Some lessons of the past
Sir - When, as a teenager, I was told by my handlers that there was nothing new under the sun, I believed them. I still do today, because it makes sense, and because it is a phrase taken from the Christian Bible.
What this quote tells me nowadays is that abortion, like everything else we humans get up to, has been around since the year dot, and will continue to be practised until the end of time, regardless of what the law has to say.
Where to go from here on the abortion issue requires that the pro-life lobby, as Catholics, quits entertaining the idea that it has a long-standing, special place and monopoly of virtue when it comes to the preservation of human life, both inside and outside of the womb. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Let me explain.
Five centuries ago, on mainland Europe, absolute Catholic power and the sale of indulgences heralded the Reformation and the death of upwards of 20 million people in the course of wars of religion.
Incredibly, four centuries later, a similar administration to that which existed back then we put in place here without safeguards of any sort against abuse of power by Rome rule. The result of this was more of the same.
Fortunately, however, it is never too late to remedy past mistakes. The separation of Church and State with a view to the reunification of our country ought to be given priority.
Midleton, Co Cork
Cronin and Bloomsday legacy
Sir - Anthony Cronin was not disparaging about the first Bloomsday as appears from your misquotation of David Norris (Sunday Independent, June 18).
David, who was doing the honours, related that Tony chided him for encouraging the "vulgarity" of the festival that the Bloomsday celebrations later became.
"As if," David wryly remarked, "Flann O'Brien pissing up against a wall on Sandymount Strand wasn't vulgarity."
Too well-oiled on two wheels
Sir - We hear much about the bad behaviour of Irish cyclists on our streets in the Letters' Page of your newspaper, with criticism usually levelled at commuters or younger riders.
Nothing, however, matched the drunken antics of those people on bicycles that I witnessed in Glasthule, Co Dublin, on Bloomsday night.
A large crowd of these people in Joycean garb, astride ersatz Boneshakers with baskets, blocked the pavements outside restaurants for pedestrians and spilled out on to the main street where there was oncoming traffic. That most of these revellers in boaters and bicycle clips appeared to be over the age of 65 was all the more ironic. They should know better and set a better example.
Perhaps too much burgundy was being enjoyed with the Gorgonzola in Glasthule as I passed on my own bike. But, as I stopped at the traffic lights and observed the scene, it dawned on me that Joyce himself would be less than amused at this rabblement ar rothair.
Ultan O Broin,
Blackrock, Co Dublin
Rural problems and need for a car
Sir - Rural Ireland is now a place where pensioners and the old cannot benefit from the free travel to which they are entitled. If you live six or seven miles outside a town or village, you must have a car to get in to see a doctor, visit a chemist or do some shopping.
And the cost of basic insurance is outlandish.
What the Government did to curtail insurance costs amounted to nothing. With a general election not far around the corner, the Government will have to do something.
The same Government is trying to lure back professionals, including badly needed nurses, and allow them to be ripped off by insurance costs and greedy landlords.
Athy, Co Kildare
Honesty admired but odd assumptions
Sir - "I don't have an easy time with abortion. I try not to think about it," says Ciara O'Connor in her recent article (Sunday Independent, June 18). I admire her honesty, but have difficulty with some of her assumptions. She claims that we "need" abortions. Of course, that does not sound quite as bad as saying "we need to kill babies in the womb" - but that is the reality and I wish that more people would face up to this.
Her reference to how "the vast majority of abortions happen very early on in pregnancies, before the eyelashes and tiny fingernails in the pictures thrust at women going into clinics are formed" illustrates the cover-up of what abortion really is.
Great criticism has been made about the Church and other organisations covering up abuse, but that can never equal the cover-up involved in abortion. Actually, the baby's heartbeat is there at 21 days after conception.
It is beyond reasoning that Ms O'Connor can refer to abortion as "safe, compassionate and humane" when it involves destroying the innocent unborn baby. The UN Human Rights Committee needs to redefine its description when it refers to the lack of access to abortion as "torture", when that properly refers to how an abortion is carried out.
I promise Ms O'Connor that voting against repeal of the Eighth Amendment will certainly not feel much worse, when it ensures that equal right to life of both mother and the baby are protected and that no baby is deliberately killed. What happened to equality after the marriage referendum? What evidence of compassion and care for the weak and vulnerable when we do not allow them the first and basic human rights: the right to be born, no matter how short that life may be.
Finally, I do not share Ms O'Connor's optimism regarding legislation for abortion when it is simply not possible to restrict it. Check the situation in Britain where the law is quite restrictive, but unlimited abortion is available there. I hope that we vote to retain the protection we have in our Constitution and to ensure the lives of all mothers and their babies are cherished and receive all the support and assistance they need, but deliberately killing either patient can never be acceptable.
Mary Stewart (Mrs),
Need for balance on abortion debate
Sir - Two articles (Sunday Independent, June 18) deal with the hardship and unfairness in obtaining an abortion in Ireland, Dr Ciara Kelly and Ciara O'Connor pointing out the lack of compassion inflicted on women in such situations.
The predominance of media reporting on this subject seems to emphasise the horror, shame and indignity being inflicted on women who have to go abroad, and I am sure that is the case.
In the present situation, it would be interesting to know if there are women who have a contrary view to the one constantly being highlighted - that is, are there women out there who are relieved that they did not have an abortion? In the interests of fairness, transparency and balance, is it possible to interview some of those women?
We pro-lifers are not all 'nimbies'
Sir - As someone who is pro-life, I resent bring called a "nimby" by Ciara O'Connor (Sunday Independent, June 18) because of my views. Is this a case of shooting the messenger?
