Sir - I wasn’t surprised by your 'I want to lead' page one lead story (Sunday Independent, September 20), in which Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Justice and Equality, signalled her ambition to succeed Enda Kenny and, in time, become our first woman Taoiseach.
Just over a month ago I attended the annual Michael Collins commemoration, at which Ms Fitzgerald delivered the oration, in the presence of Simon Coveney, another likely aspirant. She displayed the gravitas and exuded the presence of a future party leader, indeed Taoiseach. But the second half of her speech contained no fewer than seven references to Fine Gael, its economic record and what the party is and should be about.
Her concluding reference to the party was: “Fine Gael must always aim at what Collins wanted for Ireland, and I quote ‘The building up of a sound economic life in which great discrepancies cannot occur’.” No one appears to have spotted that these were the actions of a lady on a mission. But would Collins have approved of her failure to make any mention of Northern Ireland?
Martin O’Brien, Belfast 9
Partition is no mystery
Sir - Early in 1981, the Provisional IRA leadership in Derry met to consider the threat to Irish freedom posed by Joanne Mathers. Joanne was 29 years old, a farmer's wife, the mother of a toddler - and a part-time census form collector. They decided Joanne Mathers had to be stopped.
They could have simply intimidated her into quitting. But no - Joanne Mathers posed such a threat to the Provisional IRA that she had to be killed. On April 7, this small, defenceless farmer's wife was shot dead in Anderson Crescent in Derry by a masked man as she collected census forms.
At first they denied having had any involvement in the death of Joanne Mathers as happened in so many cases, like Jean McConville and Garda Jerry McCabe, but the IRA eventually admitted to carrying out the cowardly and cruel murder.
Last week, Gerry Adams compared the Provos to the men of 1916 and said: "In terms of their unselfishness, in terms of their generosity and in terms of their commitment (to Irish freedom) - yes, I do (see both in the same light)."
To hear Adams compare the callous psychopaths who ordered and carried out the murder of Joanne Mathers with the likes of Connolly, Clarke and Pearse is enough to make one puke. One can only imagine Connolly, Clarke and Pearse puking up also at being spoken about in the same breath as the craven and cowardly killers of Joanne Mathers.
Worse, one can only imagine the hurt the Mathers family feels at this insult to the memory of Joanne - but since when did Sinn Fein leaders ever consider the effects of what they said on the victims?
One often hears Sinn Fein leaders telling us it is time to "move on". Perhaps they should speak to Adams. Every time Adams makes a speech like this, the link between Sinn Fein and the IRA is reinforced in the public mind - and the voters stay away.
With regard to the impact of this sort of statement in the North, in 50 years' time, no doubt some other Sinn Fein leader will praise the killers of Joanne Mathers and wonder why partition still exists. The answer will lie, as it does today, in the murder of Joanne Mathers - and Sinn Fein's public adulation of her killers.
Anthony O'Leary, Portmarnock, Co Dublin
It’s time to move on from the past
Sir - I read Brendan O'Connor's article on the issue of celebrations of the 1916 Rising in 2016 (Sunday Independent, September 20). It was like this man was in my head reading my thoughts over the last few weeks. As a schoolboy in 1966, I was given the honour of reading the Proclamation to the entire school.
I hadn't a clue what most of it meant and in 2015 I would be of exactly the same opinion as Mr O'Connor. I look at the very sensitive subject of flags, banners and marches in Northern Ireland thinking, 'Guys, would you all take down the flags on both sides of the community because we all know where you stand. We get it. Move on'. Here are our own people lining up to do exactly the same thing by having marches and parades and doing exactly what we are asking the people of Northern Ireland not to do.
Thanks Brendan. It's not only you.
Michael Rooney, Knocknacarra, Co Galway
Brendan article 'honest and brave'
Sir - Brendan O'Connor can put his mind at rest. I believe there are many of us, in all honesty, who would agree with him, that it was really very odd, and even more than slightly ghoulish, to dig up a man who died 100 years ago and give him a State Funeral.
As he said in his excellent article (Sunday Independent, September 20): "Maybe we should let the past be a foreign country. We'd be laughing if we heard of it going on in Korea."
