Saturday 14 December 2019

Remembering some of Ireland’s other political heroes

John Hume receiving the Nobel Peace Prize
John Hume receiving the Nobel Peace Prize
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

I agree with the writer of the letter 'To decide how to vote, we need to look at recent history' about choosing our next government in the upcoming General Election (Irish Independent, February 4).

But he concluded that on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, "It's funny how we keep harking back to the heroes of 1916 and the War of Independence, but our history books are so empty of heroes in the political field since the foundation of our country."

It is not entirely empty. A political hero in the 1948-51 period was the Health Minister, Dr Noel Browne, who tried to set up a free mother and children health programme. But the government of the day caved in to pressure from the Catholic Church not to introduce it. The church saw it as State interference in the family. Dr Browne resigned as a result.

He was successful with his earlier government programme for the treatment and eradication of TB, which had killed thousands. His later career was mixed, and he was involved in a number of political parties. He could alienate political colleagues, but he was a hero who fought against TB. His father and two siblings had died from it, and he never forgot.

Meanwhile, Donogh O' Malley, as Education Minister, announced the introduction of legislation for free secondary-level education for all in 1966. Families paid fees until then. He announced it without bringing it first to a Cabinet meeting. He probably thought they'd say no.

John Hume was a nationalist Northern Ireland politician, but he too is an Irish political hero. He worked for non-violent ways and dialogue to end the conflict in Northern Ireland which, after 30 years, led to the 1998 Belfast Peace Agreement, for which he and unionist David Trimble were given the Nobel Peace Prize.

He urged an end to violence from all sides - when some of the media were concerned about his private talks in the 1990s with Sinn Féin. There were many who contributed to the Peace Process, but he was one of the first.

The Agreement was approved by referendums in Northern Ireland and the Republic, with a subsequent change to the Republic's Constitution. He worked to secure the support of Irish America and then US President Bill Clinton for his strategy. I think he was an exceptional hero in the political arena.

Mary Sullivan


To boldly go into 'Fiscal Space'

Congratulations to the Government for bringing laughter into politics with its satirical spin on the new buzz word: 'Fiscal Space'.

I thought it was an old episode of 'Star Trek', starring Captain Enda Kirk boldly going where no economic enterprise has gone before.

Of course, he would be advised by Michael Spock, who believes Fiscal Space to be totally logical in a Vulcan way.

And down in the engine room, we have Scotty Joan explaining to her labour-intensive engine workers why warp-speed economics will blow the ship to bits.

"Ah canna hold her, Captain! She's breaking up!"

Anthony Woods

Ennis, Co Clare

In defence of consent classes

Ian O'Doherty's article on consent classes really took the biscuit (Irish Independent, Review, February 5). Mr O'Doherty rails against the ignominy male students in Trinity College will face in having to attend classes on sexual consent from next year onwards.

"Apparently young men all over the Western world need to be taught that rape is wrong - who knew? - and therefore they will be forced to attend a consent class", he states, before continuing: "Demanding that all men attend a compulsory class to prevent a tiny minority from raping is about as dumb as demanding that all pregnant women attend compulsory classes telling them not to kill their newborn.

"It's insulting, reductive and also lumps a group of people together on the basis of their gender."

What Mr O'Doherty neglects to mention is that it is not only men who will be obliged to attend these consent classes, but also female students. But I suppose that wouldn't fit his narrative.

The reader is led to believe that it is men who are being deliberately targeted by mischievously misandrist university authorities, when, in actual fact, these classes are being introduced by the student union with the intent of educating both genders on what consent is and, presumably, dispelling the myths and falsehoods surrounding it.

I, as a college-going male, think it is a great idea and were it to be introduced in UCC, where I study, I would be happy to attend.

Conor O'Riordan

Killarney, Co Kerry

Garda station closures

In all the coverage of the shocking events at the Regency Hotel on Saturday, there was no mention of the fact that the attack happened directly across the road from the now-closed Whitehall Garda Station!

If ever there was a justification to keep garda stations open, then this was it. Indeed, I dare say, the hotel would have been a venue much frequented by gardaí off duty at the station.

Would the perpetrators have dared to select this family-run hotel if Whitehall Garda Station was still manned? Did the perpetrators operate in the full knowledge that the nearest garda stations to the hotel (Santry, Mountjoy Square and Clontarf) are at least two miles away in congested suburban locations?

Paul Kennedy

Dublin 5

Doctors' working conditions

Health Minister Leo Varadkar's mistake in deciding to reveal his true reason for starving the hospitals of resources was to keep hospital staff "under pressure", proves one thing to me and that is that people make mistakes when they are under pressure and tired.

The minister was rushing and under pressure.

His mistake in speaking without giving it enough thought, most likely will not have serious consequences and he was able to attempt to rectify it by appearing on TV to say it was not "staff" he meant, but "hospitals" - hardly the four walls. Of course he meant staff.

When dealing with people's lives, it very is serious to make mistakes or misjudgments and obviously not always possible to rectify them later.

Having nurses and doctors working in overcrowded conditions, short staffed, very often rostered to work over double the legal limit of 48 hours a week is not safe.

Mistakes happen "under pressure".

I write this as my 25-year-old daughter leaves work, following her 24-hour shift as a junior doctor, having worked over 100 hours in the last seven days, including two back-to-back 24-hour shifts without sleep.

Marion Dermody

Newbridge, Co Kildare

Irish Independent

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