Letters to the Editor: 'Gospel story laced with such simplicity'
Sir - Forced migration, homelessness, poverty, exclusion and persecution are some of the key elements nestling within the wonderfully enriching story of Christmas.
All have salient resonance with some of the major issues confronting today's society. The seasonal Gospel narrative, though, is also laced with a beautiful simplicity which inspires and pays homage to the innate respectful generosity of spirit that we all can muster when motivated to relinquish selfishness for selflessness.
There is a simple, but potent, 'magic' inherent in this story - one of hope, joy and transcendence. Whether one is a dyed-in-the-wool believer, or a doubting Thomas/Thomasine, the metaphorical symbolism of the Bethlehem narrative is a powerful elixir for everyone, a boost towards a selfless generosity of spirit and a boon for a wholesome care and share communalism.
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Unfortunately, the quintessential spirit of this parable of the stable is frequently overwhelmed by the dubious "magic" of crass consumerism and hyper-merchandising - reducing the inspiration almost to nought amid the tsunami of shopping fever, and needless expenditure.
Of course, there are also many wonderful and poignant instances of kindness and commitment towards the disenfranchised at this time of year, but the lingering disparities sadly will still endure after the seasonal splurge. The socio-economic disparities would seem resistant to all repellents.
Hopefully, an authentic vestige of the real message of Christmas can somehow remain rooted, so as to blossom, bloom and bolster our caring and sharing humanity.
Therein lies the true wealth and comforting richness of our collective spirit, which can spawn a flourishing of fairness and care in the round.
Happiness can thus be an all-year round event, not just for Christmas.
Lismore, Co Waterford
Invite Dutch over here to sort us out
Sir - Michael O'Leary recently declared that "the last thing we need is a bunch of f**king Dutch people telling us to pay more taxes".
He was objecting to a proposed tax on aviation fuel, which is not currently taxed, aimed at reducing harmful emissions.
O'Leary's attitude explains why Ireland has been fined numerous times by the EU for breach of agreed environmental protection measures and faces more due to the shocking decline in water quality as reported by the EPA. It is also an attitude which explains why Ireland's national debt is €200bn (the highest per capita in the EU) while the Dutch had a budget surplus of over €11bn last year.
Methinks perhaps some of those f**king Dutchmen should be invited over here to advise on these matters.
Coventry and Mayo
Proud to 'harp on' about our Irish flag
Sir - On December 12 the Irish harp was declared a World Heritage treasure item by UNESCO. Personally, I was delighted, as for more than 20 years, I have been campaigning for the harp symbol to be incorporated into our national flag on the middle, white segment.
Perhaps now the State might oblige? The harp is our emblem! Our flag is rather plain and banal and simplistic, without any artistic imagination or distinctive character or beauty.
At sporting events we see that it is almost identical to three other ensigns, such as Ivory Coast. It needs adornment and clear distinctiveness.
A national flag should be unique and devoid of bland sameness and anonymity.
The Irish harp is a most beautiful instrument, visually and phonetically. It is already a national treasure and now a world one. It enhances our culture, heritage and prestige.
Next year we celebrate the selection of Galway as European City of Culture. An appropriate occasion to enact legislation.
The Irish harp has a long and honoured history, back to the Middle Ages and before, back as far as Tara's Hall. Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I and James I all used the harp on flags and coins. Time then for our own State to recognise its symbolic cultural heritage.
The white segment in the middle of our flag is an ideal setting for a golden harp symbol.
By the way, until the Free State created the Tricolour in 1922, the Green Flag of Eireann did feature a gold harp. Have we regressed since 1922?
Wicked waste at a time of austerity
Sir - During the crash, the Government introduced a range of austerity measures: USC charges, property tax, social welfare cuts, pension levies, cuts to old age pension, etc.
The Government now seems to have no problem in spending billions on broadband, or shelling out €2m on a printer for TDs' calendars. Meanwhile, Dublin City Council is proposing to spend €22m on a white elephant of a rafting facility.
