Stop bashing Brexit Brits
Sir - Declan Lynch is correct. (Sunday Independent, June 24). The English football team's adventures in Russia tell us a lot about Brexit. Indeed, the wonderfully entertaining World Cup jamboree unwittingly reveals lots about that thorny subject - just not what he thinks it does.
Those delightful fellows at the EU - Michel Barnier, Donald Tusk, Guy Verhofstadt, Jean-Claude Juncker et al - consistently peddle a narrative that fealty or affection for one's country (rather than some abstract, relatively recent political construct like the EU) is an antediluvian throwback (and a possible indicator of latent fascism). It is hard to bang that particular drum, though, while scenes of unbridled tribal joy are beamed into our homes daily from the World Cup, with fans going nuts as they support their country's fortunes from the stands.
How those grey technocrats must despise the carnival atmosphere and outpouring of national pride that accompany the greatest sporting tournament on earth. (The only time anyone cheers for 'Europe' on the sporting stage are those half-hearted, unconvincing chants when the millionaire golfers roll into town for the Ryder Cup).
The World Cup is a celebration of difference. The EU, by contrast, increasingly seeks to collate an entire continent into a bland, collectivist Federal soup. (How's that working out, by the way?)
As for Harry Kane and the boys - that an English team with players of all racial backgrounds can take to the field with their country united behind them does indeed say a lot about England.
It shows us that lazy opinion pieces about the UK being some tweedy, gammon-hued xenophobic island of 'Little Englanders' post-Brexit are absolute cobblers.
Help our stressed-out children
Sir - Brendan O'Connor has written previously on the urgent need to provide proper psychological services for children experiencing mental health difficulties.
He continued with this theme (Sunday Independent, June 24) and reports on a survey of primary school principals which came up with the suggestion that early intervention counselling services should be set up for young people.
This is a no-brainer. Anyone with even the remotest experience of coping with mental health difficulties, and who among us hasn't struggled with our mind at some stage, knows the importance of nipping a difficulty in the bud.
The mind is a beast, it's actually a miracle that the majority of us manage to cope with life with minimal mental health struggles.
We all know in our own lives the importance of minimising stresses, otherwise they fester and grow.
Likewise in children, mild mental health stresses, if not dealt with immediately, can magnify over time. Children, by their very nature, do not have the cognitive awareness of what's happening to them that we as adults do. They can be taken over by their raw emotions, not seeing the wood from the trees.
That is why proper intervention is vital... the sooner the better, a helping hand, a guide out of the matrix of a troubled mind. That is the very least we can do for our vulnerable children.
Pope must expect a different Ireland
Sir - Paddy Agnew (Sunday Independent, June 24) gave a very interesting preview of the forthcoming visit by Pope Francis.
We know he is coming to a different Ireland than that of the Pope's visit in 1979. As Paddy Agnew enquires: "Did he accept that the majority of Irish Catholics now are either indifferent to or totally reject elements of fundamental Catholic Church teaching?"
'A la carte', or to use the current description 'Cultural Catholics', of course, there was always an undercurrent of conformism rather than commitment with the 'faithful' which has surfaced to some degree alongside the 'gay marriage' and abortion issues.
As Paddy also remarks, "the Catholic Church has been rocked by seemingly never-ending scandals", including the clerical sex abuse epidemic; and more recently the stories of the inmates in the Magdalene homes. So much so that wearing religious garb in public now calls for a degree of courage.
Paddy also reminds us that despite Pope Francis having the common touch, as it were, he will not move away from the core church teaching regarding marriage and abortion.
Many were hoping that Pope Francis might make a visit to the North. The reason given for his non-visit is that the focus will be on the World Meeting of Families.
Yet among a large section of 'our separated brethren' to use a phrase once common, are they not in tune with Pope Francis in matters of the sanctity of Christian marriage and the protection of the unborn?
Are these not surely an integral component of family life, the objective of the papal visit?
Stand up to the church critics
Sir - It is fashionable nowadays to criticise the Catholic Church - it should do this and that and whatever catches the attention of the critic. The Church should now tell the a la carte Catholics they must accept the table d'hote menu or take their business elsewhere.
They should also tell non-Catholic critics to get lost, including ministers of a Government bent on establishing a non-Christian secular state. Stop apologising and get tough.
Mixing of politics and religion
Sir - When the Pope visits this land, may I remind everyone in general - and politicians in particular - that mixing politics and religion is like mixing ice-cream and cow manure. It does little for the manure and spoils the ice-cream.
John J May,
Getting ready for another singsong
Sir - Where do the years go at all? It seems like only yesterday I was packing the sandwiches and heading off to see Pope John Paul II in Limerick.
About 15 of us bundled into a Ford Escort with not a seatbelt between us. Yes, we sang He's Got the Whole World in His Hands about 500 times that day in October 1979. The excitement! In Galway the day before, John Paul II was welcomed to the altar by two of Ireland's best-known parents, Eamonn Casey and Michael Cleary.
I booked my tickets for Pope Francis's visit online. There was none of that in 1979. You turned up, sat in the damp grass and started another round of He's Got the Whole World in His Hands. I wonder what Pope Francis's message to the young people of Ireland will be. "Young people of Ireland, take your heads out of those phones and stop watching videos of kangaroos on skateboards, oh and by the way, I love you." All together now... He's got the whole world in his...