No disrespect to anyone whatsoever, but yes Brendan, all these war game celebrations for 1916-2016 are really beginning to go way OTT.
An honest and brave article Brendan, fair play.
Brian Mc Devitt, Glenties, Co Donegal
Just two cheers for O'Connor
Sir - Two cheers for Brendan O'Connor for steering a very fine line and striking a commendably delicate balance in the, will-we-won't-we celebrate/commemorate controversy surrounding the Easter 1916 debacle (Sunday Independent, September 20).
This is journalism of the highest quality with levels of responsibility, a refreshing departure from the degrading and disgusting tactics of a ruling regime bent on bolstering and justifying its existence through indoctrination of the young, the one and only department where it can claim success.
I say two cheers for Mr O'Connor for, in the final reckoning of the blood-soaked years, the exiles, as ever, are airbrushed from history.
In her inimitable style, Ruth Dudley Edwards more than compensated, by giving readers fascinating sketches of two towering figures of Irish decent and impeccable Republican credentials, who have recently inherited the British Labour Party.
Such are their eccentricities that in the opinion of many, their mere presence is enough to justify the appellation: The Monster Raving Loony Party.
In the light of our history, surely there cannot be a greater and more perverse irony than this, now moribund but once proud, prosperous and flourishing civilisation should acquiesce in the pronouncement of her obsequies by unreconstructed Irish Republicanism?
William Barrett, Surrey, UK
Brainwashing led to narrow view
Sir - I agree with Brendan O'Connor's article (Sunday Independent, September 20) concerning the 1916 commemorations and the odd spectacle of the Kent funeral.
It appears that anyone who disagrees with the official narrative of that period in history is out of step and not considered patriotic.
The narrow view which paints the leaders of the Rising as all heroes is the result of historical brainwashing. The inconvenient truth is that these men, whilst brave and idealistic, had no more mandate for their actions than their successors in the North in more recent years.
The majority of the population did not support them and they introduced a culture of blood sacrifice, terrorist tactics and lack of regard for democracy that continued for another century. It is, as Brendan says, more complex than it is portrayed. The idea of the Army visiting every primary school in the country with flag and Proclamation, which most schools already have, is plain daft. Are we playing at being a military state?
We need to grow up, heed the reality of our history where terrible deeds were done on both sides and stop groping in the graves.
B Swanton, Caherconlish, Co Limerick
Proud of men of 1916, and grateful
Sir - In answer to Brendan O'Connor's question whether "digging up people after 100 years is not odd," (Sunday Independent, September 20), I say I doubt there is a single family in this country who would not want the human remains of their kith and kin returned to them for burial in consecrated ground - as was the case with the Kent family - whether attended by military honours or not.
I reserve "ghoulish" - his word - for murderers who dump the bodies of their victims in remote God-forsaken bog holes all over the countryside. Ghoulish is when the bodies of executed patriots are placed, uncoffined, in shallow limed graves, identifiable only by DNA many, many years after the events. Proud of the men of 1916 and their aspirations? Yes, and grateful too.
Ena Keye, Terenure, Dublin 6
We are not North Korea
Sir - Brendan O'Connor (Sunday Independent, September 20) asks why all schools are receiving an Irish flag as part of the 2016 Commemorations, and quotes Gerry Murphy in likening this to something that could happen in North Korea. Such critical and negative questions deserve an answer - and with a little more research, could have been answered before being asked.
The Government - on an all-party basis, are providing a flag to every school in the country in order to promote pride in its heritage and its meaning for peace. It is sadly the fact that few today are aware of the symbolism of the green, white and orange.
On flying the very first Tricolour in Waterford in 1848, Thomas Francis Meagher said: "The white in the centre signifies a lasting truce between Orange and Green. I trust that beneath its folds, the hands of the Irish Catholic and Irish Protestant may be clasped in generous brotherhood."
At the Meagher Foundation launch, of which I am chair, President Higgins described the flag as "a symbol of our generous, inclusive Irishness," and former President McAleese has spoken of it "holding aloft our aspiration to be a peaceful country where all traditions are respected and reconciled".
Today, we see so many displaced from their homes to escape poverty and conflict, with its roots in historical prejudice - pictures that echo the history of this nation. The vision of the foundation is to support the commemoration of "what we were fighting for, not who we were fighting against", in practical terms.
