Sir — I wouldn’t normally be the sort to welcome celebrities going into space at enormous expense — but when it’s Captain Kirk who is boldly going then it’s time to make an exception.
It’s apt William Shatner is getting a chance to catch a real-life glimpse of that Final Frontier we used to hear about in the opening moments of Star Trek on the TV.
As Captain James T Kirk of the Starship Enterprise he had millions of us glued to our TV sets as we bought into the thrilling, thoughtful, and sometimes frightening scenarios set in a super technical 26th century.
In my teens I never missed an episode, even if it meant I neglected homework and wished that Scotty was waiting to beam me up from a tension-filled classroom.
One or more teachers would be unhappy with me on the day following the transmission of Star Trek on the black-and-white set the whole family gathered around when the starship set off on another spine-tingling adventure.
When I struggled in certain school exams I blamed Star Trek and found how doing poorly, or failing, was almost as bad as having “Klingons on the starboard bow” or discovering what’s down there on that hostile planet is “life, Jim, but not as we know it”.
While the show distracted from study, it taught us a few things too. Many episodes had classical or Shakespearean allusions and the story always had some philosophical point or conundrum for us to mull.
And I’ll never forget the joy of watching the sci-fi tales of wonder unfold and the way the inimitable Captain Kirk always came out on top, regardless of the odds he faced as he traversed a vast and fearful universe, never losing the head even when confronted by an especially powerful foe, visible or otherwise; or he had to grapple with one of life’s seemingly impenetrable mysteries.
So I won’t be among the dissenters when the Blue Origin rocket takes to the sky with my 90-year-old hero on board.
In the words of Mr Spock: “May he live long and prosper.”
John Fitzgerald, Callan, Co Kilkenny
Sir — One can only despair at the notion of trying to reward those who feel they deserve something for their work over and above the call of duty during the pandemic.
Who does one reward? How does one do it?
For a while it seemed those who worked on the frontline were the only worthy recipients — but now multiple groups and individuals are suggesting they also are entitled. We’ve ended up with an unseemly scramble to be rewarded for the extra effort they claim to have made from gardaí, teachers, ambulance crews, bus drivers, carers and so on.
What might have been a good idea has developed into a farce. One would need the wisdom of Solomon to solve this issue to the satisfaction of everyone. And that’s before we add in the cost to the economy, already under pressure as a result of contending with the virus.
I would suggest therefore the State should instead make a very substantial contribution to charities on behalf of the people of Ireland so the charities can continue to do what they have to do — every day, not just for 18 months.
I have in mind organisations such as the St Vincent de Paul, the RNLI, and all our NGOs that deal with illness, starvation and war every single day. The people who work in them always need help.
If this doesn’t satisfy the disappointed who are not getting rewarded, then we should donate millions of vaccines to countries that are now suffering the virus and do not have the resources to combat this dreadful virus.
This would indeed be a worthy gift from the people of Ireland to those who are in most need.
L Finan, Mullingar, Co Westmeath
Sir — Sláintecare isn’t looking very healthy these days. Indeed it is floundering on the rocks caused by the waves of resistance to change from within and without.
We learnt last week the secretary-general of the Department of Health wasn’t very enthused about communicating resignations to the Minister for Health. What is going on?
Dysfunctionality has been rife in both the HSE and Department of Health for years and we now have a situation where the chiefs of both organisations are charged with implementing change.
The opposition parties equally appear reticent about making Sláintecare a reality because it’s no longer the big vote-getter it was, having been replaced by housing and climate action.
The pandemic has also made all things health-service related such an exhausting subject that our politicians appear to want to put this universal solution back on the slow burner. So slán go fóill to that great vision. For now.
Aidan Roddy, Cabinteely, Dublin 18
Sir — I think the showdown over the implementation of Sláintecare has exposed the right/left divide in our troubled health service.
There are those blocking reform who strongly favour a non-socialised US-style healthcare system, which is very prejudiced against indigent people.
Those who are refusing to carry out government policy in bringing badly needed reform to our privileged health system are essentially on a work-to-rule.
The current practice of providing private care in taxpayer-funded public hospitals is one of the hottest issues.
Sláintecare also attempts to redesign and transform the health service — which means personnel changes from the top brass to the bottom, hence the resistance to vital change because of special interests rather than patients.
Given the resistance to change and overwhelming priority given to those with private insurance, we have to accept our health system is now dangerously commercialised in a two-tier apartheid system.
And we must therefore accept any notion of a united Ireland under that system would be rejected outright by all those north of the border, who do not have to worry about whether they have health insurance or not.
Maurice Fitzgerald, Shanbally, Co Cork
Sir — It is difficult to escape the conclusion the real difficulty the EU, and the political and media establishments, have with Poland and Hungary is these two countries are consciously heading in the opposite direction to everyone else on family and pro-life issues.
It is not racist or fascist to favour life over death and to encourage the growth of the traditional family. It is pride in your own culture and beliefs.
Something we Irish used to have too but which we threw out lock, stock and barrel when we voted to legalise abortion here in 2018.
Jim Stack, Lismore, Co Waterford
Sir — Once again we see former and sitting councillors and TDs eulogising IRA members who were killed while trying to murder innocent civilians.
Martin Ferris, former TD and convicted terrorist, who collected the killers of a true Irish hero, Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, from prison, attempts to rewrite history by applauding the efforts of killers and murderers.
This is what Sinn Féin stands for. They will never accept the wrongs of IRA terrorists over the legitimate and democratic forces of the State.
