Sir - Speaking on RTÉ radio last week, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Colm Brophy said he didn't know how many people would become entitled to vote in an Irish presidential election if government plans proceeded. He then went on to state that, of course, all Irish citizens on the island of Ireland already had that right.
Perhaps Minister Brophy might show me the current electoral register allowing for that. Voting in Dáil and presidential and referenda in the Republic of Ireland was always based on residence. I think this is how it should be.
There is a key principle here and we should stick with it. There are many people who do not live in the State but are part of the nation. I respect absolutely their Irishness and their right to so identify. However, the laws and jurisdiction of the Republic apply only in this State. Therefore, a vote on our government structures should be held and exercised by those living in the State or who are external to it for short periods. The presidency is part of that.
Extending the right to vote to all those aged over 18, irrespective of nationality, living in the State for a reasonably defined period of time is the truly democratic thing to do - and not the tokenism in the Programme for Government and similar proposals in many party manifestos about extending same to the presidential elections. Indeed, in my view, it demeans the Office of President by implying that it is a vote of lesser consequence.
Donnybrook, Dublin 4
Teacher unions need lesson in perspective
Sir - Just when I thought I had heard it all after the US election, and Trump, and all the fake news, along come the teachers' unions, looking for extra days off... because their members are suffering from stress, anxiety, fatigue and exhaustion.
My daughter is a nurse. The previous week she was on night duty Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night (that's three 12-hour shifts). She slept during the day on Monday. She had a long day on Tuesday (12 hours), a day off Wednesday, two further long days on Thursday and Friday (24 hours). That comes to 72 hours Friday to Friday.
Compare that to teachers with 22-hour weeks - it could take them three-and-a-half weeks to do that much work.
Last week in University Hospital Limerick, more than 200 staff were out due to Covid. The nurses felt like writing 'Help' on a sheet and hanging it out of a hospital window - if they had a spare sheet or time to write it.
Now, I wonder who should get the extra days off?
Name and address with editor
Now might be the time for prophecy
Sir - Many people brush me aside when I mention my interest in prophecy, yet I always took having an interest in the prophecies of St Malachy or St Colmcille or Nostradamus, or even the Secret of Fatima, to be part of the Irish psyche.
Yet in nine months of the pandemic I have heard no Irish voices of prophecy. Given our history, surely this is ominous.
Prophecy can help national morale in ways that science cannot. So will prophetic Irish voices come out and give us advice and comfort soon? I hope so, as it is so badly needed.
Drumcondra, Dublin 9
Key facts missing in Lisbon article
Sir - How nice to read that Larissa Nolan enjoyed her pastel de nata and live bossa nova in lockdown-free Lisbon.
However, her article omitted the fact that Covid mortality rates in Portugal are a lot higher than here. In fact, despite having just a little over twice our population, Portugal suffered 10 times our death rate last week.
We all have to sacrifice this Christmas. We have daughters in Canada and the Netherlands we can't see, and a 10-month-old grandson we've never seen. So, a little more balance needed.
Celbridge, Co Kildare
Fr Hughes shows his fighting spirit
Sir - As a Cavan parishioner, I was astonished to hear Mullahoran priest Fr PJ Hughes had a visit from gardaí, who are preparing a file for the DPP.
Public health official Dr Gabriel Scally said it is "wrong, irresponsible and unChristian" after Fr Hughes allowed 50 people to attend mass at his church.
Yes, it is a "delusional thought" to think faith can protect you from Covid - but what about the supermarkets? In my town you will usually see around 50-60 people in the store and the majority of them buying drink.
Nevertheless, there was always a "good fighting spirit" in Mullahoran, so let's see what happens next. Keep up the good work Fr PJ.
Bailieboro, Co Cavan
Legacy of charity can be improved
Sir - Ireland is indeed a wealthy country, as outlined by Conor Skehan in last week's Sunday Independent. He rightly points out that we are a compassionate country, but quoting the World Giving Index to suggest that we are very generous is a little misleading.
This report asks people, have they, in the past month: (a) helped a stranger, or someone they didn't know who needed help; (b) donated money to a charity; or (c) volunteered time to an organisation.
