Thursday 21 November 2019

Misguided papal misogyny

Former President Mary McAleese
Former President Mary McAleese
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Sir - I agree with Mary McAleese: it's high time that the walls of misogyny in the Catholic Church came tumbling down.

Women are excluded from any meaningful decision-making roles in the institutional Church, their duties being confined to the activities of so-called 'Pastoral Councils' that are little more than biscuit-eating and coffee morning affairs with some amateur theological chat thrown in to lend a facade of piety and episcopal relevance.

I have nothing against Catholic priests. There are many decent, dedicated men who make lifelong sacrifices in pursuit of a quest to enhance the spiritual lives of their fellow human beings.

Some travel abroad on the missions, risking death or torture in all sorts of benighted places across the planet in their efforts to "help souls on the path to heaven", as one of them put it many years ago in a talk he gave in my hometown.

We have a decent parish priest here in Callan. He gives well-crafted, thought-provoking sermons and he commands the respect of the whole community, even among non-Catholics.

But the point is that a decent woman would do just as well, standing up there in that exalted position, against a gold and marble backdrop…flanked by those divine stained-glass windows and iconic stations of the cross, facing the congregation. "Working the Altar" as the fictional Fr Ted might put it.

I am not an atheist nor materialist. I keep an open mind on issues like the existence of an afterlife and I don't believe the universe just appeared out of nowhere in the dim distant past when a big bang occurred. But I do have a problem accepting that a powerful, compassionate being behind all of creation wants to prevent women from achieving equality within the Catholic Church, or that he/she/it has some kind of prejudice against allowing a woman to say Mass.

I could be wrong, of course. Maybe there IS a God up there who wants to put the brakes on women wearing priestly vestments and celebrating all that is good in any particular religion. But I seriously doubt it.

The Church's misogyny strikes me as misguided, indefensible, and ultimately self-defeating. Will the Vatican wait until there are NO more men entering the priesthood before it decides to change the rules? It's refusal to ordain women is about as sensible as the lyrics of My Lovely Horse.

John Fitzgerald,

Callan, Co Kilkenny


Time to debate people’s rights

Sir — People throughout the land, from all sections of the community, worked tirelessly night and day to ensure no stone was left unturned during the “snow event”. 

All major events should be followed by a period of reflection with questions posed. From our hands-on work, with people who have been homeless for more than 40 years, we have a number of concerns.

Why was there such surprise that a huge number of people presented for emergency beds — people who were not in the “system” and not known to the many outreach teams?

This came as no surprise to many of us working in the field.

Increasing numbers of people — mainly but not exclusively young men who never thought they would end up homeless — now find themselves on the streets. We know there are people hidden away in squats, cars, bushes, tents, etc, because they call us daily — many coming from outside this jurisdiction.

Some people feel the pressure to conform or fit in, but wish to remain private and therefore are unable to access accommodation as a consequence. The challenges some people pose have been downplayed. Building relationships with people requires a lot of time and understanding.  

Sometimes the only way society can cope with challenging behaviour is by locking people away in prison or psychiatric institutions. A number of people were sectioned last week “for their own safety”. Sectioning someone has huge implications. Who would wish to see poverty, or exclusion, in other forms medicalised, or people locked away for even a short period and all that that implies?

Our nation’s history of dealing with challenging people/ behaviour in the recent past has been well documented and condemned widely. 

This could well be repeated if a broad-based debate does not take place, sooner rather than later around people’s rights in this area. There are many people who have great difficulty coping with life and some people have mental health issues. 

Other people clearly have a different way of viewing the world and that should be respected. Is it ever possible to protect people from themselves?

Alice Leahy,

Director Of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust, Dublin 8   


Pregnancy scare brought home fear

Sir — I was a 15-year-old Irish teenager when Article 40.3.3 was signed into the Constitution in 1983. Although I did not have a vote, I was in favour of the Eighth Amendment — right up to the moment, four years later, I had a pregnancy scare and found myself searching through the back pages of Cosmopolitan, looking for the address of a clinic in Liverpool. I was lucky — as it turned out, my scare was a false alarm.

However, that moment brought home for me the sense of loneliness, fear and desperation that an unwanted pregnancy means for the girl or woman facing a difficult choice, in circumstances made even more difficult because the law of the land does not recognise them as agents in their own lives.

I will turn 50 this year, and as my childbearing years are coming to an end, I hope today’s 15-year-olds will come of age in a more compassionate Ireland, where their healthcare needs and bodily autonomy are respected by the law, and we no longer rely on the UK for the safe, legal access to abortion we have failed to provide for so long at home.

Edel Brosnan,



What fools these mortals be...

Sir — Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that in our Constitution (Article 43.3.3), the unborn’s sole right is the right to life. The following day, International Women’s Day, and with unusual alacrity, the Cabinet agreed we should hold a referendum to delete that one solitary right of the unborn child from our Constitution: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn…”

On this decision, I can only agree with Puck (in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream): “Lord, what fools these mortals be.”

K McEvoy,


Dublin 9


Credit to broadcaster

Sir — The Letter of the Week ‘Well done for snow advice’ (Sunday Independent, March 4) referred to the “Very accurate and professionally delivered message” by both Met Eireann and the National Emergency Committee.

That these bodies were able to deliver their message was due almost entirely to our national broadcaster, RTE, many of whose staff braved the elements and stood up to their oxters in snow for three days to get the real message across.

What about names like John Kilraine, Ciaran Mullooly, Teresa Mannion, Will Goodbody and many others?

Louis Hogan,

Harbour View,



Reform overdue on injury claims

Sir — Irish General Practitioners (GPs) were extremely disappointed by the tone of Charlie Weston’s article (Business, Sunday Independent, March 4).

