Madam – I am sick hearing about homophobia, and the ignorance, fear and smear that travels with it.
Not every older, single, unattached person is gay. I am male, 60 years of age, single and currently unattached. This does not make me gay.
I am very much a heterosexual although I have never been married.
I have had many girlfriends. And no doubt, before I die I may have many more.
I don't settle easily and tend to have some lone genes in me. However that does not make me, or anyone like me, male or female, gay.
But it does tend to make us targets of evil, ignorant people, or people we fall foul of.
Symbolic image of O'Gara
Madam – Barry Egan's account of the career of Ronan O'Gara (Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014) was heartwarming, reassuring and at times touching, even tender, embodying all of the ingredients for happiness and fulfilment: glittering success in his sport; a beautiful wife and lovely family; excellent prospects for the future; the observed of all observers, the glass of fashion and the mould of form, to paraphrase Shakespeare.
At one point Mr Egan asserts: "He is obviously an intelligent, even wise, man." By any reckoning it would seem appropriate for his country to be proud of what he symbolises, and yet paradoxically, it ought to be a tad more circumspect with regard to whether he symbolises his country.
I have in mind of course the image of this paragon with both hands deeply embedded in his trouser pockets in the presence of an elderly woman head of state carrying out her official duties as a guest of his government. A state which, incidentally, over the years has played host to the exiled hordes of his fellow countrymen and women, fleeing poverty and oppression, to an extent that over six million of the population of the UK now claim Irish ancestry. In Mr Egan's words: "He's given us memories we will take to our grave." I see no need to dispute that.
Recently, in one of his classically insightful and instructive articles, Eoghan Harris wrote: "Before 1916, many Irish people were content with the symbols of the British empire such as the Union flag and the monarchy" (Sunday Independent, December 1, 2013). Mr Harris is right. Even Michael Collins, in an extant school essay, wrote of the British empire in glowing terms. There were more Irishmen than English in the British army at Waterloo. The Catholic Church was an enthusiastic advocate for the Empire because of the opportunities it offered to spread the faith. I have read that as recently as the late Twenties, Irish people referred to the British navy as "our navy".
Hobbs's analysis one-dimensional
Madam – Opinion columnists often pontificate on the lack of direct expertise of our politicians in the policy areas for which they have oversight. Therefore, it was with interest that we read Eddie Hobbs's polemic ('Rigging of market will hike food prices', Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014) criticising the fact that some members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine are farmers and primary food producers.
Perhaps Mr Hobbs will be shocked to hear that there are business people on the Jobs Committee, and teachers on the Education Committee.
His one-dimensional analysis of our report on the grocery goods sector, including a fanciful implication that we want to hark back to the protectionism of the Thirties, fails to reflect a nuanced and balanced committee report, based on public meetings with a wide range of stakeholders.
Mr Hobbs contends that we want to influence the price of the average shopping basket by use of 'non-market forces, by lobbyists exercising power, and not by competition'. Far from it. Our rationale was to increase transparency and accountability in the supply chain.
Our committee's report is pro-market and pro-competition, and the committee agreed that a clear, simplified and robust Code of Conduct would level the playing pitch for each sector in the supply chain.
As for the cheap jibe about a "committee stuffed with FG farmers", the report was agreed on by TDs and senators from all parties and none, from diverse professional backgrounds. It was informed by public hearings with representatives of primary producers, processors and retailers, including the large multiples, as well as the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency.
These flowed into a series of commonsense, practical and actionable recommendations which, if implemented, will bolster the Irish food sector, maintain a vibrant retail sector and protect the consumer.
Deputies Andrew Doyle (Chairman), Pat Deering (Vice-Chairman), Tom Barry, Martin Ferris, Martin Heydon, Michael McNamara, Éamon Ó Cuív, Willie Penrose and Thomas Pringle; and Senators Michael Comiskey, Paschal Mooney, Mary Ann O'Brien, Brian Ó Domhnaill, Susan O'Keeffe; JOC on Agriculture, Food and the Marine,
Leinster House, Dublin 2
Madam – Richard Curran in his in-depth article about the chaotic situation in our health care system (Business, Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014) has highlighted what is of great concern to older people. Many are struggling to maintain their current private health insurance so that they are covered at a critical and vulnerable time in their lives. What has made a bad situation worse is the Government's policy, which has been to start charging insurers the full price for private beds in public hospitals.
