Saturday 14 December 2019

Letters to the Editor: 'Amid all the tributes at his funeral, Gay would have most enjoyed that from the public outside'

Mourning: Members of the public outside the Pro Cathedral at Gay Byrne’s funeral in Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Mourning: Members of the public outside the Pro Cathedral at Gay Byrne’s funeral in Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

The ordinary folk lining the streets dispersed, the personalities and celebrities stepped back out of the limelight, the aroma of the incense died, kindly neighbours had the kettle on for the three Byrne ladies, who shivered despite the warm, blazing fire, and Gabriel Byrne began to settle himself into his new, eerily quiet studio.

Watching the funeral Mass on RTÉ, I imagine I wasn't the only person who wondered what Gay, the master of the craft of presentation, would have made of it all. Perhaps his spirit was tuning into the frequency.

He would have seen the congregation assembling, some entering a sacred place, others simply stepping into a venue, some shyly trying to avoid the cameras, others forgetting they weren't in the presenter's chair.

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The humility of the address of welcome by his daughter Suzy would have touched him, as it did I'm sure everyone, her describing him as a Dub, showing, despite his great success, he had not forgotten from where he came. The gratitude Suzy expressed to the medical and nursing staff, and in particular to the Dub porters who lifted his spirits, would have had, I'm sure, Gay's approval.

Gay would have smiled that smile of his at the almost universally positive sentiments expressed at his Mass and elsewhere, would have skilfully probed beneath the surface so that a more nuanced picture of him would have emerged. He'd have noticed the different reading styles of Moya Doherty, who had the suggestion of a Riverdance-style smile on her face, and of Marie Louise O'Donnell, who wore a more sombre expression. As for Bob Collins's contribution, it might have seemed to Gay to be a speech dusted down from his retirement party from 'The Late Late Show', in 1999, and surprised him that the RTÉ funding model was raised.

Gay was intelligent enough to be ambivalent, as he seemed to be in regard to the Christian Brothers at Synge Street CBS, being rightly critical of a disciplinary regime employed by some brothers. However, he was sufficiently appreciative of his years in Synge Street, in that a Christian Brother, Bill O'Leary, who taught him in the Leaving Cert cycle and also taught me 12 years later, became a personal friend of the Byrne family. Brother O'Leary spoke to my class with pride about Gay's then fledging career, about his following in the footsteps of Eamonn Andrews, another old Synger boy.

Gay, no doubt, would have greatly appreciated how his peers, prominent people and official Ireland marked his death, though perhaps amused at being canonised so soon afterwards. But, as his cortège moved at a slow pace away from the Pro Cathedral, he would have been equally touched, if not more so, by those lining the streets, and especially the stay-at-home women, whose hearts missed a beat when the signature tune of his radio programme began playing.

With his sympathetic ear and gentle masculinity, he was their angel Gabriel.

Jack Hickey

Dublin 14

Light touch was key in handling heavy topics

Gay Byrne's death has stirred memories of an intelligently critical voice that helped us all to re-imagine Church and State, allowing our minds to think the unthinkable and see our leaders, particular our senior Church leaders, as fallible and human.

'The Late Late Show' facilitated the release of the repressed suspicion that all was not right with the Irish world, particularly with regard to the relationship between Church and State and the understanding of human sexuality.

The sometimes seemingly arbitrary practice of silencing dissenting voices rather than listening to them gave the distinct impression that the Church was essentially concerned with the inculcation of orthodoxy and resignation.

Gay Byrne brought to the national debate a lightness of touch allied to a seriousness of intent that prevented his programme from degenerating into a priest-bashing fest that would be at odds with the genuine constructive desire of a silenced people to exercise their voice in good faith.

With the foundation of the Irish Free State, Church and State worked hand in hand in establishing agreed patterns of acceptable sexual morality in ways that were particularly oppressive for Irish women.

Catholic social teaching was driven by the fiction of Irish cultural purity and the uncritical acceptance of the subservient role of women in Church and State.

The eventual release of the intelligence of the Irish brought about a form of intellectual conversion that opened the eyes and minds of so many.

Our most challenging task now is not to live in the past but to redeem it.

Philip O'Neill

Oxford, England

Religion seems to be a bad word to Government

I do not expect this letter to be published, but in the recent past when correctly a senator has been reprimanded and forced to apologise for outrageous descriptions of our Traveller community and a TD's car has been burned for having the audacity to defend the Government's decision to house refugees escaping from their homeland to avoid persecution, we see a photograph of a senator standing outside Government Buildings with a placard displaying the message "Jesus Christ political superstar"?

We also learn that "an eclectic array of writers, musicians, artists and comedians will be on hand to debate such issues as banning of meat and whether Jesus Christ was really a politician as part of this year's Festival Of Politics".

If this good senator or any of his "eclectic band" stood outside the Dáil with the name of Jesus removed and replaced with the name Mohammed, they would be castigated by every politician from the Taoiseach down and from every political party as a "racist".

What a country we have become. The usual excuses will be doled out for the way Catholicism is now regarded because of the abuse that some clerics inflicted on children.

But we should remember that Jesus Christ, when on Earth, picked 12 apostles to preach his gospel and he only got 11 right. The twelfth sold him out for 30 pieces of silver.

Jesus was recognised by the Muslim religion as the son of Mary and is understood to be the penultimate prophet and messenger of God sent to guide the children of Israel with a new revelation of the 10 Commandments sent from God to Moses. These commandments, scorned by the unbelievers - 'I was a Catholic but I am no longer' - are the cornerstone of the Jewish, the Christian - including the Catholic - religion, and Muslim religions.

On the radio Professor Peter Boylan, in a discussion on the inadequacy of the present maternity hospitals, stated that when the present National Maternity Hospital was moved, it was essential that it have no religious management.

The word 'religion' is used by Government in its pressure for replacing Catholic or Muslim and Jewish teaching on sex, as set out in the commandments, by its own brand of sex education where it seems that the idea of consent needs to be conveyed to children from the age of seven.

Hugh Duffy

Cleggan, Co Galway

No need for displays of flesh on 'Newsnight'

Why, oh why, with women is it always about their image?

I know all sorts of trolls will attack me for writing this but, if I don't sign off on it as a woman, everyone will think it is a hoax, or written by a male macho misogynistic monster.

So here goes. The BBC must love Emily Maitlis's legs - I wonder if they are insured.

Night after night on 'Newsnight', there they are - long, gleaming and beautiful and oddly incongruous with the political interview she is conducting.

If I am distracted by them I can't imagine the effect they have on the men watching, never mind the men she is interviewing.

And when she comes to interviewing the former Harvey Weinstein assistants, Rowena Chiu and Zelda Perkins, she is, unusually, covered up head to toe in a long-sleeved, subdued top and trousers. Not a calf in sight.

Was that sartorial decision made by the BBC's wardrobe team because of the nature of the interview?

Angela Merkel has a formula - who notices which jacket she is wearing or its colour or shape?

We judge her on what she is saying, not on what she is wearing.

In my view, it doesn't serve women well that Maitlis's legs are being used to sell the BBC 'Newsnight' programme.

Alison Hackett

Dún Laoghaire, Dublin

Getting up on the wrong side of the bedroom tax

Mention of a bedroom tax makes me want to pull the duvet over my head and turn over.

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

Irish Independent

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