Sir - In recent years, much has been written about crime in rural Ireland and theft from vulnerable farmers. However, there is theft going on, and it's almost unnoticed.
In fact, what is going on is grand larceny and is proposed by the State. The present Government proposes to rob the farmers of Ireland of their carbon credit rights and use them to massage the figures for other sectors like industry, aviation, transport, data centres and so on.
This is how it works;
Farmers produce food. In turn, this creates CO2. As Prof Fitzgerald (of the Climate Change Advisory Council), and Prof Frank Mitloehner (of Davis University, California) argued last week, this CO2 is cyclical. Farmers have lots of grassland, trees, scrub, hedges and forestry. These sequester CO2 created by food production. You deduct one from the other and you get a net carbon footprint. At least that's what you would expect. The reality is quite different.
I've just got off the phone to a highly placed agricultural official. I was asking if, and when, I could put up a sign at my entrance stating that we are a carbon neutral farm (because we have so much grassland, trees and forestry on the farm, we sequester more CO2 than we produce).
I was told that the present Government proposes to pick a year (possibly 2015) and any sequestration capacity in place before that date belongs to the nation. Farmers will only get credit for anything they do after that date.
So we will be classified as carbon criminals - even though we are carbon neutral.
It's time for farmers to wake up and put a stop to this larceny. In the coming years, farmers will be putting more sequestration capacity in place - but the capacity that is already in place also belongs to them and could be their most valuable asset. The political party that acknowledges farmers' right of ownership of their sequestration capacity will get my vote.
Murroe, Co Limerick
New powers needed in drug war
Sir — I am a retired detective sergeant who spent 10 years in charge of a divisional drugs unit. I have seen the scourge drugs has on society and families, but what is happening now has brought it to a new level. Communities across the country are living in fear of gangs.
The Government should bring in legislation where on the evidence of a chief superintendent, drug gang members can be convicted. This legislation was used before to convict persons regarding IRA membership.
Also, every garda division should have a mini CAB unit targeting middle-range dealers in gangs and seizing their assets. Divisional drug units are operating with three or four members, not nearly enough. One garda told me recently that they could be working 24/7 as the drug scene has got so out of hand.
Gardai need to be given proper manpower and resources. As we have seen recently, when they are, they get results. Yes, it will cost millions but better that than spending it later on drug-related crime, and on the mental health of young people as a result of addiction.
All that Brexit and now an election
Sir —I thought I’d go mad hearing about Brexit day after day, week after week. And now I’m faced with a boring election. Politicians knocking on my door, promising the world. So I’m going slightly bonkers instead.
As Brendan O’Connor rightly pointed out last week, things move fast these days. There’s so much news, so much social media that things have a natural life cycle of three days. We don’t have the patience for anything that lasts four weeks — especially not an election campaign.
I feel weary night and day with these elections. Another two weeks of words.
JFK once said: “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect.”
He was right there.
Kill, Co Kildare
That’s spoiled the film for me now
Sir — Why did Declan Lynch reveal the ending of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in his column? I hadn’t got around to seeing it yet, but it’s spoiled now.
Tuam, Co Galway
We told the Brits but they're not telling us
Sir — I’m deeply disappointed with the British penmanship. During the UK’s recent general election, many ‘Letters to the Editor’ columns in Irish newspapers were generously littered with advice from Irish citizens on how the British should vote.
To date, I have seen no letters from British readers advising us. Shame on them!
Rosscarbery, west Cork
Let them come clean with public
Sir — I’m bowled over by the arrogance of the political parties and the games they play. Since the General Election was called they argue about minor, insignificant things.
In the national interest, I suggest they are forced to debate the national plan, Project Ireland 2040. That is the blueprint for the next 20 years and they must debate its merits and demerits.
I’m convinced it is unbalanced and will lead to choked cities and vast, deserted areas in the west.
I see no difference between FF and FG. They must face reality. They say they will not form a national coalition with each other. But they have been propping up each other for years.
In the words of the late Brian Lenihan Snr: “Let them come clean with the public.”
Dromod, Co Leitrim
More money has harmed health
Sir — Having watched five of our prospective spokespersons on health on TV, am I the only one who found it depressing?
FF wants to spend an extra €2bn, SF €4bn, Labour says it would spend more than €4bn, with Fine Gael and Social Democrats of a similar mind.
Writing in last week’s Sunday Independent, Dan O’Brien rightly pointed out that in the past 20 years the number of healthcare workers employed by the State has grown by two thirds.
Irish health spending per person is among the highest in the world.
If resourcing is not the cause of the painfully obvious undersupply of health services, the answer must lie in how the services are used.
So pouring more money into health budgets has resulted in increasingly worsening healthcare here in Ireland.
Meanwhile, the political parties try to outdo one another in ostentatiously calling for more spending so more public servants can be hired, which equals more votes.
How about we insist that the five future spokespersons are collectively put in charge, so there can be no excuses not to implement the changes that are needed to end this scandal?
Straffan, Co Kildare
Varadkar needs to lighten up a bit
Sir — In last Sunday’s paper, Jody Corcoran assessed Leo Varadkar’s campaigning style and concluded by saying Fine Gael needs to take Varadkar off the campaign trail. “Bring Leo home.” He cites his awkwardness around people in contrast to Micheal Martin’s more relaxed interactions.
This is a flaw Fine Gael needs to take into account. Voters like to meet politicians. It is a personal thing to ask someone to vote for you. You are asking them to trust you. Human interactions are emotional. They can involve our deepest feelings. As a candidate you are essentially building up a relationship with each voter. If you are awkward around people this doesn’t help. People pick up on this and get suspicious. It is a normal reaction to something you don’t understand.
