Letters to the Editor: Nollaig na mBan in Mayo reminded us why all is very well in the world
My good wife and I treated ourselves to an overnight stay in one of Westport's hotels over the Nollaig na mBan weekend. It was a delightful, lovely visit. It was as if the shackles of Christmas were finally thrown off and everybody was very relaxed.
During our evening meal we were served by a lady called Ivette, from Hungary, who said she was saving up for a trip back home in March. When I mentioned the great footballer Puskas, her eyes lit up in memory of her father and grandfather eulogising about him when she was a child.
Next stop was Matt Molloy's pub to listen to some trad music, where we met some similar-minded Rossies from such places as Strokestown and Brideswell. The lilt and energy of the foot-tapping fiddle, flute and bodhrán was a reminder spring is around the corner and all is well in the world.
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Back to the hotel bar where the craic was in full swing. Within an hour, everyone seemed to know everyone, if not by name, then by county or some other characteristic. Familiarity soon gave way to parochial slagging, with the 'plight of the Rossie bus' and 'the hurling man taking over the county football team' being thrown in my direction. Funny how some people love to get their retaliation in first.
A lady from Longford related ruefully that Christmas was weeks of planning and then all over in a few hours. Now it was time for Mná na hÉireann to let their hair down.
Next morning the same faces adorned the breakfast tables, if a little dishevelled now, but it wasn't long before the conversations erupted again beginning with a murmur.
With coffees and teas brought to the foyer, the murmur soon became a cacophony of laughter and mirth. Children bounded across the furniture and toddlers crawled on the floors, oblivious to the staff who sidestepped them with smiles.
The patience and easy-going nature of Mayo people has always amazed me, although being a child of Mayo parents, it should not. It soon became time to take our leave and spread to the four corners. A Galway farmer brought the house down, declaring to all that as the only one present who worked for a living, he had to head for the hills. And so we did, rejuvenated and assured that the art of conversation is alive and well in this part of the world.
Ballyhaunis, Co Roscommon
As the concerns of a possible hard Brexit grow, the burden of added customs checks that would arise is expected to place the existing Irish ports infrastructure under significant pressure. Currently Dún Laoghaire Harbour is an underutilised port resource and consequently ought to be updated rapidly with European and Exchequer funding support in order to assist with the added import/export burden set to arise in the Dublin region.
The European Commission's TEN-T corridor strategy in a post-Brexit scenario is focused on maintaining smooth sea transport connections between Ireland and continental Europe through re-alignment of the North Sea-Mediterranean corridor. Already in that context the commission has acknowledged the specific need to meet the challenges posed by growing trade that will need to occur via Irish ports post-Brexit. It has been suggested ports in Belgium and the Netherlands are likely to receive EU funding to specifically help with this re-alignment exercise from the Connecting Europe Facility infrastructure funding programme. Therefore the grounds for making a funding application to the EU in order for Dún Laoghaire Harbour to be upgraded to participate in post-Brexit trading challenges are very strong.
Some 50,000 trailers per annum were in the past permitted at Dún Laoghaire Port, and import/export operations on a similar scale could be encouraged on the same roll-on/roll-off basis that applied previously.
Cllr John Kennedy
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council, Dublin
Catholic politicians lacked courage on abortion issue
World War II ended in 1945. The Fianna Fáil government then in power created a new ministry for health, and Seán MacEntee became health minister. Problems such as high infant mortality and increased concerns on the spread of TB were addressed in the much-delayed White Paper in 1947, followed by the Health Act 1947.
This Fianna Fáil Health Act was considered by the President and on the advice of the Council of State was not referred to the Supreme Court.
However, the 1948 General Election resulted in the surprise fall of Fianna Fáil from government, and instead the first inter-party government, led by John A Costello of Fine Gael, would be left with the responsibility of implementing the provisions of the White Paper in the hands of Dr Noel Browne, of Clann na Poblachta.
It is interesting that the issues of abortion and contraception were raised during the Mother and Child controversy in 1948. Bishop Staunton wrote to the Taoiseach, Mr Costello, acting on behalf of the hierarchy, among other things expressing concern about the State taking over gynaecological care of mothers, which in other countries was taken to include contraception and abortion, stating "we have no guarantee that State officials will respect Catholic principles in these matters". Dr Browne, health minister in the Fine Gael coalition, replied that "the education in respect of motherhood would relate to diet during pregnancy and the avoidance of smoking". Mr Costello said in a further letter, "this country is predominantly Catholic, as is the medical profession".
He went on to say there was an adequate and zealous clergy to bring any practices contrary to Catholic teaching to the fore and to instruct its flock appropriately. In addition to the anti-Mother and Child scheme adopted by the Catholic hierarchy, many in the Anglican Church disagreed with the scheme. 'The Church of Ireland Gazette' saw it as "communist interference in the family".
Our current Catholic politicians did not have the courage to speak out and take inspiration from John A Costello.
"I, as a Catholic, obey my Church authorities and will continue to do so, in spite of the 'Irish Times' or anything else, in spite of the fact that they may take votes from me or my party."
This is advice from the leader of the Fine Gael party that brought the party from near extinction in the 1948 election.
Cleggan, Co Galway