Keep the compassion
Sir - George Hook (Sunday Independent, 22 November), on refugees and links between terrorism and Islamic faith, made brief reference to a report "that accused the Irish of being racist towards Africans", and that "increasingly, we are being coerced into thinking that somehow we are not generous, tolerant and forgiving".
For the most part we are a tolerant nation.
Far-right organisations never gained traction here, yet it was obvious from online comments there is growing intolerance towards asylum seekers. Some expressed genuine fears, while others, plain old xenophobia.
In the aftermath of Paris it is obvious that across Europe, strict vetting is essential. The Schengen Agreement, for all intents and purposes, has been revoked. However, this does not justify leaving asylum seekers in so-called camps for inordinate lengths of time.
They should be afforded the same human dignity that any European would expect. It should not be beyond us to be both strict and compassionate in our vetting procedures, and treat our fellow human beings with the dignity they deserve.
John Bellew, Co Louth
Anger at IFA salaries
Sir - Many years ago I answered a knock at my front door. It was dark outside, but I could see there were five or six men standing there.
They were looking for me to join the IFA [Irish Farmers' Association], and as there were men from the local branch present who I knew as hard workers and genuine members of said organisation, as well as a top executive, I listened to what they had to say and what benefits would ensue from my joining the organisation.
They convinced me to join and to pay by direct debit and named neighbours of mine who had done so.
Each year since a large envelope was delivered telling me what the organisation had achieved during the previous year and included a list of insurance firms and others who would grant me various discounts on producing my membership card.
Most of these would be companies that I would never utilise, so these discounts would be no good for me anyway, so I was gaining nothing really and in 99pc of cases I would have got the discount anyway without being a member of IFA.
However, being born and reared in the country I kept loyal to this farming organisation, thinking I may need their help and backing at some time, and so didn't let the ever-increasing donations be stopped from my bank account.
But the latest controversy has put me thinking about the whole scenario, and I am thinking of cancelling my contributions forthwith.
To think that my contributions have helped to pay the disgusting salaries to the top executives involved in this scandal and that deductions are made also at marts and co-ops is nothing short of ridiculous.
Just to think that so many unemployed could be put to work with the wasted money, so many homeless rehoused, and so many could be taken off the soup kitchen trail.
The farm aid payments of Irish farmers can be viewed on the internet, some only amounting to only hundreds of euros, but the top cat salaries in many organisations remain hidden and how dare any ordinary Joe Soap question or query said amounts.
So many farmers work their hands to the bone trying to eke out an existence for their families, and people whom they look up to can get away with heinous salaries that no one could possibly be entitled to.
Murt Hunt, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo
What does God think of us now?
Sir - With people routinely killing other people across the globe in God's name, I think it's time that God clarified his/her/its stance on the subject. I am not an atheist or materialist, nor even an agnostic. I believe there's something or someone "out there" running the show and I mean no disrespect to followers of any religion or belief system.
And I'm not just thinking of recent terrorist outrages.
For centuries God has been invoked by warring parties of every description. In both world wars all sides called down God's blessing on warships, bombing planes and on infantry heading off into battle. Yet all sides surely couldn't have been right in God's estimation?
So, I am now making a public appeal, through your letter page, to God, the Supreme being/force/entity to clarify exactly in what circumstances we are entitled to kill a fellow human being.
A high-profile appearance in a prominent public place would be apt, and the message would, ideally, be conveyed in every language.
With the greatest respect to all religions and faiths, I do think we need clarification on this life and death issue and it would be most helpful to humanity.
And I have little doubt but that the all-seeing, all powerful creator of the universe will be aware of even a letter to the Sunday Independent, again meaning no disrespect to anyone.
John Fitzgerald, Callan, Co Kilkenny
Chasing Christmas duck in Rome
Sir - George Hook's remarks that migrants should "do as the Romans do" (Sunday Independent, 22 November), made me think of my own time spent in 'Romagna', the province rather than the city, many years ago.
