Letters to the Editor: 'Longest day and a dip in sea'
Sir - Summer solstice, which occurred last Friday, June 21, is the longest day of the year. To be meteorologically accurate, summer solstice is the day with the greatest amount of daylight. Even though the weather is currently unsettled, we enjoyed more than 17 hours of daylight last Friday.
The next three months leading up to mid-September is the period when nature is most active in all its glory. The trees are in full foliage, plants and shrubs are blooming, hay and silage is being saved and the countryside is at its magnificent best. In Irish mythology, Fionn mac Cumhaill and Na Fianna always enjoyed an invigorating swim in the wild Atlantic waves from Slea Head to Erris Head on summer solstice, the day when the sun god was closest to Ireland.
On that day, Manannan mac Lir, the god of the sea, lavished his bounty of minerals, iodines and nutrients on those who swam in the Atlantic Ocean, thereby bestowing on them the virility of youth, which they needed in battle.
Many of Na Fianna died far too young but Fionn's son, Oisin, did reach Tir na nOg, where he spent 300 years with the beautiful Niamh Chinn Oir.
It's a charming story, based on myth more than fact. Still, I must admit that I always enjoy a long refreshing sea swim on June 21 each year in the hope that some of that youthful vigour is still floating around.
So far, it seems to me as, in mind and body, I feel as young and vigorous as I was back in the day!
Tralee, Co Kerry
Hit the real culprits on global warming
Sir - The latest Government proposal to consider introducing a carbon tax to help curb greenhouse gas emissions and to introduce more electric vehicles in the coming decades needs a lot more thought.
Any rash decisions could have serious consequences for our cities and towns, while it could hammer another nail in the coffin of rural Ireland.
It could result in the closure of hundreds of filling stations and the loss of another vital service in the regions.
As global warming continues to make headlines across the world daily, we as a small island must do our bit to fight this challenge.
But penalising the ordinary Mary and Joe Soap in this country, while the biggest polluters like the US, Russia, India, Japan and China continue to belch out billions of tons of CO2 emissions needs to be addressed as a matter of world-wide urgency.
Meanwhile, commercial aviation and shipping industries continue to emit pollutants at a rate of knots.
There is a great danger we could put the cart before the horse and further tax our struggling citizenry, while at the same time the world's biggest offenders appear to be all at sea, or up in the air, in dealing with this.
Cloonacool, Co Sligo
Have we no fight left in us at all?
Sir - I'm thoroughly sick of it. On the one hand I see young people priced out of the rental market and no hope of ever buying a house.
For them, what is their stake in Ireland? What does being Irish really mean for them? Is the Government not so subtly saying to them: "Off you go, plenty of cheap immigrant labour around." Is that really policy now? Is this how we maintain our "competitiveness"?
On the other hand I see well-padded ministers with eye-watering pensions totally out of control with our money. HSE waste/new children's hospital incredibly over budget/broadband plan egregiously over budget.
I see semi-state companies (Dublin Port) spending the price of a house in Dublin on their credit cards and defending it because they make large profits. They are a monopoly. And the big inquiry? How was this info leaked to the public? That, it seems, is the important question here.
Does anybody believe this Government will put alternatives in place before they price us out of our cars or let us freeze in our tough winters with unmanageable heating bills?
What is the matter with us Irish? Why do we put up with this? Are we so cowed now that we will just put up with anything? Where is the opposition? Fighting Irish indeed.
Sandyford, Dublin 16
A breakthrough on the backstop?
Sir - It is surprising your report on Leo Varadkar's interview with RTE (June 16) has not been picked up by other newspapers in Dublin or London as the story is, potentially, one of the greatest importance.
You reported the Taoiseach having said he is open to alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border. He adds he wishes to see such proposals demonstrated "before we are willing to give up the backstop".
It is - to put matters euphemistically - disputable whether Mr Varadkar has always been open to such proposals. In the past he and his colleagues have often been dismissive of proposed technological solutions to the problem of the Border after Brexit.
