Letters: Michael Fitzmaurice could be good for Ireland
Sir - John Drennan in his recent profile of Michael Fitzmaurice says that "this fellow, it struck us even then, was different," when referring to his decision not to meet a deputation of protesting workers because he felt their proposals were not economically feasible.
He does appear to be cut from a different cloth from your average politician. He is not afraid to speak his mind.
While an endorsement from Luke "Ming" Flanagan obviously helped him get elected, people were referring to him as "Ming's man". But at the time he quietly pointed out that he was his own man.
Nowadays it seems to be the populist mantra for an independent politician to be opposed to water charges, as indeed Ming is, but Fitzmaurice in principle has no problem with the charges based on a conservation argument.
He seems to work from a very practical approach to solving problems. While many people arguing their case become entrenched in their views, possibly with one eye on upcoming elections, he shows a confidence in his beliefs and appears willing to take chances. The greatest leaders in the world have always been the ones who thought outside the box and put precedence on the end result even at the risk of self-destruction.
Elsewhere in the paper John Drennan profiles as many as 10 different groupings of independents. Not a recipe for success there surely if a plethora of them were elected. Could someone like Michael Fitzmaurice be a unifying force among them? Maybe a tad simplistic but sometimes the best solutions are the simplest and under our noses all along.
For a newbie he is certainly talking a lot of sense in my view and deserves to be taken seriously,
Why Sinn Fein are bullies
Sir - It will take more than the Mairia Cahill case (Sunday Independent, December 21) to make any serious dent in support for Sinn Fein.
The reality is, of course, that most Sinn Fein voters have already discounted the story as just one more attack on the party from a hostile press. If Jean McConville's profoundly disturbing case cannot break the back of the Sinn Fein machine, then those who oppose Sinn Fein must see that nothing really can if it comes from that particular angle.
The hard men and women of Sinn Fein are proving attractive to some voters. But Gerry Adams told us at the time the news broke of his brother's sexual abuse of his daughter, Aine Tyrell, about their father's "sexual, emotional, physical and psychological" abuse over the course of their childhoods. So there really can be no basis for the aggressive coldness and provocative baiting of politicians in other parties who seem baffled by what Sinn Fein is up to.
Is their intent not 'an Ireland of equals' but 'an Ireland of bullies'?
We treat animals badly
Sir - Fiona O'Connell has always been an advocate for the animals, a voice for those who cannot speak. Her article, "Animals suffer a perpetual winter solstice," (Sunday Independent, 21 December) portrayed most vividly the plight of animals around the world.
Her description of the cows desperately sniffing for air through the slats on their way to be slaughtered must surely have troubled the conscience of anyone who cares for animals.
While their truck journey seals their fate within a matter of hours, how much worse is it for the cattle that are exported from our shores to North Africa and the Middle East.
Compassion in World Farming recently highlighted that animals who are sent to this part of the world often experience "brutal treatment" and "slow protracted deaths."
Those who champion the cause of the animals are often subject to ridicule. Perhaps those who disregard such concerns should reflect on the words of philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: "The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity."
Overall as a country our reputation in animal welfare is not one to be emulated or admired. Gandhi, Leonardo Di Vinci, Einstein, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and many other great minds all championed the cause of our fellow creatures.
The millions of animals who continue to suffer at the hands of us humans would concur with the sentiments expressed by writer William Inge. "We have enslaved the rest of animal creation and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form."
Glounthaune, Co Cork
Please don't put your foot down
Sir - Some drivers are such fools and it takes no skill to put the foot down. Often it's the innocent careful people who die, ending up on an expertly driven slow last journey. Let's hope more young people especially think, and use their brains instead of their hoofs.
Consider all angles on abortion
Sir - Dr Ciara Kelly in her article, 'The grim litany of crisis pregnancies in Ireland goes on', (Sunday Independent, 21 December), refers to the young pregnant woman on life support and suggests that the 8th Amendment should be removed to allow doctors and patients resolve all crisis pregnancies.