Enda Kenny was known for his funny stories, for example the story of the man with two pints. People can relate to this even if they have a laugh at the expense of the person.
Leo Varadkar needs to lighten up. He doesn’t have to act the buffoon like Boris — not that it did the British prime minister any harm. If he is incapable of doing this then showing a bit of humanity would serve him well.
‘None of the above’ is my preference
Sir — I heard a voter being asked who he might vote for on RTE’s Morning Ireland. He said: “I don’t know, as I can’t see any of the candidates bringing about a change in what we have now.”
I have long advocated having a box at the bottom of each ballot paper which states, “None of the Above”. If more than 50pc of voters marked this box, the election for that constituency would have to be re-run with a new set of candidates.
At present the only option for those of us faced with a bad choice of candidates who do not represent our views is to spoil the ballot paper or not bother to vote at all.
Midleton, Co Cork
Three changes to improve politics
Sir — Dan O’Brien last week put much of the responsibility for our problems on our PR voting which, he claims, favours independents. He does not explain how having more brain-dead backbenchers will mend matters. Nor does he take into account that such lobby fodder, being bored and ambitious, will foment trouble for our leaders.
A much better solution would involve three strands (also needing referenda to change the Constitution):
Strand one is to slim down the Dail to something like 60 TDs. This keeps every TD ‘local’ but covering too broad an area for parish-pump politics to rule.
Strand two is to remove the need for parish-pump politics at the national level by ramping up local government. Give county councils etc more powers and appropriate funding and let central government butt out.
Strand three is a development of strand two. As we empower local government by taking power from central government, we should also empower it by taking power from individuals.
Change our planning laws to make it difficult for individuals to object to proposed developments.
This won’t solve everything, but is far better than proposing to increase the number of party hacks in the Dail.
Athlone, Co Westmeath
Let them give us all five or six ideas
Sir — Now that the race has started, would it be too much to ask those who wish to be policy-makers to give a written commitment regarding five or six proposals for implementation if they form part of the new Dail? So many promises made during canvassing fall by the wayside after the government is formed.
All we ask that each party give a written undertaking to comply with their priorities, barring a national calamity.
Dundalk Co Louth
Well that’s not exactly clear
Sir— We had Colm McCarthy’s expected clarity on Brexit (Sunday Independent, January 19). However, he failed to complete his polemic with the obvious implication of a negative outcome for UK’s final trade negotiations; where the ‘Border in the Irish Sea’ will become the ‘Border on the Island of Ireland’. As clear as ‘night follows day’.
Aodhan O Meadhra,
Should we condemn the Free French too?
Sir — So, I’ve been wrong all these years. I had thought that Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet, Padraig Pearse, Michael Collins and their like were heroes.
But from a reading of various articles and letters, it now appears that they were, one and all, murderers.
If this were so, surely the same logic should apply to past conflicts in other countries? The British ruled Ireland by right of conquest. One could, therefore, rationalise that their police forces were the legitimate forces of law and order.
So when the German state took over control of France and other countries by right of conquest in 1940, the situation was essentially the same as in Ireland. Any objection relating to the degree of force is invalid as a principle is involved.
So are we to say that the actions of the Free French resistance fighters were not only wrong, but immoral, and now to be condemned?
Renvyle, Co Galway
Ban hare coursing in Irish countryside
Sir — For how long more will organised animal cruelty dressed up as ‘sport’ deface our countryside? Scenes of sickening cruelty were observed at a three-day hare coursing event in mid-January.
On day one alone, nine hares were pinned down by greyhounds and horribly mauled. Our observer at the fixture noted that even some hardened coursing fans were visibly upset by the spectacle of harmless animals being set upon by the dogs, and the child-like screams of the hares as they were mauled.
Parts of the second day’s ‘entertainment’ were cancelled due to a shortage of hares for coursing after the debacle of day one.
This indefensible ill-treatment of a supposedly protected mammal — the Irish hare — is further evidence that muzzling of greyhounds has not rendered this blood sport humane or cruelty-free, as coursing clubs and sympathetic politicians like to claim.
With the election campaign in full swing, we hope that the next Government will enact legislation to ban hare coursing. It’s time to end this horror show in the Irish countryside.
Callan, Co Kilkenny
End greyhound industry funding
Sir — At a time when acts of crime in this country have never been more violent or brutally depraved, we learn that the Garda Emergency Response Unit does not have the funding needed to do its job properly.
Yet the outgoing Government, along with several of its predecessors, have managed to find €250m to give to the greyhound racing industry since 2002 — an industry which is responsible for overbreeding (and killing) 6,000 plus dogs every year.
Basically, it’s a sector which would have long since ceased to exist if it weren’t for this funding from our taxes.
I sincerely hope that hard-pressed Irish taxpayers will make both the misuse of public funds, and the abuse of animals, an election issue when candidates come looking for their votes in the coming weeks.
Lanesborough, Co Longford
Writer McCann’s great literary advice
Sir — May I share some excellent advice for writers from Colum McCann’s excellent book Letters to a Young Writer.
Do not be afraid of sentiment, even when others call it sentimentality. Be ready to get ripped to pieces: it happens. Do not allow your heart to harden. Have trust in the staying power of what is good. Have courage. Go somewhere nobody else has gone. Read promiscuously. Restore what has been ridiculed by others. Make justice from reality.
Glenties, Co Donegal