Seven seats of influence
Sir - With no possibility of Sinn Fein moving from its policy of abstention, is it not time for it to consider vacating its seven seats at Westminster, allowing for seven by-elections in Northern Ireland?
In these by-elections, the SDLP could be encouraged to run candidates, and with the support of Sinn Fein, the seven selected SDLP candidates would thus be assured of the Republican/Nationalist vote and certain electoral success.
Those seven SDLP MPs would then constitute a virtual balance of power in Westminster, giving Nationalist Ireland a very strong say in the UK government's Brexit policy, particularly in relation to the island of Ireland.
Respecting Sinn Fein's core belief of opposition to taking the Oath of Allegiance resulting in its commitment to abstention; such an action, as outlined above, on the part of Sinn Fein would be viewed by all of Nationalist Ireland as a truly patriotic and generous response to the current circumstances.
Having a strong voice in Europe (as we already have) with a corresponding strong voice in Westminster (which we lack) would be of enormous benefit to the whole island in the forthcoming negotiations.
Sir - Just to be on the safe side, will I be cast out into exterior darkness if I dare to criticise Eoghan Harris? Here goes. Commenting on Philip Boucher-Hayes's RTE documentary on Sophie Toscan du Plantier, he said: ''I was rewarded by a peerless piece of pure reporting'' (Sunday Independent, July 30). Balderdash!
I can describe the programme in one word - opportunistic! Bear in mind, that it was added to the broadcast schedule at a late stage, in response to the fact that Judge Hunt, in the High Court, had just thrown out the latest attempt by the French to have Ian Bailey extradited to France to face trial. There was little new in the programme.
Right to a good double-barrel
Sir - In an article 'RTE redeems itself with fine film on Sophie' (Sunday Independent, July 30), Eoghan Harris says that the use of a double-barrelled name by Philip Boucher-Hayes sounds pretentious. In fact, in the case of PBH, it is far from pretentious as the name has been in his family for over 100 years as listed in the 1911 Census, when a Thomas Boucher-Hayes is recorded as living in Rathkeale, Co Limerick. So, in the same way as it was all right for Jimmy-Barry Murphy to carry a double-barrelled name, as it was in his family for generations, it should be all right for Philip to do so.
John P Collins,
Questioning the RTE stars' salaries
Sir - Congratulations Eilis O'Hanlon (Sunday Independent, July 30) for having the courage to question the pay and salaries paid to Rte staff members by its authorities. That is the kind of news licence-fee payers would like answered, and not the latest Donald Trump tittle-tattle which really is no concern of ours, or where Noirin O'Sullivan has gone on her holidays, matters which seem to be the main concern of RTE reporters.
Could we now hope for a panel of experts to discuss these matters? These would be far more important to the licence-paying public than our authorities realise.
John N Barry,
Time and place for sex discussions
Sir - I'm a retired nun and have had plenty of life experience. During the week, my nephew collected me at the station and was driving me to my sister's house. All was going well, the radio was on. We were listening to highly paid Ray D'Arcy when at 4pm he starts a discussion with a sex therapist. Ray is talented and may be worth his €400,000, but I must tell you how awkward that 10 minutes was. Ray and his therapist talked about the dangers of "early withdrawal", the joy of "initiating sex" and a host of remedies for "vaginal dryness".
Now this is all worthwhile but my nephew and I were mortified, and neither of us had the courage to change the station. Could RTE not reconsider the timing of such advice and perhaps broadcast it a little later?
Sister Agnes Mulrooney,
Absolutism of the Rebellion leaders
Sir - I refer to the absorbing and informative article by Darragh Gannon (Sunday Independent, July 16).
While De Valera did not wish to have a "reversion to the old Sinn Fein political movement", I think that the new Sinn Fein, as interpreted by De Valera, was not in full continuity with the Easter Rebellion of 1916. The leaders - and Proclamation - of the Rebellion subscribed to absolutist logic and was relentlessly idealistic: the feasibility of an ongoing re-enactment of it was improbable.
