Stamp out pension bias
Sir - Help! Why are women still being discriminated against in 2018? I am one of Joan Burton's victims, as the changes made by the former social protection minister stop me qualifying for a full pension.
I started working in 1969 and I finished in December 2016. By then I had more than the required number of social welfare stamps to receive my full pension (520 stamps).
Yet because my work life was interrupted having children, and rearing them, and also looking after my grandparents until they died, I now find myself at nearly 70 years of age getting a weekly State pension of €158 - instead of €243.
And believe me, that shortfall of €85 per week is massive in my world.
Name and address with Editor
Ali blasts through our public services
Sir - Many weaknesses in public services were revealed by Storm Ali. The disruption of the Ploughing Championships just served to highlight the shortcomings.
Met Eireann got that one badly wrong. This followed a succession of inaccurate forecasts, particularly in relation to the north and west. Whatever the reasons, we can no longer rely on their forecasts for weekends.
Powerlines were broken by falling trees. In our case, it took EirGrid 36 hours to restore our electricity. Forty years ago each large town had an ESB office and they had repair squads ready to go out at short notice and restore the supply. EirGrid claims to have an overview of supplies from Dublin, yet it is slower to respond than the ESB of old. Rural areas are usually the last to be reconnected.
EirGrid seems focused on transferring electricity from the west to Dublin, forgetting the rural areas in between.
Local radio was not much help either. Last Wednesday morning, they carried news about outages but, in one case, assured us services would be back to normal after four hours.
Ali caused a major emergency for half this country. Various services went down and lives were put in danger; solutions must be found.
Dromod, Co Leitrim
No, inheritance tax is perfectly fair
Sir - I was incredulous that the letter of the week (Sunday Independent, September 16) was from someone whinging about the possibility of paying inheritance tax at a rate of 33pc (not 100pc) above any inheritance they may receive above €310,000. That's €310,000 per person, not per estate. Three people inheriting an estate worth €930,000 would pay no inheritance tax and each receive €310,000.
Given all the problems Ireland faces - in housing, health, education, social care and travel, and in a country that still can't build a National Children's Hospital - are there really people who think the most pressing issue is action to reduce a tax bill for people who have a cheque for €310,000 lodged to their bank account?
I understand why the writer didn't want their name or locality published. It's not because people would think they were rich, but rather because people would be astounded at how out of touch and tone deaf they are.
Especially when the State has utterly failed to tackle a housing problem but responds with the speed of light to get masked gardai to violently remove occupants from an empty building.
Inheritance tax is not too high; it's too low. The problem isn't the level of tax, it's the attitude of those it applies to and of a State unwilling and unable to meet the needs of its citizens by using funds collected by taxes.
Anyone who inherits more than €310,000 should be glad to write a cheque for 33pc of any amount above that level (and keep the extra 67pc) and then engage their brain when they vote to ensure that the money they paid to the State doesn't sink into a black hole but is used for the good of all citizens. Especially those who work hard and honestly but were never given access to the silver spoon.
Canary Wharf, London
Do you remember all the lost shops?
Sir - I would appreciate hearing from Sunday Independent readers for my next book, Dublin's Lost Shops.
The book will cover the many vanished shops in Dublin's suburbs and the city over the past 50 years. If readers have anecdotes or old photos, I'd appreciate a copy of them by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular post.
The History Press,
6-7 Trinity Street, Dublin 2
Free education in Ireland is a myth
Sir - Dan O'Brien's fine article (Sunday Independent, September 16) fails to acknowledge the considerable additional non-State funding that goes into Irish schools.
As a former principal of two English secondary schools, I realise just how incomplete is the nature of OECD figures on Irish school funding.
Yes, even though we are falling behind competitors in educational investment, Ireland's story is good. But there is an underside to the story: unlike our competitor countries, including Northern Ireland, parents in the Republic make considerable financial contributions in the purchase of text books, stationery, school fees and voluntary contributions.
Ireland's "free education" is a myth and I make this assertion in the knowledge that each of my Irish-based grandchildren require an approximate €1,000 annual parental top up for their "free secondary education".
In English and Northern Ireland, such "voluntary contributions" are a rarity. Books and stationery are provided free.
The inability of many Irish parents to meet grossly unfair extra education costs helps to underscore Dan O'Brien's focus on the scandal of those who, like their parents before them, continue to lose out. It helps to explain why Ireland has a high proportion of young people not in employment, education or training.
In my own time in early 1960s Dublin, there was no such thing as free secondary education, and religious orders made it possible for many of us from poorer families to stay on in school to Leaving Cert. The fees were more modest than the €1,000 required for today's 'free' education. Catholic parishes and religious orders continue to make considerable contributions in terms of buildings, insurance and general maintenance.
Killarney, Co Kerry
Those who stood by are to blame too
Sir - On reading Shona Murray's interview with Sinead O'Shea last week about her film A Mother Brings Her Son To Be Shot (about paramilitary punishment shootings in the North of Ireland), I was reminded that such barbarity was commonplace long after the Good Friday Agreement and was also inflicted on children by IRA and loyalist thugs.
Despite a detailed and shocking article, published in the Sunday Independent in October/November 2004, by Professor Liam Kennedy, which describes this as the worst form of child abuse in Western Europe, the abuse continued and was ignored by most, if not all, other media outlets, politicians and the self-appointed champions of human rights. The silence is shameful and Sinn Fein has never apologised for, or condemned, the actions of their heroes.
