Friday 15 February 2019

Letters to the Editor: 'Fine Gael should be embarrassed by record a century after the first Dáil'

Presidential address: Michael D Higgins speaks at the commemoration of the centenary of the first meeting of Dáil Éireann. Photo: PA
Presidential address: Michael D Higgins speaks at the commemoration of the centenary of the first meeting of Dáil Éireann. Photo: PA
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

It must have been embarrassing for the Fine Gael TDs who attended the Mansion House commemoration of the first Dáil. President Higgins reminded the attendance of what Griffith and Collins felt was the first duty of the Government of the Republic, namely to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of the children and secure that no child shall suffer from hunger or cold or lack of food.

The present leader of Fine Gael might have mentioned how the founding father of his own party, W T Cosgrave, mangled the social issues in the first Constitution written after Griffith's death and Collins's murder; instead, he had to blame the nuns for "betraying those ideals".

Mr Varadkar also decided not to mention homelessness, children waiting years for dental treatment and waiting lists for hospital appointments of more than a year; the mishandling of the cervical cancer cases, shortage of hospital beds; not to mention the failure of the Garda to follow up thousands of young offenders who require help.

Far easier to focus on the nuns in Tuam, the only home for pregnant women discarded by their families.

Mr Cosgrave discarded the President's quoted clause in the Constitution that he adopted on April 27, 1923 because "the clause threatened to push the new party on the treacherous ground of State-sponsored medicine and welfarism".

A second clause concerning free education in primary and post primary schools had survived the December "cull" but at a special meeting held on April 25, 1923 attended by the executive council (the Taoiseach and ministers), Kevin O'Shiel, assistant legal adviser, "found that this provision was unacceptable".

Though not accepted, these social clauses were far ahead of the conservative orthodoxies which both typify and hindered the new State. There was somewhere in the Treaty Party, a semblance of original and progressive thinking which was out of step with the party's elite.

For example, Mr Blythe introduced the Old Age Pension Act 1924, cutting the OAP by a shilling a week. The pension was withdrawn entirely if the recipients or their family had any means of supporting their parents.

A further "social improvement" was to abolish the widow's pension in 1927, leaving the lady with no choice but to revisit the relieving officer for a "few bob" to survive. Her children were sent to an industrial school.

Eoin MacNeill insisted the elite should attend a meeting of the grassroot memberships. The Treaty issue according to MacNeill was dead and the real question was how to entice people to join before the next election. He warned them not to adopt the policies of the old Irish Parliamentary Party, which they did and as a result they were in the wilderness as a party until John A Costello resurrected them in a coalition government in 1948.

Hugh Duffy

Cleggan, Co Galway

 

GAA price rises threaten sports' grassroots future

In reference to the decision by GAA Headquarters to raise the prices of most inter-county games for the upcoming season, it should be clear to all those patrons of this community-based sport that the primary objective of the administrators and central management is the maximisation of revenue and hence "profit".

The words 'goose' and 'golden eggs' come to mind in that, on top of the Sky deal a couple of years back, the risks of this direction for the association will be adverse and long-term significant. The same patrons, many of whom coach, train and organise for this amateur body and in many cases keep local clubs solvent, are the ones being asked again to further contribute by stealth.

Ultimately, treating our Gaelic games as a "product", to quote the GAA president, and so yield even more revenue is against the original ethos of this particular sporting organisation. As well intentioned as the reinvestment at club level may be, there are limits to this strategy which could limit involvement and support from parents and players, particularly in counties that are successful in both hurling and football, given the rising cost of attendance which they will now be expected to endure.

The benefits of a recovering economy are not evenly spread nationally and the GAA would do well to heed this fact.

Eunan Ó Tuairisc (Watters)

Malahide, Co Dublin

 

England could find itself alone because of Brexit

It is a reality that a no-deal Brexit will be very bad - just how bad is debatable - so why would anyone want to inflict this on themselves?

The Scots do not want it, the Northern Irish do not want it, the Welsh should not want it (it will really decimate Wales - and they seem to be waking up to this belatedly) and it won't do England any good either.

Brexit is an English project, driven by English politicians, English concerns and English fears (rational or not).

English nationalism and English identity, long dormant, lost or hidden within the conflicted context of greater Britishness or concepts of the UK, have now come to the fore, expressed in kamikaze bloody mindedness.

Brexit has become so tribal and toxic that thoughtful economic arguments or any attempt at logical, rational debate have become pointless. In the rush to a no-deal Brexit and leaving one union (the EU), the risk of shattering another union (the UK) is very real.

Scottish independence within the EU will become a real option, Irish reunification within the EU an obvious path and English independence may be the ultimate outcome. Perhaps Brexiteers will gain their fantasy independence - as England alone.

Bernard Guinan

Claremorris, Co Mayo

Irish Independent

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