Letters: With friends like these, who needs enemies?
* "Twenty-thirteen was a good year for Ireland," proclaimed Jose Barroso in UCC where, in granting the European Commission president an honorary doctorate, one of Ireland's oldest and most respected institutes of learning reverted to the old Irish practice of forelock-tugging to our masters.
"A successful exit from the economic assistance programme," continued Mr Barroso, without a touch of irony; and then, in the final blow, "And you had precious solidarity and financial support from the European Union and its member states."
When you're already one of the smallest and weakest in a group, a friend doesn't take advantage of your weakness, doesn't force you to accept the debts of others as a condition for coming to your aid. Yet, that was the kind of 'solidarity' we received from the EU, the European Commission and the ECB.
"Financial support"? Mr Barroso said: "I personally made the case to other European leaders for lower interest rates and longer maturities on Ireland's loans." Ah yes, extend and pretend – how much debt write-off have we had? Not a cent. Rather, we have had the entire losses of the institutional investors/gamblers in the then private Irish banks imposed on us, including the 'coupons', the interest on every one of those failed bonds of those failed banks.
He went on to point out how much we've taken from Europe in the last seven years – "nearly €14bn in European Union budget support for agriculture but also for social and infrastructure investment as well as research".
What, Mr Barroso, no mention of what Europe has gained from Ireland, the value of the fish taken from Irish waters, for instance?
"Ireland has returned to 'normal' in EU terms," he says, "The European Commission has always been on the side of Ireland, one could even say one of your best friends."
Is a national debt of €210bn normal? Or double-digit unemployment figures, which, if truth were fully told, are nearer to 20pc than 10pc?
If Mr Barroso and his commission have been one of our best friends then God help us.
BALLYHEA, CO CORK
WELL SAID, MARTINA
* I would like to commend Martina Devlin for her article this week regarding pensioners.
I am 50 and had to retire early as I received a diagnosis of MS four years ago. I was vice principal of a large Gaelscoil but am still actively involved at the school in my areas of expertise. Fortunately I can manage my illness very well. I am a musician and last year organised a trad music festival in my village to commemorate a successful recording artist from early 1900s who went to America from our village and am also involved in local community games.
The objective of this letter is not to put my efforts on a pedestal or elect myself as person of the year; I write merely to applaud your proposal that perhaps an organisation similar to the one in Sweden be initiated at political level.
While I would not fit into the category of Good Public Pension, I still feel that there are many bright, innovative and interested retired citizens not on the gold-plated pensions, who would be of immense benefit to our country in their areas of expertise.
My personal thoughts on the Senate discussion/referendum last year was that people who work in voluntary areas in their communities would be given periods to express opinions, ideas, etc, in the Senate because they were the ones involved with the public in a real and everyday way. Elected representatives on long-term placement can often forget the difficulties and challenges encountered by the families of our country once they enter the halls of power. There are thousands of excellent people giving their energies, expertise, etc, to help the community on a daily basis. I am happy for you to use my letter but would prefer if my name weren't used.
NAME AND ADDRESS WITH EDITOR
* Zoe Lawlor (Letters, Irish Independent, March 5), of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, draws attention to Amnesty International's latest one-sided report attacking Israel. Amnesty is an NGO that means well and often works for good purposes. However, it is questionable what business Amnesty has compiling reports on defence and security matters. On February 10, Amnesty's secretary-general Salil Shetty admitted in an interview with Al Jazeera: "We are not experts on military matters. So, we don't want to, kind of, pontificate on issues we don't really understand." This begs the question of why, then, Amnesty compiled such a report on military and security-related issues in the first place.
Amnesty's latest attack on Israel reads like a publicity stunt rather than a serious report. The 87-page document consists of randomly selected, unverifiable and sometimes even contradictory accounts, often from people with a political agenda against Israel.
As long as Amnesty continues to ritualistically condemn Israel for defending its civilians and soldiers and treats the Palestinians like children, it is pushing a possible peace between the two parties further away.
AMBASSADOR OF ISRAEL
CERTAINTIES OF FAITH
* While I agree with the sentiment expressed in Sean McElgunn's letter "Mystery of Life" (March 6), this kind of kumbaya belief isn't the reality. If only it were.
If only people would believe what they want to believe and that was it. However, the problems arise when organisations and institutions co-opt that belief for their own agenda.
The power of faith lies in its coercive ability – it is, unfortunately, rife for misuse. And where dissenting arguments arise, they are met with deaf ears, because, "it's my faith, it's what I believe". That level of certainty can't be touched by reason.
Why I strongly disagree with Mr McElgunn is twofold. Firstly, for many, faith is not a free gift. It's not even a choice, it's a label given to them upon (or before) birth.
Secondly, in stating "the fact that there is something demands a cause", Mr McElgunn applies a distinctly anthropocentric perspective to something that is not bound by such laws, namely, the universe.
BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA
* I was called for the first time for jury service last week. I joined a large crowd of people filing into a courtroom. The names of 449 people were read out and the names of those present, well over 400, were put in a box.
The 400 people and the box then moved to another courtroom and imagine my surprise when I found out that the 449 people had been called for just one jury panel for one day.
Then we were all given details of the case and 20 names were taken at random from the box. Some of those called were given exemptions and that left two women and 10 men. The remaining 380 of us were told we could go. We had been an hour in the courthouse.
Does this happen every day in our courts? Is it necessary or usual to call this number of people in order to find 12 for one jury?
As I am retired it was easy for me to attend but many of the others there would have had to change work times, make other arrangements for pre-school children and elderly in their care, etc.
Jury members get no expenses, only a free lunch each day. I realise, of course, that if only retired people served on juries they wouldn't be representative of society but calling these big numbers puzzles me.
MOUNTMELLICK, CO LAOIS