We score well on all three. The report, however, makes no reference to the scale of donations. Research about the level of giving demonstrates that we are well behind the likes of the UK and New Zealand.
Per capita giving in Ireland was €233 in 2019 (admittedly up from €212 in 2018). Ireland as a society would benefit significantly if the very rich here engaged in more planned or structured giving. Credit Suisse estimates that the wealthiest 1pc of adults owned 33pc of all private wealth in Ireland in 2017, with the top 5pc owning about 50pc of that total. Imagine if even some of the top 1pc gave more.
Yes, some wealthy people are generous, some are strategic, but there is significant room for improvement. As a simple starting point, this is MyLegacy Month and people of major or minor means might also consider including their favourite charity or cause in their will.
Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin
Niemba victims deserve better
Sir - While we are back again commemorating anniversaries, let's recall that November 8 was the 60th anniversary of the Niemba Ambush in which nine Irish UN Peacekeepers were killed. There were very few commemorations on TV for those brave men, and no wreath-laying in their honour.
The families of those men deserve better. I cannot understand why they have not been presented with a medal of honour. The families of those nine men and the two survivors can be very proud of their heroes.
Tuam, Co Galway
Chilling first-hand account of atrocity
Sir - As the centenary of the awful events of Bloody Sunday are recalled, I remember coming across an article detailing the actions of the RIC auxiliaries that day, written by one Bernard Gould - who is described as an 'ex-auxiliary officer'. The article is the seventh in a series of eight articles written for the Sunday Independent, and published on May 12, 1929.
The writer tells us that prior to their arrival at Croke Park that fateful afternoon, the auxiliaries were given two specific orders: "You are not to fire unless you are fired on. And even then you will be told when to fire."
Gould then goes on to describe what actually happened.
"There were many, yes, many, in those tenders who were wishing, with fingers on the triggers, that they might be fired on. The conversation, the demeanour of the men, their conduct was such as made this but too apparent.
"There were men surrounding Croke Park who would have given all they had to have been fired on just then. But what did happen, and what many of the police saw happen was this: One of their number, a silly, hysterical, irresponsible lout, who could not even control himself in the presence of his fellows in barracks - he did fire. And the bullet struck a woman.
"I believe she died. And after the first shot had been spent others fired; but not all with the effect of the first."
Newcastle West, Co Limerick
Harris found guilty of a rare mistake
Sir - It is always a pleasure to read Eoghan Harris's column. He is a fearless seeker of truth.
Nevertheless, last week Harris informed us that Justice Brian Walsh held the office of "chief justice". Not correct. In The Supreme Court, Ruadhán Mac Cormaic notes that Brian Walsh was never chief justice, though he was the outstanding judge of his era with the possible exception of Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh.
Fr Iggy O'Donovan,
Fethard, Co Tipperary
Time to stuff Dustin the Turkey
Sir - I note with horror that Dustin the Turkey has returned to our screens. This is another chilling example of RTÉ "comedy".
Surely after the Eurovision debacle of 2008, this bird is long past his sell-by date and, as such, could cause food poisoning if consumed this Christmas?
Although RTÉ has been renowned for turkeys over many years, it is surely time that Dustin and his other hysterical sidekicks were consigned to the bin where they belong.
Templeogue, Dublin 6W
Paddy Kavanagh's sweepstakes saga
It was refreshing to read Liam Collins's recollections in last week's Sunday Independent of Joe MacAnthony's explosive article on the Irish Hospitals' Sweepstakes, published in January 1973. I remember well its impact then and subsequent repercussions for all those involved in bringing this sorry saga to public attention. Liam Collins quotes Joe MacAnthony as saying that "this story had never been done before" and needed to be told.
However, I'm not sure that is totally true, as Patrick Kavanagh and his brother Peter first broke this scandal 21 years earlier in their Kavanagh's Weekly newspaper, published on May 31, 1952.
The Kavanaghs asked hard questions of where all the money was going, why so little money was going to the hospitals and how the annual profits were so massive. They also investigated the shareholders' register and declared that there were so many McGraths on the board that the only McGrath not a director of the Sweeps was the famous greyhound Master McGrath.
