Robin, the murdering hoodlum
Sir - That's it! I've had enough of the tweets and spin from the members of the robin fan club. I could just about keep my beak shut after reading Joe Kennedy's 'Fearless robin a caring bird of courage' (Country Matters, Sunday Independent, January 21) but when Damien Boyd's 'Tales of the mighty robin' (Letter of the Week, Sunday Independent, January 28) joined in the dawn chorus, I had to take up my quill in order to prevent this growing media frenzy from taking flight. It seems as though they both have been enchanted by the twitter feed from the robin family and its groupies.
Allow me for a few moments to peck a little hole in their media bubble with a recent 21st-century, not so "heart-warming tale" of what Joe refers to euphemistically as the robin "securing extended territory" and Damien describes as "their pluckiness and bossiness".
Just as the Christmas cards were flying in the front door, with symbols of peace and joy on them such as the robin redbreast, a 'mighty' robin was committing a murder most foul in my back garden.
Yes, this "courageous little bird" was engaged in a display of public violence that would leave the worst excesses of mixed martial arts in the shade. This "calm and charming bird" was pecking another robin while he was well and truly down. This was obviously at least round 10 of a territorial battle and it was clear to me that the victim had long since thrown in the towel.
Like Joe Kennedy, I "uttered a few words" from my window, but such was the rage of the victor that he continued to inflict even more punishment on his unfortunate victim. I plucked up the courage to step on to the grass canvas and end this unseasonal and unreasonable violence. Flushed with the joy of victory, Mr Cock Robin grudgingly took a few steps back to the corner of his garden while I lifted the battered and bruised panting body of his almost lifeless victim.
His little red breast was pumping, one eye was not visible and may even have been lying on the grass while the other eye was barely open and once again, like Joe Kennedy, I "uttered a few words of greeting" but unlike Joe I didn't sense that "some response was possible". Fearing the worst, I propped the heaving mass of feathers in the early morning sunlight. I went indoors for seeds in the vain hope my now almost lifeless friend could be nourished back to health.
When I returned, to my amazement, Mr Cock Robin was standing over his victim and casting a long shadow over my patient who at this stage was gradually losing the will to live. The victor did a lap of honour before taking flight. Some time later, I'm sure I saw him engaging in a victory march with a female admirer around the scene of the crime while his victim lay lifeless in the corner.
I can only hope that those who read this will remember, as I do, that battered and bruised little body that will sing no more and that they are not fooled by Joe and Damien into believing that the robin is some kind of modern-day Robin Hood "feared by the bad and loved by the good". While I agree with the spirit of Joe Kennedy's quotation from William Blake that "a robin redbreast in a cage/puts all heaven in a rage", I know of at least one robin who should spend some time behind bars because he has blood on his little red breast.
Inbuilt anti-woman bias
Sir - Dearbhail McDonald's excellent article on the barring of Mary McAleese from the Vatican expresses the anger of Catholic women at her insulting treatment by Cardinal Kevin Farrell (Sunday Independent, February 4).
It beggars belief that the Vatican hierarchy still continues its misogynistic attitudes in this modern society where women are finally being accepted as equals in dignity, respect and talent to men.
But these inbuilt clerical anti-woman and anti-LBGTI orientations are not just limited within the confines of the Vatican as they have been exposed in the behind-the-scenes banning of images of LBGTI couples in the booklet promoting the forthcoming World Meeting of Families being held in Dublin in August.
These Roman Curial Cardinals, who in effect control the Catholic Church, are driving young people and especially women from a Church which has failed to read the signs of the times and continues to be irreformable.
Pope Francis, now entering his fifth year in office, has adopted the softly, softly approach with these hardline cardinals; it is now time for him to exert his Papal authority over these men and replace them with men and women who are inspired by justice and compassion but most of all proclaim and practise the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth.
Malahide, Co Dublin
Hare coursing just a ‘cruel, stupid game’
Sir - This weekend's three-day so-called "festival" of hare coursing in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, should be seen for what it is: a nauseating stain on our sporting calendar.