His article referred to the Irish College of General Practitioners’ (ICGP) submission to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) on ‘Standardising the approach to the evaluation of soft-tissue personal injury claims’.

GPs, under instruction from a solicitor, must provide a factual medical report in relation to an accident which a patient suffers. GPs, by law, will provide truthful information reflecting the information given to them by the patient. A patient’s history, by its very definition, is subjective and is combined with any objective information demonstrated through a physical examination in a medical report.

Like many GPs, I would be very happy if I never had to write another medico-legal report again in my professional lifetime. They are time-consuming activities, creating a significant additional workload burden on already-stressed practices and they remove GPs from direct clinical contact with patients. However, responding to a solicitor’s request is a professional responsibility which we must obey, for both patients and society.

While it is true that Ireland is probably one of the most litigious countries in the world, if our legal framework was appropriate the factual medical reports provided by GPs should protect the system against spurious claims. Legal reform in this regard is long overdue, which would be greatly welcomed by everyone in our society, including GPs.

Dr Mark Murphy,

Chair of Communications,

Irish College of General Practitioners


What choice do we have?

Sir — I heartily agree with almost every word in Declan Foley’s letter (Sunday Independent, March 4), but I do not accept the assertion that the electorate is to blame.

I am sure Declan is as aware as I am that the choices on the mug list (ballot paper) whenever we enter the various schools and sports halls to make our marks, leave a lot to be desired.

We know that a vote for the two-and-a-half mainstream parties will ensure more of the same, but it’s a same-old we can just about live with. But what are the choices beyond that?

The only other sizeable party is Sinn Fein, a party that has, since its inception, unashamedly attempted to thwart the best efforts of successive governments to improve our standing in Europe and even blocked progressive legislation which would have greatly improved the working of Dail Eireann.

We also know that the party still eulogises individuals who were involved in past terrorist activity. In my opinion, they have ruled themselves out of the picture.

Apart from the Green Party, which possesses an ethical but flaky grasp of economic reality, we have nothing but a plethora of populists whose policies range from quite mad to dangerously deluded.

So where to, Declan? The idea of clever business heads taking up politics is off the table. I doubt even Berlusconi would take up the challenge.

Niall Ginty,


Dublin 5


It’s snow excuse for dog owners

Sir — The recent bad weather in Ireland has clearly shown our best and worst behaviours.

Some so-called middle-class people, while criticising other people’s bad behaviour, should look at their own first. They have taken their dogs out on the snow-covered paths and greens while letting their canines have free rein to pass faeces but failing to clean up the mess as these usually responsible pet owners normally do.

However, as the snow melted the evidence of this abandon appeared everywhere.

Dog owners have responsibilities which includes cleaning up after them. Snow-covered ground is no excuse for abandoning this basic virtue.

From a dog lover.

Walter Kilcullen,


Co Meath


Gambling business needs ombudsman

Sir — I have read Declan Lynch’s recent article on the GAA’s ban on betting company sponsorship and also recent letters to your page on addiction and the dangers of online gambling. Like Declan Lynch, I think the GAA’s decision is the right one. I agree also with your correspondents on the dangers of online gambling.

However, allow me to make a case for the opposition, for gambling per se. Every week many thousands of people spend a few euro on the Irish and European lotteries. Others at weekends might go to the bookies to have a flutter on the horses or on the football. There is nothing wrong with this. It brings a little joy into people’s lives in what can sometimes be a joyless world.

Online gambling is another matter entirely. But it is not a matter of gambling simply in itself. Electronic money has and will become the norm. But, for now, there can be something unreal about it and it can be argued that psychologically we humans are not ready for it.

The story of Tony 10 is a case in point, and did not electronic money play some part in the collapse of our economy some 10 years ago?

As for gambling addiction, I agree with your correspondent that the Government should appoint an ombudsman to oversee the gambling industry and to introduce measures to help those who befall such a fate.

Anthony McDonagh,

Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan


We are open on doping

Sir — John Fitzgerald’s letter (Greyhound racing is an ‘affront to sport’, Sunday Independent, March 4) tells your readers that doping of greyhounds is ‘widespread’. No evidence or figures are quoted to assert this.

The simple truth is that from 5,294 samples in 2017 from greyhounds at racetracks, private kennels and sales meetings, there were 29 adverse findings.

Every finding is published on our website — — the findings will include the name, earmark, owner and trainer of the greyhound, the prohibited substance found and the date and location where the sample was taken. Equally, all subsequent fines or sanctions are also published for all to see.

This level of transparency is designed to ensure public confidence in our sport. Last year, the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) invested €400,000 in a new analytical machine that can measure substances in parts per trillion, which allows for detection some time after they may have been administered.

Three individuals have been banned for doping or welfare offences. These individuals are disqualified from owning, training or managing a racing greyhound. Once again, these details are on our website. Fines for prohibited substances can go as high as €7,500 as well as licence revocations and exclusion orders.

The IGB fully supports responsible wagering. We actively implement a ‘Think 21’ policy to ensure that those under 18 do not engage in betting and have participated in initiatives such as Responsible Gambling Week. In 2017, our average Tote bet was €5, with an average customer spend per night of €25.

All reports of greyhound welfare are fully investigated; in 2017 our welfare officers completed 477 inspections of kennels and issued 43 fines under the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011.

The Irish Greyhound Board is responsible for the regulation of greyhound racing, which it takes seriously.

David McManus,

Irish Greyhound Board,

Dock Road, Limerick


Gales of laughter thanks to Brendan

Sir — I have just had the best laugh all week.

Why? Reading Brendan O’Connor’s article on the big storm (Sunday Independent, March 4). Hilarious and so typical. This man should write a book!

Patricia Keeley,

Dublin 6W

Sunday Independent

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