Letters to the Editor: Real message of the season
Sir - So the festive season of Christmas is upon us, but what is it all about? Is it about all the intensive commercialism that takes place globally on a daily basis in the lead up to the holy season? Or is it about the true meaning - the birth of Jesus Christ?
That late, great French-born poet Thomas Merton held the view that Catholic or maybe all Christian churches aren't fully aware what the full implications of God becoming human are; that we don't realise what it means when God becomes fully human.
We are an Easter people, he is quoted as having said. When he went to America, he enrolled as a Trappist monk and joined a monastery in a place called Gethsemani in the state of Kentucky where he spent the next 27 years wrestling with his vocation.
He was always unsure if he had made the right decision.
After a stay in hospital in Louisville, he fell madly in love with a nurse who was half his age. Merton realised that it was the best thing that ever happened to him.
His image of God changed completely. He said that he never even knew God until he felt this love for a human being. Merton understood what the love of God meant for the first time in his life. And he had been introduced to it by the love of a beautiful human being. But he stayed true to his vocation.
So the message of Christmas is all about God's love for us, Christ being born and becoming one of us to show us the way of love. Not the making of huge profits by countless multinational retail organisations on a worldwide basis.
Dreaming of old Christmases
Sir — I’m dreaming of an old Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. Let me take a modern 12-year-old back to rural Ireland in 1977, back to when I was 12.
I had pretty modest expectations of Santa! I wasn’t familiar with designer brands. The only personal technology around was the rotating pencil sharpener. I’m sure I was looking forward to getting cap guns and cowboy suits and, perhaps, the Victor or Tiger annuals to follow the fortunes of that great athlete Alf Tupper and the legendary footballer Billy Dane of Billy’s Boots fame.
We had one TV channel, and the fare was as follows, lots of Mass, a circus, some stuff with Maureen Potter (a great entertainer may I add), and to top it all a 40-year-old movie at nine that night. At the first ad break in the movie, most of the nation went out to plug in the kettle and the national grid went into meltdown.
The beauty of all this is that we were together, we were present, we shared the moment, modest moments, but shared moments. We had attention spans. I’m dreaming of an Old Christmas, just like the ones that were once known, where we interact, and have the craic, and take our heads out of that phone.
Sir — What a beautiful ‘letter of the week’ from Billy Ryle (‘The rebirth of light nears’, Sunday Independent, December 16). Sometimes a reminder is needed as to what’s actually happening this time of year, so overtaken and immersed can Christmas become in the shopping lists and must-dos of commercialism.
The hopeful inviolability of nature and the joyful commemoration of a Christian birth date are melded evocatively in Mr Ryle’s memorable letter which is now cut out and kept in my humble records for future (hopefully!) end-of-year perusal. Merry Christmas all.
How Sean took gun out of Irish politics
Sir — The border campaign, Operation Harvest 1956-62, began while I was still at school. I thought of it as a futile exercise. My neighbours in Kerry were travelling up to blow up a customs posts or let off a few shots and ending up in Mountjoy or Limerick jails for “failing to give an account of their movements”.
The only political activity by republicans on their home turf consisted merely of collecting for the prisoners. It was not until the mid-1960s that Sinn Fein and the IRA embarked on a socialist journey that is still ongoing. I have been a supporter of Official Republicanism, now represented by The Workers’ Party, ever since.
I had known the late Sean Garland since that time. He had started out as a physical force republican but quickly progressed to a political path and influenced many, but not all, of his former comrades.
He lived a reasonably long life and survived the bullet wounds that killed his companions Sean South and Feargal O’Hanlon. He was again badly wounded by renegades in Dublin in 1975 but came through that until the big C took its toll.
History will record his contribution and achievements, especially his efforts to take the gun out of Irish politics. It was appropriate that Sean South of Garryowen was played on the tin whistle at his funeral.
Let’s honour all who sought peace
Sir — In his letter (Sunday Independent, December 9), Martin Mansergh acknowledges the contribution of the Northern Ireland Women’s Movement to the peace process, leading to the Good Friday Agreement.
We should not forget others who also sought peace in the dark days of the conflict. Betty Williams, Mairead Corrigan and Ciaran McKeown were known as the ‘Peace People’; tireless and determined, they endeavoured to stop the people of violence.
Similarly, the churchmen in Northern Ireland from various congregations came together with one voice to denounce the actions of the gunmen and bombers, appealing to them to cease their activities. In his book The Irish Diaries 1994-2003, Alastair Campbell provides an insight into the peace negotiations between the diverse factions involved in the talks at Stormont.
He singles out for praise Mr Mansergh, Mo Mowlan and the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who continued in his role despite major family tragedy. Most of all we should remember George Mitchell from the Clinton administration, who did his best to reconcile the antagonistic groups, working late into the night on occasions.
It was a long journey, the quest for peace throughout those dark years. Finally, someone who should not be forgotten is Albert Reynolds, whose support and friendship with the British Prime Minister, John Major, helped enormously in delivering the peace that the people of Northern Ireland enjoy today.
Sir — I cannot understand Ireland’s concern at the UK leaving the EU. Surely if there is any substance to the age-old claim of “800 years of British misrule in Ireland” then Ireland’s attitude should be “good riddance to them”.
Scare they go
Sir — I am laughing at the scaremongers, shouting from the roof-tops, about shortages in the Republic if there is a no-deal Brexit. (No doubt there will be a shyster or two, looking forward to it.)
I suggest your (younger) readers study the Berlin air-lift, June 24, 1948, to May 12, 1949, when everything West Berliners required, including coal, was transported by air. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt told the American people, in 1933: “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
Pharmacy being harmed by this
Sir — I would like to thank Wayne O’Connor (Sunday Independent, December 16) for highlighting students’ concerns over the new integrated system and the issues surrounding unpaid placements for interns.
