Solution to childcare issue
Sir - Regarding the controversy relating to the so-called "granny grant", could I try and bring what I consider to be a level of practicality and common sense to this issue?
I am a 75-year-old grandfather who, with my wife, devotes a substantial portion of our week to dropping, collecting, feeding and stimulating our grandchildren.
This can on the one hand be onerous and restricting, and yet on the other hand greatly rewarding for all involved. We would not have it any other way. However, I often wonder how couples who do not have the advantage of adjacent grandparents manage at all, considering the extra time and expense they have to devote to their children. Surely it's they who need extra support, rather than those who have help near to hand.
The Government could not easily, or efficiently, differentiate between the different family situations.
To me the best solution would be, provided the funds are available (which I doubt), to increase children's allowances and emphasise that the increase is intended for childcare and, where necessary, to compensate grandparents.
It would be up to individual families to use the increase as they thought fit. In this way, those with grandparents to help them and, who save substantially on childcare, would have the means to make a gesture to their parents and those who don't have this help would have a little extra towards childcare.
The burden of funding this could be lessened were all those allowances means-tested.
Church's disrespect will speed its decline
Sir - Wendy Grace (Sunday Independent, August 12) says that when "Catholic bashers" speak "no one will apply any intellectual rigour to what you are saying". Perhaps if she had applied a little rigour to her article she would understand that the Catholic Church is subject to constant criticism because of the constant disrespect it shows to the Irish people and State.
Recently we learned how the Vatican secretary of state attempted to secure an indemnity from the Irish State in relation to compensation for the crimes of pervert priests and to prevent the State having any access to Catholic Church documents. And the Vatican has refused point blank to assist all Irish State inquiries into clerical child abuse. Clearly, the Vatican State holds the Irish State in very low regard. So we should reciprocate.
With regard to education, a Department of Education survey on primary school patronage of more than 10,000 parents in 2013 showed that one-quarter of parents whose children are currently in Catholic public schools would, given the choice, move them immediately to non-denominational public school. The children of those parents could fill 700 schools. This is not an issue of more public school places, because all those children are already in public school places. But almost all public primary school places are under Catholic Church control.
It is clearly an abuse of power by the Catholic Church to use public funding to sit on those public school places and to deprive those parents of the school patronage they would prefer for their children. To add insult to injury, the tens of thousands of parents who want non-denominational education for their children must continue to pay to maintain Catholic Church control of the primary education system - a system where all costs are borne by the State.
In health, Catholic hospitals have no compunction in imposing their particular "ethos" (mostly to do with reproduction) on public patients who may not agree with that ethos - but who have no role in selecting their hospital. Yet, like education, the full building and running costs for Catholic hospitals are paid for by the State. So, by what moral authority does the Church impose its ethos on those involuntary patients who do not share their ethos?
In an open letter to Pope Francis, Fr Peter McVerry writes: "As you are no doubt aware, the Catholic Church in Ireland is in very poor health, perhaps even terminally ill… many, particularly young people, find the church a cold place, legalistic, judgmental and condemning." He also writes: "Unless the church in Ireland takes the side of those who struggle to pay the mortgage or rent, who live in fear of eviction or house repossession… it will continue to be irrelevant."
When one considers the vast array of private hospitals run by the Catholic Church, such as Bon Secours (whose legacy to the State is the horror uncovered at Tuam), St John of God or St Vincent's Private and the countless posh and expensive private schools run by religious orders in the leafy suburbs - none of which the poor will ever have access to - it seems the Catholic Church has a long way to go to recovering relevance.
Meanwhile, the disrespect shown to the State and the continued abuse of its power in the publicly funded health and education systems can only accelerate the Catholic Church's decline.
Let's show good manners on visit
Sir - As someone who has written into any forthcoming death notice regarding little old me, I specifically mention: "No priests - no prayers - no problem." This is not to infer I am anti-Catholic or against all religion, it is just not for me. The simple name is atheist.
The mention here is in the hope the Pope's visit will be conducted in a country mature enough to observe good manners and courtesy.
To those who wish to portray a "new Ireland" with a form of loud ''dances with wolves'' protests comprising of possibly colourful artistes and assorted groups who might wish to behave in the most disrespectful way possible - think again before you disgrace the thoughtful citizens who are believers in religion and are decent people who ought not be hurt by tyrannical minority antics which has become very frightening in recent times.
Most will be too young to really know what they represent or believe in, yet. Take time out to be rational and cut His Nibs some slack. Feel free to chuckle at his own garb, but leave the poison inside your own four walls.
Voices of welcome are being sidelined
Sir - With reference to your article 'Public backs McAleese attack on church misogyny' (Sunday Independent, August 12), and reports on opposition to Pope Francis's visit and every Tom, Dick and Harry seeking to advise him on church doctrine, etc, is it a matter of fact that there is a concerted campaign to ensure that the Pope does not get a cead mile failte here?
It's a far cry from our reputation as a welcoming nation and evidence of total intolerance for anything which does not conform to the so-called liberal agenda and the paganising of our nation.
Every country which Pope Francis has visited has accorded him a warm welcome and recognised his efforts to promote peace and respect for all, especially the weak and vulnerable.
What is happening to our country when those who wish to welcome the Pope are sidelined and replaced by those wish to see an end to all things Catholic? Is it too late to hope that balance will be achieved and a voice given to those who recognise the significance of this Papal visit for Catholics and for all those of goodwill who wish to promote respect for all?
Legacy of hurt and Vatican cover-ups
Sir - Paddy Agnew's article 'Does Pope Francis really "get it" over church's grim history of sex abuse?' (Sunday Independent, August 12) is an excellent overview of the outrageous cover-ups of sex abuse worldwide by the Catholic Church - not to mention the handling (or rather the not handling) of the above by the Vatican.
