Restoring virility in sea
Sir - In Irish mythology, Fionn mac Cumhaill and Na Fianna were accustomed to taking a long, invigorating swim in the wild Atlantic waves on summer solstice, the day when the sun god was closest to Ireland. On that day, Manannan mac Lir, the god of the sea, lavished his bounty of minerals, iodines and nutrients on those who swam in the Atlantic Ocean, thereby bestowing on them the virility of youth, which they needed in battle. Many of Na Fianna died far too young but Oisin, son of Fionn, did reach Tir na nOg where he spent 300 years with the beautiful Niamh Chinn Or.
It's a charming story probably based more on myth than fact. Still, I have to admit that I enjoy a long, refreshing swim in the sea on June 21 each year in the hope that some of that youthful vigour is still floating around. So far, I've been out of luck.
Summer solstice falls this Wednesday and is the longest day of the year. To be meteorologically accurate, summer solstice is the day with the greatest amount of daylight - more than 17 hours. The next three months leading up to mid-September is the period when nature is most active. The trees are in full foliage, plants and shrubs are blooming, hay and silage is being saved and the Wild Atlantic Way is at its magnificent best.
Incidentally, the concept of the Wild Atlantic Way has its origins in a spontaneous comment by TD Michael Ring when he was extolling the beauty of the west of Ireland in one of his fiery speeches. Ring is deservedly the new Minister for Rural Affairs.
The great story of Rafael Nadal
Sir - Tommy Conlon needed the Meathies to help him with a good story last week (Sport, Sunday Independent, June 11).
We can't be sure what the greatest story ever told is, or was, but Rafael Nadal winning a 10th French Open last Sunday is a great story that will be told and told.
As the man said, winning one is great, two memorable... 10 is Rafa.
Rolling back to 2015, in Paris, when Novak Djokovic took Nadal apart in a quarter-final, you may have thought that the curtains were coming down on a magnificent career for Nadal.
Illness and injury had taken its toll, and the man from Mallorca looked a pale shadow of his former self. For the first time in 11 years he had no wins on the European clay circuit.
Last year, Nadal showed some revival signs with wins on the Monte Carlo and Barcelona clays, but again injury curtailed his Roland Garros bid, kept him out of Wimbledon and a third-round exit at Flushing Meadows had him really in the second tier.
So coming from where he was over these last two seasons, what he has done in 2017 is astonishing, and delivering La Decima is the icing on the cake - so far.
Sunday was his seventh final of the year, of which he has now won four. This French Open win is probably his most impressive of the 10.
He has walloped all his opponents really, for the loss of no sets and just 35 games. Actually, he hasn't dropped a set at Roland Garros, since the three he dropped to Djokovic two years ago.
In Sunday's final, Stan Wawrinka - that 2015 champion - was simply blown away, with an awesome display of brilliant clay court tennis.
It's a great story all right, and the way Nadal is playing, there might be a few chapters still left to be told.
The challenging of leftist propaganda
Sir - Much as I admire Declan Lynch's writing (not least for his unswerving devotion to Liverpool FC), I feel compelled to take issue with him (Sunday Independent, June 11) and make a case for "the most stupid people in Britain".
Firstly, he needs to get over his obsession with Brexit which he mentions six times. Only 15pc of the British electorate voted for pro-Remain parties so I think we can safely say that, soft or hard, it's a reality. Game over, no replays, move on.
Secondly, while it may be convenient to dismiss Corbyn's association with the IRA as "that old nonsense that nobody cares about any more", I would suggest that his support for his 'friends' in Hamas and Hezbollah should be of continuing concern in these troubled times, not least for Labour members of the Jewish and LGBT communities.
Thirdly, it is now widely acknowledged that his "victory", scoring 56 seats fewer than the Tories (by that logic, I proclaim LFC champions of England), was largely due to the influence of social media and its unrelenting stream of leftist propaganda that you challenge at your peril.
I suggest that Corbynistas Google "Venezuela" to see their hero's Marxist philosophy in action and let us know, via Twitter or whatever, how that's working out.