In the real world health is in crisis. People cannot afford to buy a home. Thousands are homeless. The Government has got billions extra in corporation taxes - and they still cannot afford to give old-age pensioners a €5 increase? Instead, we face down the barrel of more charges, a carbon tax, more property tax, bin charges to name a few.
It's time the Government stopped these austerity measures.
There is an election looming and I would ask people to remind politicians when they come knocking on their door to tell them to stop squandering our hard-earned cash.
Celbridge, Co Kildare
Put Downey away in name of justice
Sir - When I heard that the families of the victims of the IRA Hyde Park bombing had won their civil action against John Downey, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.
Hopefully the families will receive belated justice and see Downey brought before court again so he may be behind bars before too long.
Harold's Cross, Dublin 6
Dear Santy, my wish list...
Dear Santy — I know it is a busy time for you but if you could see your way to delivering the following gifts, I would be very grateful.
For Eamon Ryan and Shane Ross... can you give them a one-month holiday on an isolated farm so they can do a comprehensive report on the methane emissions of cows? (Mind you, they’d need to do a report on their own emissions first). Throw in a pair of overalls and a stout pair of wellington boots each and make sure their holiday includes a few days in the bog, cutting turf. That should soften their cough. You might also leave them an electric car for their journey and make sure you send them somewhere there are few charging points and no broadband.
For Simon Harris... can you give him a change of job, maybe over at the FAI? He has all the qualifications, is used to talking in millions and does not notice when things go over budget, so the FAI financial situation will only be peanuts to him.
For John Delaney... can you give him a tabletop soccer game to play with? Also a good few bundles of Monopoly money — absolutely no credit cards. If you could also give him a jersey with CEO across the front — so he can remember the good times.
For Maria Bailey... if you could bring her a slide to help her slip away into oblivion. Definitely not a swing, she has not got the basics of that yet.
For the Healy-Raes... could you put an app on their phones so they can check into the Dail while attending births, marriages and deaths around the country? In fact, all the TDs would like this. The little lambs like pressing buttons — especially each other’s.
For Boris Johnson... can you give him a cardboard cut-out of Brexit Babe Arlene Foster? This would be nice for him, so he can remember the bad old days when she held his you-know- whats in her vice-like grip.
For Roscommon GAA... can you give them a voucher so they can engage the services of a good estate agent? The Rossies have been advertising some nice properties lately in London.
For Mayo GAA... a voucher for a clerical worker to check all emails before they press send to the wrong person.
For Leo Varadkar... please bring him a severe dose of reality, so that he might begin to understand how the ordinary people of this country live. He lives on another planet and needs to be brought back to Earth as soon as possible.
As for us here in Waterford, could you give everyone a copy of that old Bee Gees song Staying Alive? We are doing our best here to have our heart attacks from 9am, Monday to 4pm, Friday but it’s a bit like Russian roulette. Also Santy, it is not even safe to die here, as the mortuary in Waterford is not fit for purpose. But don’t you worry about us, the crowd up in Dublin think we are all decomposing peacefully here.
Safe travels now Santy — just one more thing, if you’ve room, could you deliver a bulk tank of ink to Leinster House, the new printer there is kind of big…
Stradbally, Co Waterford
Heart-warming tales we need
Sir — It was heart-warming last week to see the children of Chernobyl arriving once again to their host families in Ireland for Christmas respite.
Then I heard that the people and businesses in the Louth area were coming together to give Christmas meals to those in need with transport provided, too, if required. Heart-warming news at any time of year.
And, of course, Brother Kevin of the Capuchins is still working miracles providing meals to the many homeless and those needing a hot meal in Dublin.
