Tuesday 15 October 2019

Remembering our history as we look to the future

People pray over the
coffins of Derry's Bloody
Sunday victims in 1972.
People pray over the coffins of Derry's Bloody Sunday victims in 1972.

This year, I really enjoyed the 10-part 'Rolling Back the Years' magazines published by the Irish Independent, two for each decade -- 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, edited by Ciaran Byrne with Tom Burke as pictures editor. It was a great series and is what the Irish Independent is known to do well.

The decade when Ireland joined the EEC, now the EU; when Princess Grace of Monaco was the world's best-known beauty, and with Irish connections. She also in the 1970s bought her Irish-American family's original homestead in Co Mayo, about seven years before her tragic death in the early 1980s. It was the decade of nightly news on RTE television, when the late newsreader Charles Mitchell told us solemnly of more deaths and bombings in Northern Ireland -- one of the worst decades for the 'Troubles' and long before we could see any light in the tunnel that it would ever end, when there was no such ideas for a Good Friday Agreement, which was agreed in 1998 and so far is still holding with power-sharing in the North between unionists and nationalists. It has been working well, with a few hiccups now and then.

In the 1970s the Belfast Royal Victoria Hospital's surgeons became highly skilled in helping the badly injured after bombings which left some in need of emergency amputations.

They were tested in ways they had never experienced before as surgeons and were hugely praised and respected for their efforts and successes in saving lives.

In the 'Rolling Back the Years' edition 1970-1974, Tom Burke wrote of his memory of one photo he took in Northern Ireland in that decade. It was just after Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972, when he took a photo of all the coffins at the removal of the dead in Derry, killed during a Civil Rights march on Sunday, January 30, 1972.

His stands out for me as clear a description as any I have come across on the conflict. Quote, "I was recording what happened that night, on the night. That to me is probably one of the most definitive pictures out of it. It has impact. You can count all the coffins. It shows the result of the situation, here were people on a march on Sunday afternoon, looking for their rights and then a day later, all ages -- young and not so young -- all in their coffins, their families deprived of their people, because they were just looking for their basic civil rights. This was about civil rights, looking for proper housing and looking for one man, one vote. It was nothing to do with Irish unification and that's what people forget. There was a fierce sadness. I've never come across so many coffins," wrote Tom.

It was a great decade for movies and American television shows and as a child, I loved the 'Odd Couple' with American actors the late Tony Randall playing the obsessively tidy Felix, and Oscar played by Jack Klugman.

Coincidentally, tying in with 'Rolling Back the Years', is the publication this autumn by RTE of 'Window and Mirror' by one of its respected and veteran broadcasters and archival historians John Bowman, looking back at 50 years of RTE television from its founding in 1961.

We Irish are great for wanting to record and remember our history.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all your readers, whatever the year will bring.

Mary Sullivan


Judgment day

If I hear one more pernicious statement from the Catholic Church, or any of its servants, claiming that they have miraculously become victims in the abominable child abuse scandal, I shall puke.

If the world were to survive beyond its current expected lifespan of another five billion years or so, this would never be the case.

Instead of professing so fervently their belief in the Parousia, they might be better advised to pray for its postponement; one might well imagine that if the man comes around, he will not have too far to cast his stones or search for sinners to necklace with millstones -- they will be the ones shouldering people aside in their gaudy garments in an effort to get to the front of the queue to greet him.

Liam Power

Ballina, Co Mayo


Tea and sympathy It's nice of President Higgins to empathise with peoples' hardships, but these won't be assuaged by tea and sympathy. Why don't the president and his wife assist the good souls who help those in desperate need?

The festive season is an opportunity for President Higgins to earn some respect for his hollow role of figurehead.

Florence Craven

Maynooth, Co Kildare


Liberator's legacy

A real lesson needs to be learnt from the recent financial crisis. Things didn't just change, they changed utterly.

But, straight away, we're back trying the same old measures. The same people openly remain in charge. I'm not referring to Fine Gael and Labour, but the wealthy entrepreneurs and political donors who exert power over our society. They'll save us, they say. But the reality is that they've only ever been in it for themselves.