Next year, we will be asked as a nation if we wish to liberalise the laws on abortion in this country. The wording of such a referendum and the possible circumstances in which abortion may be allowed has not been decided yet. Each person will have to make a decision in the ballot box, which may lead to lasting changes to our laws.
Therefore, it is vital there is an informed discussion on the issue. Name-calling, as Ciara O'Connor is indulging in, isn't very helpful, especially as it is completely untrue.
I am not a "not in my backyard" (nimby) protagonist - I hate the fact that abortion is legal in any country. Maybe if someone like Ms O'Connor debated the actual issues with pro-life people like me, we might make some progress and attempt to find common ground.
Finally, Ms O'Connor, don't try to make ludicrous assumptions about a person if they vote against repeal or presuppose they "will feel much, much worse". It seems you have all the answers!
Don't go the same way as the UK
Sir - Ciara O'Connor in her article (Nimbies are in denial over the 8th, Sunday Independent, June 18) uses the entire range of emotional language we have become used to from abortionists, such as "terrifying", "desperate situation", "gruesome", all of which apply to situations where abortion is not permitted.
But worse is to follow when she throws logic and fact aside and claims that "legalising abortion will not see thousands of young women in favour of a quickie-aborsh in their lunch hour... It just won't happen".
Really? It has been happening in England for years.
"Abortion is taken seriously where it is legal," she claims.
Just like the women who wished to kill their babies because the pregnancy would interfere with their skiing holiday. She further claims that "abortion is not used as a contraceptive". Not true. There are countless cases in England where young girls have had up to nine abortions. The actress Barbara Windsor recently talked of having had at least five abortions.
Abortion was made legal in Britain to prevent women, such as my mother in Glasgow, dying from botched abortions carried out by people with no medical training.
David Steele, who introduced the bill, never envisaged that the number of women aborting their babies would reach almost 200,000 by 2016.
To repeal the Eighth Amendment would repeat in Ireland what has happened in the UK.
Disgusting events at dog festival
Sir - Your newspaper has been an avid supporter of animal welfare in the past, so please bring to the attention of your Irish readers the barbaric event that is the Yulin dog meat festival in China. It is hard to comprehend the savagery that goes on. To articulate on the goings-on is not necessary, suffice to say these people believe that if an animal dies in pain, it makes the meat more tender.
There is an escalating protest movement and even direct action (intercepting trucks loaded with dogs, some stolen, crammed into cages on their way to Yulin)and bringing the poor dogs to a rescue centre.
In the middle of all that is wrong with our country, surely it is not beyond our Government to at least voice its opinion to the Chinese ambassador on these macabre and disgusting events?
Sixmilebridge, Co Clare
Benefits of a swim
Sir - As someone who has been swimming in the "wild Atlantic waves" for the past 40-odd years, I loved Billy Ryle's mythical story in last week's letter of the week (Restoring virility in the sea, Sunday Independent, June 18).
Like Billy, I may not have found any of that youthful vigour floating around but, believe me, no matter what age, a refreshing dip in the sea does absolute wonders for one's mental health.
What more could one ask for?
Glenties, Co Donegal
No fresh face just more of the same
Sir - So the Fianna Fail party does not like the way that Fine Gael handles their political appointments? Does this surprise anyone? Did they themselves not follow the same path in the past? Would they, if they were in power, do any different?
Is it not time for them to pull the plug on this corrupt system? But then again, are they not a part of the same system?
This makes the general public sick to the teeth seeing how things are run and will no doubt lead to fewer and fewer people bothering to vote in future.
Fianna Fail will rant and rave over the appointment but do nothing about it. Investigations by the dozen are taking place all over the place regarding wrongdoing and corruption, but does anyone really expect that those accountable will be found guilty of anything? Those responsible for running the banks into the ground are still laughing about the money they made and the good times they had when thousands of families still face losing their homes.
Those in Fine Gael who had hoped that a fresh face might have brought change must be bitterly disappointed at the way things are being handled.
Michael O Meara,
Killarney, Co Kerry
Sir - Now that Maire Whelan has been elevated to the Court of Appeal, does this mean she will be unable to be a witness or give evidence in any future inquiry or tribunal regarding Enda Kenny and the former garda commissioner and justice minister?
Bad role models for our children
Sir - Honesty, respect and accountability are virtues that we try to instil in children from a young age. It's ironic how we could tell a five-year-old to take responsibility for their actions when we let the leaders of our country away with almost anything. Politicians, judges, bankers and the big developers - the majority of these people are bad role models for all of us.
They live in a different Ireland than the rest of us, where corruption and entitlement seem to be OK - maybe some of the gang are even friends from the good, old days in school.
We also live in a country where criminals don't fear the legal system or prison. We need to sort this out. Ireland is a country where the working class are always held accountable for their actions, even for the actions of others. I love my country, just not the gangsters who look down on us.
Jason O'Sullivan, Canadian resident,
Vancouver, BC, Canada, and Bishopstown, Cork, Ireland
Reporting on British mistakes
Sir - It is remarkable how much more nuanced reporting of the Irish-British relationship is by English media. Very few people - even UK Conservatives - would voice your extremist positions which defend the mistakes, missteps and malice that have characterised the way successive British governments have created, fostered and exacerbated tensions on the island of Ireland. This doesn't stop me from enjoying the rest of your paper, though, when I visit Ireland.
Run on doughnuts
Sir - I attended the Dublin women's mini-marathon pre-event in the RDS. I was horrified to see that one of the main attractions there for attendees was the presence of a large stand selling highly calorific doughnuts. That this running event is sponsored by a healthcare insurance provider was all the more ironic.
And we thought we had problems with alcohol sponsorship in sport.
Donnybrook, Dublin 4