Letters to the Editor: 'Blessed are the peacemakers'
Sir - Tomorrow evening, December 10, former UK Prime Minister Sir John Major will be giving the inaugural Albert Reynolds Memorial Lecture in Longford.
In giving deserved plaudits to the leading political figures involved in the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement (Eoghan Harris, Sunday Independent, December 2), the two leaders who, through the inclusive Downing Street Declaration of December 15, 1993, created the political conditions that helped bring about the IRA, then the loyalist, ceasefires in 1994 should also be gratefully remembered.
Without those ceasefires, and the restoration of the IRA one, when it broke down, no Good Friday Agreement could have been negotiated. I appreciate, of course, that your paper had, and perhaps still has, deep reservations about that phase of the peace process, which did indeed carry serious risks and dangers, but responsible perseverance by the two governments was vindicated.
On foot of the agreement, Chris Patten and his commission also did outstanding work on the reform of policing, which gave us the PSNI.
It is not right to restrict the praise just to men. Secretary of State, Mo Mowlam, played a vital role, above all, by her courageous decision against all advice to go in and meet the loyalist prisoners, which brought home to everyone the vital importance to any agreement of the early release of prisoners.
On the Irish side, Minister of State Liz O'Donnell played a pro-active role in negotiations, and in making the PDs integral to the agreement.
The Women's Coalition, along with the Alliance and the small loyalist parties, helped bridge the difference, and broaden the middle ground.
Brid Rodgers was part of the SDLP team, while Rita O'Hare of Sinn Fein did vital and largely unsung liaison work.
There were, of course, countless others in society at large who helped to make peace a reality.
Eoghan Harris writes: As he modestly omits his own crucial contribution to the peace process, let me add Martin Mansergh, himself, to the roll of honour.
Good news of advances
Sir — My name is Dermot Cooke. I am 89 years old. I am thrilled by two medical advances which have affected me and my family. With Christmas nearing, I would like to share this good news.
The first one is the healing of severe ulcers which occurred on my foot which was burnt in a fire 65 years ago. After six decades of treatment with the dressing, they have completely disappeared. Many others experience pain and difficulty like mine and I want to let them know that the modern dressing and care can give great results.
The second one is like a miracle. My great-grand-daughter, Sabhdh, was born profoundly deaf two-and-a-half years ago. My wife was profoundly deaf and I have severe hearing loss.
Sabhdh was diagnosed at birth and by the time she was given cochlear implants at 16 months she could sign using Irish Sign Language to the doctor who had to perform the operation. It gave me such joy to see her speak and sign with her family with confidence.
She has now started play school with hearing children.
To sum up, I am absolutely delighted with the wonderful success medically on behalf of my family and trust that others will enjoy the same worldwide.
Spending watchdog is doing a good job
Sir — Your editorial (Sunday Independent, December 2) tells us that ‘the State’s budgetary watchdog has strongly criticised the Government for missing its financial targets’. Given that the country was broke less than a decade ago that would seem to suggest that the watchdog is doing its job.
There are, however, questions that an ordinary person can ask about the whole thing.
All day every day we hear about what your editorial calls the ‘ills within society’ represented by the inadequacy of housing, health and other public services and the need for more resources to improve these services. It gets even more complicated when one looks at total government expenditure over the past two decades.
In 1999, total government expenditure was €23bn. A decade later, around the time of the collapse in 2009, government expenditure had increased nearly threefold to €63bn. In contrast, the Budget for 2019, about which the State’s watchdog was complaining, showed government expenditure to be €67bn — an increase of a mere 6pc in a decade.
Given the increase in government borrowing in the past decade and the risks associated with Brexit, etc, the watchdog should continue to advise ‘prudence’ and ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
But we should also be aware of the price that the Irish people have paid in the austerity of the past decade that is mirrored in the contrast in public spending trends in the past two decades.