Indeed, in Monday's Financial Times an unnamed Irish Government source is quoted as saying in reply to Sajid Javid's offer to pay for such a solution that the problem is one that cannot be solved by banknotes.
But the fact remains, the Taoiseach has now said he is, in principle, open to proposals for technological solutions to avoid a hard border, regardless of what he and others have said over the last few years.
This seems to be a breakthrough. Perhaps the prospect of a British prime minister more firmly committed to Brexit than Mrs May - even, if necessary, at the cost of no deal - has forced Mr Varadkar to be more flexible.
Maybe those banknotes will be welcome after all.
Donegall Rd, Belfast
Don't undermine the majority
Sir - I have been a regular reader of Eoghan Harris for a long time and have admired a lot of his comments. But, of late, I think he has gone over the top with regard to the backstop.
He claimed most of the southern media and commentators are brainwashed for supporting the Taoiseach, the Government and all parties in the Dail and Seanad in their position on having a permanent backstop and how important it is in preventing a hard border between Northern Ireland and this country.
He quotes Jeffrey Donaldson saying Sean Lemass never hid behind outside bodies when dealing with the Border issue. His claim that Leo Varadkar is the first Taoiseach to subcontract NI policy to outside bodies is a total misrepresentation as we are all EU citizens now, unlike in Sean Lemass's time when we were a single county.
So, Eoghan, stop undermining the view shared by the majority of people in this country who want a permanent backstop to avoid a hard border.
Bandon, Co Cork
We should not go back to grovelling
Sir - In his article of June 16, Eoghan Harris tells us "because Boris Johnson will not back down on the backstop", Irish negotiators should time-limit it.
Time-limiting amounts to going back to grovelling to our former colonial masters, because they have welshed on agreements made with the EU and on the Good Friday Agreement signed with this democratic republic.
Joining the UK in welshing on an agreement made with the UK by nearly 30 European democratic members of the EU (Ireland included) is not defensible.
Joining the UK in welshing on the Good Friday Agreement, which drew a line under centuries of colonial rule and resulted in an open border on Ireland, is also not defensible.
Sutton, Dublin 13
Have we heard it all before?
Sir - Eoghan Harris's reference to a newspaper article that described three candidates for the Tory leadership as "the opium user, the buffoon and the swivel-eyed loon" reminded me of our own rainbow coalition days. The late Sean McCarthy - the Kerry songwriter - said in an interview our future lay in the hands of "a crook, an amadan and a rugby player with a bad back".
Blessington, Co Wicklow
Politicians are not the best managers
Sir - Colm McCarthy (Sunday Independent, June 16) outlines how the Government's independent fiscal advisory body (IFAC) accused the Government of fiscal irresponsibility. It describes Government budget forecasts as not credible.
A similar view has been expressed by the ESRI, the Central Bank, the OECD think-tank, the IMF et al. Hence, we wonder why we continue to hear of cost over-runs in so many areas of Government.
As finance ministers go, Paschal Donohoe is by no means the worst we have seen.
Unfortunately, politicians are not in the business of prudent financial management of our country. Their primary objective is winning votes and getting re-elected. Their job is to try and please all the people all the time.
So why would they jeopardise their political survival by making unpopular decisions, albeit the correct ones?
Our system of Government - the prudent management of State business - is clearly flawed. There must be a better way. Anyone out there hear my cry?
Dillon's Cross, Cork
Factions not just a problem at GAA
Sir - Colm O'Rourke's article on the different factions and interests in the GAA is fascinating (Sunday Independent June 16).
His description of the priorities of the different sections could well be the genesis of a play entitled "GAA shenanigans at the parish pump".
Factional interests are not solely a GAA problem but permeate the whole of our society, best exemplified by politicians and how they distribute largesse entrusted to them for distribution.
Inevitably, they look after their own constituents first, to the detriment of other needy sections. Colm O'Rourke also makes reference to the falling attendances at football matches, putting it down mainly to the fact decent football will only be played when the weaker teams have been eliminated towards the end of the championship.
