Letters to the Editor: 'Cut the traffic, not the trees'
Sir - I've lived in many different cities, but Brighton and Dublin have got to be my two favourites. They are perfect sized cities and they have lots of similarities.
The reason I'm writing is to let you know that if somebody in Brighton suggested cutting down trees to widen a city centre road, there would be uproar and loud laughter as they would look at it as a joke. It just wouldn't be entertained.
What they would do there is close a car lane to create a bus lane.
Yes, of course, this is an inconvenience to drivers (and I say this even though I make a living driving around Dublin) but we will at some stage have to realise that we have to be more pedestrian friendly, more bus friendly and more cyclist friendly. Hopefully, we realise this sooner rather than later.
Next time you are walking around Dublin, notice how long it takes for pedestrian lights to change to green. Similar pedestrian lights in Brighton change twice as quickly - in the pedestrians' favour. And, yes, this makes driving around Brighton city centre a nightmare - but it's done that way on purpose, to put people off bringing their cars into the city centre.
City-centre traffic should be for public transport and service vehicles. That's it.
This may sound extreme, but we should be growing new trees in the city centre - not cutting them down and by so doing destroying the beauty of our city.
Insurance hike shuts our children's centre
Sir - I manage an Early Years Nature Centre on the path of the beautiful Wild Atlantic Way in Co Clare. The age range is 2.8 years up to 13 years old. The children adore it here. Like so many services, our insurance is hiked each year - even though we have never had a claim to warrant same.
With school soon out, we were preparing for our annual summer camp for the younger age group - until I was informed that insurance hikes meant the camps would cost an extra €500.
The result is that, to the disappointment of all - particularly the children - we will not host the camps this summer.
Any three-year-old child attending our service knows that their actions have consequences. After all, we tell them all to "hold on to the swing rope tight, just in case you fall".
Manager, Teach Spraoi Nature Kindergarten, Toonagh, Co Clare
Broadband is vital for West of Ireland
Sir - I have come back from a trip to Ballinamore in Co Leitrim for the Bealtaine Festival in the local library. The town was looking great, with a new seat celebrating John McGahern in the rounded square where the trees were overflowing with leaves on a sunny day. Another plaque was on a building nearby where the late Gus Martin was born.
But it is a shame to see many shops and pubs closed in many towns and villages - and it's made all the worse when few journalists say anything positive about broadband being brought to the West of Ireland.
It is only when one drives through the towns and villages of rural Ireland that one realises the desperate need for broadband - these are lovely places and we must do all we can to keep them alive and thriving.
Surely we cannot have a two-tier society, where children growing up are not given access to new technologies while the rest of us can enjoy them. No matter the cost, in today's world broadband is as necessary as water and electricity - especially for students who will be left behind in applying for jobs and getting work at home in Ireland.
It would also keep rural Ireland alive where many could work from their homes, the technology helping them to start a new business.
I would not mind paying a little more tax from my modest pension so that this can happen - but I really feel the technology companies are not paying enough in corporate taxes. We have given them space to set up here, providing them with all the supports - so we should ensure they pay their share of tax.
Why should some of our citizens have to continue fighting for what the rest of us already have?
Mary Guckian, Ringsend, Dublin
Private sector gets rich at our expense
Sir - The competence of this Government is shown by the Minister for Finance saying the roll out of rural broadband requires input from the public purse of €3bn - while the initial input of the private investors will be €200m. For that they get ownership of this vital national communications facility.
Is this the best deal possible? Successive government policies enriched the private sector at the expense of the common good.
With deepening crises in health, housing and homelessness, and the reckless negligence of projects such as the National Children's Hospital and broadband, we are fast approaching a national emergency.
The Corrib gas field was handed to Shell by a Fianna Fail government under terms which you would have difficulty believing - terms which lead me to believe little or no revenue has found its way to the public purse.
Anyone in doubt of the urgency for a major rethink should look at the Ireland National Debt Clock.
In February 2016, this indicated €199bn; it now reads €221bn. A staggering rise in gross national debt of €22bn in less than three years.
Ballinspittle, Co Cork
Time to be 'hands on' about housing
Sir - The National Housing Conference in Dublin Castle last week highlights why so many people are confused and frustrated by the lack of awareness around homelessness and the housing deficit.
Many taking part clearly came from the world of architecture and planning. While I don't doubt their value, where were the other agencies required to bring about solutions?
There is no general understanding of the difference between the lack of housing and homelessness. The structural causes for the lack of housing and the social causes underpinning homelessness continue to be conflated, thus confusing the public debate.
This allows various government agencies off the hook and adds to the frustration and disillusionment among the general populace that a solution to either problem will ever be found.
Until those with hands-on experience and those who can put bricks and mortar together are involved in the "debate", the problems will only grow.
Alice Leahy, Bride Road, Dublin 8
Biden was the only one to speak truth
Sir - I read with interest Patrick Cockburn's article (Sunday Independent, May 19) in which he traces the unintended consequences of the failure of the "experts in world affairs" at the CIA to recognise that the wars which the West became embroiled in since the Iranian revolution were proxy wars between Sunni and Shia Muslims - in which the US and its allies "fatally underestimated the religious motivation of their adversaries".
In Cockburn's 2015 book The Rise of the Islamic State, he mentions the one US politician who got it right when, with undiplomatic frankness, VP Joe Biden gave Washington's real view of its regional allies when speaking at Harvard's Institute of Politics on October 2, 2014.
He said that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE "were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tonnes of explosives into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people supplied were unintentionally Isil".
Hugh Duffy, Cleggan, Co Galway
Polls show people now want change
Sir - Over three-quarters of the poll in last Friday's referendum on divorce have given an overwhelming thumbs-up to the Government in acknowledging that ultra-conservative values do not reflect modern Ireland. People want change and it is way overdue. Abortion and divorce are not the only areas people want changed.
