Wednesday 18 September 2019

Letters to the Editor: 'The myth of our so-called ‘special relationship’ with Trump’s US is doing Ireland no favours'

Maverick: Donald Trump’s attacks on the press and judiciary are not shared values. Photo: Reuters
Maverick: Donald Trump’s attacks on the press and judiciary are not shared values. Photo: Reuters
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Though we are constantly reminded of Ireland's special relationship with the USA, such relationships amount to little more than good-mannered mutual exploitation, fuelled by enlightened self-interest and wishful thinking.

In no meaningful sense can these relationships be said to be special.

The phrase 'special relationship' has slipped into our political discourse without an identifiable determinate really attached.

Donald Trump has brought the whole idea of relationships between nations into disrepute through his risible exchange of letters and meetings between himself and the Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, who clearly has been playing silly games with Mr Trump.

His relationship with Vladimir Putin is similarly imbued with ambiguity.

President Trump's recent inexcusable treatment of four elected members of Congress points to deeply flawed aspects of Mr Trump's character.

For him there is no distinction between what is morally right and what is politically smart.

Sadly, the Trump world is not tethered to the constraint of moral convictions which would support intelligent exchange. It seems to function in a chaotic and arbitrary fashion.

Trump is unsettling in the way he abandons long-standing principles and practices - mutual expectations that constitute our way of life.

Engaging in the myth of Ireland's so-called special relationship with America is leading us to abandon our autonomy in an attempt, through appeasement, to neutralise the vagaries of a worrying maverick.

The Trump world is made up as he goes along.

For instance, his assertion that we share common values seems hollow in the light of his attack on the freedom of the press and the integrity of the judiciary.

He has become increasingly entangled in his own hyperbole as he evaluates his achievements.

In reality, we have nothing in common with the kind of America that Trump seeks to create - a world where the principles of freedom, equality, respect for persons and truth-telling are deemed to be for losers.

Philip O'Neill

Oxford, England


Childcare: we should put society before economy

Fiona Ness's article on whether the crèche system is the best place for a baby was insightful, honest and so relevant.

As she asks, "where are the creative solutions that put the child before the economy and their parents' work imperative?" Where indeed? It seems it is an economy we have here now and not a society, when children spend more time in a crèche than with their parents.

How can it be acceptable that a baby as young as three months - and some even younger - can be handed over to the care of paid employees when no support is given to those parents who would love to bring up their own children at home but not only do not receive any support to do so but are actually castigated if they do?

It is time for a proper debate and for the facts to be set out - not a campaign by those who value the economy more than a stable, happy society.

It is certainly not progress to have both parents working to pay for a house, which is inflated in value because both work, and then to have practically no family time. What is wrong with a Government which does not see the value in supporting family life, which in turn ensures there is a stable and content society, not what we have now, with the stress on families, the rise in crime and the failure to cherish our children in a safe, happy environment?

I for one believe Fiona Ness when she says a mother's instinct is telling it right when it is telling her that her child is not happy in a crèche.

Mary Stewart

Ardeskin, Donegal town


Felines running high - claws are out for Johnson

Reading Petula Dvorak's Notebook (Irish Independent, July 30) it appears the White House in Washington has had a rat infestation for 200 years.

Donald Trump has talked of vermin in Baltimore and caused quite a stink. A rat has also made an appearance in the Dáil bar, putting the residents off their drink quicker than a Garda checkpoint outside Leinster House the morning after.

In contrast, No 10 Downing Street has been rodent-free for many years. It seems they have employed the services of chief mouser Larry the cat to keep the rat and mice population under control as he purrs along day and night, quietly going about his work.

As new Prime Minister Boris Johnson plots to claw his way out of the EU in the coming months, come hell or high water, he would do well to 'paws' and listen to his colleagues in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, as well as his friends in the Irish Republic, in order to reach an overall agreement with the European Union which would keep everyone 'happy as Larry'.

Tom Towey

Cloonacool, Co Sligo


Time to embrace not marginalise language

I feel compelled to join the debate on the possibility of making Irish an optional subject at Leaving Cert. The arguments seems to be that it is too hard for many students, it isn't used beyond school or that it may not be compatible with our modern, pluralist society.

On the first point, I think it is a grave mistake to make a subject an option simply because it is perceived as hard. The purpose of education is surely to challenge or stretch students' aptitudes. There is the option of ordinary level for those who find Irish too great a challenge.

Maths and English pose challenges for students but no one would suggest making maths an option. Maths is important for developing problem solving. English too, is key to students' development. Why can't we see that having a second language as a core subject, developing the student's skill in acquiring language, is vital too?

The old argument is trotted out all the time: Irish is never used again after school. I've been hearing this for nearly half a century. However, Irish is being used more and more outside schools and colleges. Do most of us use any of the maths we learned at Leaving Cert? Do most of us use Shakespeare or Kavanagh in our daily routines?

I accept most people do not speak Irish after leaving school, but could they use the skills they acquired in learning Irish to master other languages? I think so.

We live in an increasingly multi-cultural society. That should be celebrated. The Irish language deserves its place in a modern, multi-cultural Ireland. Developing our appreciation of the native language has obvious educational, cultural and economic advantages. The Gaeltacht isn't some outdoor school we send our children to every summer. Foreign and Irish visitors flock to Gaeltacht regions looking for a different touristic experience.

Keeping Irish as a core subject in school helps to protect Gaeilge and potentially develop a valuable tourist resource. Increasingly in Europe, at-risk languages are being invested in and protected. Language Acts in Britain protect Welsh and Scots Gaelic. There may soon be a Language Act in Northern Ireland. Is this really the right time to experiment with making Irish optional in our schools?

Gearóid Ó Móráin

Navan, Co Meath


Hospitality industry needs fairness, not cuts

Dan O'Brien's forensic analysis of the impact of the decision to end the 'temporary' reduced VAT rate on tourism (Irish Independent, August 1) is a timely and important contribution in the lead-up to Budget 2020.

Indeed, only the day before its publication the chief executive of the Restaurants Association, Adrian Cummins, took to social media to rally support for a return of this tax cut for the tourism and hospitality industry.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions had been to the fore in calling for an end to the 9pc VAT rate. We said it was not benefiting customers, which was subsequently confirmed by the Department of Finance tax strategy group. We said the alleged impact on job creation was greatly exaggerated, which Indecon Economic Consultants, in a report for Fáilte Ireland, later showed one in eight new jobs in the five years 2011-2016 were due to the VAT reduction.

We said the costs to the public purse of this generous subsidy was much greater than the €880m Government estimated over its planned two-and-a-half year application, which the Revenue Commissioners now put at €3.2bn over its 2011-2018 extended lifetime.

Brexit is now the latest raison d'etre put forward by industry lobbyists calling for a return of the lower VAT rate. While Brexit does have negative implications for tourism, the increase in the number of visitors coming from other countries is compensating for the relative decline in the proportion coming from Britain.

The time is ripe for hoteliers and restaurateurs to engage with the system of Joint Labour Committees established by the Oireachtas to deliver decent work and fair conditions for their workers, who are three times more likely to subsist on the minimum wage than the average worker. Bad employers are the real threat to businesses in this sector.

Patricia King

General Secretary, Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Irish Independent

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