I would suggest falling attendances can be attributed to some degree to what passes for football but is in reality handball, with a bit of all-in wrestling thrown in.
If you are lucky enough to play in the Ulster Championship, you could also get a free dental inspection whether you want one or not. Handpassing has taken over the game and it makes for dreary viewing. The GAA has made a feeble attempt at trying to rectify the situation.
Continuing falling attendances would concentrate their minds wonderfully and might make the association come up with a more equitable standard, both for teams and spectators.
Drumcondra, Dublin 9
Red tape drives landlords out
Sir - There is little doubt the reason rental accommodation is in such short supply is that politicians have declared landlords public enemy number one. Snowed under by restrictions and increasing taxes, they have fled the sector in droves. Governments in recent years have been driven by the shrieks of populist politicians calling for more tenants' rights, which left landlords where their only option was to flee.
Many of these properties will be bought by overseas funds.
And they made their lives bitter with hards bondage, in mortar, and in brick. Exodus 1:14.
Edenderry, Co Offaly
When Lynott played a different tune
Sir - As a rock star, Phil Lynott may well have been all the things Declan Lynch says he was - but some of us remember a time in the late 1960s in Barry's Hotel every Tuesday when there was rock 'n' roll of a different kind.
Phil was part of a band called the Black Eagles and they played covers of other artists' songs - but more importantly they also played slow sets.
What did it matter to those of us who had locked lips with the girls we fancied if Phil was bored rigid by some of the stuff he was playing.
Back then (awful though some of it was) music was the food of love and we had large appetites. Rest easy, Phil.
The Coombe, Dublin 8
Thank you, Eilis, for the wake-up
Sir - We are all acquainted with Sebastian Barry's award-winning novel The Secret Scripture, but who would have thought we have our own secret scripture scholar in Eilis O'Hanlon.
What an enlightening article she wrote in the Sunday Independent (June 16).
I enjoyed reading about those fiery Old Testament prophets who said what they had to say, and said it loud - no political correctness, no snowflake generation to upset.
Their words certainly wounded but better a wound than death, albeit a spiritual one.
Perhaps it's time for all of us to dust off the Bibles hidden in the back of cupboards and search out what she calls "the awkward truth" for ourselves.
Eilis O'Hanlon is certainly on to something when she writes that the Bible denounces quite a lot of what passes for lifestyle today.
The problem is we are all guilty of ignorance when it comes to scripture, preferring the a la carte variety, like a child choosing the melt-in-the-mouth chocolate at the checkout - the soft option that leads to childhood obesity or in later life the softly, softly approach that leads to spiritual slumber.
The choice is ours but do we not now and again need to be reminded exactly what it is we have chosen?
Thanks, Eilis, for the wake-up call - with the option of pressing the snooze button whenever we want.
Rosarie O Sullivan,
The Lough, Cork
Where the waters meet
Sir - Leo Gormley incorrectly states that the rivers Barrow, Nore and Suir meet in Avoca (Sunday Independent June 16). The Meeting of the Waters refers to the joining of the Avonmore and Avonbeg rivers to form the Avoca River. The so-called Three Sisters meet 80 km further south at New Ross and Waterford.
Plant cures for sick animals
Sir - Plants can be used to cure animals. Traditionally, for example, ivy was used as a medicine to treat warts in cattle (Kildare), tansy to treat worms in horses (Galway) and comfrey to treat swollen udders of cows (Meath).
Plants have been used for thousands of years to treat animals or as feeds to improve their health. Information was passed from one generation to the next and often not written down. How much of this knowledge remains in the population?
The Ethnoveterinary Medicine Project, established by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, aims to collect the remaining information before it is lost - an important part of traditional rural culture.
However, this knowledge could also be used practically in animal management (livestock, pets), to improve their health and the economy.
If you have any information about ethnoveterinary medicines, feed supplements or other information relating to plants/fungi and animal health from these islands, please email email@example.com. Or alternatively, write to William Milliken, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Wakehurst Place, Ardingly, RH17 6TN.
Dr William Milliken,
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England