SDLP is sure to rise again
Sir - Eoghan Harris has that knack of invoking the insider party activist mindset in believing that somebody always knew it was going to happen (Sunday Independent, January 29, 2017).
Last year, it was Seamus Mallon, who he quoted as suggesting that the Provos "played John Hume like a 3lb trout" in the 1990s.
Now it is the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin who "knew" the peace process would destroy the SDLP - a worthwhile consequence (in their estimation) in the pursuit of peace. Neither the Provos, nor the Department of Foreign Affairs, knew that the SDLP would be heavily damaged by the peace process.
We know this because the damage was caused by an illness that, step by step, drew "saintly" John Hume out of front-line politics from 1998 to 2005. Due to a heavy reliance on Hume within the SDLP, the party was severely weakened by his illness.
John Hume had 10 more years at the top in him at that stage. There would have been no chance that Sinn Fein would have advanced to anywhere near the same extent while the former SDLP leader was in full health, peace process or no peace process.
Nonetheless, rumours of the demise of the SDLP have been greatly exaggerated - and in any case the party has never been "destroyed".
Its organisation seems better now than at any time since it was founded in 1970.
It will be interesting to see how Sinn Fein fares in the upcoming Assembly election with Martin McGuinness now affected by an illness. I expect the SDLP to do well.
Concussion in sport - the facts
Sir - The article headlined 'Concussion from rugby could kill a youngster' (Sunday Independent, January 29) discussed second impact syndrome and its dangers.
The IRFU were not contacted in relation to this article and did not have the opportunity to discuss our on-going education and awareness initiatives, which include mandatory concussion education for coaches involved in junior and senior schools cup competitions.
These initiatives have ensured that awareness of the issue of concussion has never been higher in our sport.
Articles, or statements made by any organisation involved in head injury education, which isolate the concussion issue to one sport, intentionally or otherwise, are sensationalist, misleading and dangerous and could create a false sense that concussion is not a serious issue for other sports.
Concussion occurs in all contact sports, in school yards and back gardens and anywhere a person might knock their head - and everyone must take concussion and double impact syndrome seriously.
Serious injury is rare in sport, and whilst it is important that potential risks are highlighted, articles such as this, which offer no context, run the risk of pushing parents and children away from sport, with the unintended consequence of exposing children to far more prevalent health issues, such as obesity. Physical inactivity is recognised as a significant cause of illness and death worldwide - sport and active lifestyles are solutions to these threats, and should be encouraged.
Parents and children playing any sport should be educated on concussion awareness, and can find further information at www.irishrugby.ie/concussion.
Director of Communications, Irish Rugby Football Union
Schools supplement was top of the league
Sir - Despite the passing of many years since I attended my Dublin alma mater, it was a joy to leaf through your School League Tables supplement last Sunday. Credit to John Walshe and your team for the laborious effort in compiling the league.
I was delighted to read how all the schools are committed to celebrating the best efforts of their students.
Many of the schools are not blessed with infinite resources or wealthy benefactors - yet they achieve high standards across the spectrum: academic, sporting and community engagement.
Well done to all in the education sector committed to developing our future well-rounded citizens.
In education, one size doesn't fit all
Sir - An implication that can be drawn from your paper's School League Tables (Sunday Independent, January 29) is that students who choose not to enrol in third-level education after the Leaving Certificate are to be seen as a blemish on their schools' records.
It'd be interesting to find out how many students register for but do not complete third level - having realised that the option they were encouraged to pursue is not one that their particular set of skills is suited to.
Perhaps, for example, the 7pc of Clongowes Wood class of 2011 and their advisers should be commended for noticing a path less travelled? I wonder how that cohort has fared over the intervening years.
Right job is just as good as third level
Sir - Why is the percentage of students going to third level a true measure of a school's performance?
Does a student who takes a job in their preferred career immediately after school not indicate that the student feels adequately equipped to make their own way in the world, indicating that the school has done a good job?
We know that many students who go directly to third level drop out quickly.
Is it not better for students to try out working for a year or two in a chosen career, or artistic endeavour, before committing to a course, than costing the taxpayers taking a place on an expensive third-level course?
The transition year, while it's a maturing experience, does not give the experience of working in a real job, nor encourage early entrepreneurship.
Lack of Leaving Cert Applied offers
Sir - Your Business section last Sunday featured an article by Gavin McLoughlin which, quoting Michael Moriarty, general secretary of Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETB), claimed that some parents are college-favouring "snobs" and urged more of them to send their children into traineeships or apprenticeship programmes.
The reality in Leitrim is different. In all of Co Leitrim there is not one of the seven second-level schools which provides a Leaving Cert Applied (LCA) course. In a general sense, the LCA is for those who are clever in a technical and vocational way, but not able for the more academic Leaving Cert. The LCA should provide a clear path into traineeships and apprenticeships.
The local Mayo/Sligo/Leitrim ETB, as inheritor, has failed to carry through the great work of the old vocational/technical schools. The whole ETB and the Department of Education has caved in to the elitism of preparing students for college courses and abandoned their original raison d'etre.
The ETB hides behind the schools, stating that they may or may not provide LCA. The ETB and the department, one would reasonably expect, should be monitoring the balance of provision and the department must provide adequate funding to encourage the active provision of LCA by more schools.
Instead, Leitrim students are expected to do with the "one size fits all" Leaving Cert, with no variety or adequacy. If a student fails the usual Leaving Cert, that young person is in danger of falling through the cracks. All students should have easy access to psychological assessment. Here, the department is found badly wanting and negligent. Career guidance teachers, who could guide students into the most suitable career paths, have been put ex-quota and are now an endangered species.