Though the greyhounds will be muzzled at this coursing All-Ireland final, that won't take away from the terror and distress to which the hares will be subjected for the amusement of gamblers and dog owners.
Since the present season began at the end of September last year, hares have been mauled, forcibly struck, pinned down, or otherwise injured by dogs at virtually all the coursing events held. Every greyhound entered in this weekend's extravaganza will have its own exotic or comical-sounding name, announced in sombre tones... but the hares will have no names. They serve as mere pawns, playthings in a cruel and stupid game that should have no place in 21st-Century Ireland.
The hare in coursing is the equivalent of the sliotar in hurling... the essential difference being that it is a sentient creature, susceptible to pain as we humans are.
Some day, I hope, a government with guts will outlaw this obscenity.
It's time to stop the tax dodgers
Sir -Tom Maguire (Business, Sunday Independent, February 4) points out that the OECD doesn't regard Ireland as a tax haven. He fails to mention that the OECD also doesn't regard Panama, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg or Singapore as tax havens either.
In fact, the OECD considers that only one country, Trinidad and Tobago, is a tax haven.
Mr Maguire also claims that Ireland has had some 'perceived reputational issues' with facilitating tax dodging that have now 'been dealt with and fast'. However, the truth is that despite many proclamations to the contrary, companies can continue to use the world famous 'Double Irish' until the beginning of 2021 to avoid billions of euro in tax. It is well documented that many companies continue to do so.
Oxfam's recent report - 'Blacklist or Whitewash' established that royalties sent out of Ireland were equivalent to 26pc of the country's gross domestic product in 2015. This is far above what would be expected based on normal economic activity. This clearly indicates that if Ireland was prepared to look, it would find much that needs to be changed.
The UN estimates that developing countries lose around $100bn annually as a result of corporate tax avoidance, depriving them of the vital revenue to provide the health, education and infrastructure that lift people out of poverty. It is important that Ireland's corporate tax policy is seen within this global context and its possible effects on poor and marginalised people elsewhere.
Michael McCarthy Flynn,
Senior Research and Policy Coordinator,
Cancer care is second to none
Sir - I wish to take issue with Gay Byrne (Living, Sunday Independent, February 4). I am one of those thousands in the country who cannot afford the luxury of private health insurance cover. I am also one of the thousands in this country suffering from cancer - pancreatic in my case.
I have to say that as a non-insurance paying patient, the treatment and care I receive is second to none. When you are really sick and in need of treatment, in my opinion, our system really takes care of you.
I, too, have been through a long period of chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy and I will never let my illness rule my life. It may control some aspects of it but I will work my way around it to make my life as satisfying and fulfilling as possible.
Can I take his opportunity to thank Prof Ray McDermott and all his team for giving me a chance to keep on living and fighting this vile disease.
Worried as you are, check your health
Sir — There have been a number of articles recently on medical testing. The positive is the development of a memory test to help indicate Alzheimer’s years earlier, whereas the negative is the reluctance of men to have prostate cancer testing. The question many ask is: do we want to know?
One of the concerns is that people may have to report their medical conditions to employers or medical insurers. In many countries, female job applicants cannot be asked if they are pregnant or intend to start a family soon, but if they have ‘genetic tests’ to look for possible disease indicators they often have to report these results.
For me, my family history of prostate cancer in my father and grandfather prompted testing in my 40s, earlier than most would start, and by my 50s it showed up. My discomfort with the manual test and a dislike of needles had to be put aside. After radiation treatment, all is well.
The test for Alzheimer’s is more confronting and I am not so sure I want to undertake this yet. The testing and side-effects of prostate treatments can be a bit deflating, but knowing you were going to get Alzheimer’s would terrify me as, in many cases, who you are and what you have done fades away, and there are few treatments that help.
We do need to know what is happening and check for issues that family histories predict as possibilities. Worried as we are, we have to check. Be brave and help yourself and your family.