Brexit arrogance thwarts discussion
Sir — In his article (Sunday Independent, December 2) Willie Kealy opines that the people who voted for Brexit were not only “pretty stupid” and “moronic” but fuelled by “xenophobia”.
Oh dear! It’s this very arrogance and superiority that thwarts any measured, factual discussion of the myriad issues which prompted the British electorate to vote one way or the other.
If Mr Kealy were to denigrate any other cohort of people (ie, women, Travellers, migrants, those with disabilities, et al) as “pretty stupid” and “moronic”, there would invariably be a tsunami of outrage.
It’s time Nato put a stop to Putin
Sir — The events that are happening between the Ukraine and the Russian Federation could end up in Putin invading Ukraine. Putin is regarded as a demi-god by the Russian people. Hitler, who like Putin was democratically elected, also was regarded as a demi-god by the German people, leading to the vicious World War II and the deaths of over 60 million people, millions injured and Europe in ruins.
Hitler, at the start confiscated areas of land, just like Putin is doing now.
Nato should immediately allow Ukraine to join its ranks. That is the only way to stop Putin invading Ukraine.
Or is it?
Shame on Ireland
Sir — I am ashamed to be Irish. It’s an offence to slap a child but you can legally kill an innocent child in the womb.
What has happened to my country of saints and scholars?
My own priceless sports memories
Sir — My own memory was stirred upon reading Enda McEvoy’s letter (‘Priceless sports memories’, Sunday Independent, December 2).
On a February evening in 1958, as I and two fellow students were walking around the grounds of the Pallottine Fathers College in Thurles, Fr Gormley approached and speaking directly to me said that the aeroplane bringing home the Manchester United team from an away game in the European Cup, had crashed at Munich Airport and that there were fatalities.
When I arrived home in Enniscrone that Easter. I proposed that Enniscrone United FC, a team a few other students and I had established two years previously to play summer football, organise a tournament in honour of the dead Manchester footballers.
In June, while passing through Limerick, I purchased a silver trophy and had the jeweller inscribe on it “Manchester United Memorial Cup Competition 1958”.
When the competition was announced later that month, villages and towns around Connaught formed soccer teams to participate in the tournament.
Castlebar Celtic defeated Enniscrone United 7-3 in one semi-final. The final was a dramatic affair between Celtic and Quay Hearts, of Westport. The Castelbar team were wining 3-1 at half-time, but Hearts held the trophy in their hands when I blew the final whistle for full-time, defeating their local rivals 4-3. Local GP Dr Christy O’Connor presented the trophy.
The final memories I have associated with Manchester United are of meeting manager Matt Busby and three of the players in the Russell Square Hotel where they were staying before a game against Chelsea; I was by then a Pallottine Father whose church was a short walk from the hotel... and in more recent times meeting Sir Alex Ferguson in Enniscrone. We were born two streets from each other in the Glasgow shipbuilding district of Govan.
Hilarious Eleanor is a perfect tonic
Sir — I was in stitches at Eleanor Goggin’s description of how she has to dress up to answer the door (Living, Sunday Independent, December 2).
She’s a tonic to read and I know many women will relate to her, even though they may not admit it.
Her description of herself is indeed always very harsh and I can imagine her sons having great craic with her as she always seems to be in good form.
With all the sad and bad news around it is so refreshing to read something funny and have a good laugh. Keep up the hilarious writing, Eleanor. You make my Sunday.
Phrases and quotes to make you think
Sir — When reading the Sunday Independent I am sometimes struck by a particular phrase or thought which merits further consideration and I make a point of writing it down for further thought and study.
You may be interested in my recent entries:
Brendan O’Connor (Sunday Independent, November 25) quoting Woody Allen: The best you can do to get through life is distraction so we don’t have to face up to the fact that we’re just temporary people in a universe that will eventually be completely gone and everything that you value, whether it’s Shakespeare, Beethoven, Da Vinci or whatever will be completely gone.