The post-Rebellion Sinn Fein, as steered by De Valera, became a compromise with the more intractable realities of Irish and British society, albeit camouflaged in arcane abstractions.
The zeitgeist of that era was that of masculine assertion in war, evident in the post-Rebellion emotions: the catch 22 was that military endeavour might fail - as Easter 1916 in that limited context did - and the post Rebellion Sinn Fein, as led by De Valera, gave a contrary significance to constitutional and political strategy. His eye was ever on a unity of the more advanced nationalist forces, even if that process involved a metaphorical cobbling.
Tom Mc Donald,
Stop squabbling and fix problem
Sir - Tweedledum and Tweedledee are it again. Squabbling like children in the schoolyard over the Budget. Maybe they are unaware that we are living in a third-world country with a third-world government, judging by the health service, homelessness, and the latest fiasco in Drogheda and Navan with the water leaks.
They could do the hard- pressed taxpayer a great service by manning up and recovering the €13bn the EU says Apple allegedly owes us to finally fix the water problem our great leader Bertie Ahern and his wonderful Fianna Fail government were incapable of doing.
The natural beauty of Kerry recalled
Sir -Brendan O'Connor's wonderful 'Summer Notebook' (Sunday Independent, July 30) brought back to me enjoyable family holidays in the beautiful Kingdom of Kerry. I recall, especially, the natural beauty of the county, as in this verse:
"On a Summer's day, rambling the Kerry Way,
Seaside, countryside, all devinely painted,
Sloping ever to the sea, Incredible colours everywhere,
An annual show, surpassing the greatest galleries."
Blackrock, Co Dublin
Motivation of the Pioneer movement
Sir - Declan Lynch (Sunday Independent, July 16) wrote that the Catholic Church turned abstinence from alcohol into "a kind of fetish, with the Pioneer pin and they turned recovery into a guilt-ridden nightmare of penance and self-mortification". This is far from the truth and portrays a negative view of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association (PTAA). When Fr James Cullen, SJ, along with four women, founded the PTAA in 1898, his motivation was to address the damage that excessive alcohol consumption was causing in Ireland at that time - as it still does today.
The vision of the PTAA is to build a society where people can live to their full potential, and where alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation, thus reducing problem drinking.
The Pioneer pin reflects the Sacred Heart of Jesus to whom every pioneer prays the Pioneer Offering twice daily. Through their prayers and sacrifice in abstaining from alcohol, their intention is to provide spiritual support for those who are addicted to alcohol.
Co Chill Dara
Wonders from a good bookshop
Sir - I have to say you come up with some interesting and surprising articles. Philip Yancey's article of July 30 came as a great surprise, as I struggle to keep reading the many wonderful books one comes across in brilliant bookshops.
I did not read in my youth, full stop. Now in my 60s I struggle to keep the concentration going.
One quote from Philip's article goes as follows: "We're engaged in a war, and technology wields the heavy weapons."
This indeed is very true. But I say this Philip, no technology, in this so-called virtual world, will ever replace the magic of reading a wonderful book from a wonderful bookshop.
End of story.
Brian Mc Devitt,
Brian Cowen's degree backlash
Sir - I was surprised Donal Lynch (Sunday Independent, July 30) didn't seem to understand why there was such a backlash against Brian Cowen being given an honorary degree from NUI.
Mr Lynch argued Cowen deserved credit for policies that helped to stabilise the economy after it was holed beneath the water in 2008. But without the context of how the economy was holed in the first place, that's like justifying a bravery award to the person who called the fire brigade about a fire they started deliberately in the first place.
There's also a defence made that no matter who was in government between 1997 and 2011, the same decisions would have been made, reaching the same result. Perhaps. But other people were not in government and Cowen was; and if he wants credit for things that went well, then he must also accept responsibility for the things that didn't go well. So far he hasn't.
Clearly, Cowen is deep in denial about his role in creating the calamity that befell Ireland from 2008, and still impacts people every day. It's understandable because to move from denial, he would have to face up to the carnage inflicted on nearly every family in Ireland.
