Money does not buy the best education
Sir - I agree wholeheartedly with the majority of Eilis O'Hanlon's sentiments on the privilege of private schools and their questionable receipt of government money for such luxuries as the resurfacing of all-weather hockey pitches (Sunday Independent, March 25).
I take exception, however, to a common theme in such articles - the suggestion that the education one receives in such private schools is always the "best education".
I refute this suggestion as a parent of three teenage children who have attended an excellent non-fee-paying school in that bastion of privilege, south Co Dublin. The suggestion that because you pay you're getting "the best" is simply wrong.
We're happy to go on our two-week holiday in the knowledge that our children are getting the best education without paying fees. In fact, I find it offensive to suggest that, because we go on such holidays as a family, that we are squandering our children's education and opportunities.
Education and how it is provided is much more complex than such references in Ms O'Hanlon's piece. There are many dependent factors, such as the mindset of the individual child, the guidance of parents, wider family and home life. Money does not guarantee academic success!
As my mother always said in her wisdom: "They all get the same books."
Inequality? 'Twas ever thus
Sir - The excellent Eilis O'Hanlon's article "Private schools shouldn't gain from inequality" (Sunday Independent, March 25) has me so incensed that my weekly mixed grill has been put to one side so I can write to you.
As a retired principal of a school in a very disadvantaged area, I was astounded by the level of funding received by the two mentioned schools when they are already "awash with money".
One of the schools mentioned has "four rugby pitches, one floodlit rugby grid, a soccer pitch, two mini and two full-size hockey pitches, a gym and a sports hall".
In contrast, my own school in west Dublin had the use of a local soccer pitch thanks to Dublin County Council but, on driving past it last week, I noticed that houses are now being built on the site.
I am all for new housing to alleviate our homelessness problems, but can you imagine the furore if Beaufort or Wesley College lost a pitch to housing?
While private schools are being funded to the hilt, DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) schools are struggling to make ends meet.
"Equality, how are ya?" It has always been thus and will probably always remain so.
Pat Burke Walsh,
(Retired principal, St Peter Apostle SNS, Neilstown, Dublin)
The joy and love from our pets
Sir - Reading the 'My Pet' article on Daisy the Jack Russell (Sunday Independent, March 25) - and all the previous articles about people's pets - always lifts my spirits and often brings a tear to my eye.
The manner in which the proud owners describe their beloved pets and convey the joy, happiness and unconditional love they bring into their lives is so heartwarming and emotional.
Being an animal lover myself, I can relate to every kind word the owners write - the joy a pet can bring into a person's life is indescribable unless experienced. And, yes, as Mairead Doohan said last week, being met at the Pearly Gates by one's pet would definitely be paradise! Please continue these fantastic articles.
Friendless - but no longer alone
Sir - I want to thank you for publishing the interview with Cosmopolitan editor Farrah Storr (Life, Sunday Independent, March 25). I thought I was the only one in the world who went through transient friendships and often felt ashamed of it. It's really comforting to know I'm not alone in this predicament.
I hope more people will come out of their shells and admit they haven't had any long-standing friends and this in turn will lead to a community that would consist of people supporting one another. Thank you once again.
Name and address with Editor
Well done, Pat - Eighth must stay
Sir - As a Donegal woman living in my home county, I couldn't disagree more with Emma Cassidy, writing from Brussels (Letters, Sunday Independent, March 25) stating she was mortified to hear that our TD, Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher, was one of those who chose to vote against the holding of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment.
Unlike her, I contend that the Eighth Amendment needs to stay to ensure Ireland continues 'as a safe and supportive place for people who are pregnant' and certainly much more so than countries which have legalised abortion.
Well done, Pat, for standing by your principles and being the voice for the voiceless unborn baby. Speaking of choice - what choice does the helpless baby have?
Listen to these women's voices
Sir - I've seen the numbers. About 3,500 travel to the UK every year. Another 1,500 take illegal abortion pills here. About 70pc are married or have a partner. More than half are parents. More than half were using contraception.
