Sunday 18 August 2019

Letters to the Editor: 'We must remember how fortunate we are to be able to live a happy life in our modern republic'

Flying the flag: Tom Fitzpatrick’s ‘an tUltach’ from Howth Yacht Club off the East Pier lighthouse on the opening day of the Volvo Dún Laoghaire Regatta on Thursday. Photo: David Branigan/Oceansport
Flying the flag: Tom Fitzpatrick’s ‘an tUltach’ from Howth Yacht Club off the East Pier lighthouse on the opening day of the Volvo Dún Laoghaire Regatta on Thursday. Photo: David Branigan/Oceansport
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

In his inspiring poem, 'A happy life', Brendan Kennelly eloquently outlines the constituents of a happy life.

Among them he includes "enough money to meet your needs, steady work, a peaceful mind and a healthy body, contentment with the life you have, avoiding the sneer, the poisoned sigh".

Today, every Irish citizen can aspire to a happy life as our civil law entitles each of us to engage in a loving relationship and commit to marriage, if we so wish.

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In the past, people of different sexual proclivities may have scorned or taunted each other, resulting in acrimony and distrust. That is no longer necessary as much more now unites us than divides us.

The bond of fellowship and mutual respect is ripe for nurturing by avoiding inflammatory language and provocative behaviour behind flags of convenience and self-interest.

Ireland is now a 'republic' in the broadest meaning of that word. We can continue to make Ireland a more compassionate and tolerant country by accepting difference, by not disparaging those of other faiths and none, and by offering a helping hand to those in need.

While we are very fortunate to enjoy the benefits of living in modern Ireland, we must never forget those who fought and died to win those freedoms for us. We owe it to them to cherish our country and to value our republicanism.

The one flag that we can all follow with pride is the Tricolour, our national flag.

In the immortal words of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the first Irish-American president of the USA, "ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country". In so doing, we can live the happy life so well defined by Brendan Kennelly in his beautiful book of poetry, 'Martial Art'.

Billy Ryle

Tralee, Co Kerry

Forgotten context of the Orange Order marches

We are very aware of the Penal Laws as they affected Catholics in Ireland - but after the death of Cromwell, the laws were extended to include 'dissenters', which included Presbyterians, Huguenots and Quakers.

The Anglicans (Church of Ireland) and their bishops and their officials continued to harass the dissenters so far as their power extended; and the Presbyterian emigration to New England continued also, and gathered volume.

The Popery Act, meanwhile, was both operative and inoperative; operative so far as the transfer of land to Catholics; inoperative so far as the Catholic religion itself remained vigorous.

This was mainly due to the power of the Recusant Catholics in the English Parliament, which rejected the total enforcement of the Popery Acts.

In Ireland marriages carried out by Presbyterian ministers were deemed to be unlawful by the Church of Ireland.

Despite the Toleration Act being passed in England, granting freedom of worship to non-conformists, it was largely ignored in Ireland where the Protestants stated that the only political danger to which Ireland was exposed were the Presbyterians.

It is against this background that the Orange Order parades on July 12. They only became totally 'free' with the passage of the Emancipation Act 1829.

Hugh Duffy

Cleggan, Co Galway

Brendan Grace had the mark of a true artist

With the recent death of comedian Brendan Grace, Ireland has lost a national treasure.

The king of Irish stand-up made a name for himself on the international stage over many decades.

As he developed his career in the entertainment business, he never had to succumb to smut or the use of foul or offensive language during a show to enhance the storyline.

And, boy, did we laugh. Who can ever forget his wonderful portrayal of the father of the bride, the two drunks in a Chinese takeaway, or the marvellous story of the two American tourists who mistakenly drank Andrews instead of Guinness as our national tipple.

He had this unique ability to tell these hilarious stories against ourselves and our international comrades, and get away with it.

He always kept the best wine until last in all his shows. Bottler, that wonderful, street-wise, cocky, brash, sometimes innocent, and always cheeky inner-city Dublin schoolboy, stole all our hearts, as he invariably turned the tables on his classroom teacher with his quick and witty answers.

We have all been in that classroom scared out of our wits to open our mouths. And Bottler evened the score for all of us who were mentally tortured and asked to face the wall in the classrooms of our childhood years.

After each show, which was usually a sell-out, he would always mingle with his audiences to meet and greet and pose for photographs.

So Brendan, rest in peace. You have travelled the world in your chosen profession, entertaining the masses as you went, singing songs and telling jokes and always sending your audiences home content and happy.

Grinning from ear to ear with a smile on their faces after laughing their heads off all night. The best medicine of all - and the mark of a true artist.

Tom Towey

Cloonacool, Co Sligo

Tears shed for a lovely man taken far too soon

I shed tears travelling to work this morning. Of course, maybe the selfish reason was because this particular gentleman was exactly the same age as myself. Anyway, he came across as just a lovely man.

His name was Brendan Grace. May he rest in peace.

Brian Mc Devitt

Glenties, Co Donegal

State cannot pawn off blame for child abuse

The Taoiseach's apology for the sexual abuse of Irish schoolchildren by teachers and others is welcome.

But why two apologies by two Taoisigh in the Dáil, Enda Kenny's five years ago and Leo Varadkar's on July 9?

Their saying sorry is consequent on having lost court cases.

After the Court of Human Rights found for Louise O'Keeffe in 2014, Enda Kenny apologised. The State then subverted the court decision as it applied to other claimants.

That cruel strategy involved "an inherent inversion of logic and a fundamental unfairness", said Justice Iarfhlath O'Neill on July 8.

The more important question relates to the object of the State, in denying responsibility for abuse in schools it funded (including teachers' salaries), whose curriculum and systems of examination were determined by ministers.

The answer lies in the pact the State made with churches in licensing and funding them to carry out State functions, while disclaiming responsibility for failures.

The State has attempted to make its agents take all the blame for mismanaged schemes of education, welfare and health.

The strategy was exposed in the early 2000s by payment of redress compensation to abuse victims of industrial schools and orphanages. It was simultaneously obscured by an argument over whether dominant Roman Catholic Church organisations, alone of all the licensed providers, had paid sufficiently into a State indemnity fund.

Failure to hold the State to account then made possible unfairness later, in refusing redress after the 2014 O'Keeffe judgement to those who were sexually abused in school. This was on the Catch-22 basis that alleged abusers had not been subject to a prior complaint, in a context where no system of complaint making existed.

The Taoiseach's apology was accompanied by a curious formulation. The criteria struck down by Justice O'Neill derived from an "honourable intention" of "protecting the taxpayer" from paying "for things they were not responsible for".

This is more inverted logic. Taxpayers in general did not abuse children, licensed agents of the State did. The taxpayer is paying for the State's irresponsibility in failing to adequately safeguard children from abuse within the education system.

Conor O'Mahony of UCC's Child Law Clinic, which assisted Ms O'Keeffe and others, is therefore all too correct in his reported criticisms of a State continuing to split hairs.

As he pointed out, the only acceptable criteria for access to a redress scheme is a credible claim of having been abused.

All else is irrelevant.

Dr Niall Meehan

Faculty head, Journalism & Media, Griffith College

Irish Independent

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