What I find surprising is that nobody has raised the unfair situation where those who have private medical cover get no credit for their PRSI contributions which entitle them to public hospital cover. The value of this entitlement should be offset against their private hospital total cost, which would reduce the bill from the private hospital insurer.
What is often overlooked is that those who choose to go private free up a bed in a public hospital for those who cannot afford private hospital cover. I shudder to think of the time lag for patients waiting for a bed in a public hospital if private medicine did not exist.
Brendan M Redmond,
Terenure, Dublin 6w
Lyric brings joy to thousands
Madam – I cannot believe how undignified some of your letter writers are. The person who resorted to calling Lyric FM presenters by 'nicknames,' which he thought were amusing, only served to diminish himself. Lyric FM brings pleasure to many thousands of people, and I hope the listeners and presenters will ignore the snobbery and continue to listen to and present lovely music enjoyed by so many.
Failing to grasp retailer power
Madam – Re 'Rigging of market will hike food prices' by Eddie Hobbs (Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014):
As farmers, we make no apology for looking for equity in the food supply chain.
As things stand, our share of the consumer spend on many fresh food items is anything but fair. Eddie Hobbs doesn't appear to have any understanding of the unrestrained power and uncompetitive practices of the retail multiples.
Before Christmas they sold potatoes and vegetables at a giveaway price of 6 cent/kg. Consumers need to know that retailers only do this to get them in the door, then get them to buy other items and undermine the livelihoods of hundreds of vegetable growers and small, family-run fruit and veg shops around the country.
The IFA will continue its campaign for legislation for a code of practice, and we expect to see retailer legislation announced this year.
Payout stifles free speech
Madam – Free speech and a free and responsible press in this country is not just in jeopardy but is diminishing with the passage of time.
Is there is anybody out there who will argue that RTE's payment of €85,000 to the six people named will not have a chilling effect on a free press and free speech? If there is, they are truly living in cuckoo land.
Vincent J Lavery,
Irish Free Speech Movement,
Dalkey, Co Dublin
MEDIA NEEDS TO AVOID LEFT BIAS
Madam – Willie Kealy wrote about the RTE payout to defamed persons. (Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014). The issue is not free speech because the defamed were accused of homophobia. Literally phobia is fear but has come to imply hatred and dismissal. He said that "pro-lifers" offered most of the abuse by using "baby-killers" for those who favoured the ill-named "Protection of Life during Pregnancy".
Even the language used in the Dail by some pro-abortionists toward and about pro-lifers was decidedly vicious as were the small crowds in the streets, including using Savita Halappanavar as an excuse for abortion after her story was known. "Baby-killers" is not the inflammatory language I would use but what else explains a law that was passed against expert obstetrical and psychiatric advice offered to Mr Buttimer's committee – abortion up to the last day of delivery for a mother who is suicidal?
The media just needs to avoid the usual Left biases on sexual social justice issues and not use homophobia as a word to avoid or distort the debate.
David Quinn asks for "proper civilised debate" and all of you in the media are morally bound to offer it evenly and fairly. Social media at present have no real legal or moral safeguards, except PC censorship of middle-of-the-road viewpoints.
A Proinnsias O Beachain,
GAY COHORT LIKE A DISCIPLINED ARMY
Madam – The homosexual community, both male and female, are very militant in Ireland. They are always ready for a fight nowadays, and I honestly believe they would make a very disciplined army. Far from love and flowers being put down the rifles of opposing soldiers anywhere there are trouble spots in the world, they could kick plenty of ass if given the opportunity.
Are you listening, Ban Ki-moon?