It was Christmas time, and as a young novitiate at the Benedictine monastery near Ravenna, I was expected to help prepare the kitchen while the monks "busied themselves" with prayers and adoration.
On the menu? Duck casserole. But instead of simply heading to the local butcher, as we would have at home in Cootehill, we were expected to first take part in the local tradition of chasing the ducks into the water.
Deemed cruel even in that Christmas of 1955, the "chasing" was no longer of the ducks, but of local "volunteers", including myself, who ran from the local town into the Isola Della Donzells marshland shouting "quack quack" as the townspeople chased us towards the water.
I can still remember the arched eyebrow I gave to the Abbey's prior, only for him to wave me away almost dismissively, with the words, "si fueris Romae".
Con Lynch, Carlingford, Co Louth
There is no hiding place from terror
Sir - I had to read Maurice Fitzgerald's letter (Sunday Independent, 22 November) twice just in case there was something I was missing. I can honestly say in all the years of reading and writing to your Letters Page, I have never come across such a response to a crisis. This "hide in the corner and hope the school yard bully won't see you" nonsense is just the kind of reaction these monsters are seeking, their attitude is - "Down on your knees little Christian person and maybe we will leave you alone."
Mr Fitzgerald clearly wants a policy of appeasement bordering on conversion to Islam.
It's hard to read the letter because even the words are shaking. Man up Maurice. Neutrality is a myth.
Winston Churchill once said "an appeaser is someone who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last."
Mike Burke, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare
All Muslims can't influence terrorists
Sir - I take exception to some of the comments of Eilis O'Hanlon (Sunday Independent, 22 November). She says the idea that "terrorism is not Muslims' fault" is an assertion.
The average Muslim can no more prevent an Isil attack than the average Irish person could prevent an IRA attack during that period.
She adopts a sneering, ironic tone in reviewing Paddy O'Gorman's vox pop for the Sean O'Rourke show on RTE. I heard that report and the people interviewed came across as genuinely shocked at the events in Paris.
Most ordinary people in these situations just keep their heads down and get on with their lives. It is reported elsewhere in your paper that there are an estimated 50,000 Muslims living in Ireland. Just 30 are estimated to have got involved with Isil. Do the maths.
Martin Walshe, Stillorgan, Co Dublin
Dr Reilly's stance could mislead
Sir - Dr James Reilly, former Minister for Health, has joined the ranks of those demanding a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which gives equal right to life to the mother and the child (Sunday Independent, 22 November).
He says that "most repugnant off all to him is that they" - the thousands of women who have travelled to the UK to abort their babies - "then sneak back in like criminals to bring their babies' remains back."
From personal experience in my life as a priest and in more recent times, most of the women who have had abortions in the UK do not bring back the remains of their babies.
Because the women who have abortions in our neighbouring country can be divided into a number of categories.
They may be single young women who become pregnant because of promiscuous behaviour with their boyfriend, but do not wish to marry the father of their child.
They may be single women who become pregnant, with a married man being the father. Or they may be married women whose child is not that of their husbands.
None of these women have any desire to "bring back the remains of their babies", even if they could. But the emotive language used by the doctor could be misleading to the electorate.
Martin Gordon, Blackrock, Cork
Disagrees with abortion opinion
Sir - Niall O'Connor reports (Reilly calls to repeal Eighth, Sunday Independent, 22 November) that James Reilly wants to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which gives equal rights to the life of the mother and the unborn. While everyone is entitled to their opinion on this emotional topic, I do find it ironic that the Minister for Children has taken a position that could facilitate the termination of the unborn child.
Frank Browne, Templeogue, Dublin 16
All children's lives have a value
Sir - As parents of children with life-limiting conditions such as anencephaly, trisomy 13 and trisomy 18, we welcome the results of the Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll (22 November), which showed that fewer people are now supporting legalisation of abortion for children like ours.
It has been extraordinarily hurtful to listen to powerful campaigners and politicians use our children's disabilities to justify abortion. Anencephaly or trisomy 13 and & 18 are conditions, which shortened our children's lives.