OK, numbers are important. But sometimes the numbers can lose their meaning.
Recently, I've been reading the In Her Shoes Facebook page, which shares anonymous stories of women under the Eighth Amendment. And I'm absolutely heartbroken for them. I can see the pain, the shame, the isolation, the trauma. Not from the abortion itself, but from how this country made them feel.
There is the mother whose son's condition was such that his birth, and his very short life if he survived birth, would have been extremely painful. So she had a termination, saving him from pain, despite her own heartache.
The rape victim who had to come home and tell her partner about her assault, and how they dealt with the pregnancy.
The woman who sits in silence as friends judge women who have had abortions, knowing she can never tell her dark secret of when she was 18 and her boyfriend didn't want to know.
The woman going through a prolonged, inevitable miscarriage and not able to take anything to help it along, despite the risk to her health, because there is still a faint heartbeat.
The mother of two small children who was suicidal with post-natal depression after her last baby and couldn't put herself or her family through that again when contraception failed.
There are at least 100 stories shared on there already. With more than 170,000 Irish women having had abortions since 1980, it is obviously only the tip of the iceberg. I look around and realise these women are among us - in the office, the shopping centre, the church. With these kinds of numbers, everyone must know someone who's had an abortion.
We can have all the debates in the world, but everyone should read some of the stories on In Her Shoes before they decide how to vote in the referendum.
There are people behind these numbers. We owe it to these women, to all Irish women and girls, to listen, to open our minds for a minute and try to understand. Only then can we make a truly informed decision.
Cait Ni Charthaigh,
Rising and renewal of life
Sir — Easter, like Christmas, revolves around a mixture of pre-Christian and Christian expressions of human hope and aspiration. Easter eggs, the Easter Bunny or egg-laying hare, and the fertility of spring may appear to sit uneasily with the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ; however, there is a close symbolic relationship between the Christian account of Easter and aspects of the pre-Christian spring festivals, in their concern with dying, rising and the renewal of life.
We are all caught up in the unending quest for a way of life that befits us as humans. We are sometimes estranged from one another and from our deepest longings. Even in our most thoughtful moments we do not always feel at home in the world. The French writer Albert Camus spoke of “the benign indifference of the universe”. In short, we long for salvation from our sometimes self-imposed world-weary existence.
The realisation that we are beings in the making, and flawed, led our ancestors to develop the story of Adam and Eve, firing the human imagination in the elaboration of a myth of origin that accounted for the vagaries of living and of dying.
Christ did not come amongst us to die but to live. He wasn’t a scapegoat for our sins but an exemplary embodiment of what it is to be human. What is fascinating is how stories from the past are constructed, told and retold. Nobody should claim to be in possession of the definitive account of the life and death of Christ; it unravels itself over time, often slipping in and out of orthodoxy and, occasionally, out of sense.
What generally seems beyond dispute is that we are saved from ourselves by becoming human in the manner of Christ.
Give respect to the gentle hare
Sir — As a campaigner for hare protection, I was delighted to read two separate articles (Sunday Independent, March 25) focusing on aspects of this animal’s enduring and almost mystical appeal.
A piece in the Living section included a picture of a mixed media (charcoal, pastel and acrylic) work titled Chasing the Wind II by Margo Banks. It certainly does justice to a mammal that, as reviewer Niall MacMonagle notes, is “swift and energetic, and races across the paper with ballet-like grace…”
Joe Kennedy, in his Country Matters column, alludes to hares that turn white in winter and the welcome presence of a hare on Ireland’s long-decommissioned threepenny bit. He mentions our own Irish hare, a sub species of the mountain hare that has been with us since at least the Ice Age of roughly 11,000 years ago.
How sad that this creature, revered in Irish folklore, art, song and literature enjoys only a fig-leaf of protection under animal welfare and conservationist law. Special exemptions allow it to be hunted with packs of dogs and to be snatched from its natural habitat for coursing.
