Letters to the Editor: 'If only Hume was still showing way'
Sir - I read with interest Willie Kealy's article (Sunday Independent, February 3) where he described accurately the work of the SDLP, with John Hume at the helm, through the difficult years in Northern politics.
He describes so well how John and his deputy Seamus Mallon, as the voice of constitutional nationalism, were listened to in London and Dublin, and in Brussels and Washington. He said Hume "made sacrifices and took risks in the hope of ending 30 years of murder and mayhem that had been inflicted on the people of Northern Ireland by the IRA. His gamble paid off with a peace dividend, but, in political terms, he and his party paid a high price".
There is no voice for the people of Northern Ireland today with the stalemate at Stormont where the two main parties, DUP and Sinn Fein, are refusing to engage. This allows the chaos to continue at Westminster with nobody to represent the legitimate concerns of both communities in the North regarding their lives post-Brexit.
If Hume were in active politics at the moment, he would have been talking and negotiating day and night for the past two years in order to avoid what now seems to be coming down the tracks.
Political leaders on all sides and other leaders in society would be listening to him and we would be in a situation where compromise and common sense would prevail, leading to a successful outcome for all, not the mess we are now in.
John's political skills were unique but what separated him was his high personal integrity, honesty and decency, and his willingness to sit down and negotiate with any party of any persuasion if he felt it was for the long-term good of society and communities, and not for his own personal advancement.
He has left such a political void in Northern politics and this is evident right now in the Brexit debacle.
Free up fares to make life fairer
Sir - From this summer, public transport will be free in Luxembourg and this initiative is something city planners in Dublin should also consider.
Our capital city is bursting at the seams and gridlock is a daily frustration for commuters. Free public transport would cut congestion, benefit the environment and, most importantly, it would be a progressive, socially inclusive measure that would help low-paid workers and young people with little disposable incomes as a result of spiralling rents and bloated mortgages.
For those concerned that free public transport will inflict an unaffordable charge on the Exchequer, it is worth noting that public transport in Dublin is already heavily subsidised.
In 1999, the Government introduced the Taxsaver scheme, which incentivises people to use public transport to and from work, and, in some cases, results in savings of over 50pc of the regular price.
By going the whole way and abolishing ticket charges, the Government would help tackle air pollution and get Dublin moving more freely.
Surely this is a worthwhile investment in our city's future?
One pot of smarts
Sir - Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe likes to remind us that there is only one pot of money which has to be protected and proportionately distributed.
Likewise, I suggest that within government there is only one pot of political enterprise and acumen that must be similarly conserved.
The Brexit 'play-acting' in Westminster continues to be given disproportionate attention by our government, so collateral damage, such as may be in the case of the outrageous overrun for the national children's hospital, should surprise nobody.
All of which worryingly begs the question as to what other collateral damage will manifest itself in the coming weeks and months?
Name's a problem
Sir - Would the deletion of the emotive word 'children's' and the word 'hospital' from the title of this inner-city building project permit a calm reappraisal of the site location, resulting in a reasonable cost for the taxpayer?
This brazen raid on public purse
Sir - We can say 'Slan to Slaintecare'. Vested interests run this country with the connivance of a self-serving government steeped in an ideology that nurtures the enrichment of the few over the many, with not a thought for that common good espoused in our Constitution.
This has initiated a brazen profiteering raid on the public purse while nudging Slaintecare, the universal healthcare plan, on to the sidelines.
It has reduced that noble aim of the National Children's Hospital, albeit over-priced and in the wrong place for the wrong reasons, to a massive con trick on the citizens of this country, setting back many vital elements of an already crises-ridden health service for many years. to the detriment of the citizens inflicting more needless frustration, pain, and even death throughout the country.
Are Fine Gael treating the National Children's Hospital as a 'trophy project' to be built at all costs so that their legacy will be seen to be one of the biggest hospitals of its kind and costing more than any other such hospital in the world?
The one aspect of this debacle which is incalculable is the damage done to the already- depleted levels of trust in our political system.
Stop the project in its tracks, move to a greenfield site more accessible to all of the citizens of this country, secure the services of Dr Jimmy Sheehan of the Blackrock and other clinics - he has sound knowledge of hospital building - and get on with building a modern hospital, then use the current site for a smaller-scale specialist amenity attached to St James's after the crises in many other areas of our health system have been fixed, including the Slaintecare universal healthcare plan.
Mater Hospital should be up now
Sir - It is reported (Sunday Independent, February 3) that Leo Varadkar stated that the project for the children's hospital at the Mater Hospital project was a "failed plan".
To the best of my knowledge, and I'll stand corrected, when the idea of a new children's hospital was mooted some years ago, an independent panel of experts was formed, some from overseas, and after examining the options for a site, they settled for the Mater Hospital.
Plans went ahead, architects, designers, builders and so forth were employed, the final construction displayed.
The planners objected to the height - it was not in harmony with the existing skyline - and two storeys were deleted, but the planners were still not satisfied, so the project was scrapped.
This, according to Mr Varadkar, after €40m of taxpayers' money was spent.
Health Minister Simon Harris calls for accountability in the over-run of the St James's Hospital expenses. Surely the taxpayer is also entitled to accountability regarding the Mater rejection, and why it "failed".
Let's face it, if the Mater had been accepted, sick children would now be attended to.
Success of school that achieves great results
Sir — I read with interest the supplement on school league tables (Sunday Independent, January 27) and I understand that publishing such information can be a controversial subject.
However, in my opinion the various articles in your paper commenting on the data could spark a very interesting national conversation which would hopefully in the long term improve education.
