Monday 18 November 2019

Letters to the Editor: 'Gay was the glue that bound Ireland together in an age when TV could unite the community'

Unmissable: Gay Byrne and ‘The Late Late Show’ would spark debate across the country. Photo: Chris Doyle
Unmissable: Gay Byrne and ‘The Late Late Show’ would spark debate across the country. Photo: Chris Doyle
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

An appearance on 'The Late Late Show' guaranteed almost instant household name status to any artist. It is difficult to explain the cultural and sociological significance of Gay Byrne both on radio and television to anybody under the age of 30.

It is the past, pre-internet Ireland, when television was a live collective experience.

You could reasonably start a conversation with, "What did you think of so and so on 'The Late Late'?", knowing that it would have been watched.

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Television was what it can never be again, an almost theatrical moment that instinctively you knew would never be repeated again. No doubt, we watched with greater attention then. Now, like so many things, it has become a privatised and personally customised experience. We watch when we choose in our own time, often alone.

The demise of television as a shared experience is one example of the erosion of a sense of community that is not explored often enough.

The argument that television destroyed much community is a well-worn idea but its reverse is also true, that pre-internet television fostered a profound sense of the collective too. 'The Late Late' was at the centre of that. It was there to be argued with, agreed with, outraged by, entertained by, shocked by.

No other programme could silence the banter in a pub and during the ads have the clientele debate what was being discussed on the show. That Ireland is buried now in the silence of the smartphone.

Gay Byrne was arguably more cunning and perhaps even more influential than any politician the country has ever produced. He was as slippery as an eel, one moment urbane, the next self-deprecating. Wearing the mask of Dublinese, often disguising his own sharp intelligence. Sometimes cruel, patronising, often brilliant and incisive. One of the most gifted and empathetic listeners ever.

That sense of being many things is a trait not much in vogue in our very divided age.

He was the barometer, the pulse, the beating but never bleeding heart of the national grid. In many ways 'The Late Late' was our social media and our internet.

Billy Ó Hanluain

Kimmage, Dublin 12


We're playing with fire if we ignore climate change

Having recently been on a visit to the USA, I found myself at a loose end one evening. With little to do, I began flicking through a multitude of TV stations and came across a most enlightening programme on climate change.

The programme explained clearly why the planet is heating up. Our over-use of fossil fuel is clearly the cause of increased CO2 gases in the atmosphere. This increase in CO2 is now in the range of 420ppm (parts per million) to 440ppm. It is widely believed by many scientists that this increased CO2 level in the atmosphere is nearing the point of no return. As the CO2 levels increase, global warming speeds up. As more and more ice melts and at a faster rate, it now appears that methane gas is now also beginning to seep from the depleted ice sheets in the Arctic.

This increased CO2 and methane gas levels will speed the ice melt and increase the sea levels, leaving large areas of the most populated parts of the world under water.

Catastrophe is knocking on our door.

We must all make efforts to reduce our own emissions of CO2 gases. We must stop burning coal, turf, wood, oil and gas. Anything that we do to increase CO2 gas in this world is a nail in our own coffins and in that of our children and grandchildren's. There possibly will be no more generations beyond that, at least not here as Ireland, as we could find ourselves covered in water by somewhere between 2030 and 2050.

If we continue as we are, there is no doubt that the ice sheets in the Antarctic will melt. With 5.8 million sq miles of ice rising an average of 3.5km high the melt from this alone will add 70 to 80 metres in sea levels.

The world must wake up to this and turn the tide before it is too late.

Peter Collins

Castlepollard, Co Westmeath


Isil bride's return should be used to get answers

The question of how to handle returning Isil fighters and so-called Isil brides presents a significant legal, security and political challenge for European governments. Ireland is not exempt from this challenge. In fact, Ireland is one of the biggest per capita exporters of foreign terrorist fighters in Europe.

The most prominent Irish case is that of Lisa Smith, a former soldier in the Irish Air Corps, who travelled to Syria via Tunisia in 2015. Recently, it has emerged that negotiations are concluding for Ms Smith to return to Ireland, with the Tánaiste saying that there should be a "breakthrough" in the coming weeks.

The Irish Government is, of course, right to bring Ms Smith home; she is a citizen of the country and lacks a dual nationality. This would leave her stateless if she were denied a return to Ireland.

However, her return must be conducted appropriately. Ms Smith should undergo a reintegration process involving, at the very least, a programme of deradicalisation. To allow her to return without doing so is a dereliction of the Government's duty to protect the security of the State.

Recent news that the Government will be questioning her before her return is welcome. Questioning and interviewing Ms Smith is the absolute minimum required of the State. If the Director of Public Prosecutions decides that her actions in Syria constitute an offence under the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, she should be prosecuted with the full force of the law to discourage others from following her example. If prison time is not possible, the interviewing and vetting processes ought to be conducted extensively by Irish security services.

Her motivations for moving to Syria, her actions while being embedded with Isil and the process of her radicalisation while in Ireland need to be fully understood if Ireland is effectively to prevent cases such as hers from occurring again.

My experience as head of counter-terrorism in the UK Foreign Office, and indeed in my posting to Ireland as UK ambassador, has taught me that being proactive as opposed to reactive when it comes to national security is crucial.

The Irish Government should use her repatriation to understand how Irish citizens can be radicalised to this extent and ensure she does not have the opportunity to radicalise others.

Ivor Roberts

Counter Extremism Project, London


UK condemns itself with manic drive to leave EU

Politics in Britain is in disarray as it becomes increasingly defined by the urgency of ruthless ambition, whilst struggling to unravel the ideological nightmare that is Brexit. Sadly, the pragmatic decision to invade the Christmas season with a general election is in keeping with the reckless and chaotic world that has been orchestrated by the Brexiteers.

Boris Johnson, apparently driven by a delusional identification with Winston Churchill, and buoyed by his old Etonian friends, seems hell-bent on numbing the sensibilities of the British electorate with a cascade of crowd-pleasing pledges, none of which has been seriously costed.

What I have found particularly odious has been the unscrupulous indifference shown to the threat that Brexit has posed to the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement.

It looked for a while as if, yet again, Ireland's destiny would be sacrificed on the altar of Britain's inability to create and nurture some clear sense of common purpose with the consequence that nobody seemed capable of looking beyond their particular political sensibilities.

Ireland has nothing to gain from Britain's departure from Europe.

Though its economy is heavily reliant on exports, it benefits from the European Union's practice of negotiating trade agreements on behalf of all member states, with the result that Ireland tends to punch above its weight.

Ireland will not escape the immediate threat of an economic downturn, not of our making, that is already beginning to show itself as a result of the uncertainties generated by the Brexit debacle.

We have benefited significantly from our membership of the European Union. The fruits of membership are clearly evident in the improvement of infrastructure, particularly in the extensive improvements to the roads and in the strong support for agricultural innovation.

The divisions created by Brexit will not heal easily.

The manic drive to leave Europe and go it alone will do nothing more than condemn Britain to the politics of closed minds.

Philip O'Neill

Oxford, England

Irish Independent

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