All its renowned grace and beauty of form dissolve on the coursing field when, despite its legendary knack for being able to “turn on a thrupenny bit” (perhaps one of these minted in its honour by the Irish State?), it succumbs to the greater speed and stamina of the dogs and can be mauled, tossed skyward like a broken toy, have its bones broken, or can die post-coursing of stress-related conditions to which this species is especially prone.
What a hardy and resilient animal, even if naturally timid, inoffensive and brittle-boned… to have survived that cataclysmic glacial upheaval of antiquity only to have to run in 2018 from blood-crazed dogs… urged on by cheering humans who in turn command the backing of our political establishment.
Some day, I hope, TDs and senators will accord the same respect to the gentle hare, as have artists like Margo Banks and conservationists like Joe Kennedy, and indeed countless writers, poets, painters and sculptors have shown down through the ages towards this iconic creature.
Whiff of snobbery in bizarre rugby boast
Sir — The former Blackrock College boy Neil Francis came up with the rather bizarre notion that rugby is now the national game (Sport, Sunday Independent, March 25).
How did he come to this conclusion? Was it because more people were now playing rugby in this country than any other sport? No. Was it because Ireland had just won a tournament confined to six countries from Western Europe? No.
Apparently his reason for arriving at this strange conclusion was based on the undoubted fact that every pub in the country was jammed on St Patrick’s Day while they watched Ireland record a historic win over the old enemy England.
Among these throngs of “rugby supporters” were many women who he claims have a great knowledge of the game. I would suggest that the vast majority of those “jump-on-the-bandwagon” supporters would not have a clue what was happening on the field if the television commentary was turned off. This, of course, should not be a surprise as rugby is the only field game that I know of where the referee has to spend the whole game telling the players what to do.
Francis then makes an attempt to denigrate the great game of hurling by stating that practically all the hurling All-Irelands in the last 50 years were won by three counties, namely Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary. He wonders what the other 29 counties were doing while this was happening
Well, firstly, I would like to inform him that in the 50-year period he refers to, eight different counties have won the McCarthy Cup.
I note that only four countries have won the rugby World Cup and I wonder what all the other rugby playing countries, including Ireland, were doing while this was going on. I have heard numerous rugby experts say that Ireland have flopped big time in this major tournament.
Francis cites the huge amount of women now following the game of rugby. The question would have to be asked, where were all these woman last year when Ireland hosted the much hyped Women’s Rugby World Cup? In an article in your paper some months ago Eamon Sweeney stated that the total attendance at this competition was less than that at the All-Ireland ladies Gaelic football finals at Croke Park.
There is a definite whiff of private school snobbery when Francis condescendingly asserts that hurling is a “parochial game”.
Parochialism is not a crime and of course is one of the main reasons for the huge success of the GAA in its 134-year lifespan.
There is a GAA club in practically every town and village in Ireland while there would be a distinct lack of rugby clubs in many of them. Indeed a lot of places could not boast of having an adult rugby player, never mind a club.
For some strange reason, Francis never mentions the game of Gaelic football which is now deemed the most popular game in Dublin, including many traditional rugby areas.
If rugby is now the national game as Neil Francis claims, how come the IRFU had to enlist the help of the GAA to provide stadia for them in their over ambitious bid to stage the rugby World Cup. This bid ended in dismal failure when a complete “dog’s dinner” was made of their application.
Was Brolly’s eyeforced off the ball?
Sir — Joe Brolly (Sport, Sunday Independent, March 25) tells us that Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea should have “busted” Galway’s Paul Conroy, and also took obvious delight in the Galway full back being “poleaxed and knocked senseless” by a Dublin player.
I am a little confused, is this not the same Joe Brolly who called for Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh to be publicly drawn and quartered and his body impaled outside Croke Park for, wait for it, pulling a player to the ground. Personally, I think Joe was distracted by the glamorous brunette he met in Salthill. Was she a Galway woman, Joe, by any chance?