Finally, I am genuinely delighted to hear Declan has identified the whereabouts of the magic money tree, a mystery which has long confounded those of us with a basic grasp of economics. This discovery makes it so much easier to get behind Labour and its manifesto of "free stuff for everybody from tomorrow for all time".
It's a wonder neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fail never thought of that one.
Corbyn the ardent, recent, Brexiteer
Sir - Nowhere in Gene Kerrigan's article (Soapbox, Sunday Independent, June 11) did he state Jeremy Corbyn is now an ardent Brexiteer. A strange omission given he lambasts other journalists for not properly reporting Corbyn's election campaign.
It's been said that had Corbyn's general election vigour and enthusiasm been applied to his half-hearted campaign for Remain in the Brexit referendum then the UK and Ireland might not now face into a fearful economic unknown with its attendant uncertainties for workers and their families.
One would have thought that this was worthy of comment by a left-wing journalist such as Mr Kerrigan but this didn't fit with his post-election conclusion that, once again, a brave new dawn is upon us. Quite.
Time to scrutinise role of the media
Sir - Many are saying the result of the election in Britain shows that the mainstream media is no longer a power in UK politics. However, the fact is that Jeremy Corbyn and Labour came under heavy attack during (and before) the election campaign, which the Tories did not.
This may well have been a crucial factor in their failure to win outright. Britain needs a serious national discussion about the role of the media in politics. The rules allow the media to be partisan. A handful of owners and editors have great power and little accountability. It is high time this state of affairs came under scrutiny.
Conflicts that May must deal with
Sir - Theresa May is right. In order to counter extremism you have to engage with the community. We learnt this in Ireland and the result is the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, and peace on this island. However, in 2003, the UK and America illegally invaded Iraq, and, in 2011, the UK and France illegally invaded Libya.
While Theresa May has to now get the Conservatives out of the mess they are in after the election, trying to redo the outcome of the above two illegal conflicts is not going to be easy!
Look at home for satire on bigotry
Sir - Satirists and online mickey-takers are understandably having a right giggle at some of the backward views of DUP politicians. But perhaps we shouldn't be so smug here in the South.
It wasn't that long ago that an FG Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, vetoed his own government's proposal to allow condoms... for married couples!
Since the conservative counter-revolution of 1922 we've had scandal after scandal, from sexual and physical abuse of children and the vulnerable in "care homes" to failures on divorce, contraception, gay rights, censorship of books, films and songs etc. Even today we've news of a young girl being forcibly detained when she asked for an abortion because her life was in danger.
The backward, bigoted states that resulted from partition were foretold by James Connolly over 100 years ago when he so presciently predicted that the division of Ireland would result in "a carnival of reaction both North and South".
Dr Sean Marlow,
Giving a free vote on ban hunting
Sir - Theresa May's support for the proposed repeal of Britain's 2004 Hunting Act, which banned fox hunting, hare coursing and stag hunting, was, according to many political analysts and media pundits, a huge factor in the Tories losing their parliamentary majority.
This is understandable, given the proven and well-documented cruelty of these practices. The recreational hounding of animals, whether across country until their lungs give out, or in confined spaces where they twist and turn and dodge to evade death or injury, is increasingly unpopular in the 21st Century.
But at least Prime Minister May was prepared to allow a free vote on the proposed repeal of the bloodsport ban.
A far cry from what happened in Dail Eireann last June when the largest political parties all imposed the whip to defeat Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan's bill to ban live hare coursing. TDs who had expressed opposition to the use of hares as live bait were coerced into voting for its continued legality. The bill had no bearing on vital economic or social issues crucial to the stability or wellbeing of the nation. Its sole purpose was to accord protection to a harmless animal targeted by gangs of so-called "sports people" who derive pleasure from watching it running for its life from frenzied, salivating dogs.
Our party leaders should also allow a free vote... on a bill to give the fox and the hare (stag hunting is already prohibited) the legal protection accorded to those creatures in Britain.