Like Joe MacAnthony, both Patrick and Peter Kavanagh paid a heavy price for their journalism in a land that wasn't prepared to listen. When Kavanagh's Weekly ceased publication in July, 1952, they both left Ireland, Peter returning to America and Patrick going to London.
Peter J McDonnell,
Drumcondra, Dublin 9
The shine has clearly worn off RTÉ's stars
Sir - Last week the nation discovered that the average eight-year-old schoolchild has more social responsibility and Covid-awareness than our so-called RTÉ stars.
This should concern all of us. Regardless of one's political affiliation, it is clear that there is considerable disenchantment in the community with regard to the performance of many in public life. We look to an independent, public-funded broadcaster to speak out. Unfortunately, our broadcasters are too busy shooting themselves in the foot to stand up for us.
Good luck to the next RTÉ staffer who mentions the recent Justice Woulfe, Leo Varadkar or Bobby Storey controversies.
The nature of the apologies added to the insult. As it was handled by RTÉ management, not only did we fund them to apologise to us, we paid for them to apologise to us on air also.
Why could those involved not have taken out a notice in a newspaper and paid for it themselves? That would have shown social awareness, and demonstrated solidarity with the world of journalism outside RTÉ.
A strong democracy needs a vibrant and independent media - both public and private. Let's hope RTÉ has a better 2021.
Glasnevin, Dublin 9
National identities hard to reconcile
Sir - In the context of the Shared Island Unit, Denzil McDaniel (Sunday Independent, November 8) raises some points about the position of Northern unionists in a United Ireland.
Some commentators like to talk about the traditions being reconciled - that is, unionism and republicanism. But I don't think it is quite as simple as that. There are more than two traditions to be considered.
In the North we see traditions running from a violent strain, right through to a democratic one. So much so, that I sometimes think Mao Tse Tung's admonition of his comrades could also apply to the Irish scene: "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."
In the projected United Ireland as envisaged by the Shared Island Unit, have they given much thought to the historical backgrounds of the traditions and how they can be reconciled? Or is it just economics and politics? Would the necessary compromises lead to harmony and a change in the "national identity" of the Republic?
Glasnevin, Dublin 9
Boys in Green way off top-level pace
Sir - The quality of football played this year by the Premier League and European sides has been superb and is getting better every week. This is based on excellent technique and blistering pace - but watching the top players play, one realises that our current international side is lacking... a certain something.
I would like the team to play at a level where they are competitive, where fans can get involved, and (once this pandemic ends) travel to places where they would probably never think of going. However, it currently looks like somebody somewhere wants to shaft Stephen Kenny.
Rathmines, Dublin 6
Kenny is out of his depth on big stage
Sir -It has to be said Stephen Kenny's reign as Ireland's soccer boss has so far been atrocious. Regrettably, Covid, injuries, suspensions, retirements and other withdrawals have definitely hampered his ability to pick his preferred best team.
Stephen is trying to manage players who are on vast amounts of money, more than he has ever been on. In truth, these millionaires are also coached by professionals who have worked in the highest levels of the game.
Outside of Ireland Stephen Kenny is virtually unknown, although his name does crop up now and again as he did succeed in relegating Dunfermline, but also got them to the final of the Scottish Cup in 2007.
Stephen Kenny is a decent, respected, well-liked man, but he is out of his depth managing the boys in green. Even on TV interviews his charisma comes across as that of an elderly barn owl.
In defence of Stephen, the squad he inherited is probably the worst in 30 years; there are very few players who would play international football outside of Ireland. If Covid-19 doesn't keep fans away from the Aviva Stadium, recent results will.
New Ross, Co Wexford
Politics not part of our sporting dream
Sir - Winning and doing your absolute best is all the motivation required when competing. History and politics have no place in sport. Satisfaction by winning, not hatred, is the way to show the 'greater than thou' attitude - and that's the way true sporting people think. Just ask our rugby internationals.
The 'fighting Irish spirit' has been inbuilt in all of us lucky enough to have some Irish blood. But with the disappointing results in our soccer teams both North and South, maybe the inevitable should be brought forward?
Give these teams a fighting chance and unite the supporters against most teams they play, and especially the 'oul enemy'. Respect and sport go together.
Kilcoole, Co Wicklow