Letters to the Editor: 'EU's trade deal disaster'
Sir - The European Union's deal with South America makes a mockery of its position on the environment, pollution and biodiversity.
Some of our biggest polluters are from the freight sector - ships probably being the single greatest polluter of all. As for Brazil cutting down the rainforests to raise more beef, that releases air pollution while destroying the environment and hugely reduces the amount of carbon dioxide that can be absorbed from the air. It's the death knell for biodiversity as it kills off animals, insects, rare species of tree and plant.
Then the cargo ships, and planes delivering the produce across the world pollute the air - over land and ocean - and there's no doubt lots more plastic ditched in the sea.
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It's so irresponsible. All food, all produce, should be sourced as close as possible to where it is consumed. This is basic common sense.
This deal is irresponsible, and threatens the environment, threatens all living creatures on this Earth.
I hope the EU cops on before it's too late.
Clonsilla Road, Dublin 15
Voting rights are for the State, not nation
Sir — While I welcome the various articles by Ciara Kelly and others in the Sunday Independent on the proposed extension of voting rights for Irish emigrants, the issue has been reported as if a) it is a good thing and b) that it has widespread support.
Let me say, I do not support the notion of prolonged voting rights for people who do not live here in this State. I do favour retention of a vote for, say, a period of five years if someone emigrates and then returns.
I believe you should live with the consequences of your vote. The Dail is not a debating society, not some sort of national think-tank where ideas can be tossed around with no consequence. It is the decision-making parliament of this State.
The Presidency is an integral part of the parliamentary process. It has a political role and a representative one.
Those of us who live here and vote, live with the consequences of the collective vote of the people of the State. That State consists of 26 counties. The laws, taxes and jurisdiction of the Dail cover those 26 counties.
There are many Irish people in many other parts of the world — including on the island of Ireland — who do not live in this State. However, when asking people to vote in elections we are electing members to the parliament or councils of the State — not the nation.
And the State is not the nation. It is a part of the land mass of the nation and contains a sizeable number of Irish people. It embraces many of the cultural values and traditions of that nation. But again I stress, the State is not the nation.
Latest estimates available show there are approximately one million Irish-born people living outside the Republic and a further three million entitled to passports. Given that the electorate here in the State is about three and a half million, allowing those living outside the State a vote would be a seriously disproportionate segment of the electorate.
I believe in the democratic process. I believe in the right of emigrants of reasonable duration to have a vote in the State in which they live and believe the truly democratic stance would be for Ireland to actively campaign for all people to have voting rights wherever they live.
Now that would be democratic.
Donnybrook, Dublin 4
Fresh absurdity of alcohol proposals
Sir — We are indebted to Philip Ryan for drawing attention to the absurdities of the alcohol pricing proposals to be brought to cabinet before the summer recess. (“Cabinet to fast-track price rules on alcohol”, Sunday Independent, June 30).
The first absurdity in the proposals is that the revenues from increasing the price of a can of beer by 40pc accrue to the drink retailer and not to the Exchequer.
By the same logic, revenues from the carbon tax should be returned to the fossil fuel industries. Seeking to reduce the consumption of a product by increasing the incomes of those who sell it is bizarre.
The second absurdity in the alcohol price proposals is that they are not based on the goods themselves, but on their price. The Government has stated that those who consume the same alcohol in hotels, clubs and lounges will not be affected by this legislation. This may reflect the lifestyle of those who prepared the legislation, but has regressive income distribution impacts.
Retailing evolves. More efficient retailers pass on price reductions and customers respond. Efficiency and productivity increase — except at the Department of Health. It wants to force retailers to increase their prices but will allow them to retain the extra revenues thus increasing their profits by €78.3m a year. In about 12 years this annual transfer from consumers to retailers will enhance the profits of alcohol retailers by €1bn — about the same as the extra income for the construction industry from the hospital cost overrun, also generated by the health sector.
By the way, the Taoiseach’s endorsement of alcohol pricing in Scotland overlooked the limited experience of minimum pricing and the decline in alcohol consumption before it was introduced. Partisan rather than independent data has had too much influence on the Government in this debate. Northern Ireland would be well advised do its own thinking and research on this topic rather than be induced to follow the Republic.
Finally, I note that the writer of your Letter of the Week wins three bottles of Irish whiskey liqueur. This is a splendid idea and I wish the winner well. Happily, the legislation provides that the draconian minimum price laws do not apply when the alcohol is distributed free
Trinity College, Dublin
Pricing plan would spell Border chaos
Sir — While the proposal by the Department of Health to impose price increases on the sale of off-licence alcohol sounds good, it would be a disaster from a Brexit point of view.
As you know, VAT and Excise is an EU tax, but in a post-Brexit world it is likely the UK will simply change the name of the tax and prices in UK will remain similar to what they are now. This would limit price differentials and reduce people’s desire to head north. But exacerbate the difference in price and you will make the South significantly dearer, creating mayhem.