Parents here in Leitrim are demanding LCA as a pathway towards apprenticeships, leading into future trades and skills. They are urging the ETBs and the department to address our reality.
Cllr Des Guckian, Dromod,
Club game could be more prominent
Sir - Colm O'Rourke makes a valid point about Dublin GAA's present (and future) dominance in football.
However, it's a little contradictory of him to question the "winning at all costs" bit and complaining that players should be entitled to get a chance at county football.
I would hope that the CPA can gain prominence for the club game and maybe then popularise it more than inter-county football. Then every player can test himself against the best.
Split Dublin call is double standards
Sir - I read with frustration and dismay Colm O'Rourke's article last week regarding Dublin being forcibly divided into two teams. I have been a passionate Dubs supporter from birth - even though both my mother and father are Kerry people (and believe it or not they didn't foster me out).
People forget it wasn't long ago that we went through 16 years without even a glimpse of Sam. But then, when Dublin win four of the last six all-Irelands, O'Rourke and the country GAA supporters are up in arms, mumbling into their porridge and hatching plans to divide Dublin into two teams. This brings me back to the 1970s and 80s - and the great Kerry team. As a Dub, I could only stand in awe at such a fantastic team. But where were the experts then? Were they shouting about one team dominating GAA, or trying to divide Kerry into two teams?
I have now finished my rant but I'd hope Mr O'Rourke and my fellow country GAA supporters mightn't begrudge Dublin their bit of success.
RTE hare coursing story was one-sided
Sir - Coverage of the national hare coursing championships in Clonmel on RTE's six o'clock news last Monday has to be one of the most one-sided attempts at journalism I've seen in a long time. The unbalanced report left me thinking censorship may be alive and well in the newsroom.
No one who opposed coursing was given the opportunity to outline their various objections. Instead, apologists for hare coursing were allowed to eulogise the terrorising and killing of animals for fun.
The reporter did mention that some hares were killed, but footage of the event was suddenly cut - deliberately softening the impression that people get of the activity.
Instead the cameras switched to a dispatcher dumping the limp body of the dead hare in a bin as the reporter breezily and misleadingly informed the viewers that, according to the organisers, all hares were released back into the wild.
If RTE hasn't got the guts to show hare coursing in all its gory reality, then it shouldn't bother covering it at all.
And if it insists on covering an activity in which animals are tormented and killed for fun, then surely, as a public service broadcaster, RTE has an obligation to ensure that it is done in a fair and balanced way.
Felled horse chestnut tree was so full of life
Sir - I read with interest the obituary of a venerable horse chestnut tree that until recently stood like a sentinel at the railings of a Victorian residence in what is sometimes called leafy south Dublin (Country Matters Sunday Independent, January 29).
All that remains of this once-majestic specimen that has weathered two centuries of tempest is an elephant's foot stump in an otherwise barren garden. The job of removing moss from the garden path and collecting bags of leaves in the autumn will now give way to vehicular access, as noted on the planning permission attached to the gate. Such is progress.
A magnificent habitat for birds, insects and grey squirrels has disappeared. The creamy-white flowers which hummed with bees in May, gone. For 200 autumns this tree's glorious red foliage marked the season's change. For 200 Septembers, abundant conkers delighted children. This tree's permanence on the landscape gladdened the hearts of passers-by - and last year it had the best crop of horse chestnuts I've seen for years.
The landscape in this corner of my neighbourhood has changed utterly. The trees along the adjoining parameter have also had their heads chopped off and a mini eco-system that gave shelter to all kinds of wildlife has been reduced to a stump.
All that remains to be said is that the whole operation would have been completed faster except that the "tree surgeon" fell from a height and was carted off in an ambulance.
Kenny must get in the game about US
Sir - Enda Kenny should go to the White House - as has been the custom and practice for the past 65 years. Theresa May was strong enough, and stateswoman enough, to go. She had the gumption to meet US President Donald Trump.
Enda is a very experienced and long-standing politician. And he's quite capable of holding his own with any politician of any country. Not going to Washington on St Patrick's Day would be churlish, petty, small-minded, silly nonsense.
The mature, grown-up, responsible action is to go, as usual. After all, if you're not in, you can't win.
Margaret Walshe, Clonsilla Road,
Priest questioned very basis of faith
Sir - I note your report (Sunday Independent, January 29) that the Vatican was coming under pressure from the influential Catholic weekly The Tablet to lift the ban on "silenced priest Fr Tony Flannery".
Whatever about "influential", The Tablet's research leaves a lot to be desired. Fr Flannery was not "silenced" because of his "liberal views" - but because of his questioning of the very basis of the priesthood and other basic teachings of the Church.
In his defiance of the Church in celebrating Mass publicly, he stated that "people don't allow bishops or popes or the Vatican to dictate to them any more". A rather strange statement for someone who wishes to remain in the Catholic Church.
There are no locks on the doors of the churches and people are free to leave. It's a different matter to attempt to remake the Church in their own image.
O'Connor is a lone voice on Trump
Sir - Many thanks and compliments to Brendan O'Connor for taking a much-needed, moderate and balanced approach towards Donald Trump in last week's Sunday Independent. Too many journalists have been "seduced by hysteria" and are relaying their fear as news. O'Connor was wise to write: "This madness will burn out. Trump will calm down or be broken."
Keith O Riain,