Editorial (December 2): We live in a society, not an economy the argument goes. A fuller truth, however, is that a modern society needs an economy to prosper and a modern economy needs a stable society to function.
Colm McCarthy (December 2): If you forecast a preventable disaster, identify evasive action but fail to implement it, the unpleasant outcome ceases to be a forecast and becomes your current reality.
Eoghan Harris (December 2): Aristotle did not believe in abstractions. For him virtue had no existence separate from people who tried to make a habit of doing the right thing. Schmidt’s favourite Aristotelian aphorism was: We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.
Reflections on sayings such as these may deepen our understanding of life.
Save some Christmas goodwill for your pet
Sir — “A pet is for life, not just for Christmas,” is a phrase so often spouted, it has more or less become a regurgitated platitude. However, it is a phrase that still falls on deaf ears. Sure enough, once the Christmas hype has abated and the decorations are all boxed up, many new pets will be seen as overstaying their welcome as festive novelties and will be dumped and discarded like old dinner leftovers.
Because animal shelters can only accommodate so many surrendered animals, multitudes will be put down or become feral strays who will inevitably die young because of malnutrition, infection or road injuries.
The disposal of these lost, nameless nonentities is so ubiquitous that it has almost become normalised within our society as many people continue to view animals not as sentient living creatures but as disposable, replaceablecommodities that might as well come with a receipt.
Consequently, because of such capriciousness and neglect, Ireland has an escalating animal overpopulation issue as there are evidently far too many multiplying strays and far too few homes. Thus, we as a nation need to offer a helping paw and raise more awareness about this abject crisis in the public sphere. Indeed, what we need is some sort of Bob Barker. Barker, a former host for the American game show The Price is Right, was also renowned for his signature closing line, “This is Bob Barker reminding you to help control the pet population — have your pets spayed or neutered”.
A prominent animal rights advocate, Barker would repeat this catchphrase on every episode, subliminally burning the message into viewers’ heads.
Alas, if only we had Irish TV personalities concluding their own shows with similar sign-offs, (though it’s hard to imagine Winning Streak or The Late Late Show ever ending with a signature “Spay Today” or “Adopt Not Shop” tagline). But who knows, perhaps Teresa Mannion can someday issue another viral warning: “Don’t make any unnecessary journeys... to the animal shelter after Christmas.”
Ultimately, we need such messages highlighted because if Christmas truly is the season of giving, we as a society ought to aspire to give the animals among us the best chance of happier, healthier lives.
Ruth’s right about SF dodgy dealings
Sir — I agree with Ruth Dudley Edwards when she suggests (Sunday Independent, December 2) that Sinn Fein is implicated in the “Cash for Ash” scandal at Stormont, being in fact fully in support of it.
It is a credible point to suggest that Sinn Fein simply used the scandal to bring down Stormont at a point when it was facing the greatest crisis in its modern history, the loss of Martin McGuinness.
That way, it attempted to get the DUP the blame for the collapse of the North’s institutions two years ago.
However, we should not stop there in the analysis of the situation that developed at that time. Surely, Sinn Fein is even more culpable than Ruth Dudley Edwards suggests.
That’s because, not only did Sinn Fein know about the “Cash for Ash” scheme, it had most likely negotiated it into existence for its own interests.
I’m referring to the Sinn Fein-backed and very popular scheme that allowed benefit claimants to postpone reductions in their benefits for a year in the ongoing major overhaul of the benefits system.
The scheme was widely welcomed among nationalists, but the DUP was lukewarm and suddenly we get a “Cash for Ash” scheme which is suspiciously costed at almost exactly the same amount as the benefits scheme, around £500m (€562m).
I would allege that these two schemes were “quid pro quo” for each other, that both Sinn Fein and the DUP signed off on them in the full knowledge of their cost to taxpayers, and that these two parties were engaged with such arrogance, they thought that they would get away with this by lying about their deal, as they have done to date.