Shanbally, Co Cork
Making marriage work for 50 years
Sir - It was sad last week to hear that, after 50 years and 960 marriages, the Knock Marriage Introductions is to close. Donations from dioceses across the country supplemented client subscriptions to keep the service alive, but the country is a different place from when Knock Marriage Bureau (as it was originally known) was established in 1968.
Farmers, female teachers, guards and nurses were high on the list of those hoping to meet someone. Many of the couples who met felt safe and secure being able to talk to someone in confidence at the end of a phone.
Emigration was rife and people found it hard to find a suitable companion when Fr Michael Keane set up the agency, and the initial aim was to introduce returning emigrants to women at home.
Many happily married couples in Ireland and overseas owe their marriage success to the Knock agency - and I wonder will the online dating agencies have the same success in putting happy marriages together?
Murt Hunt, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo
Abortion advice 'too late in day'
Sir - The headline on Eilis O'Hanlon's article (Sunday Independent, May 19) read 'Abortion campaigners should resist the urge to politicise personal tragedy'.
That could be described as coming rather late in the day.
Prior to the referendum one side did politicise the personal tragedy of the Savita Halappanavar case - with the support of practically all of the media in Ireland.
Ms O'Hanlon states "it's also best not to make arguments from the hardest of all cases", but isn't that what happened leading up to the referendum?
Ms O'Hanlon concludes "it's about creating the best, most compassionate system possible, but it doesn't ultimately change the parameters of the abortion argument".
I'm not sure what she means, but if she is saying that abortion is acceptable even if it results in the abortion of "wanted babies" and "healthy babies" so that women have "bodily autonomy" she is right in saying that it does not change the "parameters of the abortion argument".
Now that the consequences are becoming visible, it may prove somewhat embarrassing for those who ensured beforehand that such possibilities were not debated or even acknowledged.
Is it possible that people will now wake up to the fact that there was actually no debate on the vital issue of abortion but an orchestrated campaign to ensure that it was legalised here?
Mary Stewart, Ardeskin,
Language letter doesn't make sense
Sir - John Hyland's letter on the Irish language in the South (Sunday Independent, May 19) is about as far from reality as it is possible to go.
The demand for Irish language rights in Northern Ireland merely advocates the same rights enjoyed by Welsh and Scottish Gaelic speakers in their countries.
As for suggesting Protestants will suffer discrimination if a Language Act is passed, that is rubbish. Some of the most enthusiastic promoters of the Irish language were Protestant, starting with Dr Douglas Hyde, the first President of Ireland.
Tom Cooper, Templeogue, Dublin 6
CIE Tours drivers do the country proud
Sir - Regarding Brendan O'Connor's article which you featured on the front of last week's Sunday Independent, it is really disappointing that you decided to use CIE Tours drivers and guides as an example of "fake sincerity" towards our North American tourists.
CIE Tours have been in business for 87 years and are the leaders in bringing tourists from North America to Ireland. Our quality system (which we implemented over 30 years ago) shows us on the 30,000+ detailed customer questionnaires which our customers complete at the end of their tour that our drivers and guides rate consistently at 98pc customer satisfaction.
Our guides are extremely professional, knowledgeable and proud of their country, its culture and heritage. This is what our customers are telling us, and have been for many years.
What you described in your article may have been the case 40 or 50 years ago, but I can assure you is not the case today.
It was disappointing for many of our American customers to read your article last Sunday morning, when they are bringing much-needed money and jobs to many rural parts of Ireland which do not have many other options other than tourism.
Chief Operations Officer,
CIE Tours International, Dublin 1
Tourism is nothing without Americans
Sir - I'm a driver/guide with CIE Tours International and an approved Failte Ireland tour guide and I'm currently out on a nine-day tour of our beautiful country with 38 Americans.
Last Sunday morning I was shocked when one of my guests handed me the Sunday Independent and in a very upset tone asked me to read the article above mentioned. His quote to me was this: "Is this what you really think of us Americans?"
This article makes us Irish out to be fraudsters, conning the good American visitors who contribute so much to the economy of this country - and more importantly to me and my colleagues in CIE Tours, it depicts us as not being genuine as ambassadors for this country.
Remember, Ireland's tourism industry would be nothing if it wasn't for the Americans who come to visit.
Please take this comment seriously. We are dedicated CIE Tour drivers and guides and we work hard on our tours to show Ireland in a beautiful, positive light to all our visitors no matter where in the world they are from.
Driver and Tour Guide,
CIE Tours International
This toxic threat to our wildflowers
Sir - In understanding the threat to bees, butterflies and the wiping out of wildflowers, I am dismayed by the "lazy man's attitude" of local authorities and those charged with keeping grass growth along roads and in housing estates safe, neat and aesthetically trimmed.
It is clear that toxic weedkiller is being extensively used along grass margins, at the base of stanchions, posts, and buttresses that support road-traffic warning signs, directional signposts and safety crash barriers on all grades of our roadways.
This attacks our ecosystem and savagely confronts our biodiversity, but it also defeats its prime purpose by leaving ugly swathes of dead vegetation which will be replaced by unsightly weeds and moss. All this can be avoided if time is taken to properly clip this seasonal overgrowth by using eco-friendly methods.
Thomas Square, Kilkenny
If you care about climate get a meter
Sir - May I appeal to city dwellers who claim to care for the planet. Please do not pretend you care about climate change while you refuse water metering. We in the Drummindoo Scheme have all our houses metered and can account for every gallon. By so doing, we have cut usage by 50pc by eliminating leaks.
Westport, Co Mayo