Sometimes we just had hours or days with our precious babies. But those conditions did not make our babies less human, or less valuable.
In fact, having a baby diagnosed with a severe disability made us more determined to protect them.
Parents need better support - perinatal hospice care - from the HSE, so that they have time to make memories with their babies and to establish a pathway to healing.
It is shameful to see the Minister for Children single out babies with a severe disability as the basis for abortion reform, instead of urging the HSE to do more for families who want to make sure their babies are protected and cherished.
Thankfully, the Irish people are realising that our children's lives have value. Our politicians, as always, seem to be lagging behind the people in a more enlightened approach to caring for families where babies may not have long to live after birth.
Tracy Harkin, Liz Rothwell, Grace Sharp, Vicky Wall, Every Life Counts, Dublin 1
What of male insecurity fears?
Sir - Congratulations to Ruth Dudley Edwards for her excellent piece on modern feminism (Deluded feminists divide us and imperil basic freedoms, Sunday Independent, 22 November).
When I was an undergraduate in UCD in the mid-1960s (and was taught by, among others, Ms Dudley Edwards' late father, the historian Robert Dudley Edwards) women students were very much in the minority in several faculties and could have been forgiven for feeling insecure in a predominantly male environment.
However, in my experience relations between the sexes were excellent. There was absolutely no reason that I'm aware of for female students to have felt threatened, nor did they, as far as I know, express such fears. As for the idea of a "safe space," this would have been laughed to scorn by women and men alike as something fit only for infants.
Forty years earlier, in the mid-1920s, my late mother was an undergraduate in UCD when women students were in an even smaller minority, but far from having felt threatened, she seemed to have quite enjoyed her university days.
Regarding the pernicious nonsense that exists in many universities today (though hopefully not as much in Ireland as in the UK and USA), is this really due to genuine fear on the part of certain female undergraduates, or are there elements of immature attention-seeking and self-importance at work here, dressed up in what she so aptly calls "intellectually contemptible theories and jargon?" Indeed, in what is an increasingly feminised educational environment, it's male undergraduates who could be excused for feeling insecure nowadays and, unlike female undergraduates of long ago, not without good reason, it seems.
Hugh Gibney, Athboy, Co Meath
Another view of the Irish abroad
Sir - William Barrett's reminiscences of life in London in the post-war period (Tales of battles fought long ago, Sunday Independent, 22 November), re-activated some memories from my first visits to London in the early 1960s. Mr Barrett sketched some grim scenarios of life shuttling between the pub, the church, the dance-hall, the building-site, the digs.
I visited the parts of London most populated by emigre Irish, Kilburn, Cricklewood, Camden Town, but not once did I see a 'No Irish' sign. If they were as common as the myth-makers would have us believe, I surely should have come across the odd one. The men Mr Barrett talked about, ill-prepared for the culture shock of living in an often hostile place, would have headed back to their lodgings after their heroic weekend deeds. (I would hear them on a Monday regaling each other about such drink-fuelled depredations, the word latchico an overused insult.)
Who could blame a landlady for finding the antics of some such lodgers intolerable? And remember, many of those landladies would have lost family members, even sweethearts in the still-recent war, while the incoming waves of Irish, who had sat the war out in safe, neutral Ireland, were now arriving in their droves, hale and hearty. We Irish are adept at holding the diaspora picture at a convenient angle, to make sure we appear at our best in it. It would be so refreshing to allow other voices to be heard, occasionally. Even the voices of landladies.
Paddy McEvoy, Holywood, Co Down
Plea for the animals
Sir - It was heartening to read in the letter (Sunday Independent, 22 November), from Brendan Kelly of the Department of Adult Psychiatry at UCD that "ECT [electro-convulsive therapy] without consent was administered to just one patient in 2012". What surprises me is that 'animal welfare campaigners' advocate its routine enforcement in slaughterhouses under the misnomer of "stunning", especially as it is misapplied, and has to be reapplied, in a large number of cases - all without any previous anaesthesia.
Martin D Stern, Salford, England