'Nesters' feel bullied
Sir - I was absolutely incensed after reading an article entitled 'Families trapped in negative equity are key to solution' written by Maeve Sheehan (Sunday Independent, September 27).
Apparently, "empty nesters" have been targeted as one of the main contributors to the current housing crisis. "Empty nesters," by the way, is the term used to describe the likes of your parents and mine, who bought their houses many years ago, raised their families, and now find themselves alone again after their children have "flown the nest".
These people now stand accused of contributing to the housing crisis by simply continuing to live where they have lived all their lives, instead of voluntarily selling off their family homes to the new breed of householders who have recently come out of negative equity and wish to trade up. Unbelievably, in the absence of new housing stock, the older generation are expected to do their moral duty to society, by moving aside and making their homes available to this new breed. According to an ERSI study, "demand for older people's homes is about to get even louder as more and more people emerge from negative equity".
But what if they don't want to move? I suppose the powers that be will then resort to plan B and simply smoke them out!
Economist Ronan Lyons has suggested introducing tax incentives for downsizing, or alternatively "imposing a higher property tax".
And if bribes or harsh property tax penalties don't work, there's always the tried and trusted visit from the bailiffs.
If we don't stand up to the bullies in this Government, they'll do everything in their power to make this happen.
Disabled fight for independence
Sir - I read Brendan O'Connor's piece, "It's time we set people free from institutions" (Sunday Independent, September 27), and just wanted to take the quick opportunity to thank him for highlighting this hugely and increasingly important issue.
Independent Living for people with disabilities, as he mentioned in the article, is a cause extremely close to my heart, and Brendan's piece translates its simple philosophy - that each of us is equal and is entitled to live with the same choice, freedom, and dignity as everyone else - into very relatable, and therefore powerful and impactful terms.
So much of the discussion around institutions and residential centres for people with disabilities at the moment focuses on Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) findings and the destructive human rights abuses taking place within them.
And, without question, these issues are extremely concerning and need to be swiftly and meaningfully addressed.
But we too often forget or ignore some of the very core realities experienced by the people living in these places: the total lack of control or autonomy over even the most modest and seemingly unremarkable, everyday decisions. Those decisions, in fact, and the situations they bring about are the ones that make our lives enjoyable and rewarding. Without the power to make them, no matter how compliant a place is with any set of standards, one can never lay claim to be "living", so much as "existing".
The conversation needs to be changed from one that sees people with disabilities as vulnerable and marginalised to one that recognizes each of us as the valuable, dynamic individuals that we all are. And that conversation then must lead to action which empowers every person with a disability to take control of their own lives, to enjoy the independence, equality and choice that they are entitled to, and to achieve the goals they envision for themselves, just like anyone else.
That's what programmes like Next Steps and my own project, Aiseanna Tacaiochta (AT), are not only trying to do, but succeeding at. At AT, for example, we're the first organisation in Ireland to offer Direct Payments to people and families with disabilities, so that they can take charge of their own budgets and services in a way that's never been possible before - and this was an idea acted on by people with disabilities themselves, the best experts on their own lives, in the first place.
A Direct Payment is a cash payment made directly to an eligible person with a disability to enable them to purchase and manage their own care or support services.
But we need support to be able to make that happen: it excites me just to think of the incredible impact to be made if the €450m currently being touted for allocation to upgrade nursing homes and institutions was channelled instead to programmes and individualised supports, but it's disappointing that we have to continue fighting for decisions - even such obvious and sensible ones - like that.
We will continue fighting. More and more voices are joining the conversation, and more and more battle cries are being heard, sparked, for the first time in many cases, by columns like Brendan's.
So, again, I thank you for raising the issue and for regularly giving space to people with disabilities. These are issues I am only ever too delighted to discuss.
Director of Aiseanna Tacaiochta
Another problem with Irish Water
Sir - I read the articles on Irish Water by Willie Kealy and Ronald Quinlan (Sunday Independent, September 27) and I agree with most of it.