So that's been tried and it failed. Trying it again is just learned stupidity.

There is an alternative to empowering the few and that is empowering the many, or true democracy.

Unquestionably the last time Ireland was a true democracy, and most of the people felt empowered, was when they were represented by my namesake Daniel O'Connell. People felt empowered by O'Connell's monthly penny catholic rent, and that was a long way from the modern day "Galway tents" situation.

Funding political parties by the many rather than the few is crucial for the sense of contentment of people at this difficult time. Resorting to the wealthy donors, or even the trade unions, is to undermine the voters and to delegate political power to unelected elites.

A different version of society would emerge if the many were in charge as they are supposed to be and politicians were able to make decisions through the lens of the electorate, not the controlling billionaires.

Two million people were in serious poverty in the early 1840s when Daniel O'Connell was regularly gathering hundreds of thousands of people to hear him speak on the Repeal of the Union. Ireland is the only country with this great precedent.

In our modern age, only the Pope has had that kind of pulling power, with people again expressing the joy of being part of something good. So I say, bring back democracy.

John O'Connell



TV crackers

It seems RTE1 are down to three staff all of whom are from the 'Wesht', Grainne Seoige, Daithi O Se and, of course, the cameraman. At first we couldn't get enough of the very lovely Seoige but now I find myself nit-picking, the fact she has a disturbingly manly voice and her eyes wide open! As for O Se, Best-Dressed Irishman? I'd sooner watch Brendan Courtney with his mismatched charity shop clothes which, because he's gay and on telly presenting a fashion show, must be right.

Moving on, whatever happened to Caroline Morahan? I could never change the channel when she appeared, yum! Slag RTE1 I may, but at least they are not like TV3 who seem to only handle one topic on each news broadcast and stretch it for 30 minutes.

So what's my gripe? Well, I will be demanding a cut in my TV licence fee if another Seoige-derived show appears -- the grounds for objection being lack of variety. At least put on the younger sister Sile!

Have we no young fresh, savvy, talented people to host a TV show? I'd offer my services but I'm too old and I look like someone who would have the wheels off your car while you ran in for a skinny latte at your local petrol station. I'd make a great criminal on 'Love Hate', a series which, I must say, I really enjoy and hats off to RTE for that one. All those who complained about it chill, or I'll go over there and sort you out!

Richie Rich

Address with Editor


Ban Christmas

The holiday season should be completely done away with because too many people are full of misery and depression.

It is the same old story every year from those who need thousands of euro to get through the holiday season -- 'how will I cope'? Far from being a season of joy and hope, it has very much become a season of terrible despair and anguish for many.

We often hear of word 'poverty' at Christmas time and those in need, far more than any other time of year. It seems that hardship is felt far more in the festive season than any other time of year.

The most common form of chronic pain on the material side of things are financial woes that dog those who go into spending overdrive well into the new year.

There is no sane reason why anybody who has not got the resources to spend as if there were no tomorrow, would want to put themselves in the height of financial trouble all because of a couple of weeks.

How can there be any sympathy for such people, given the fools that they are? So what if the kids have to do without the latest mobile phone and computer games? Or the house does without a flashy external lights display to impress the neighbours? Or a person or family does without going out to eat through Christmas week at an expensive restaurant?

The holiday season has become nothing more than a false reckless excuse by an enormous amount of people to spend and spend, irrespective of the consequences.

Then there is the human side of Christmas. Cries of loneliness and heartache seem to be all around us at Christmas time, coupled with stories of dire poverty among children no less. Then there is the stress of it all!

What the holiday season all comes down to is a drunken binge, a sick head, and a depleted bank account.

Many people are also been robbed and defrauded by those who have made the jolly season into a golden opportunity for successful criminal activity.

The case, it seems, for ending Christmas is an excellent one and should seriously be considered, so all the pain and suffering can come to an end with it!

Maurice Fitzgerald

Shanbally, Co Cork

Irish Independent

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