There are many fantastic people helping those who need a dig out, and the story in the Sunday Independent by Johnny Duhan on The Vinnies (The St Vincent De Paul) was inspirational. And we should never forget Focus, the Simon Communities, Peter McVerry Trust, Inner City Helping Homeless, Alone, Cope in Galway and the other terrific organisations trying to deal with the sad situation we find ourselves in 21st century Ireland.
Let us all try to show that we care for those unlucky people who have fallen on difficult and stressful times.
The Government’s inability to remedy any of this makes one wonder if the caring attitude does not penetrate some building materials — or are the Ivory Towers made from memory blocks!
A Happy Christmas to all.
Kilcoole, Co Wicklow
Non-stop wisdom from Paddy Cole
Sir — Your correspondent Zozimus tells us in last week’s Sunday Independent that the legendary Paddy Cole recently turned 80.
A lovely man indeed. Hard to believe that someone with so much liveliness could be that age.
I love the saying he quotes: “You don’t stop because you get old, you get old because you stop.”
I have a little to go where Paddy is, but I’ll certainly take that on board. Thank you, Paddy.
Merry Christmas to all!
Glenties, Co Donegal
True cost of the TV dodgers is €100m
Sir — At a session of the Oireachtas Communications Committee earlier this month, a spokesperson for RTE stated the television licence-evasion rate stands at 13pc, leading to a revenue loss of €25m a year.
These figures are incorrect. The rate stands nearer to 57pc, resulting in a loss of revenue of €100m yearly to the State.
The reason for this huge loss of revenue is because television licence summonses are served by An Post by registered post addressed to the defaulters.
Over 57pc of those prosecutions will not be successful as the defaulter will not sign for the registered letter or will not open the door when the post-person calls.
The post-person will try again the next day to serve the summons on the defaulter.
If unsuccessful on that occasion, the post-person will then leave a “docket in box” note, asking the defaulter to call and collect that item at their nearest post office.
Of course they never do and An Post then has to apply for that summons to be struck out.
Nor does An Post at the court hearing apply for an “order of substitute service” to have that summons served by ordinary post on the defaulter.
Clonskeagh, Dublin 14
What if there really is a crisis?
Sir — My compliments to Conor Skehan on his piece ‘The truth emergency’. We certainly live in dangerous times when lies are presented as ‘alternative truths’ and the opinions of fools and charlatans can command as much respect as those of experts. The very word ‘expert’ seems to invite derision and suspicion.
Where I diverge from Conor’s analysis is when he links this to cries of ‘crisis’.
I agree that the declaration of a crisis can be a tyrant’s way of undermining legal, moral or political restraints but what if there really is a crisis?
Climate change is a crisis. This is not a matter of one’s point of view or opinion. It is established fact.
True, as Conor says, we cannot know the future but we can make predictions and would be fools indeed to ignore the best advice we have.
Would you reject an operation to remove a cancerous tumour because we cannot be certain it will kill us? After all, we don’t know the future!
Even in the parable of the boy who cried wolf, on the last occasion there really was a wolf. Sometimes there is a crisis and the enemies of truth are those who deny it.
Kinvara, Co Galway
Silence over the QIH barbarism
Sir — A number of friends and acquaintances have commented on the strange and worrying relationship between RTE and Sinn Fein.
It seems likely that if a cockfight took place in Maam Cross on a wet Sunday in November, the Shinners would get a platform on RTE to lecture us about animal rights.
It is curious then to note the silence from that party on the barbarism visited on Kevin Lunny in Ballyconnell and the threats to other directors of QIH.
Surely, with their connections and their knowledge of the area, they would have something helpful to offer if they were so disposed?
At the time of the last presidential election, the Sinn Fein candidate declared she was not ashamed of, nor embarrassed by, anything that was done by the IRA.
This lady was seeking the top post in the State, a State her party tried to subvert while members of our gardai and our Army were murdered by the IRA.
If, for instance, the other candidates had declared they were not ashamed of anything done by the Catholic Church, just imagine the uproar.
Dalkey, Co Dublin