Tax breaks come at a cost
Sir - To run this country, we are borrowing money left right and centre, and the usual excuse why we cannot afford to properly pay our young doctors, nurses, teachers and other public servants is because we can't afford to, due to other demands on the public purse.
The main reason for this state of affairs is that the State is not collecting enough money to govern. The economic think-tank Tasc identified 126 tax expenditures that enabled big business to legally reduce or avoid paying tax. This cost the country around €23bn in foregone revenue since 2014 and these breaks had no clear social or economic objective.
Most of these tax breaks were allowed following lobbying by special interest groups. In a recent example (Business, Sunday Independent, January 15), it was reported that Kennedy Wilson, the country's largest landlord, had warned Michael Noonan over proposed changes to "vulture" taxation.
It's about time that the State looked after its people. Think of the homeless and dreadful state of our hospitals.
Why wait until Big Brother in the EU demands we put our house in order or else no more loans?
Dun Mor, Co Waterford
Brendan Ogle and the trains
Sir - I regarded Niamh Horan's piece on Brendan Ogle to be rather flippant (Sunday Independent, January 15) when describing an individual who has caused disruption in many areas of this country.
His career or notoriety began long before he was "threatening to turn the lights out in Ireland". Ms Horan should realise that electric power has many more uses, rather than just providing light, and many vulnerable groups suffer when power workers withdraw their labour.
That aside, Brendan Ogle was responsible for one of the most divisive and disruptive disputes when, in 2000, he demanded that Iarnrod Eireann management recognise yet another trade union, ILDA (Irish Locomotive Drivers' Association), representing a minority of train drivers.
Those workers who chose train driving as their lifelong profession were one of the most dedicated and united groups working in CIE. They were loyal and supportive of one another, especially to those starting out in that grade. At the end of the ILDA dispute, many friendships had been destroyed and replaced by a bitterness which lasted for a long time. Train services were disrupted for a long period and, consequently, many services were cancelled or withdrawn.
This, of course, was a matter of little or no consequence to Brendan Ogle, but finally he had to realise that Iarnrod Eireann was not prepared to concede to this breakaway grouping.
"Facts is facts," Niamh.
Inis, Co an Chlair
Understanding and factual debate
Sir - I must say I found Pat Daly (Letters, Sunday Independent, January 15) rather confusing when he accused me of "imposing my particular beliefs upon others at the ballot box". I checked my letter again and found that I simply welcomed balanced articles by Eilis O'Hanlon and Brendan O'Connor the previous week and asked for balanced debate on all issues, and particularly those considered as non-PC.
I simply cannot understand how seeking a factual and balanced debate ties in with imposing my beliefs upon others. I should point out that my reference to the Catholic Church was in the context of the distorted views constantly presented in the media with no allowance for refuting these.
Could I add regarding Mr Daly's quotation from Tolstoy that seeking balanced debate can hardly be compared with "barking like a dog at what they don't understand"? Surely understanding comes from factual debate and at the ballot box it is to be hoped that all views can be aired (not imposed) and certainly those with religious beliefs as much as any other.
Mary Stewart (Mrs),
Ardeskin, Donegal Town
Home is where our hearts and souls rest
Sir - Chatting to a friend recently, she said: "I wonder what being homeless is like." I tried hard to imagine, but of course I couldn't, because I am blessed to have always had a home. However, it made me think what home actually means to me.
Home brings with it a sense of familiarity, a safeness, that when I step into it, I feel secure. It's a sense of place that is grounding... allowing me to just be myself and to do whatever I want. In the busyness of life and the sheer vastness of the world, that space is as important to me as breathing. I'd even go so far as to say it is essential for my mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. It's nothing fancy and I know it doesn't have to be. It is permeated with memories/smells/sounds... all unique to my own lifetime of the magic that is "life". All of which are so familiar, so familiar that even with my eyes closed, I could walk around every room at ease. Is it any wonder that elderly or sick people become so disorientated when removed from their own place? Is it any wonder they fight to stay at home as long as they can? Home really is where our hearts and souls rest.
So I suppose if I was to ask myself to look at the opposite of all the above feelings, I'd get a very small idea of what it must be like to be homeless. It doesn't bear thinking about and no one deserves that.
Gorey, Co Wexford
Des O'Malley and the backwoodsmen
Sir - Des O'Malley made reference to the backwoodsmen in Fianna Fail (Sunday Independent, January 15) and their sniping at the party leader.
