Friday 17 January 2020

Letters to the Editor: 'We have much to learn from German system as we look to spread wealth more equitably'

Unequal island: A rough sleeper outside Dublin’s Custom House. Photo: PA
Unequal island: A rough sleeper outside Dublin’s Custom House. Photo: PA
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

In Ireland, on the most recent count, 250,000 children are living below the poverty line. The existence of this high level of deprivation is shamefully taken for granted as the price we pay for the alleged benefits of the free play of market forces.

There are a number of factors that underpin this glaring neglect; chief among these is the fact that any form of remedial support, other than that provided by charities, has been seen as toxic political intervention, with its roots in socialism. In addition, there is no real political will to seriously confront the increasing levels of crippling adult poverty.

Here we have a clear moral demand for consistency between what we know and what we do.

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At the heart of our pragmatic political lives is the tension between the forces of wealth creation and those concerned with the distribution of wealth. It is often assumed that the wealthy deserve their wealth as they worked hard to create it. Sadly, it is also assumed that the poor, the unemployed and the homeless are feckless, lazy and unworthy.

As the concept of socialism was played out in recent political debates in Britain, Boris Johnson peddled a malicious association of modern socialism with old-time Marxism and communism. Here was a clear case of dishonesty on stilts, intended to mislead and to frighten. More crucially, however, Johnson's elitist ideology seems intent on manufacturing failure in order to highlight success.

Socialism in Ireland has had a chequered history. Not having the blessing of the Catholic Church weakened its impact. The Church saw itself as the guardian of the individual against the intrusion of the State into family and personal life.

One obvious route to a more equitable access to wealth creation is to place more effective emphasis on the distribution of the means of wealth creation. This involves breathing more life into programmes of education and training that move steadily closer to parity of esteem between academic and the vocational worlds. In this respect, we have much to learn from the German experience.

Philip O'Neill

Oxford, England


RTÉ's 'fairness' rule does not apply to presenters

RTÉ is to appeal the retirement case it lost to one of its former producers, who was forced to retire at the age of 65 against her wishes. RTE argued it was necessary for Anne Roper to retire in order "to ensure intergenerational fairness and to facilitate the promotion of younger producers".

Gay Byrne spent 37 years as presenter of 'The Late Late Show' and never completely retired from RTÉ, Marian Finucane worked for RTÉ for over 40 years until her death at the age of 69, and Larry Gogan also worked for over 40 years for the broadcaster before his death at 85 this week.

While all of these presenters were renowned for their talent and professionalism, they blocked up options for younger blood to bring new life to these important roles.

It's a poor reflection on RTÉ, and in a wider sense on Ireland, that RTÉ management didn't ensure intergenerational fairness and to facilitate the promotion of younger presenters for these positions also.

Pat Fitzpatrick

Brussels, Belgium


Deficiencies of democracy not unique to Ireland

It is truly ironic that as we approach commemoration and celebration of a century of Irish democratic rule, we endure what must be the most irrelevant Government this State has ever experienced. An election now will appear of little consequence to many; regardless of the result, an increasing number of the big decisions will be taken by the EU, while really big ones are taken by multinationals.

Present governance of Ireland consists of posturing Government and Opposition; both appear to have given up on what were once paramount concerns of health, housing and safety of citizens. Oireachtas members appear obscenely complacent with keeping each other in lucrative office despite blatant discovery of vote rigging, expense abuse and compensation exploitation.

The holy grail 'backstop', which incidentally after two years of utter prominence is rarely mentioned anymore, was heralded as the reason for Government/Opposition collusion. It was ill judged and mismanaged to such a degree that, despite 11th-hour capitulation, Ireland's attitude helped stoke sufficient resentment to bring hard-line political will to the forefront of British politics, which could result in the hardest Brexit imaginable. Opening salvos from President Ursula von der Leyen, EU Commissioner Phil Hogan and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson do not augur well for easy agreement.

To be fair, Ireland is not alone suffering deficiencies of democracy at the moment. Many democracies have similar and far worse problems; ranging from grave political hostility to simmering and active protest and social strife. Some democracies are acting like dictatorships with extreme external activity which could be difficult to excuse even in wartime. Failure to adapt to the vast life enhancement abilities modern technology has wrought, together with lack of action to distribute benefits to all, results in a perception that democratic government increasingly favours the rich and powerful.

Padraic Neary

Tubbercurry, Co Sligo


Seven reasons to celebrate disbandment of the RIC

RIC (1822-1922), whose senior personnel were predominantly Anglo-Irish Protestants, was a quasi-military police force and was frequently armed by the British administration to quash "civil unrest". Here are seven reasons to celebrate its disbandment:

1. The Tithe War 1830-1836;

2. The Famine 1845-1849;

3. The Young Irelander Rebellion 1848;

4. The Fenian Rising 1867;

5. The Land War 1879-1882;

6. The Uprising 1916;

7. The War Of Independence 1919-1921.

Rossa Ó Snodaigh

Scrínidh Cluainín, Co Liatroma


Narrow nationalism will push back reunification

As I head towards my 80s, I recall that the Ireland of the '40s, '50s and '60s was dominated by the twin forces of oppressive Catholicism and narrow nationalism. It was also the high noon of the ban on 'foreign' games.

Primary school trainee teachers had these influences drilled into them and they, in turn, drummed the same ethos into us, the gullible pupils of the time.

The power and dominance of the Catholic Church has, thankfully, been eroded by many fine people - including broadcasters such as Gay Byrne and Marian Finucane. However, no such influences have tackled the poison of narrow-minded nationalism. Meanwhile, the inclusive vision of Wolfe Tone and others continues to be eroded.

Having been fortunate to have known some of the great leaders and volunteers of the War of Independence in West Cork, particularly Liam Deasy, Tom Hales, Dinny Callaghan and Danny Canty - men who were big hearted and generous - I am saddened by the pettiness of some of our younger and, supposedly, better educated politicians in the matter of the proposed RIC commemoration.

Not for the first time have some of younger lads proven their pettiness. It was young Fine Gael which opposed an invitation to the late Brian Linehan to speak at a commemoration to Michael Collins in Béal na mBláth some years ago. But they probably consider themselves more progressive than those of us of my generation.

When Seán Lemass as Taoiseach met with Terence O'Neill, the then prime minister of Northern Ireland, he showed the kind of courage, vision and leadership that will be required in the future if we are ever going to build an agreed and inclusive Ireland. Yes, there are men and women in the Dáil and in the media of such quality, but they will not be found in the ranks of narrow nationalism and those who think that they are "a better class of Irishman".

They are the ones, sadly, who together with the Provos push back the prospect of an agreed and unified Ireland.

If they cannot find it in their hearts to accommodate dead Irish policemen and their relatives what prospect do they have of finding common cause with our unionist neighbours who have their own backward constituency to deal with?

I wish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and mature politicians of all parties well and hope we continue to commemorate the events of our difficult history in a spirit of respect and generosity.

Pat O'Mahony

Dalkey, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

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