Sir - As a regular reader of the Sunday Independent's sports coverage, I was disappointed by Eamonn Sweeney's article on Neil Warnock's recent comments on Brexit (Hold the Back Page, Sport, Sunday Independent, January 20). It was yet another example of the stereotyping of pro-Brexit advocates as xenophobic. There is nothing xenophobic in the quoted comments of Warnock, rather he voiced a frustration with government from abroad.
There is no trace of xenophobia in Warnock's team selection, so I struggle to find any evidence of xenophobia in his comments or behaviour. While a nasty and visible minority scourge the game in the UK with racist behaviour, there is a far greater majority singing the virtues of wonderful foreign players every week from the stands.
I am not so foolish to think that support for Brexit does not include racists and xenophobes, similar to those who recently burned down a hotel in Roscommon, but I am equally not so foolish to think that such xenophobes are more than a noisy minority.
While now living in Ireland, I have spent much of my life in the UK and count many British people among my closest friends. My experience is that the UK is one of the most truly multi-cultural and tolerant societies in the modern world.
The widespread stereotyping in the Irish media of pro-Brexit supporters as xenophobic little Englanders is especially disappointing given the close family and cultural ties between our two countries. When living in the UK during the 1980s, I never experienced any anti-Irish sentiment as the paramilitaries were committing shameful atrocities throughout the UK.
While it would have been easy for the UK media to adopt a lazy condemnation of all Irish people as supporters of the barbaric violence, they instead drew on their close family ties and love of Irish culture in offering a more sophisticated understanding of the Troubles.
This more sophisticated understanding, correctly characterised the supporters of the NI violence as a minority and checked the British government from pursuing draconian responses that would have only escalated the conflict beyond peaceful resolution. I believe that the empathy that the British showed in dealing with the Troubles during the 1980s and 1990s was essential to securing the peace that now endures.
We should not forget that it was the UK's chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, who was among the first to offer the Irish Government financial support during the banking crisis.
EU support came with far more conditions, not least of which was the full repayment of unsecured bank debt to ensure the survival of incompetent French and German banks. Many of my British friends are now understandably disappointed that the Irish Government offered no support to May's proposal to jointly develop a customs system using technology that would obviate the need for physical check points. Instead, the Government and media delight in the political mess that the UK finds itself in.
We should be doing everything in our power to find a way to rescue our nearest neighbour and biggest trading partner from the mess.
While I believe that Britain's decision to leave the EU is flawed, I am a frustrated Remainer as the Eurocracy has fundamental flaws when it comes to accountability, and, left unchecked, risks suffocating European enterprise. Any future attempts to hold the Eurocracy to account, or resist Federation creep, will be much more difficult without the UK.
We would be much better served if the media could shine a stronger light on the EU's flaws and discuss potential remedies, rather than peddle the infantile mantra of 'All things Brexit Bad, all things Europe Good'.
Taoiseach stirring up fresh hatred
Sir - Leo Varadkar shocked many when he suggested the Brexit issue could see a return to violence in Ireland. Why did he say something so dangerous?
At that time, some wrote, he was by his careless talk giving permission to any headbanger with an excuse to "do his thing", yet Leo said it when it was the last thing he should have allowed himself to do.
Did he believe Westminster would be shocked into doing what he wishes regarding Ireland, North and South? Did the "new IRA" take encouragement from the Taoiseach's disgraceful comments about violence and decide to give itself a new name and to have a go?
Where is responsibility when political language is so used in a time of established peace?
Sir - Gene Kerrigan (Soapbox, Sunday Independent, January 20) uses a range of derogatory phrases to describe Brexiteers, ie "exotically stupid, floppy, hollow, grown from seed..." Does such dismissive terminology now pass for balanced, nuanced journalism?
Brit backstop farce
Sir - So, after two years of trying, the DUP has managed to help block the backstop.
However, like the dog who caught the car after years of trying, now that it has stopped it, what does it intend to do about it?
Sir - I do not believe we need to worry about any so-called backstop, regarding the UK leaving the EU on March 29 because, when it leaves with no deal, there will not be a need for a backstop. Britain will also not need to give the EU £39bn, and, finally, that is when our politicians will need to step up to the plate and stop giving the Irish people their constant pro-European propaganda.
Michael A Rafter,
Sir - Fifty years ago, we celebrated the 50th birthday of Dail Eireann. Three years later, we celebrated 50 years of self-government. Six months later, we spat on the graves of 'Our Heroes' and gave up our independence for a mess of potage - well, big grants to farmers and the annihilation of our fishing industry.
Now, we are trying to avert, divert and pervert another nation's attempt at independence. God forgive us in our hypocrisy.
Sir - Terrific to see former Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny feature in a three-page interview (Paul Kimmage, Sport, Sunday Independent, January 20).
As a Dundalk supporter, I had, of course, a 'passing' interest! Best of luck Stephen... you were a godsend to Oriel Park.
Rights of all should be protected by law
Sir — I write in response to an article by Eilis O’Hanlon (‘Anti-abortion groups have the same right to protest as everybody else in Ireland’, Sunday Independent, January 13), and a number of subsequent readers’ letters (Sunday Independent, January 20).
Irish Council for Civil Liberties’ call for the protection of the rights to health and privacy of pregnant women has been branded “hypocrisy” and a “double standard” because we highlight that some limits to the right to protest may be necessary.
To clarify, ICCL defends the right to protest of everyone, no matter the person, no matter the subject. As a civil liberties organisation, we attach great importance to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the right to peaceful political protest. These are essential democratic rights protected by the Irish Constitution and under international human rights law.
