Remember Donal's message
Sir - With the inspirational and life-enhancing Darkness Into Light walk coming up, I think about suicide... about how it kills good people, kills hope, creates grief beyond words for those left behind.
But right now I also think about a true Irish hero, not one who fought for Ireland but who devoted the few remaining weeks of his life to spreading a simple but immensely powerful message: if you're suicidal, seek help, that no matter how dreadful your situation, how seemingly desperate or full of darkness the future looks, help really is waiting once you reach out.
May 12 is the fifth anniversary of the death of Donal Walsh, the 16-year-old Co Kerry boy who showed us all the meaning of true courage, and who reminded us of just how precious life is.
Terminally ill with cancer, he found time to appeal to others who despaired of living to reconsider their suicidal thoughts or intentions. His message, broadcast via the print and visual media, hit home.
We'll probably never know how many lives he saved, how many grief-stricken scenes involving huge funerals across Ireland were prevented thanks to his resounding affirmation of life in the final days of his own.
What we do know is that suicide remains today what it always was: a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Let's remember the heartfelt plea from Donal Walsh, as his life ebbed away: help is available; turn back from the darkness and give life another chance, because it is worth living, for ourselves and those who will miss and grieve for us, and maybe blame themselves unfairly, if we opt for death by suicide.
Lawless driving on dangerous M1
Sir - I drove from Drogheda to Dublin on a recent Sunday along the M1. I have driven vehicles all over Europe and I have never seen such criminal driving - speeding, overtaking on the wrong side, tailgating and learner drivers. And there were no gardai for the full journey.
The ways of forgiveness
Sir — I am a married man with a great wife with four girls and one boy, all grown up now.
Niamh Horan’s article about forgiveness (Sunday Independent, April 22) touched me deeply and as society positions itself in the midst of the new media tsunami it will be interesting to see what reaction it might unlock .
Niamh is to be commended for going against the grain in suggesting that forgiveness might be a better way in the long term than instant moral judgment and universal punishment.
When I was nine years old my sister left the family home to enter the Holy Faith Convent. A few short years later she took her vows, became a nun and was promptly shipped off to New Zealand where her task was to bring Catholicism to a “pagan land”. My sister started to send me clippings and photos of this team called the All Blacks.
The first article was about an Irishman called Dave Gallaher from Ramelton in County Donegal and he, strangely enough, was the captain of the “Invincibles” (All Blacks) that toured Britain and Ireland in 1905, playing 36 matches, winning 35 and drawing one..
I was hooked and 50-odd years later I still am, and I still try to understand what makes them the greatest sports team on the planet for over a century. There are many theories as to why this is so and perhaps the most commonly held belief would suggest something in the realm of “alpha male” dominance. In years gone by that may well have explained some of the reasons as to why they could be so dominant but not now.
My sister left the convent some years later and married a Marist priest and had four lovely children.
They became clinical psychologists and opened their own private practice in NZ. They counselled several famous rugby players and so in a general way I got a deeper insight into the makeup of these rugby stars.
The All Blacks have had their public scandals in recent times and I am fascinated to understand just how they have dealt with them, especially in the light of how it would affect the iconic All Blacks brand.
Punishment yes, but not exclusion or isolation or vindictive judgment.
The most important aspect is that fellow players must accept what has been done and understand that there has to be consequences ,
The players’ job is to help the offenders through the “period of punishment” and most importantly to provide a way back against a background of humility and forgiveness.
Just as Niamh suggested in her article, the offenders now have another task as they work their way back into the team, they must ask for forgiveness and through their experience ensure they help fellow players, youth teams and school kids do not fall into a value system that leads to the bad or very bad behaviour.
Niamh is to be congratulated on a wonderful article full to the brim with common sense and maturity which should be a blueprint for the whole country.
So much potential lies in the unborn
Sir — It’s interesting that in recent weeks we have learned that Cristiano Ronaldo, the footballer, and Amal Clooney, the human rights lawyer, both faced the prospect of abortion while still in the womb. Think of what the worlds of sport and law might have lost if that simple procedure had ended their lives.
These are both celebrities, but the same principle applies for every human life. Each of us has something unique to offer the world, and all the potential that is wrapped up in the unborn child is snuffed out by abortion.
We can do better, for mothers, for children, and for society as a whole.
Prostitution and abortion pill link
Sir — Sarah Benson is CEO of Ruhama, an Irish charity that has been supporting women involved in prostitution for 27 years.
She believes prostitution is the absolute denial of a woman’s bodily autonomy. Ruhama’s 2016 annual report showed that they worked with 304 women, 37 nationalities and 92 victims of sex trafficking. Globally, sex trafficking has almost overtaken the drugs trade as a criminal enterprise, although the two are usually interlinked — you can sell drugs only once, you can sell women again and again.
For this trade to exist and flourish, access to abortion and, more recently, the abortion pill, is fundamental. Our Government is failing in its duty to support women who have been sex-trafficked into Ireland by not enforcing the law banning the abortion pill. In attempting to facilitate the individual rights of women who wish to illegally take the pill, they are also facilitating the lucrative trade in sexually exploiting women by multinational cartels.
Please vote Yes to safeguard women
Sir — I have spoken to several men, and some women who are not of childbearing age, saying that they do not plan to vote in the referendum on May 25 because they do not believe it affects them. This concerns me for two reasons.
