Sir - I had a great laugh from Joe Brolly's article on faith healing last week. Only last year I was suffering from extremely painful gout and my doctor was of no help.
A friend of a friend told my wife of a relative who had gone to a healer in the North for a cure. I was in such discomfort that I went for it. An appointment was made and when I arrived, he handed me a slip of paper with poorly typewritten instructions and a very small bottle of brown liquid. He also gave me an old plastic shopping bag with a fistful of sphagnum moss inside.
"Take a pinch of this moss, dip it in the water, and rub it on the affected area in the sign of the cross. Do this three times daily for nine days, and your gout will be gone," he said.
I thanked him, but he angrily told me that such appreciation must not be expressed. I offered a small(ish) donation, which he declined to accept, telling me to leave it on the sofa. It disappeared as if by magic.
The comment of Henry Downey to Joe summed up my experience. I got a new doctor and let modern medicine do the job. I cannot believe I was so gullible.
Mullagh, Co Cavan
Rich pickings for our well-paid politicians
Sir - That's some timing by the Dail to grant a pay rise to those three ''super junior ministers''.
So the €124,000 a year was not in line with the rest of the overpaid club and they needed an extra €16,000 to bring them to a working wage.
When one in four people in this country is currently unemployed, a wage decrease by all currently in Leinster House would have been more appropriate. I mean, all the frontline workers were given was a round of applause for all their endeavours.
Four months in negotiation to form a Government - and shortly they will have holidays. Not exactly overworking, our public representatives.
The crowd in the Dail need to wake up, smell the coffee and get out into the real world.
Kilcoole, Co Wicklow
Advantages of a new waterway
Sir - I see the 170km Shannon-Dublin pipeline saga is back in the news again. And it will cost in excess of €1.3bn (more likely about €5bn by the time we've finished talking). And it's going to annoy the hell out of a significant number of farmers (especially in Tipperary) who will be discommoded for an indefinite period of time, and probably poorly compensated. And most people can see the illogic of pumping additional water into the capital when it's already losing anything up to 50pc of current supply through leakages because of a dodgy and antiquated infrastructure.
I wonder if it is possible to change the narrative for a moment, and think outside the proverbial box? Yes, this project is about water for the Dubs - but let's suppose it's about something more than water. Let's call it connections. I think the capital was first linked up to the River Shannon at Shannon Harbour via the Grand Canal about 200 years ago; a magnificent achievement in its day. Isn't it time we gave that waterway a 21st century facelift?
Why not clear out the existing canal floor completely and set the new pipeline at the base of a new, purpose-built waterway which may or may not be a canal? And let's embellish this new eco-project (which will be about 120km in length - 50km shorter than the current plan, therefore cheaper) with top-class walkways and cycleways so that it becomes one of the finest outdoor amenities in the country, thus breathing life into existing urban and rural communities such as Sallins, Edenderry, Tullamore, Rahan, Pollagh and Shannon harbour - to name but a few.
It could be for the midlands what the Wild Atlantic Way is to the western seaboard.
It's the kind of project that needs to be undertaken collaboratively with the different stakeholders - Failte Ireland, Uisce Eireann, Waterways Ireland, etc. If it were carried out creatively and efficiently, then the Dubs would have their water, the country would have another fine outdoor recreational amenity and the Tipp farmers could breathe easily again.
My father's role in the Arms Crisis
Sir - It was refreshing to read Eoghan Harris's nuanced analysis of Michael Heney's new book on the Arms Crisis. While the book fails to live up to standards of an important historical reference, it nonetheless has the potential to have influence on the narrative of that period because of the author's contacts and friendships through his previous job as a journalist with RTE.
Jim Gibbons is my father and I was a very young child at the time of the Arms Crisis. I have no memory of the events but grew up in its shadow and witnessed the impact on my father and mother. The inevitable trauma was eased by the support of many true friends, neighbours, people in our local community in Kilkenny.