This new proposal will see Dublin bring about a significant differential in prices North and South. A heavily policed/customed Border will then be demanded by companies in the South to protect their business and the jobs they create. You cannot allow boot-loads of alcohol to be brought from non-EU to EU without being seen to do your utmost to prevent it or at least to try to ensure EU taxes are paid at point of entry.
As an example, look at Poland and Ukraine. Cigarettes in non-EU Ukraine are €1, in Poland they are €3. It takes on average a half hour to cross from Poland to Ukraine — but an average six hours the other way. Every car boot is checked for contraband when heading from Ukraine. (And that is a border you need only cross once, unlike getting from Monaghan to Cavan town where you cross the border four times on a return journey.)
This proposal is ill-thought out. Shelve it until 2020 to see what things look like — and do not be hostage to fortune in the interim by saying it is an absolute necessity.
Name and address with Editor
It’s true, bullies do live among us
Sir — I read Sarah Caden’s excellent article last week (Sunday Independent, June 30) on our struggle to defeat bullying in schools.
I left school 50 years ago and the quote in Sarah’s article told my truth: “Bullying often isn’t done by the arch-enemies of a child, but by their friends.”
Take it from one who knows.
Glenties, Co Donegal
Moving statues, shifting goalposts
Sir — I wish to reply to that fine letter by Holly Barrett in the Sunday Independent last week, concerning the lack of statues of women around the country.
I am surprised that such a learned man didn’t hear of the several women statues we had in Co Cork many years ago.
Then again he may not have seen them, as I’m told they were moving quite fast.
Castle Park, Mallow
Clean hurling and the Munster Final
Sir — Did you see last week’s Munster Final? It was a disgusting hurling match. In the second half it turned into a melee, with tackling nearer to rugby. Clean hurling didn’t enter into it. It became a case of murder the man to get the ball.
If that becomes the future of the game, hurling will die.
Later that day I watched the Leinster Final and it was a pleasure. The hurling was competitive — clean, man-to-man marking and each time the best man won.
If the Munster Final is the future of hurling, it finishes my interest and I would imagine it’s the same for lots of other people.
Terenure, Dublin 6W
Risible pay rises will not improve morale
Sir — The recent increases in allowances for Defence Forces personnel (totalling €10m) work out at less than €25 per week, per serving member — and this is taxable.
This is clearly not enough to encourage those who left the forces in the past two years to return, nor enough to discourage those who are planning to leave from leaving.
The only conclusion is that the proposals were planned to fail, to keep the Defence Forces at below-strength levels. The Government’s real concern in presenting its proposals is to avoid a knock-on effect on public sector pay.
There are two options to resolve the problem and return the DF to its authorised strength level. One is to acknowledge the DF is different from any other body in the public sector and give them a separate pay review mechanism. They are different because they are not allowed to strike, not allowed to take industrial action of any kind, nor to publicly protest. Moreover they are oath-bound to carrying out all assigned tasks, even if it means certain death. The second option is conscription.
Colonel Dorcha Lee (retd),
Beaufort Place, Navan
Splitting Dublin is GAA’s only option
Sir — In his letter Michael Gannon misses the point when he compares the GAA success of Dublin (pop 1.3m) with Kerry (147,707) and Kilkenny (99,2320). Colm McCarthy, on the other hand, in his article on the same day does not miss that point — but I disagree with his conclusion that “splitting Dublin into smaller units looks like the wrong way to go”.
They both ignore the impact of access to resources which a population of 1.3m gives and the fact there are in effect four counties in Dublin.
Dublin city has a population of over half a million, and Fingal, South Dublin and Dun Laoghaire all have populations between 200,000 and 300,000. All four would be in the top 10 biggest counties in population terms. In contrast, Leitrim has a population of just over 30,000.
If the GAA is to maintain its amateur status it has to divide the present Dublin area into its four constituent counties.
Sutton, Dublin 13
Leo’s true opinion of church revealed
Sir — Micheal Martin’s response to the Taoiseach’s appalling jibe hit the nail on the head when he said that it said more about the Taoiseach himself than anything else.
It wasn’t just a slip of the tongue but a slip of the veil, revealing his true default position on the Catholic Church.
Cedarwood Road, Dublin 11
Taoiseach, stop insulting my faith
Sir — Leo Varadkar behaved very irresponsibly in the Dail last week when he took it upon himself to insult our hard-working clergy as a way of responding to Micheal Martin’s very true comments.
Taoiseach, stop insulting members of my faith. There’s good and bad in all walks of life, mostly good.
Tolerance of all —except Catholics
Sir — In my parish of Thurles, I am humbled by the three priests who serve our community. They go out of their way to welcome us to just come and sit awhile in the presence of God. They extend such warmth that my heart broke to hear our Taoiseach cast such a slur on them, indeed on all priests.
I know for certain the priests of my parish have gone out of their way to ensure safeguarding guidelines are adhered to.
Mr Varadkar knows nothing of their struggle to continue to do what they do in a society that celebrates tolerance of all things — except Catholicism.
Thurles, Co Tipperary