
Sir - Fiona O'Connell's depiction ('Time stands still as minority enjoy savage season', Sunday Independent, September 25) of the fate that awaits thousands of Irish hares, once the coursing season starts, gives rise once again to the definition of this savage pursuit as so-called sport.
How any human being can find some enjoyment in watching one animal being terrorised by another is beyond the understanding of most people. That our Government continues to support the industry that engages in this cruelty is not surprising, its recent disregard of international condemnation on the gruesome end for Irish greyhounds exported to Spain and China is testament to that.
Spain's record on animal welfare would seem to be on par with Ireland; neither are something to be proud of. I congratulate Fiona for highlighting the suffering of these gentle hares, even if those who have the power to change things to their shame chose to ignore it.
Sir - I wish to take issue with Eoghan Harris's description (Sunday Independent, September 25) of an answer given by Health Minister Simon Harris on a recent Claire Byrne Live programme.
Mr Harris described the minister's answer as "a blunder". The minister was asked a simple question: "Do you have personal health insurance?". He replied simply and honestly "I do". Could the writer, Eoghan Harris, please explain how truthfully and directly answering a question can be described as "a blunder"?
Thank you for the gift of inspiration
Sir - I received my prize of whiskey. It brought laughter. All my friends had different ideas about medicinal tastings. It made me think of the people behind the scenes. Behind every successful man there is a woman. Behind every winning racehorse there is a trainer and jockey.
Behind every cured patient there is a good doctor. Behind every good deed there is a Samaritan.
Behind the Sunday Independent letters there is an editor and sponsor of a prize. They inspire people to write and vent their opinions.
To the students who feel they were not a success in the Leaving Cert behind disappointment is delayed success. It makes one stop, look and act.
Thank you First Ireland Spirits for the whiskey and the inspiration.
Trying to reach end of rainbow
Sir - As the Government approaches the 'Beecher's Brook' that is, its first Budget, some of the Cabinet has become jittery.
Even minor hurdles have seen them shorten their stride.
'Parish pump' with its safer seat looms large in their minds; only the seat of the Ceann Comhairle can compare. As the country faces into a very uncertain future, single-issue ministers are the last thing we need. Liam Cosgrave famously said one time that he would dig out the "mongrel foxes". Enda Kenny will have to take similar steps.
The Taoiseach will have to face down those who would hold the country to ransom for narrow sectional interests. This is the time for him to show steel, if, in fact, it is there. Dail deputies who criticise the Government on a continuous basis get far more airtime than those who keep their shoulders to the wheel. The length of their hair seems to be a good indication of the amount of airtime they will get. This is a time for unity in the Dail, but I am afraid this is like trying to reach the end of the rainbow; a "party" of three fell apart recently. There are times when it seems no two can agree on anything. The coming Budget may be Enda Kenny's last chance to impose his authority on the dissidents in Cabinet and Party.
"Woe to thee O Land, when thy King is a Child." (Ecclesiastes 10:)
No need for FG to be scared of vote
Sir - Fine Gael risks are exaggerated. The heading 'Fine Gael risks losing seats' (Sunday Independent, September 25) seems unnecessarily dire.
Many men will be heartened to see so many women seeking to accept abortion, largely for the sake of those men. They will be happy to see restrictions on abortions removed.
It must also be borne in mind that foetuses have no vote, and presumably don't mind the bit of discomfort that may be involved for some of their number.
Far from ignoring the voices of "women", FG is quietly working behind the scenes.
After all, the party is in control of the wording of a referendum, it is free to spend as it wishes, and it can expect to get much financial support from the US.
In the Dail, the party has the support of Micheal Martin, leader of Fianna Fail, Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, and several others. Outside of the Dail, they have the support of much of the media, which is of considerable importance.
In short, FG is set fair to get the same number of 'Yes' votes as in the last referendum. It is unlikely, then, that FG will lose seats as a result of its apparent lack of interest on this subject.
Still, "softly, softly" is the best policy.
Sir - One of the stories I used to read for my children when they were very young was called Topsy-Turvy Land by Enid Blyton. In Topsy-Turvy Land everything was upside-down and contrary.
Now, when I read the newspapers or watch the news on TV I feel as though I have landed in 'Topsy Turvey Land', a land of contrary behaviour, where a human rights organisation is aggressively campaigning to remove the most basic human right from our constitution - the right to be born alive, a land where the Minister for Children is vigorously campaigning to legalise the most extreme form of child abuse - the cruel and gruesome killing of unborn children.
When it comes to respect for human life, compassion, and humanity, we seem to be rapidly progressing backwards!
Health is a very sad state of affairs
Sir - A great deal of material is covered in your paper every week. The folly of murderous, subversive pseudo freedom-fighting campaigns is challenged; political wheeling and dealing is reported; the economic direction of the country is debated; sport is dissected and analysed; there is business, lifestyle, fashion, property, showbiz. Everyone has an agenda, a story to push or a product to sell.
However, has Gene Kerrigan (Soapbox, Sunday Independent, September 25) highlighted the most salient of all issues when he writes that "the State you've helped to build can't even provide you with a bed on which to peacefully die"?
It is a disgrace that egos, party politics, political point-scoring, parochialism, cute hoorism, eejitry and egotism cannot be set aside to effectively run our health service.
The expertise exists, but the inner circle insists on holding its centre. It really is a sad state of affairs.
The irony of all the health failures
Sir - Robert Sullivan complains about politicians' promises not being fulfilled, including those in relation to the health service (Letters, Sunday Independent, September 25). On the back page, Gene Kerrigan complains about "10 years of failure" in the health service despite the promises of politicians over that period.
The promises made go back much longer than that. In 2002, the Celtic Tiger was in full swing and we were told that "the Government offered hospitals where you won't die waiting for a bed".
Back then, expenditure on health was increasing as it was not constrained as it is now.
It is ironic that Eurostat tells us the Irish are the healthiest citizens in the EU and that OECD figures show expenditure on health as a percentage of GDP in 2012, which had declined because of the country going bankrupt, was still above the OECD average.
A compromise too far on marches?
Sir - The long-anticipated resolution to the camp at Twaddell and associated protests may have arrived, but is it the right decision, the right compromise or even the right thing to do? Are we allowing the political practicalities of life in post-conflict Northern Ireland to dictate our actions, to place common good over common sense?
It appears to be an appeasement of the Orange Order and its fellow loyalist travellers.
The real victims of Orange Order marches past homes and businesses on the Crumlin Road have always been the residents of Ardoyne, Crumlin Road and the Dales who have been subjected to sectarian abuse, threats, provocation, violence and injury.
Shop owners have been forced to close not ranks but premises. They have been forced into debt and had their dreams, ambitions and finances destroyed.
The community of Ardoyne has nightly suffered the barrage of parades and the military-style police incursions into the area with attendant stop and search detentions.
Should the Orange lodges and their loyalist associates be rewarded with a return parade because it suits Sinn Fein and others to facilitate yet another sectarian march?
The carrot being dangled is the closure of Camp Twaddell and an end to millions being squandered on police overtime to protect a camp that should never have been allowed to exist.
I have reservations regarding the trustworthiness of many of these groups, but in the longer term I have one major concern. This dialogue between the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents' Association and the Orange lodges has one specific mandate - to reconcile return parades on July 12 by agreement.
Will we in effect have Sinn Fein and the DUP deciding who parades where and when?
If this is the case, Ardoyne may very well find itself used yet again as a bargaining chip by our political masters in the continuing game of chess that passes for local politics.