We also have access to his private papers and hand-written notes from this period which provide the truest account of his story during those months. A historian with a desire to produce a work of rigour might have sought the personal papers of one of the main protagonists, but Michael Heney did not pick up the phone or write an email.
Why? Well, the answer is within the covers of this book. His motivation has not changed since his 2001 RTE documentary on the Arms Crisis - when a complaint of bias to the Broadcasting Authority was upheld.
This book does not start with a question, it starts with the author's answer - and he is resolute in his determination to view all evidence through the prism of his desired outcome.
This sets the tone for a biased, selective and unscrupulous treatment of the events of 1969 and 1970. Rather than critical analysis, the author chooses to deconstruct selective pieces of evidence and reinterpret them in a manner that is replete with confirmation bias throughout.
The unspoken, though barely concealed, axiom informing Heney's research is this: Hefferon and Kelly's evidence is inherently truthful, Lynch and Gibbons's inherently false.
Jim Gibbons was an intelligent and learned man. As well as being a very innovative farmer, he was musical and artistic and a great raconteur. While he never attended a music lesson in his life, he could take to the piano at the drop of a hat. Today, TDs might take to Twitter or post a picture on Instagram to ease the boredom of interminable Dail debates, Jim drew cartoons of his colleagues which kept them all amused. I mention this to paint a tiny picture of the person Michael Heney blithely dismisses as a two-dimensional antagonist in his disingenuous portrayal.
Dalkey, Co Dublin
A subjective view of disputed history
Sir - The letter from Michael Heney published in last Sunday's edition is a very hard-hitting response to the review of his book by Eoghan Harris and it is disappointing that such a condescending, and uncalled-for, tone is adopted by Mr Heney.
The period of history, under debate, is perhaps the most unsavoury instance of parliamentary intrigue that this country has endured - and the fallout from the arguments of that time has been hijacked by various individuals to advance their political aims.
Mr Heney's academic endeavour is to be admired for its effort - but ultimately any findings must be, at best, subjective. The interpretation of State papers and the deciphering of the intended meaning of statements and phrases used at that time is fraught with a danger of misunderstanding the context in which those comments were made. Did it occur to Mr Heney that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth may not have been foremost on the minds of those persons he relies upon?
On reading his book, I was disappointed at the certainty with which interpretations were arrived at, but I was more disappointed with the comments in his letter where any other interpretation of the events of that period was frowned upon.
It is a very strange move for a historian to pronounce on the bona fides of the actions of Charles Haughey - but when Mr Heney states "Haughey's fateful phone call to Peter Berry was not the act of a guilty man", he takes a step into the land of the Brothers Grimm.
I have long disagreed with the political views espoused by Eoghan Harris in the past, but recently he seems to be maturing nicely and on this occasion he better reflects my memory and knowledge of that dreadful time in Ireland when a civil war was in planning by some members of Dail Eireann and others.
Moycullen, Co Galway
The taxing matter of holiday spend
Sir - I do not think the Government's gesture on tax relief for citizens to take holidays will achieve its objective. It is long, drawn-out and cumbersome in the light of the sudden economic downturn.
A better approach would be a voucher forwarded to each household which could be used on any consumer spending. After all, not everyone may be in a position to go on holidays.
Cures for 'age of entitlement'
Sir - I enjoyed the articles by Joe Brolly and Colm O'Rourke, and Brolly reminded me of a neighbouring family's remedy for chilblains on the feet; wash your feet in your own urine.
I have read about this 'cure' in several books of traditional cures but I never tried it. I saw the cure of the mumps being tried - the one requiring the winkers of an ass and a friendly pig sty. I can't say if it worked or not. I also saw ferret's milk being recommended as a cure for whooping cough. The cougher died.
Sixty years ago when I was still trying to be a runner and a footballer, there were no physios in Dundalk - so if one of our club members got a sprain, a kick, a pulled muscle or an achilles problem, the injured athlete went to "Lourdes" for "a rub". It cost half a crown.