However, in law, these rights are not absolute and they may sometimes come in conflict with the rights of others. When protesters choose to protest outside doctors’ surgeries or medical centres, it is clear that they are targeting individual women who are attending for treatment, rather than policy makers. It is also clear that their intention is to deter these individuals from seeking an abortion, rather than seeking policy change.
In this situation, protesters are potentially infringing upon the personal rights of others. Organised groups seeking to obstruct or intimidate patients may violate their right to healthcare and their right to privacy, as well as the right to a safe working environment for healthcare professionals.
Where two rights come into conflict, human rights law is clear: a balance must be struck and some limits can be imposed, as long as they are necessary and proportionate. The special nature of healthcare, consideration of patient privacy, and the rights of doctors and nurses must all be taken into account in this balancing act.
We believe the public fully appreciates the difference between protesting in front of Leinster House or other public spaces and protesting in the face of women attending their doctor at a time when they are potentially highly vulnerable.
If exclusion zones are implemented outside healthcare providers, protesters will still be free to exercise their rights to peaceful protest in any other public place and to express their views in any other forum. While we may still disagree with their views, we would defend their right to express them. Rather than any double standard, we believe the rights of all should be protected by the law to the greatest extent possible.
Irish Council for Civil Liberties
Country requires FF/SDLP union
Sir — Willie Kealy hit the nail on the head in his article on the influence of the right-wing political parties across Europe (Sunday Independent, January 20). The rise and rise of the right across Europe is alarming and Ireland should take note.
It is to be hoped that the union between Fianna Fail and the SDLP creates a more representative definition of what it means to be Irish at this time, given that the Irish people have a history of being on the wrong side of the right for many centuries, both North and South.
A strong centre left party is required in Irish political circles, one that makes it its business to take care of the needy across Ireland. Fianna Fail figures should stand up now and declare whether or not they feel able to be part of that. The SDLP should clarify the changes it sees necessary in its own message for it to be part of this union.
I think the word “union” best describes the FF/SDLP joining together, or marriage. It might be a bit like a traditional Irish marriage, where eventually both parties take the name of the husband and the wife usually takes everything else.
Hopefully, Ireland will feel that this new political force gives the people protection from those who would scapegoat minority groups and create havoc in the country in the pursuit of right-wing agendas that serve no other purpose than their ego.
Show a little more respect
Sir — Has the concept of taking gory images of accidents on mobile phones and distributing them reached an all-time high?
In the aftermath of the horrific accident on the M50 last Thursday evening, in which a young woman suffered catastrophic injuries and lost her life, there were a stream of people trying to get pictures on their phones of the vehicle and the individual.
They didn’t seem to care that the family of the victim were also going to have to see these pictures, and that rather than remember the woman as she was they would have this appalling image to try and block.
Within a matter of minutes of the accident taking place there were pictures being circulated nationwide.
Do these people put such a low value on human life that it is of more importance to circulate these horrendous images to all and sundry than say a prayer and think of the victim and her family?
To the people who took the images shame on you. Likewise to the people who opened them and forwarded them on.
Human life is sacred and it is time for a little more respect.
All our hearts are important
Sir — I read with great interest Niamh Horan’s article about broadcaster/pop star Tom Dunne and his life-saving heart surgery which he underwent in November (Sunday Independent, January 20). Life-affirming stuff with lots of light at the end of a dark tunnel for him and his family. Your paper dedicated half of page three to this and included a big, happy family portrait...
On page two you dedicated six lines and a total of 52 words in your ‘News in Brief’ section to a march by 10,000 people in Waterford city on the Saturday.
These people marched seeking 24/7 cardiac care for 500,000 people in this region, every one of them as important in their own way as Tom.
We continue to be the only region in the country without 24/7 care. We cannot access emergency after 5pm any day. We cannot access emergency care from 5pm on Friday to 9am on Monday.
This encompasses the entire south east region.
We must travel to Cork or Dublin in the event of heart failure. The chances of surviving such a trip are minuscule. We demand to be heard by the HSE, our politicians and by the media. We will not go quietly in to the night.
Cutting carnage on our roads
Sir — With reference to your front-page report ‘FG Cabinet critics of drink laws not fit for office — Ross’, Sunday Independent, January 20), although I am a long-time, committed environmentalist who shares the deep concerns of some rural TDs about the dissolving fabric of our rural communities, I feel bound to strongly commend our Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, Shane Ross, for his concerted effort to lessen the carnage on our roads by vigorously prosecuting his campaign of strengthening and enforcing our “drink-driving” laws.
As a nation, we do not have to tolerate the much-improved (but still unacceptably high) level of serious injury and fatalities on our rural roads as an unavoidable component for sustaining our rural social fabric.
It is easily possible, by the innovative application of means which are lawfully available to us right now and easily affordable by us, to substantially improve the social cohesion which is so (correctly) important to our rural deputies and senators while, at the same time, substantially further reducing the carnage.
We are not in an “either/or” situation of “we can sustain our existing level of rural social cohesion or we can reduce death on our rural roads”.
The application of a few revenue-neutral interlinking strategies can bring a dramatic improvement to our rural communities’ quality of life while at the same time dramatically reducing the carnage on both our rural road network and also on our urban road networks.
Defending the law
Sir — I refer to your reports (Sunday Independent, January 20) about the incredible criticism by the “lunatic fringe” of government ministers and others in Leinster House of the Garda enforcement of the necessary and life-saving drink-driving laws, which they themselves introduced.
Their action has brought the Government and Ireland into disrepute. Well done Minister Ross for doing what’s right, defending the law and protecting all of us from death or injury on Irish roads. Also, well done to you for bringing this important matter to the public’s attention.