As chairman and administrator of the Cork Academy of Music (a voluntary charitable organisation, on the North Monastery Campus, Cork), my interest was piqued by John Walshe’s piece, in which he referred to a suggestion by Gerry Bennett, chief executive of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust: “It would be much better to see a league table that was focused on the holistic, social and personal development of students…”
I respectfully suggest that educators, students and parents could benefit from both the academic and value-driven league tables.
The Cork Academy was established 26 years ago and happens to be one of those education “providers” alluded to by John as being outside the scope of the current academic league tables. The school is run on a very tight budget, situated in an area of high unemployment, and is blessed with a capable and diligent team of full- and part-time teachers, who value the students as people, bringing out all their potential.
Under the auspices of the Department of Social Protection, the Cork Education Training Board and ongoing support from Cork City Council, we run ‘Local Training Initiative’ (LTI) courses (levels 4 and 5) plus a Community Employment Scheme, all geared toward using music as a tool for social inclusion. A Foundation and Access course is run for people who have the desire and capability to progress to third level including university.
For students who have a preference to take up immediate employment in the music industry, graded examinations (by external bodies) in theory and instruments are provided.
Over the years, the staff has noticed that the students undergo an extraordinary change in self-belief during their studies. I would credit our teachers with these advances, a large percentage of whom are former students who went on to university and returned to the academy as teachers.
These teachers have a sincere empathy with their students, who in turn recognise in their mentors the embodiment of what can be achieved with a bit of application. Attention to the holistic development of the students seems to also enhance the academic achievement of those who are so inclined.
In recent years there is a notable increase in students securing places on Bachelor of Music degree courses. Last year it reached 50pc on LTI courses, and 20pc on CE Scheme. (But it is fair to clarify that our numbers are relatively small, 28 students in each.)
I would hope that this letter would bring to notice the work of many voluntary organisations like ours who are managing on meagre resources and achieving results for students both holistic and academic.
Cork Academy of Music,
North Monastery Campus
Grief is so lonely
Sir — May I refer to two recent front-page articles by Brendan O’Connor (Sunday Independent, ‘Her name was Dawn Croke’ January 13, and ‘Take care, make time for life’ February 3) regarding two recent heartbreaking tragedies here in Donegal. He has indeed a great gift in finding words, even for such unbearable grief.
It reminded me of words on the same subject, which I read in Michelle Obama’s brilliant memoir Becoming as follows:
“It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open a fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth.
“Food tastes like nothing. Colours go flat. Music hurts, and so do memories. You look at something you’d otherwise find beautiful — a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids — and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way.”
Brush with deadly sepsis
Sir — I felt goosebumps invade my body as I came upon the very informative and much-needed article concerning the condition of sepsis by Alan O’Keeffe (Sunday Independent, February 3).
Suddenly it was 2013 again, and my sister had given birth just a week earlier to a beautiful, healthy baby — a little boy who joined his overjoyed brother and sister.
However, as we basked in the elation that a new baby brings to the family, we were blissfully unaware that my sister had developed sepsis.
A few days after the birth, she became seriously ill at home.
Indeed her deterioration was so rapid that her husband decided to drive her to hospital himself rather than wait for an ambulance.
Once she got to hospital, she was diagnosed with sepsis, told that her organs were failing, and given immediate treatment with antibiotics.
In my opinion, only the efficiency and promptness of her husband and the hospital staff saved her life — and so it is that I type this email today as a happy, grateful, and still relieved aunt — rather than a makeshift mother of three children. I say makeshift because I think it’s universally acknowledged that once lost, a mother can never be replaced.
For the benefit of anybody who may be interested, I would like to add, that along with the symptoms of sepsis mentioned in your article, my sister was also affected by an ice-cold feeling all over the body; cramps in the stomach and back; shivering and trembling; and loud and fast thumping of the heart.
Jennifer Thompson (Miss),
Let’s put an end to these strikes
Sir — As a student at St Peter’s College in Wexford and having passed nurses on the picket line outside Wexford General Hospital last week, one could not but be reminded of the essential role played by nurses in caring for patients, moreover how the HSE as an organisation is failing them.
It is necessary that there should be an immediate reaction from the Government — further extend the number of nurses working in the public health system — and also a review of the salary paid to nurses, as part of a long-term (affordable to the taxpayer) plan, with a view to increasing it over time.
However, while nursing staff in Ireland are required to work under increasing pressure and strain, the Government understandably remains aware that it would be unsustainable to increase the salary in every branch of public service simultaneously.
It is most frustrating that even in the 21st Century a government-union dispute results in committed, hard-working public service workers being on the streets.
This strike action has been most effective in raising a point, while at the same time punishing the uninvolved taxpayer and delivering a distinctly negative blow to the care of patients.
In my view, the only way the INMO can achieve what it is fighting for, is through extensive, patient, productive negotiations with the Government.
Given the frequency of union-led strikes, I hope that legislation can be introduced to ensure a final decision on every deadlocked government-union dispute is made by an independent body which would avoid workers, critical to the every day running of our public services, ending up on the streets.
Sir — On every news channel and headlining the newspapers the one story persists: ‘Nurses on strike for more pay’, ‘Nurses on strike for job security’, ‘Nurses on strike for patient care’.
Now while we all want to see them get what they deserve, the questions are: ‘just what do they deserve’; what makes this group of workers deserve more than any other worker; does the fact that they hold people’s lives in their hands give them the right to play God?
Will they face patients who have had their cancer care deferred due to their strike and tell them that it was for their good that they are on strike. Will they attend patients’ funerals and tell them that it was for their good?
They must get off their high horse before patients die due to this action.
Michael O Meara,