The rest of us should be ashamed that mostly we stood idly by. Is this not as bad, or maybe worse than the cover-up of child abuse by some bishops? Selective condemnation does none of us any credit.
Dalkey, Co Dublin
Forgiveness has benefits and limits
Sir - In your paper last Sunday, spiritual thinker Deepak Chopra urged people to forgive the church, saying: "You don't forgive necessarily because the other person deserves forgiveness - you forgive because you deserve peace."
Forgiveness when given should always be for the betterment of the injured party and must be freely given with no expectation of anything in return. The victim has reached a stage of healing and acceptance of the wrong perpetuated against them. Forgiveness allows the person to move on.
Have we come to terms with the crimes some members of the church have committed? Clerical abuse survivors would say we haven't and the church needs to do more in relation to sexual abuse crimes. A zero-tolerance approach is the only acceptable way forward. The decision by Australian bishops to reject reporting sexual abuse revealed in confession hardly inspires confidence.
Forgiveness has its place and can be healing. If offered at the wrong time as a short cut way of achieving peace, it is useless and can be counterproductive. Forgiveness is not always the best option for injured people, and might never be offered.
Are we ready to forgive the church yet?
I don't think so,
Did Keane show drive in Saipan?
Sir - Niamh Horan writes in last week's paper (Sunday Independent, September 16) that "Roy Keane (pictured) is passionate about Ireland".
I wonder. He did not show much passion for Ireland in Saipan in 2002.
Ballincollig, Co Cork
The fan who took a hit
Sir - Niamh Horan's account of Brian Clough punching Roy Keane in the chest reminds me of a famous Clough story.
Clough's Nottingham Forest had just lost a match and Clough was furiously stalking up and down the sideline when an opposing fan rushed over and began to taunt him.
True to form, Clough thumped him - at which one commentator, not realising that his microphone was still live, was heard to say: "I think that is the first time I have ever actually seen the s**t hitting the fan."
You have to salute Roy's triumphs
Sir - In reply to the letter last week describing Roy Keane as "a good player, that's all he was, a good player" and "that he lacks the people skills to manage or be an assistant manager", he is obviously clueless regarding Roy's accomplishments both as a player and manager.
Allow me to enlighten him that back in 2007, in his first year as manager, Roy - who was also named by Pele in his 100 list of the world's greatest players - took Sunderland into the Premiership and was named Championship Manager of the Year.
While some valid points were made regarding Roy's temperament, please acknowledge his extraordinary achievements.
Name and address with Editor
Artists at mercy of unfair radio airplay
Congratulations to Eleanor McEvoy; singer, composer, poet, National Concert Hall board member and chairperson of IMRO, on helping to achieve the introduction, by the EU, of new copyright laws (Sunday Independent Sunday Business, September 16).
I am now hoping that she will use her formidable influence in tackling the disgraceful treatment of young talent by our commercial and national radio channels who refuse to play Irish music releases across their stations.
We have the unbelievable situation, that unless an Irish artist is signed by a foreign record label, they cannot get local airplay. We must export our music to the UK, to be re-imported back to Ireland, before the commercial radio sector will play it. The situation is farcical.
Shame on our politicians and the dysfunctional Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, who continue to ignore the call to introduce a fair and transparent percentage airplay system. Our young artists go to extreme lengths and expense to produce new music which ends up in the bin at the majority of commercial stations.
Pat Egan, music promoter,
Bray librarian is a walking database
Sir - The retirement of much-loved Bray librarian Michael Kelleher was a poignant reminder why search engines and computers cannot replace humans and books.
By inviting various interesting people to history talks and other events in Bray Library, Michael ensured that the library remained the focal point of Bray.
Although the digitisation of libraries certainly has some merits, much of our knowledge resides in searchable databases not directly accessible to search engines and people like Michael are a good example of such walking databases.
Apart from that, search engines are useless if you have an idea of what you are looking for, but you either don't know any keywords that might help you, or their semantic field is too broad. Recently, I was looking for some information on historical shifts in attitudes of the Catholic Church in Ireland toward accepting or rejecting instructions from Rome. Simply using keywords in a search engine such as "Ireland", "Catholic Church", and "instructions from Rome" would have yielded a plethora of completely irrelevant information but Michael brought me a book that led me to Cardinal Paul Cullen and his reforms.
It is thanks to librarians like him that readers can realise that - to quote Seamus Heaney - "Every layer they strip seems camped on before".
Bray, Co Wicklow
Robbers didn't bet on have-a-go hero
Sir - How heartening to watch that startling footage of 83-year-old Glanmire man Denis O'Connor take on three cowardly masked robbers in a bookmakers' shop. I imagine the lads hadn't bet on that outcome to their little venture.
While gardai have understandably cautioned that resisting armed raiders is not to be encouraged as it can have tragic consequences, I think we are entitled to admire a man of courage who takes a stand against the rising tide of crime in this country.
Especially when you think of those nightmarish attacks on elderly people in rural districts, and the many others fearful of a knock on the door, or unable to sleep in their beds thanks to the evil thugs who think they can rob and traumatise at will.
I suggest that Mr O'Connor receive an award for his heroism.
Who says this is no country for old men?
Callan, Co Kilkenny