But Dr Kelly does not consider that such an action could result as is the case in Britain, in a liberal abortion regime with late terminations of viable unborn, something the majority of the Irish public do not want.
Hard cases may not make good law and I think most reasonable people will acknowledge that the unborn are due some consideration regarding their human rights particularly as they develop.
Anne produced the best read of all
Sir - I couldn't agree more with all the sentiments expressed and compliments paid to retiring Sunday Independent Editor Anne Harris by columnist Eoghan Harris and letter writers Tom Carew and Niall Ginty, (Sunday Independent, 21 December).
I might describe her as a lamb in steel clothing, normally kind and sympathetic but unhesitant in letting sparks fly when crime or injustice raised its vicious, greedy head.
Being a student of the hard news tradition school of the Irish Press in the Tim Pat Coogan era, it was no surprise Anne launched into the tough investigative end of journalism where few flies had time to lodge. The murder of fellow journalist Veronica Guerrin incited in Anne Harris even a greater revulsion of all violence, criminal and political.
Gauging her thoughts and polices over the past three years through my contributions to the Letters page, I wouldn't hesitate in saying her honesty and integrity left its brand on the Sunday Independent as the 'best read in the land'.
Praise for Gene Kerrigan
Sir - Well done Gene Kerrigan on the piece he wrote last Sunday about Louise O'Keeffe.
I've been meaning to thank him for some time for the wonderful work he does in relation to exposing our corrupted Government.
Have a very happy Christmas and a peaceful new year.
Keep up the good work and thank you.
Be alert to growing authoritarianism
Sir - The interview with Michael McDowell (Sunday Independent, 21 December) is a tribute to arguably one of the best political and legal minds of Ireland.
McDowell deserves praise for competence and toughness but also for his concern to protect the rights, freedoms and civil liberties of individual people; by this if nothing else he is distinct from certain more recent members of the government who seemed to perceive the likes of an independent judiciary or Seanad as a mere pesky nuisance which obstructed their grand plans for "reform".
In 2011 the referendum to let the Oireachtas establish itself as, in effect, its own court was defeated. In 2013 so was the move to scrap the Seanad, as effective as that chamber might really be. Both of these decisions show how the Irish electorate knows of the need to keep such bodies independent and unfettered - though it is unfortunate that the move to allow lower judicial pay was passed because, firstly, our judiciary generally are excellent at their jobs and, secondly, in comparison to other parts of the public sector the judges are neither overpaid nor under productive.
It is hard to dispute that present circumstances need the likes of Michael McDowell to stay active and aware; authoritarianism never goes away and nearly always disguises itself as being for the greater good - it is important to shatter every effort it makes.
Classics are a good start for the young
Sir - I usually enjoy Declan Lynch's articles in your paper. However I could not agree with his article on suitable reading for teens. I was introduced to reading via The Secret Seven and Famous Five - but especially the Biggles books. I later went on to the classics and studied English Literature in university
So I did get to read Fitzgerald, Dostoyevsky, Camus etc.
There's a fair chance that were the writings of Camus etc, the only fare available in my teens, my love of reading would not have been as well established.
To be honest, nowadays, give me Ian Rankin any day.
Mallow, Co Cork
Was physical force really inevitable?
Sir - Tom McDonald quotes Dr. Ronan Fanning as saying that while the Home Rule Act 1914 was passed, "it was simultaneously suspended" and unlikely to be implemented "in the form in which it was enacted" (Sunday Independent, Letters, 21 December).
Tom McDonald also says that "it was likely also that Pearse and the IRB would stage a rebellion against a Redmond-led government".
Why then did the world's most powerful parliament, under Liberal PM Herbert Asquith, spend two years passing it?
If the "form in which it was enacted" was not right, why was it not amended when going through parliament?