Pain and grief by proxy
Sir — I recently read a letter (Letter I Wish, Sunday Independent, January 21) written to an unborn baby. The writer was clearly full of emotion, spilling over with feelings that had been suppressed for years.
I read it carefully, thinking it would be a letter of regret and loss expressed by the mother of a baby that hadn’t been born. But I realised this was not the case. It was written by the potential aunt of the unborn baby. It was all about her pain, her grief, her need to have this unborn baby borne by her sister, carried to term, and given life so that she could name it and become an aunt: “Even now, 30 years later, my heart (your auntie’s heart) is thumping as I write this.”
This woman wrote her letter from the privilege of information. Her sister must have shared with her the fact she was pregnant and confided in her that it was unwanted. There was not a word of sympathy or empathy for the difficult choice facing her sister.
Suppose this woman’s sister had not told her and she had never known about the pregnancy. Suppose the termination had happened in privacy. Would she still have felt the pain of loss? Would she still feel the need to privately name a potential baby she never knew about, 30 years on? Would the fertilised egg in her sister’s body have been a figment of her imagination? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
Let’s call it what it is
Sir — I am a regular reader of Eoghan Harris’s column and think he often makes good points and takes an independent stand. However, I found some of his arguments (Sunday Independent, February 4) bizarre regarding the abortion referendum — particularly his argument that 5,000 abortions are for the greater good.
Are they not mostly for the convenience of some women because being pregnant when you don’t want to be is, of course, very tough? A few will be hard cases like fatal foetal abnormalities which are difficult and tragic for couples who want a baby. Other hard cases are where women have been made pregnant against their will, as in rape and incest. Apparently this is about 2pc of cases of Irish abortion recorded in the UK. So largely abortion is being promoted as a matter of convenience in about 4,900 cases per year, using the other 100 cases as cover. I am not saying there is anything wrong with that, but call it what it is.
Eoghan says: “Abortion means letting a foetus die for the greater good of the woman who conceived it.” Just to be clear, abortion means killing the foetus and not just letting it die. It is a fairly big difference. I am not saying murder, just killing. Interpreting abortion as murder would be open to a philosophical debate but killing isn’t. The “greater good” argument is open to dispute whether for the woman or society.
Eoghan points out Leo’s comments regarding men telling women what to do for too long in this country. But now Leo is more or less doing the same thing. If he wants men to stay out of it then set up an all-female group to run the process. As a man, I’d be happy with that as long as it is representative.
Unborn child a poor third
Sir — I think there are errors in Eoghan Harris’s column (Sunday Independent, February 4) but first may I congratulate him on being the only journalist I have seen who seems to approach the problem from an ethical point of view.
His point about the greater good is valid, but the greater good of whom — the mother, society, the unborn child? It seems the last comes a poor third in his thinking, not meriting a mention, except to say it’s ‘not yet a person’. In pro-choice the child loses its life; in pro-life the mother doesn’t, and if she is at risk the Eighth gives her that protection. She undoubtedly suffers, but can any outcome which does not end a life be justified in taking a life?
Sir — Our personal spiritual beliefs are neither right nor wrong. They are right for those who hold them. Historically in Ireland, we have been our least Christian when we have been our most Catholic, to paraphrase Kate O’Connell’s Dail speech.
Ireland is developing into a multi-cultural, multi-denominational, secular society. Our laws must begin to reflect this reality. Respect and tolerance of each other’s beliefs is important, but it must never be to the detriment of women’s health or lives.
Be honest, Leo
Sir — In relation to abortion, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said, and it has been repeated by others members of the Oireachtas, that “we cannot continue to export our problems and import our solutions”.
That sounds as if they do not envisage any women travelling to the UK for abortions in the event of the Eighth Amendment being repealed. Surely the only way that could happen is if we have the same liberal access to abortion here as in the UK.
If that’s what Leo Varadkar and others have in mind as the destination for Irish abortion legislation, it would be nice if they had the honesty to admit it.