The reality of the situation is this. Pharmacy students are being put under huge financial strain, and this, together with the significant workload of the degree and the lack of financial support, is untenable.
Walking into a busy pharmacy for their placement, students are well aware that they are interns, and well aware of their place in the pecking order. We are also keenly aware that we have been given this internship opportunity because our employer was kind enough to afford us the time to do so. There is no ego involved.
APPEL (Affiliation for Pharmacy Practice Experiential Learning) manages the experiential learning placements of the integrated pharmacy programmes of the three schools of pharmacy in Ireland.
We were told early on by APPEL that the new integrated programme was designed with student welfare in mind. We were told horror stories of students working 12-hour shifts, working full days with no break, taking on far more responsibility than is reasonable because employers were taking advantage. These interns were doing the work of the pharmacy technician without receiving the training they were promised.
The new system promised to change all that. We were to be students, not employees. Under the new system, the schools were able to stipulate our working hours, to ensure we got appropriate breaks, and to protect the student-teacher dynamic. The only stipulation was that, in order to protect us, we could no longer be paid. To be paid for the placement would nullify it, and we would have to start from scratch
Students are left wondering why a fair wage was the sacrifice needed? To protect us students from being taken advantage of, the three pharmacy schools are penalising the student rather than these employers who might take advantage of their interns.
Now, with the masters fees more than doubling, students are being forced to work seven days a week. For my part, I will be working for free during the week at my pharmacy placement, and then returning to my job in a different pharmacy at the weekends, where I will be doing the same job, but getting paid for it. With my weekend pay, I am expected to pay for my masters (€7,500), my UCC accommodation (€5,500), my living expenses, and any cost associated with getting to my placement. Pharmacy has become a course only for those with deep pockets rather than those best suited to the profession, and that’s not right.
University College Cork
Women need to use vote they won
Sir — Lindie Naughton (Sunday Independent, December 16) tells us the 1918 election was a ‘turning point’ in Irish politics in that it was the first time women were allowed to vote.
The downside of that is that women, despite being a majority, have been grossly under-represented in the Dail ever since. Much of the time very few women were elected. In fact Lindie Naughton tells us that in 1944 there was only one woman TD.
At the moment, even after the introduction of a quota for women at the last election, just under 80pc of TDs are men.
It has to be said, therefore, that issues that relate to women should have received a higher priority over the century since women have had the vote.
Obviously, they would have received a higher priority if women had used their majority status in the electorate when they were in the polling booths. The fact that they did not was highlighted spectacularly recently in the US presidential elections.
The fact that a century after receiving the right to vote more than 50pc of white women in the US voted against a woman president, and for her misogynist male opponent, was damaging to women’s place in society and has to be seen as a mistake of historical importance.
Let not today’s Irish children suffer so
Sir — Most countries throughout the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus son of God, said to have been born 2,000 years ago in a stable in Bethlehem on December 25.
In a short life which spanned 33 years, he performed so many miracles. Some of the best known were feeding thousands with just five loaves of bread; changing water into wine; a miraculous catch of fish; returning sight to the blind, and so many, many more.
His greatest gift of all was to give his life for his fellow man when he was crucified on Calvary. Today in Ireland, many young children on this special day of December 25 are forced to live in such poor conditions, and while Jesus was born in a stable, the poorer children of Irish society are not far removed from that. We have listened to the promises of what might be provided in 10 or 20 years’ time.
Jesus gave his life for the betterment of mankind. Let not the children of today give theirs because of the conditions under which they are forced to live, through addiction, mental stress, and so many other ailments brought on by being forced to survive under the poorest conditions.
Death was tragic but not an accident
Sir — I am the husband and widower of the late Malak Thawley and I am writing to you in relation to your article entitled ‘Tragic maternal death raises vital questions about the politicisation of the healthcare system’ (Sunday Independent, September 9).
My wife’s tragic death was not an accident. Her death was needless, caused by the admitted negligence of the National Maternity Hospital. At the opening of the legal case in January 2018, my senior counsel described what happened to Malak as a cascade of negligence resulting in a never event.
That statement was neither challenged nor disputed by the hospital at any stage but I do not believe that your article properly reflects this.
With regard to the minister’s decision in respect of a statutory inquiry, he came to that decision of his own accord. Mr Justice Meenan has determined that decision was wrong; however he made it clear there is a pressing need for a further review and I am comforted by the judge’s comments in this regard. Accordingly, I absolutely resent any suggestion or hint that either I or my legal team have “politicised” my genuine repeated calls for an external investigation and to characterise my position in such terms is deeply insulting and hurtful.
As Malak’s widower, I am permanently devastated by these events. Life goes on for the other players but not for me in the full sense of what that means. As such I want to set the record straight. I hope to hear from the minister in the near future and I expect the hospital to fully engage.
Address with the Editor
Politics is a barrier
Sir — It seems to be rare that leaders of political parties get to choose how they finish their career. No matter how stellar their careers are at the beginning, most seem to crash, burn out and are forced ignominiously out of office Are there exceptions to the rule? Have any in recent times managed to avoid this fate?
Sean Lemass would be the only exception in Ireland. All the rest retired after an election defeat or were ignominiously dragged out by their party. John Adams, second president of the USA and one of the most astute thinkers among America’s founders, warned against slipping into duopoly politics, saying: “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two parties, each arranged under its leaders, concerted action.”
Sounds familiar? Yes!
Our political system once advanced the public interest and gave rise to a grand history of policy innovations. Today, however, it serves as only a barrier to solving every important challenge our country needs to address. How did we get to this?