When the Home Rule Act, giving self-rule to the whole of Ireland with a parliament in Dublin, was finally passed and signed into law by the monarch, Andrew Bonar Law (the leader of the Conservative opposition in the imperial parliament) had already committed treason by expressly backing Ulster Unionist threats of civil war against Irish Home Rule.
Nearly half a million unionists signed up to "use all means necessary" to prevent it being implemented.
In addition, an amendment to exclude four Ulster counties from the Home Rule Act had been proposed in parliament but was rejected by majority vote.
Despite these difficulties is it not true to say, therefore, that the form in which the Home Rule Act was enacted, giving self rule to all of Ireland, was the will of the imperial parliament, and that physical force was inevitable only when the most powerful parliament in the world did not implement its own act?
Sutton, Dublin 13
We are a nation, not just a state
Sir - Reading Irish newspapers online, I am struck by the constant reference to "the state" when referring to Ireland - in this context, the Republic of Ireland. What happened to "country" or "nation" - or simply "government" if that's what's being referenced?
"State" conjures up the image of a heartless government and mindless bureaucracy: a thing that is dead; a thing that is controlled by robots and secret police; a thing that has power without accountability; a thing devoid of values or feelings, or humanity; without a pulse, all-powerful but no soul.
Who is responsible for this sci-fi description of Ireland?
Why is it that we never hear the people of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Australia or other countries refer to their country as "the state."
"Country" and "nation" immediately summon to mind a living, vibrant entity, a place of culture and history, of pride and belonging. Who can feel pride in "the state"? Who wants to belong to "the state"? We can easily see Stalin or Lenin refer to their monstrosity as "the State." We can easily see North Korea being referred to as "the State." Why? Because "state" dehumanises the place where we live. We associate "state" with communism and totalitarianism, not with democracy and freedom and enlightenment.
Is it because we are holding out for a united Ireland? Do we get the term "state" from the Irish Free State? Is that it? So, when we re-unite North and South, Ireland will become a "country," 'a nation once again' as Thomas Davis lamented long ago? Well, that might be in 20 years or when Hell freezes over! Please, let's not wait indefinitely. Let's banish this very un-Irish word that so ill-suits the Irish personality, character and temperament.
So, Urgent Alert to the Irish government, Irish courts and the Irish media: We are Ireland, we are a country, we are a people, we are a nation.
But we are not "the state".
Tom Gallagher ,
(formerly of Co Mayo and regular visitor to Ireland),
Las Vegas, USA
Sad fate of Kavanagh's barn
Sir - "There's a dance in Billy Brennan's barn to-night" went a line written by Patrick Kavanagh in that wonderful poem Inniskeen Road: July Evening'.
Rumour has it that the same barn has been sold and is to be taken down stone by stone to be transported and re-erected in Winnipeg, Canada.
What sad feelings this news aroused in me, that this lovely landmark on the Inniskeen road should disappear from Ireland forever. Patrick Kavanagh captured the beautiful, quiet scene so eloquently 80 years ago, describing the bicycles going by in twos and threes, speaking their 'half-talk code of mysteries and the wink-and-elbow language of delight'.
As for the future generations of poetry lovers, we can only apologise and ask if nothing is sacred.
James J Heslin,
Lucan, Co Dublin
Our President does us proud
Sir - My husband and I attended the Mooney Tunes Christmas Special at the Bord Gais Theatre. A wonderful night - with one dreadful exception. Just before the concert, Oliver Callan was beamed at us, via the big screens, with an insulting cameo of our esteemed President Higgins.
We are sick of this. President Higgins cannot do anything about his stature; he is a small man but a truly wonderful man. The important fact about our President is that he represents us magnificently on every occasion.
What did Oliver Callan's rant have to do with the Christmas special? We thoroughly enjoyed our evening and salute our own local boy, Jack L. who was terrific, but the start of the concert left a very bad taste in our mouths.
Leave our President alone!
Happy Christmas to you and all your staff at the Sunday Independent.
Athy, Co Kildare