Mixed feelings over minister at altar
Sir - I have mixed feelings about Culture Minister Josepha Madigan taking to the altar of the Church of St Therese in Mount Merrion, Dublin, in the absence of a priest, to give readings.
I applaud her initiative because I agree with her that the Catholic Church should allow the ordination of women. The ban on women priests is a relic of medieval misogyny and a policy that won't help the Church as "men of the cloth" get scarcer in these materialistic times.
But I cringe when I consider that this is the same minister who has granted a licence permitting another season of hare coursing. Saint Francis, whom I'm sure the devout Ms Madigan has heard about, abhorred cruelty to animals and referred to them as his "brothers and sisters".
He would not approve of a practice in which these innocent, gentle beings are snatched from the countryside, held in unnatural captivity and then hounded in front of a cheering mob.
The Catholic Catechism declares: "It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly."
Needless is the operative word here. No scientific, agricultural, or pest control purpose is served by having captive hares mauled, or crushed into the ground, or flung skyward like broken dolls within the confines of a wired enclosure.
So, while I say fair play to Josepha Madigan, can I suggest that next time she decides to "say Mass" that she offer up a little prayer for the thousands of hares that would prefer it if she didn't grant a licence to cruel coursing clubs?
Boggled by Brexit and all the words
Sir - Millions of words have been written and spoken by hundreds of politicians and officials who have spent thousands of hours at meetings in Europe discussing Britain's decision to leave the EU. What would they all have been doing if it had voted to remain? The mind boggles.
Poster 'protests' in breach of laws
Sir - Throughout the referendum campaign we were subjected to horrific graphic imagery. These images, prominently displayed in public places, including outside schools and hospitals, traumatised so many, including my own child. And the Irish Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (ICBR), which is responsible for these despicable "protests", has made it clear it has have no intention of stopping.
Section 7 of the Public Order Act states that "it shall be an offence for any person in a public place to distribute or display any writing, sign or visible representation which is threatening, abusive, insulting or obscene with intent to provoke a breach of the peace or being reckless as to whether a breach of the peace may be occasioned".
However, little or no action is taken to remove the posters or detain any of the ICBR members.
At the moment it falls to members of the public to protect each other against the traumatising images. This is clearly unsustainable and surely not how our laws should be enacted. We expect the DPP to step up, ensure Section 7 is effectively enforced, and start protecting the Irish people.
Sir - May I wish the lovely Kathleen Corrigan, from Cootehill, Co Cavan, who was 94 years young last week, many more years of health.
Pension apartheid should be ended
Sir - It was an excellent article by Louise McBride about pensions (Business, Sunday Independent, June 24) but I think a comparison between the overly generous defined benefit public servants' pensions and what we know about what the Government intends introducing in 2020 would be very useful, too.
What's good for the goose is good for the gander, so to speak. Why can't public servants - including politicians - have the same structure as private sector workers?
Public servants already have significantly higher salaries - around 40pc - than their equivalents in the private sector and a job guaranteed for life, with other significant benefits such as career breaks of up to five years, very flexible job-sharing arrangements and the ability to purchase past notional service on very generous terms with no investment risk. I think the general public needs to get a good grasp of these facts.
I agree with this pension funding idea, in principle, but it has to be fair. The Government says we have to plan ahead and fund for future pension liabilities. This is true, but it is also true for public service pension liabilities, which dwarf the financial liabilities from the banking crash in 2008.
The exact same argument holds true for the public sector. End pension apartheid and have equal pensions for public and private sector alike.
A bridge too far
Sir - Down here in Cork, politicians have made a big deal about the new freight ferry operating between Ringaskiddy and Spain. They claim it is a way around using English ports to get to continental Europe.
It's not going to work out. There is not enough freight from Ireland to Europe to support a commercial ferry. It will be too expensive compared with the short Dublin-Holyhead service.
Are trucks from Donegal, Derry and Belfast supposed to drive all the way down to Cork before boarding a ferry for Spain?
The fastest, easiest and cheapest way to get goods from Ireland to the continent will always be using Britain as a land bridge.
How we almost paid the penalty
Sir - While it is generally agreed it is better to take three points from a penalty if it is within range - especially in a tight game, which Australia and Ireland was last Saturday - I think it would have endangered Ireland's win less if Johnny Sexton had gone for the corner rather than converting the kick, as subsequent play bore out.
Had Sexton gone for the corner at a time when Ireland were leading by a point with less than a minute-and-a-half to play, by the time weary players had wound their way up inside the Australian 22 and the Irish hooker had lined up the throw - which an Irish lineout player would most likely have secured - time would have been up and the ball could have been kicked into touch to conclude the game with no subsequent danger.
Sexton's successful penalty ensured the Australians were kicking off from the halfway line, which brought play deep into the Irish 22, and, having secured possession, Ireland were very fortunate to survive a marginal decision in their favour in respect of an alleged deliberate knock-on by Jacob Stockdale.
If the decision had gone against him, it would have seen Ireland on the defence yards from their own line, possibly with 14 players - albeit that Stockdale, by putting up his hand and fortunately not touching the ball, may have caused the Australian player coming in from the wing to lose sight of the ball, which rolled into touch to end the game and an Irish victory.
All this could have been avoided if Sexton had gone for the corner with the previous penalty.
I wonder if Joe Schmidt would have second thoughts if a similar scenario arose in a tight Six Nations or World Cup game?