Letter was closure
Sir - Congratulations on your summer letter series "The letter I wish I'd sent." (LIFE, Sunday Independent, June 4 and June 11) A wonderful way for people, as you say: "to get closure". I found mine, written by my eight-year-old self, to 'The Department of Children', which you published last Sunday, to be wonderfully cathartic. Thank you.
Sir - Thank you for printing the excellent letter from Gearoid Duffy on "Savita's death and link to legislation" (Sunday Independent, June 11) whereby he points out that "to link her death in the popular mind with abortion perpetuates a cover-up of the deplorable laxity involved".
Even more shockingly it has been used to campaign for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, which simply gives equal right to life of both mother and baby. As Mr Duffy also pointed out, the masters of the maternity hospitals stated no woman has died due to our laws vindicating the right to life of the unborn.
In light of this, I would like to ask why people want to have this protection for unborn babies removed from our Constitution?
Perhaps as a result of Mr Duffy's exposure of the facts, we can look forward to more balanced reporting and no longer be subjected to the use of the death of Savita Halappanavar to promote legislation for the killing of babies in the womb.
Decade of loss for public service people
Sir - I refer to Eilis O'Hanlon's begrudging article headed 'Watch your pockets - unions are set on mugging this country again' (Sunday Independent, June 11). Both public and private servants were mugged by the reckless greed of bankers and developers - private enterprise, which Eilis seems to revere, at its worst.
The banks were bailed out by public and private servants and now, instead of the gains of a healthy AIB being retained for the benefit of the general public, rich people are being given the opportunity to "watch their pockets" be filled by the rewards of buying AIB shares.
Meanwhile, the solving of the housing crisis is being directed to the benefit of private developers so they, too, can "watch their pockets" be filled. Some private developers also benefited from the knock-down prices that NAMA sold many properties at - an absolute disgrace presided over by Enda Kenny's governments. Did Eilis complain about this?
Eilis implied that public servants have no idea what life is like in the "real world" - I can assure her that this is not true - and, more insultingly, referred to them as "those who make zero contribution to GDP". Does she mean that gardai, nurses and council workers contribute less to the good of our nation than newspaper journalists? Public servants also buy newspapers, thus contributing to her salary.
Public servants are not getting a "pay rise", as Eilis says, they are being offered a piecemeal restoration to their salary which was decreased by the austerity measures. I am a retired public servant, since 2009. A year after I retired, my pension, which I paid into over many years, was reduced by €1,040 pa.
Additionally, I had to pay USC (pensioners had not paid any kind of PRSI previously), was forced to pay property tax and asked to pay water charges, and so forth. So far I am looking at a decade of pension loss which I will never recover. I deeply resent this considering that, in the meantime, bondholders - rich people who gambled and lost - have been paid in full.
Finally, I appreciated your editorial on the same page where you said that the public servants' pay award was "nothing more than their due".
Responsibility for the earnings
Sir - I read with amusement that RTE's political correspondent, Martina Fitzgerald, says: "Irish firms should reveal their stats on gender pay gap" (Sunday Independent, June 11).
Her concern seems to have been aroused by the recent EU figures showing that "Irish women earn almost 14pc less than men". The operative word here is 'earn'. What the EU stats show is an earnings gap, not a pay gap. Gender-based pay rates were made illegal more than 40 years ago.
Instead of asking firms to reveal their stats on the mythical pay gap, Ms Fitzgerald need only look at the world around her to see the reason for the earnings gap. In most households, men still carry primary responsibility for providing for their families.
They work longer hours and dominate in the death, dirt and danger jobs such as construction, leaving most women free to stay at home or work part-time in more pleasant jobs and conditions, such as childcare. If she wishes to reduce the earnings gap, she should turn her attention to women and persuade them to accept equal responsibility for providing for their families.
While she is at it, she could look at the other side of the household accounts ledger - spending. If she checks with any large department store chain, she will find that (excluding groceries and household items) spending on women's products is more than five times that on men's products. The simple fact is that most household income is earned through the labour of men and more of that income is spent on women than on the men who earn it. These truths may not suit the victim-feminist narrative, but truth is usually the antithesis of feminism.