Bantry, Co Cork
MORAL COMPASS SET TO CHANGE
Madam – It's not that I'm indifferent to the 'gay marriage' debate (Willie Kealy, Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014), but that I'm reeling at the prospects for Irish society down the line. Nor is it, in my opinion, an equality issue, since two women or two men do not add up to one man and one woman, which is what defines marriage. Since there will be no particular moral compass to guide behaviour other than 'what I want', it will only be a matter of time before there is clamour for other combinations.
AOSDANA SUBSIDY IS JUST €17,000
Madam –Jody Corcoran is a journalist I admire greatly. But in his piece (Sunday Independent, January 26, 2014). about the President's wife visiting Margaretta D'Arcy he makes an error, which we all do occasionally. The sum (Cnuas) which some members of Aosdana receive to enable them to go on with their work is not €25k pa but €17k. Recipients have to prove their need and outline their use of it so it is best looked on as a subsidy.
Ranelagh, Dublin 6
UPDATE ON STEM CELL RESEARCH
Madam – I write to comment on the article by Emer O'Kelly on human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research in Ireland, (Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014).
The human body is composed of trillions of cells organised into the various types of differentiated tissues, eg muscle, liver etc. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that have the potential to transform themselves into differentiated tissue cells.
Ms O'Kelly thinks that only two types of stem cell have potential in human medicine – hESC and human adult stem cells (hASC). She agrees that hASC have a limited potential to cure disease but lauds the great and widespread potential of hESC in this regard.
Amazingly, Ms Kelly never mentions a third type of stem cell, the type that has captured most of the momentum in stem cell research since its discovery in 2006. I refer to human induced pluripotential stem cells (hIPSC).
These hIPSC are stem cells that are produced by genetically reprogramming ordinary body cells, eg skin cells, into stem cells. hIPSC are similar in most respects to hESC.
No necessary ethical problems attend research using hASC or hIPSC. Research using hESC does raise an ethical problem, however, because these stem cells must be harvested from human embryos and the act of harvesting kills the embryo. Many people have huge ethical objections to the deliberate destruction of human embryos.
These hESC and hIPSC are much more flexible than hASC and have much more theoretical potential in medicine. Prior to the discovery of hIPSC in 2006, the medically more promising road ahead with hESC research was massively cratered with ethical problems. However the ethically uncomplicated hIPSC are just as medically promising as hESC. The discovery of hIPSC has transformed the whole stem cell research landscape.
Ireland is quite active in hASC research and there is no legal problem here. Neither is there any legal prohibition against hIPSC research in Ireland. hIPSC research is just as medically promising as hESC research and, as far as I know, hIPSC work is in progress here. So, what's the problem?
Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry,
University College Cork
GRID 25 REVIEW LIMITED BY TERMS
Madam – I refer to the letter from Eamon Ryan (Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014), in which he advised Colm McCarthy to include climate change in his deliberations on the Grid 25 review. Once the review group under Judge McGuinness is legally established, the next step is for Government to provide it with terms of reference. The group's task is limited to producing a written report covering all matters contained in these terms of reference. Surely Mr Ryan, as a former minister, should know that his concerns are addressed to the wrong quarter. His advice should be addressed to Mr Rabbitte.
His comments on China and the US ignore the fact that China has opened two coal-fired power stations per week for the past four years and the recent climbdown by the EU on renewable targets was done in the context of large energy users relocating to the US as the cost of renewables makes the EU uncompetitive.
While my association holds the members of the review group in high esteem, we have serious reservations about using its findings as a prerequisite for planning consent.
UN and EU law gives the public the right to participate effectively in assessment of plans such as Grid 25.
European Platform Against Wind Farms,
USHERING IN GENDER BALANCE
Madam – A Quote of the Week on February 2 by Carrie Cracknell said that "women are still disproportionately disempowered in public life". Despite being a majority in the electorate, the low proportion of our public representatives that are women is evidence of that.
If the admittedly controversial efforts to increase the number of women candidates are successful, however, the next election will give the total electorate, and not just women, an opportunity to remedy that situation.
Sutton, Dublin 13