I suggest that, sadly, Pope Francis does not ''get it'', as it is extremely worrying to learn that, and I quote Mr Agnew, "three of the cardinals in the Catholic 'privy council' of his chosen advisers (Honduran Maradiaga, Australian Pell and Chilean Errazuriz) are all now linked to allegations of abuse cover-ups".
As a sex abuse survivor myself (by a Catholic priest), I suggest that Paddy Agnew's full article is translated into Italian and given to Pope Francis to peruse before his forthcoming Irish visit. Maybe, just maybe, he will finally ''get it'' - and have some idea of the tremendous hurt that his church has caused so many children and adults for far too long.
Name and full address with the Editor
Danger of schism in Catholic reform
Sir - Your poll (Sunday Independent, August 12) found that half of us agree with Mary McAleese that the church does not treat women equally and two-thirds support female priests. It is perfectly reasonable for Mary McAleese, an ardent critic of the Catholic Church, to express her views. However, it does seem to me that she has engaged in a scatter-gun approach to her criticisms.
I agree with her that women should play a greater role in church leadership, and as far as I know there are only traditional and practical reasons for priests remaining celibate, and women were deacons in the early church.
However, the church has theological reasons based on scripture for why men can only be priests - they act in "persona Christi" as we believe Jesus was fully man and divine.
The church's social teaching on respecting the dignity of all life rules out abortion for social reasons, marriage is seen as a transcendental relationship between a man and a woman that is open to the gift from God of children.
My fear is that in the unlikely event that Mary McAleese was successful in achieving all her reforms, we could have a schism within the church that might do more harm than good.
Closure hits heart of community
Sir - On Monday, April 24, 1916, Padraig H Pearse, standing beneath the pillars of the General Post Office, read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic to the people of Ireland. It is iconic, in their fight for freedom, that a post office was the location chosen when today, 102 years later, we, the community of Cliffoney, Co Sligo, are fighting against the proposed closure of our post office.
A line from the Proclamation reads: "We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible."
From the above quotation, I draw particular attention to the word "unfettered" - meaning not controlled or restricted and the word "indefeasible" - not subject to being lost, annulled or overturned.
In effect, we, the community of Cliffoney, are being "controlled, restricted and subject to being lost" - the exact opposite to the words from the Proclamation.
The quick-fix packages of closures and redundancies offered by An Post strike at the heart of local communities.
We are real, living people here in Cliffoney, Co Sligo, but to An Post we are just a dot on their map.
We have lost our garda station! Do we now lose our post office? And who can say that, at the whim of another department, our national school and medical centre may also be on the radar for closure?
To us, the proposed closure of our post office is like a death in the family.
Gene shines a light on those who suffer
Sir - Reading Gene Kerrigan's weekly column in the Sunday Independent shines a much-needed light on why so many people in this country are suffering so much.
Bad, greedy, egocentric politicians (that we elect - they don't just get there, we choose them); bad politics, bad policies, bad decisions.
It's all there, laid bare for us to read and understand why this is happening in our country, where many people are homeless, hungry, hopeless, sad, depressed and without medical care, never mind mental health care. And as for the disabled - well, ratifying the UN CRPD after 11 years without ratifying the Optional Protocols; what can I say?
What is it with our politicians? They tell us they are going to fix everything when they want our votes but turn into these great spinners who talk the talk but will never walk the walk.
Is there some sort of way of identifying the talkers from the doers before any more harm is visited on our people?
Can people applying for political office be honest with us at least? Surely if they don't do what they say they will do, they are being elected under false pretences.
It's like false advertising. We need to be able to unelect a politician if they don't perform.
This would be the case for any other job where the candidate for the position has failed to deliver. Promising to be rid of hospital/surgery/consultant waiting lists within X time? Didn't happen - out you go. Simple. And they may not reapply.
Maire Ni Fearghaill,
An Bothar Bui,
Co na Mide
How can unionists defend Brexit?
Sir - Ruth Dudley Edward's article (Sunday Independent, August 12) raising questions about the nationalists' lack of appreciation for the unionists' position totally ignores the effect of the vote for Brexit on the issue.
Brexit, which is a declaration of economic war, has virtually torn up the Good Friday Agreement and determines that the border will be reimposed.
The Good Friday Agreement, together with the visit of Queen Elizabeth, drew a line under eight centuries of colonial rule and left a totally free border.
How can unionists defend their support for Brexit and at the same time say that there should be a totally free border?
Even more illogical is their attacking the Government of this republic when its members point out those facts.
Yes, we should all thank Wellington
Sir - "'We gave Wellington to them (the English)?'" - that was Eoghan Harris's ironic and rhetorical question, challenging the nationalist jibe that Wellington (a Dub) was English not Irish, in his brilliant talk at the 45th Kilkenny Arts Festival.
Daniel O'Connell is the Liberator, but his fellow Irishman Arthur We(lle)sley is himself the liberator of Portugal, Spain and Europe (1808-1815).
But in many ways Wellington's greatest contribution (the one for which he received the title the Iron Duke, such was the opposition in England) was for securing Catholic Emancipation (a view he held with his brothers in Trim in the 1790s) as prime minister in 1829 and for which he sacrificed his premiership.
The fact of Catholic Emancipation in itself makes Wellington one of the greatest of British Prime Ministers (despite his reputation as the worst).
As Eoghan Harris rightly points out, Wellington got no thanks for Catholic Emancipation in Ireland and even less in England.
As for Daniel O'Connell, we are told he used magnanimity as a weapon and surely there is no greater weapon.
And O'Connell urged us to amalgamate the Protestants, Catholics and Presbyterians in the interest of Ireland as a whole.
It is surely time for us to take his advice.