The symbolism of the flag reinforces that message to our young people. The cynicism of the middle-aged is out of place - we have had our chance. We are not North Korea. We are Ireland. Shame on you for even thinking of the comparison.
Michael Cavanagh (Revd), Church of Ireland Union, Kenmare & Dromod, Co Kerry
Minister must reverse cycling law
Sir- A short time ago Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe decided to exclude cyclists from Fixed Charge Notices and allowed them to use footpaths. Since then, pedestrians will have noticed a marked increase in cyclists availing of this dispensation.
As predicted, cyclists can now claim the need to use footpaths because virtually all urban roads are dangerous due to uncontrolled speeding, lack of proper cycle ways, giant potholes, poor road design and a general lack of any coherent traffic management. The minister has therefore substantially increased the danger for pedestrians, many of whom were being subjected to intimidation, abuse and injury even before his ill-advised intervention.
Before the problem becomes an avalanche, as it certainly will, the minister should admit his mistake and remove the danger, the uncertainty and ambiguity. Common sense alone should dictate that he revert to his original position where footpaths are strictly for pedestrians only.
John Leahy, Cork
National Anthem is still preferred
Sir - As a Northern Unionist, I agree with Ena Keye (Sunday Independent, Letters, September 20) regarding the downgrading of the Irish national anthem at rugby internationals. I prefer listening to the official Irish anthem than to Ireland's Call, which is indeed cringe-making. The playing of three anthems at home internationals is something which could only happen in Ireland; one for the visiting team and two for the Irish. Why not go further and play one for each of the four provinces? Before these changes, the players from the North had no problem respecting the Irish anthem.
With regard to the Irish rugby authorities flying the Union flag for a period after partition, that may have been due to the fact that the then Free State was still part of the British Commonwealth, so I don't think anyone should get too hung up by a political gesture made some 90 years ago. After all, the GAA in the North fly the Irish flag and play the Irish national anthem at major games even though they have received more financial aid from the British Exchequer in the form of grants than any other sporting body. Having said all that, the changes to the anthem protocol appear not to have had a detrimental effect on the Irish rugby team given its huge success in recent years.
A Thompson, Co Tyrone
Fewer Catholics means fewer priests
Sir - Why do we continue to show concern about shortages of priests, when, in truth, the real issue is the rapidly shrinking number of committed Roman Catholics in the country? Within the Church, the priesthood is one of the rare areas where one volunteers to take up this calling, where, in business parlance, a market may be said to exist. If there was a large pool of zealous believers, surely more would become priests?
Because people don't volunteer to become Catholics, being given that status near birth, we have the absurdity of the Central Statistics Office proclaiming that 86pc of the population of Ireland "declare themselves to be Catholics". It is a nonsense which gives false comfort to those that would wish it was the truth. Strong contrary indicators of the extent of Catholicity are thrown up by large numbers opting for secular marriages and funerals and not attending obligatory weekly mass; the results of referenda on divorce, same-gender marriage and so on. The CSO needs to get real and ask relevant questions on religion, and only of those with the competence to answer for themselves. Its failure to do so is damaging its credibility.
John Colgan, Leixlip, Co Kildare
O'Dea's 'abattoir' remark not liked
Sir - Willie O'Dea's article headed: 'In the Dail abattoir, the cattle know who is marked for death' (Sunday Independent, September 20) was extraordinary in both its content and for the intemperate language he used. Describing his fellow TDs as cattle and the Dail as an abattoir is most inappropriate and unworthy of such a long-standing public representative.
Deputy O'Dea distinguishes between the kind of TD who is "too good at being a legislator, but... (is a) poor public representative". Surely, our TDs should be both, in equal measure. O'Dea does not define what constitutes a "good" legislator or a "good" public representative. Neither does he give us his views on how our national parliament could be more effective. Perhaps he will do this in a future column?
If O'Dea is so unhappy with the internal procedures of the Dail, then why hasn't he tried to change them? No doubt, O'Dea's attitude is shared by at least some other TDs. This also makes it easy to see why the electorate are so "volatile and disillusioned".
Tim Buckley, Cork City