They consistently undermine the values and norms of our legal and democratic systems while paying homage to those who slaughtered the innocent and those who served and protected us.
Christy Galligan, Letterkenny, Co Donegal
Sir — In any season, our National Botanic Gardens, founded by the Dublin Society in 1795, are most enjoyable and inspiring to visit.
Almost 50 acres, it is a precious green suburban oasis, a premier scientific institution, with horticultural research and training facilities. Notable plants and cultivars from all over the world, attractive palm and green houses are very popular attractions.
Enjoying the many flowers, I was particularly impressed by the variety and colours of the dahlia display. Alongside the many busy bees collecting honey, cameras were clicking as the admirers were deciding which of the lovely flowers they would capture for future enjoyment.
The herbaceous border and the rose garden were also very popular, attracting many photographers. So many good reasons to visit our beautiful botanic gardens — and it’s free too.
Seán Quinn, Blackrock, Co Dublin
Sir — The controversy over a soccer player not wanting to get a Covid vaccination is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
If that’s the way he thinks then so be it (even though he got Covid twice and still hasn’t learned from it). But if he puts others in danger of getting it then that’s a different story.
Anti-vaxxers must not be allowed to put others at risk. If they don’t want the vaccine then they must stay isolated and away from other people
Ken Maher, Kilcoole, Co Wicklow
Sir— The FAI is charging a ridiculous €85 for top-seat prices for the friendly at home against Qatar (which would almost give you catarrh).
It seems the FAI has absolutely no concept of ticket pricing and at best is pushing the boat out for a sinking ship.
Don’t forget, me hearties, there is a limit of 10 brain cells, oops, tickets per booking.
Vincent O’Connell, New Ross, Co Wexford
Sir — Our bank closed for the last time last Friday. Standing in line, I watched people from all walks in life waiting to speak to a clerk, or lodge money — something they won’t be able to do after today.
The Bank of Ireland has been at the focus of so much in Mountrath in Co Laois; it has been involved in business, enterprise, even community events. The closure of the bank is a hard blow for an already declining town. How are businesses to operate? How is anyone to get a loan or change currency?
Mountrath was once a prominent industrial town — but business closures, increasing costs and a lack of passing trade have conspired to destroy our town. What chance does a business have now if they have no bank to fall to? No local bank manager to plead their case to?
Some years ago the Irish people bought out the banks — after their grave negligence. Where are our thanks?
The Government should not have allowed so many bank branches to close — especially not in rural areas where there isn’t an adequate transport system to provide for all citizens. What of the elderly?
The closing of the 88 banks last Friday was a terrible thing; perilous to rural Ireland and small businesses. Never in all my years did I imagine I would see something so shocking on such a scale.
If the Government is serious about implementing a new “work from home” scheme and attracting investment to rural areas, then why did they allow banks to close?
The banks owe the Irish people and it’s more they should be doing, not less.
More fool us, I suppose. We should have read the fine print.
Julie Bennett, Mountrath, Co Laois
Sir — My late father Tom Kilcullen had his bank account with the National Bank, later named Bank of Ireland, in Ballyhaunis. I was about 10 years old when I was with him one day and I met the bank teller — a young man, barely twice my age, from Co Kildare. The bank teller and my father appeared very close and shared jokes across the bank counter.
That young friendly bank teller was called Christy Moore, the same Christy Moore who later became one of Ireland’s greatest songwriters and performers.
I remember clearly a day in early May 1966 when Christy advised my dad to withdraw cash in case he needed it over the next few weeks, as the banks would all be closing due to the national bank strike.
It was the first time I heard the word ‘strike’, but it was added to my vocabulary that day.
I remember Dad asking Christy if he was going home to Newbridge during the strike but Christy said no, he would instead go over to England and do some work on the buildings.
The rest of Christy’s career is history. During the same period Ballyhaunis was home to another Kildare man, future finance minister Charlie McCreevy. He was a trainee accountant with Tynan Dillon & Co in the town.
All this brings me to the “now” — when the Bank of Ireland closed its doors for the last time on the unique history of this lovely progressive town in the West of Ireland.
Ballyhaunis is unique in many ways — besides Christy amd Charlie starting their working lives there. In 2016 the population of Ballyhaunis was 2,312 with 42pc of residents non-national — the highest rate of any town in Ireland. The first mosque built outside of Dublin is in Ballyhaunis.
Seán Flanagan, the last Mayo GAA captain to lift Sam Maguire, was from Ballyhaunis, and Midwest Radio transmits from its station in the town.
When I was a young man, Ballyhaunis had three banks. Today it has none despite the many businesses in town, and the industry giving employment in the area, and the modern and productive farming community in the hinterlands.
There’s no compelling reason why the last bank closed on Friday. The State recently saved this bank from collapse. Their decision to abandon us should be reversed without delay.
Walter Kilcullen, Dunboyne, Co Meath
Sir — The Late Late Show’s 70th birthday tribute to Bob Geldof brought a few tears to my eyes. It was a really fitting tribute for a really good human being. I well remember Bob from our school days in the 1960s — bright, intelligent and way ahead of his time. I have had nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for all his brilliant achievements since.
A quote from the man himself said it all: “If I see someone hurt at the side of the road and if I move on, that’s a problem. It’s about recognising, no matter what colour you are, it’s: ‘There but for the grace of God...’
I sincerely wish this man many more healthy and happy years ahead.
Brian McDevitt, Glenties, Co Donegal