Firstly, just because somebody cannot fall pregnant does not mean that the Eighth Amendment will never affect them. The Eighth Amendment can have a real and devastating impact on the partners and family of women with crisis pregnancies who are left with limited options because of the constitutional ban on abortion in Ireland.
Secondly, these people generally have very pro-choice views. They say things like, “that’s up to women to decide” and “it does not affect me so I don’t think I should have a say”. Basically, they believe that women should be allowed to make their own decisions about issues regarding their lives and bodies. However, without the support of these people on May 25, it may continue to be impossible for Irish women to make these decisions at home.
Therefore, I would implore everyone, even those who do not think that they should have a say, to get out and vote Yes on May 25, so women can make these private and personal decisions for themselves in the future.
Not together at all
Sir — Together For Yes, it sounds good, evokes compassion, solidarity. Together For Abortion, suddenly it doesn’t sound that great any more. Because after abortion there is no together, no together ever again. So if together means anything it can only mean love them both.
It’s time to stop all the hypocrisy
Sir — I write this on my journey back to London, my home where I now live, after a weekend in Ireland, my home where I grew up. Looking at the posters of the various campaigning groups seeking to retain the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, I was struck by the messages about not bringing abortion “over here” and the implicit anti-English sentiment.
We all know that Irish women are already having abortions, whether legally on covert journeys to England or illegally in the secrecy of their bedrooms in Ireland. The Irish electorate explicitly endorsed a reliance on the English healthcare system as an “Irish solution to an Irish problem”, through their support in 1992 for the 13th and 14th amendments guaranteeing the right to travel and information about how to access an abortion in another country.
It is time to stop the hypocrisy of how Irish women are treated under Irish law. I am an Irish woman who can no longer vote in Ireland. I hope Irish voters will be my Yes on May 25 and vote to remove the Eighth Amendment.
(ex-Kerry, Limerick & Dublin)
Treat women like adults at long last
Sir — Some take issue with the fact that the proposed access to abortion up to 12 weeks is labelled “unrestricted”.
It’s important that we acknowledge what the phrase means in this context. One would have to have a very low opinion of women to think they would request a termination for no reason whatsoever.
There are always reasons.
Unrestricted simply means that we acknowledge that these reasons are personal, private, and unique to each pregnancy.
Power of music
Sir — In my mind, music is close to God and sure we Irish love to sing. That almost unthinkable duo Shaggy and Sting will go through the roof with their Boombastic remix. Their heart is so in it. It’s not all about money and living high. No, like the late great Big Tom, they know that we will all go out the way we came in.
Tom gave all the money he made when his first burst on the scene with Gentle Mother to cancer research as he had lost his young brother at 17 years to the disease. He had no money and his family were poor but all agreed to give the money. Actions like that speak very loudly.
There are some great young singers who really adore the older “greats” and are really into the music of old Ireland.
Daniel O’Donnell and Margo have contributed a lot.
There has always been a ‘peace’ route
Sir — While no doubt not intending it, Gene Kerrigan and Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, April 22) linked Irish politics past and present. Eoghan speculated on the course of history if the Home Rule movement had succeeded, while Gene speculated on the political situation as presently exists.
As Fine Gael and Fianna Fail appear to distance themselves from coalition with Sinn Fein in the eventual outcome of the next general election, Gene gives examples of previous amalgamations in the “national interest”. The two main parties emerged from revolution and the present Sinn Fein party also shares in the physical force tradition that Irish history began in 1916, as is the core belief of the other two parties.
Eoghan Harris, on the other hand, contends that the Home Rule Party would have eventually achieved the positions of Australia and Canada. It would also have validated the constitutionalism of Grattan, O’Connell, Butt (the founder of Home Rule), Parnell and John Redmond. As it now stands, these great Irish patriots have been relegated, in football parlance, to the second division.
The founders of the modern Irish State are the unmandated leaders of the Easter Rising and this is the official ethos of the Republic, and the aspiration is that some day our unionist contingent will accept Irish unity — but not by force, for our political parties now uphold that unity will only be achieved by “peaceful means”, the philosophy of the late John Redmond!
Time for sundials
Sir — In one of those ‘odd news items’ in a recent newspaper was the story that UK schools are removing analogue clocks from exam rooms and replacing them with digital ones as the students cannot read analogue ones and keep asking ‘how long to go’.
Although perhaps amusing, it is one of the many examples of dumbing down something so that the indulged youth will not be stressed.
Perhaps as well as personal responsibility, it’s time to bring back sundials.
Sir — The problem with plastic is its manufacture and not with people. When they stop making it, humans will stop using and disposing of it.
Sir — It is disgusting to hear rumblings from the Department of Finance about concerns of losing people to other financial institutions because of the disparity in pay that may arise with foreign companies coming to Ireland due to Brexit.
When is an already obscene salary not enough? Let them leave, I say. If they are not happy with salaries of up to half-a-million euro, they are a greedy lot.
Surely there are hundreds of people graduating with the best of degrees and doctrines in all areas of finance who would jump at the chance of such salaries.
As the banking crisis showed us, “experience” is no guarantee of success. All these bankers seemed to do over the years was to play follow the leader.
Sir — I read with interest recently that Mary Lou McDonald advocated that “on a point of principle, the position of President of Ireland should be contested”, adding “her party had plenty of suitable candidates”.
Is this not hypocritical, considering none of these candidates appeared to consider themselves suitable to contest the leadership of their party. Is Ms McDonald suggesting it takes a higher quality of candidate to contest the leadership of her party than to contest the position of President of our country?