However, most people seem to have missed the real elephant in the room, which is the dumping of responsibility and costs for huge tracts of the sewerage network in housing estates on to the householder.
These are networks which have been maintained over the last 40 years by the local authority and met the local and national regulations at the time of construction. In some cases the local authority have rights of entry inserted into the title of the properties, including entry for the purpose of preventative maintenance of the sewerage network.
Irish Water have now removed this preventative maintenance and the problems have already started.
Since June 2015, Irish Water has deemed that all sewerage mains which pass under private property are now in fact the responsibility of the owner of that property. Even the HSE are prohibited from involvement under the 2013 Act. This makes the company very attractive for a vulture capitalist when privatisation comes around - very little sewerage liabilities.
The company has redefined the sewerage mains as "shared drains" for which, since June 2015, they deny any responsibility.
Nobody has an issue with the occasional blockage but repairs to these "newly private shared drains" can cost up to €30,000, which must now be borne by a householder or a group of householders.
Will the bailiffs hit 'empty nesters'?
Sir - I was so angry reading Maeve Sheehan's article in last Sunday's Independent. It seems the elderly are to blame for the housing crises.
Maeve writes that older people could be taxed or bribed for not downsizing from their large houses to smaller ones, to let families trade up to larger houses due to the escalating demand, with complaints of empty nesters rattling around in huge homes with large back gardens.
We are already taxed higher than those who live in smaller properties.
I am one of the people Maeve writes about. We are in our seventies, our four children have left our four-bedroom house with large garden. They have their own homes. Two of our children live abroad. Our daughter, her husband and children come to stay with us for at least five weeks every year; our son comes at least six times a year - not at the same time, as there would not be enough room.
I pick up my other daughter's two boys from school five days a week. How would we manage with a two-bedroom house with all this family activity?
We have a trampoline and swings in our large garden. They're not for us.
I am very sick of the ageism in the media. We have been told before we are blocking up the beds in the health system - thank God we have never needed them. Now we are told just living in our own homes we have worked so hard for is causing a housing shortage.
What will we be to blame for next?
A good leader has to be ruthless
Sir - In last week's Sunday Independent, Eoghan Harris makes a very valid point when he says "while people might think Kenny ruthless, they do not rate him as incompetent," when referring to Kenny's involvement in the resignation of former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
I have to admit some admiration for what Kenny did. He possibly pushed the boundaries of his Office to address a situation that needed to be addressed.
Before Enda Kenny became Taoiseach, many people wondered if he would be up to the job. But a leader is meant to lead. The buck stops with the leader.
Sometimes a ruthless quality is required.
Am I only half an Irishman?
Sir - The 1916 centenary rebellion shindig is approaching.
And as it approaches, I realise that I have managed to have become a pensioner and still not learned the national anthem. Does this mean that I might somehow be considered only a half-Irishman?
But then I pondered on it for about one minute before having second thoughts.
This came about once I realised The Soldier's Song is known by, and probably sung at the drop of a hat, by the likes of Gerry Adams, Gerry Kelly, Martin Ferris, Dessie Ellis, and Bobby Storey, to name but a few.
And they no doubt know it as Gaeilge to emphasise their superior Irishness.
I know all the words to Eleanor Rigby, and come next year will give my best rendition when and where I am asked to. That will be my contribution to commemorating the 1916 rebellion in 2016.
Robert Sullivan, Bantry, Co Cork
Farmers not muck savages
Sir - I read Carol Hunt's article on pre-nuptials in last week's Sunday Independent and my overriding feeling was one of disgust.
My issue is her portrayal of what marriage to a modern-day farmer entails: "...a life where you're knee-deep in pig sh*t every day". Ms Hunt displays a narrow and totally archaic view of farm life. Nowadays on commercial farms, the non-farming spouse usually works off farm. It would be the exception if she was involved in the day-to-day running of the farm.