I believe the "rubber" got the name because he told the injured parties about the many cases where he succeeded after all the doctors had failed.
He was a nice man though, a long retired soccer player and a good story was cheap at half a crown.
Colm O'Rourke's point about 'this being the age of entitlement' brings to mind a gentleman who had a free four-bedroom house, picketing his local county council offices for at least a five-bed house as he had a large family. And he wanted it in a different town because the people in his town didn't like him and he didn't like them. (But then he had over 100 court convictions). You can be sure my heart bled for him.
Don't write-off our over-70 generation
Sir - My thanks to Emer O'Kelly and Campbell Spray for highlighting an issue which predates Covid: namely, treating the age 70 as a doorway to senility and incompetence in decision-making.
I have been a blood donor all my adult life, but at 70 I can no longer donate unless my doctor gives clearance every year. Similar issues apply to renewing one's driving licence.
The best advice I ever received in my youth was as follows: Rules were made for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men and women. Which group prevails in our political leaders?
Seamus O Ciarain,
Highlighting vital issue is so important
Sir - Thank you to the Sunday Independent team for keeping the conversation about racism alive with your very well-crafted features in the paper of July 19.
I absolutely loved the piece in Sport about Michael Emenalo, even though I'm a staunch Liverpool fan. His eloquence and grace explaining how he repeatedly has to prove his aptitude with every new interaction - sometimes to people far less competent than he is - is descriptive of the problem we black professionals face the higher up the ladder we go. Our skin colour always seems to signify lack of competence.
The feature in Life magazine, A Time To Listen, was very tastefully done and the stories shared illuminated the scale of insidious racism. The feeling of 'aloneness' when bystanders do nothing in support of us when we are abused was explored very powerfully.
On a different topic, I felt the piece by Alan O'Keeffe on the 'discriminational' barring of non-EU trained doctors from pursuing consultant positions through sanctioned training programmes deserved more visibility in the paper. While it is not directly about racism or discrimination, it is about racism and discrimination - and I touched on this in my piece published by you on July 5 ('Racism comes in many forms - but it always hurts'). If anyone ever wondered what "systemic and institutional" racism is in current Irish society, then this is it.
Wanga Mawete Matondo,
Small town in rural Ireland
Subsidy scheme ignores realities
Sir - After reading Gene Kerrigan's article 'Gut low pay workers', I would love to know who in Revenue came up with the idea of the wage subsidy scheme?
It certainly shows how completely removed our public sector is from the realities of the private workplace.
The Government gives my employer €350 towards my wage - to which my employer may add, up to a maximum of my take-home pay in February.
They add €50 (my net pay in February was approximately €450). I will pay tax on the €350 at the year end. I sat down and calculated my tax liability and reckon that, after deductions, I will earn €373 per week.
I have no issues paying my taxes - but how can it be just and equitable that my employer pays €50 for my 38 hours' work - while I earn €77 less a week?
Somebody needs to research this. I have spoken to Revenue and they told me that every phone call they received is about this issue. The Government is subsidising employers for employees' wages.
Athenry, Co Galway
Dog thefts an attack on family
Sir - the reported spate of dog-napping represents an attack on the family unit.
The stealing of a companion animal, with the heartbreak it leaves in its slipstream, is a crime carried out by people shorn of all compassion.
Within a family, the dog is the cornerstone that brings together all strands of family daily life and creates a bond around the one with the wet nose that is stronger than concrete.
Dognappers are excuses for human beings. Taken from its familiar surroundings, the dog is thrown into a strange and frightening situation - a canine mind drowning in a sea of fear-filled thoughts as it attempts to embrace the unfamiliar.
But given that our courts have become outlets for defendants' sob stories aiming for suspended sentences, it seems our courts are punishment-arid.
That dognapping should even exist allows validation to Mark Twain's musing: "The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog."
Church Road, Waterford