Saturday 20 July 2019

Talk of 'rights' in debate about the Eighth leads to confusion

‘Rights’ will be key in abortion debate
‘Rights’ will be key in abortion debate
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

The American penchant for the possession and use of guns is underpinned by the so-called 'right' to bear arms. This 'right' is given a quasi-religious ring to it in the suggestion that it is enshrined in the American constitution. More bizarrely, it is sometimes referred to as 'a God-given right'.

The abortion debate in Ireland, in its turn, is played out as a conflict between the competing rights of the mother and those of the foetus, with all the ambiguity that this engenders.

Once again, talk of 'human rights' is in the air, intensifying our awareness that they do not drop from the sky but are generated by us as we seek to make sense of our obligations to one another.

Natural-rights theory was the revolutionary doctrine of the 17th and 18th centuries, invoked to justify resistance to unjust laws and tyrannical regimes. It was a theory that did not sit easily with some of the most influential writers of the time.

Edmund Burke, the Irish political theorist, in his polemic against the French Revolution attacked what he called "abstract rights".

Earlier, philosopher Jeremy Bentham, in his criticism of the French Declaration of Rights, had dismissed the idea of natural human rights as nonsense on stilts.

The days when legal and constitutional thinking in Ireland were driven by the teaching of the Catholic Church are over.

The transition to a secularist approach to framing constitutional and legal thinking provides a real challenge to all of us to exercise our voice and to be attentive to the voices of others. Invoking the concept of rights can so easily degenerate into explaining the obscure by the even more obscure.

Philip O'Neill

Oxford, England


Abortion is capital punishment

In former times, and indeed not so long ago, those found guilty of murder and other very serious crimes had the death penalty imposed and were duly executed.

However, in more enlightened times, the death penalty was abolished, so that presently even the most vile criminals and those found guilty of the most heinous crimes need no longer fear the hangman or the gallows.

However, I find it strange and disturbing that the death penalty can still be imposed on the purest and most innocent of God's creatures, the baby in the womb, and carried out at the whim of those who need fear neither judge nor jury. When is murder not murder?

Name with Editor

Tralee, Co Kerry


Own goal by Repeal supporters

I was a wavering middle-ground voter regarding next year's referendum on the Eighth Amendment. But after reading about death threats to hotel workers, my mind is now made up.

A woman's right to choose is important. But the right to live in a country with free speech and free assembly are more important.

An own goal, I'd say.

Gerry Kelly

Rathgar, Dublin 6


The young jobless need support

In today's Budget, perhaps Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe could have a close look at the anomaly whereby social welfare recipients under the age of 25 are paid a mere €102 a week, while others receive almost twice that amount.

How can anyone be expected to live independently on as little as €102 a week? This discrimination on the grounds of age should be put to bed for good, and the sooner the better.

PJ Maguire

Athlone, Co Westmeath


Focus on Brussels, not London

Now that the predictable frenzy of Brit-bashing has receded a little, might we consider a contrarian approach to the Brexit negotiations?

Firstly, our Government should turn its sights on Brussels, rather than London, and seek the following outcomes:

1) That the status quo with the UK is fully retained on all counts including common travel, free trade, citizenship.

2) That Ireland resists all attempts to weaken our very successful model of attracting foreign direct investment.

Such an approach would be the surest way of protecting the national interest in the difficult years ahead.

Patrick Kilcoyne

Upper Leeson Street, Dublin 4


An Post salutes mass killer 'Che'

I saw last week the news that An Post has released a commemorative stamp of Che Guevara. I must say that I am puzzled as to the logic employed by those responsible for this.

I can only conclude that those who made this decision are ignorant of history when they choose to commemorate a murderer, who was responsible for executing and torturing the enemies of the Cuban communist regime, which treated LGBT individuals with particular brutality.

It seems to be a bit of an embarrassment to us as a nation that this would happen. Would we put Heinrich Himmler on a stamp or Lavrentiy Beria?

Adam Conroy

Newbridge, Co Kildare


Well, if you don't smile...

A recent photo of Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill sharing broad smiles brought a Nat King Cole song to mind: 'Smile... though your heart is breaking'.

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9


Praise for Humphries's friend

I applaud the courage of journalist David Walsh in not abandoning his friend Tom Humphries when the latter was convicted of the heinous crime of sex abuse.

Someone who realises the dreadful harm he has done to an innocent victim and becomes suicidal certainly should not be abandoned and I do not agree that Fiona Doyle, or anyone, has the right to seek to have that person's friend deprived of his livelihood.

In our time of need, we all look to our friends for support and 'fair weather friends' are of no benefit.

Redemption is possible for anyone and should not be discounted.

Appropriately, the Mass reading today is that of the Good Samaritan, who stepped in to offer help while realising that he was an outcast.

Are we now accepting that anyone who has committed a serious crime should be left friendless?

No one is overlooking the dreadful harm done in this case, but neither should we abandon the sinner while we condemn the sin.

Mary Stewart

Ardeskin, Donegal Town


A reliable servant of the State

Ironic that Paul Williams's article on army cutbacks (Irish Independent, October 9) appears in the same week that the Cessna 172s in Baldonnel reach 45 years of sterling service. Our longest-serving fixed-wing ever. Now that's value for money.

Pat Farrell

Maynooth, Co Kildare

Irish Independent

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