It is clear Ms Hunt holds an uninformed stereotype of the modern farmer. The undertone of the article is that a prospective bride-to-be would be marrying a backward muck savage, as opposed to the reality that most modern farmers are food-producing businessmen who are carrying a large asset into their marriage, often valued at several millions of euros.
Some choices have consequences
Sir - Eilis O'Hanlon (Sunday Independent, September 27) argues that "if women have a right to choose, then that must include the right to sell their bodies". While there may be a logic to this, I do not think Eilis has considered the potential outcomes for woman and society. Studies consistently show that where prostitution is decriminalised, sex trafficking increases. Also, imagine an unemployed woman being told that if she cannot find a job, then she should consider being a "sex worker". While all persons have a right to choose, it must surely be limited in terms of the effects that decision might have.
Joe Brolly wash harsh on Kerry
Sir - I think Joe Brolly was overly harsh in his assessment of Kerry football since 2002, and also quite disrespectful towards the opponents they beat in their four All-Ireland Final wins since then (Sunday Independent, September 27).
He states that their All-Ireland victories since '02 have been "soft ones" bar last year's win over Donegal. In 2006, Mayo beat Dublin to reach the final, in 2007 Cork were also worthy of their place in the decider, yet Joe described them both as "abject opponents". Also, in 2009 Cork lost out by four points despite a blistering start - that was definitely not a soft Sam Maguire for Kerry.
Kerry also reached six finals in a row from 2004-2009, in a very competitive period for football and that is a fair feat, notwithstanding the weaker standard of football in Munster when compared to Ulster, for example.
In relation to Colm Cooper, he states that "when the heat is turned up, he disappears - starting with the second half in 2002 against Armagh". That was Gooch's first season, and Kerry lost that final by a point. In 2005, he had a very good start against Tyrone before receiving an eye injury which understandably reduced his influence.
Gooch showed all his class and vision against Dublin in the 2013 semi-final, with his pass for Donncha Walsh's goal a particular highlight, while his goal in the 2011 final against the Dubs was also pure class. It is a team game, and Gooch should not be attributed too much blame for those defeats.
Also, he missed all of last season through injury. I say the above as a Kilkenny hurling follower who just felt both Kerry and Colm Cooper deserved a bit more respect for their contribution to the game.
Stick to the facts, Joe please
Sir - Joe Brolly clearly knows about never letting the facts get in the way of a good fiction.
Thus his recent article that made reference to the footballing shortcomings of Colm Cooper.
But even for the 'no show like a Joe show', this was a bit rich.
The four All-Irelands that Cooper has won were portrayed as soft. This is simply laughable.
In the defeats to Armagh (2002), Tyrone (2003, 2005, 2008) and Dublin (2013), he claims Cooper went missing.
Doubtful, as in those games Cooper was actually Kerry's best player more often than not.
The 'Gooch' has only been one of the greatest Gaelic footballers ever.
Cooper a breath of fresh air'
Sir - According to Joe Brolly, all Kerry's All-Ireland victories have been soft ones. This I take with a pinch of salt.
But the vilification of Colm Cooper is another matter completely. Colm Cooper goes out on the pitch to play Gaelic football as he knows it. Over the years, he has been subjected to horrendous treatment from so-called 'hard men'. He has been bitten, his eyes gouged, he has been spat at, his legs kicked from under him and was out of the game for over a year with injury.
Colm Cooper is a breath of fresh air.
Why Japan beat South Africa
Sir - In the cake that Mr. Neil Francis baked (Sunday Independent, September 27) under the title "No Middle Ground in War", he omitted a vital ingredient. That is the fact that South Africa had fielded a team without eight of its regular international players. That, together with the fact that Japan was not taken seriously, led to South Africa's defeat and not the principles in a series of war slogans he ascribed to Japan's thinking.
In addition, he should not fool us, the readers, that "the victory over South Africa came as no surprise". A statement to that effect if true shows his ignorance of the subject matter on hand.