It's no wonder someone with such poor emotional intelligence refuses to engage in the retrospection required to understand why the picture of him and his wife laughing at UCD without a care in the world was so offensive to people. It was so tone deaf it was jarring.
There were other choices he could have made at the time. We did not have to bail out the banks; we chose to do that. Nor did we have to refuse to reform our bankruptcy laws so that when people were ruined they could never draw a line and start rebuilding their lives.
Cowen wrote a blank cheque to the banks because they told him they were about to be swamped with loan defaults, which would wipe out their liquidity and prevent retail banking functioning.
Then, the banks were allowed to hound customers to repay the debts the taxpayer had just paid off. In effect, banks have been paid twice for the same loan: once by the person who took out the loan and then again by the taxpayer. If bank customers were not burdened by higher tax and loan repayments, there would have been more space to shore up the domestic economy.
SDLP's role in peace process underlined
Sir - Eoghan Harris's (Sunday Independent, July 23) juxtaposing a 1980 comment by John Hume with David Trimble's acceptance of the Good Friday Agreement 18 years later is a blatant example of journalistic licence.
In his interview with Seamus Deane, Hume was commenting on the sympathy for unionism expressed by some commentators in the South, notably by CC O'Brien, at a time when unionists had rejected cross-community partnership as a condition for devolution. This rejection was evidenced in the overthrow of the Sunningdale Agreement in 1974, in the convention of 1975-6 and in the feeble efforts by Secretary of State Roy Mason in 1977-78.
A further rejection of partnership along with North-South arrangements, was to manifest in the 1980 talks, which the UUP declined to attend, and in the Prior Assembly 1982-1986. Instead, unionist leaders had adopted one of two policies, either majority rule or full integration into the UK.
Faced with these rejections, the SDLP focused on strengthening the Irish-British framework within which parallel guarantees could be provided to both Northern communities, reform promoted and the partnership condition for devolution strengthened.
This focus resulted in the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement which contained those guarantees and reiterated the condition for devolution.
Despite strong initial opposition, some unionists began to recognise the value of the guarantees and to accept the conditions for devolution, a position that became evident during inter-party talks in 1991-2.
If unionists had to become convinced of these realities, the same was true of the provisional Republican movement. Hence John Hume's and the SDLP's dialogue with that movement, beginning in 1988, and aimed exclusively at bringing the Provisionals' bloody, sectarian and futile terrorist campaign to an end. Together, with both governments and the US administration, this objective was achieved in the 1994 and 1997 ceasefires - hardly the product of a pan-nationalist enterprise. Had John Hume and the SDLP followed CC O'Brien's advice not to upset unionists with any mention of all-Ireland structures, we might well have had to wait much longer before reaching the Good Friday Agreement, a prospect I trust Mr Harris would not have welcomed.
Dr Sean Farren,
former SDLP MLA,
Eoghan Harris writes: John Hume's legacy also led to the sale of the SDLP HQ last week. I don't want to see Fine Gael or Fianna Fail end up in the same Sinn Fein dustbin.
Give the negativity a break lads, please
Sir - I have read Gene Kerrigan with interest for many years now, as I have Eoghan Harris, and both are disposed to condescension on occasion. I don't doubt their earnest endeavour, on occasion, when they wish to make an important point. But Gene (Soapbox, Sunday Independent, July 30) takes the biscuit giving Eoghan Murphy a hard time about mock fights! A journalistic version of a pot calling the kettle black...aren't you all involved in this chicanery, where media and politics converge?
I enjoy my Sunday Independent, sincerely I do, but sometimes Gene and Eoghan take some of the readership for granted in the same manner as Gene describes politicians doing in his article. It is disingenuous to suggest that a hard-working, young, (relatively) political newcomer is in it for the wrong reasons. Eoghan similarly wants to bang a drum and undermine Simon Coveney - to what end? For what purpose? Finally we have Fine Gael leaders who are not afraid of the all-island question. We finally have erudite, smart, young, forward-thinking and hard-working personalities at the heart of decision making in this country. Let them at it. Try and encourage them. Give the negativity a break, lads. Really, it's coming across as agenda-driven inverted ageism!
P O Dochartaigh,