Eaten bread is soon forgotten!
The backwoodsmen were responsible for getting Mr O'Malley elected to Dail Eireann, they descended in their droves into that Limerick by-election in 1968 under the leadership of Minister Neil T Blaney TD. As regards the sniping, well, it's like the kettle calling the pot black?
Mallow, Co Cork
Gay men and women's rights
Sir - Tommy Roddy is to be congratulated for highlighting that, within the LGBT community, there are a range of diverse views on the debate to repeal the Eighth Amendment (Letters, Sunday Independent, January 15). He is also correct on the juxtaposition between the marriage equality referendum and this current abortion debate. With only a few notable, high-profile exceptions, almost all LGBT people supported the right to have same-sex marriage enshrined in the Constitution, even if some did not agree that it was not for them personally. In other words, they supported the right to choose and to have that choice, should they decide to act on it, enshrined in law.
What is troubling, then, is that a gay man who will never have any direct experience of an unwanted pregnancy, will campaign publicly to deny girls and women the right to make up their own minds and choose what is best for them. One has to ask why this is the case and why not trust members of the opposite sex in relation to their own bodies? One might, therefore, wonder if a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment had come before one for marriage equality, would there have been the same enthusiastic backing for the latter if some of those that were seeking equality had previously campaigned to continue the discrimination of half the population in their own jurisdiction with regard to their reproductive rights? Sometimes it's useful to remember the serenity prayer: 'God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.'
Listowel, Co Kerry
The reform of motor insurance
Sir - The recent Dail report on the cost of motor vehicle insurance is to be welcomed. Obviously a lot of research has gone in to this endeavour, with promises of follow-on legislation and co-operation. While I wish all of those involved every success, my sceptical nature leaves me adopting a wait-and-see attitude.
Experience has taught me that successive ministers and governments are more interested in stop-gap measures than they are in achieving acceptable, permanent solutions to most problems. It is many years ago now, when I proposed at one of our Annual Delegate Conferences, a mechanism to solve the problems created by uninsured drivers and untaxed motor vehicles on public roads, a proposal, may I say, which was adopted unanimously by the delegates at that conference.
In short, it suggested that the cost of motor vehicle road tax, otherwise known as 'Road Fund Licence', and the cost of motor vehicle insurance could be operated by the implementation of an appropriate levy on fuel used to propel these vehicles on our public roads. This would ensure that all vehicles used in a public place were both taxed and insured. Of course it would require some additional cost for young drivers and learner drivers to take account of inexperience. For this category of drivers, very often the exorbitant cost of motor insurance means they cannot afford insurance and all too often this cost far outweighs the value of the vehicle they propose to drive. The additional cost which I refer to could be spread over a 10-year period; it becoming diminished each year by one-tenth to take account of accident-free driving, where applicable, until totally expended. The levy to which I refer would apply to learner drivers only and would commence on his or her taking control of a mechanically propelled vehicle on the public road. It would be a predetermined figure designed to treat all such drivers equally and fairly and would be paid annually direct to the Motor Insurers' Bureau of Ireland.
If this additional sum is not paid then the insurance provided by the levy on fuel would only provide cover for injury to other road users who are not occupants in the offending vehicle, as well as material damage to other vehicles or other property. These measures provide a self-monitoring system to the learner driver and to the occupants of their vehicles in order to encourage compliance.
There are other benefits, too, which can be derived from this approach. It would obviate the necessity of garda checkpoints to ensure road traffic compliance in this regard. It would also get rid of clogged up court rooms, both at District Court level and Circuit Court level by members of An Garda Siochana and offending motorists awaiting judicial deliberation. Indeed, it would dispense with the humiliation and time-wasting for ordinary, decent people. Such a scheme, if adopted, would have to be administered. At present we have in existence the Motor Insurers' Bureau of Ireland which deals with the consequences of uninsured drivers involved in traffic accidents. Obviously this mechanism would have to be augmented as it would then become the centre dealing with such events; with accidents generally and with awards and compensation arising there from. A central office, such as the aforementioned, could have many other advantages to the industry in terms of monitoring and dispensing useful information to Government or to a designated minister.
I'm not convinced the legal profession would welcome any initiative such as this. For them it would result in reduced presence in court rooms and cut down on costly paper trail activities. Within days of the Delegate Conference, to which I have referred, ending, this resolution was brought to the attention of the Garda Commissioner and Dept of Justice for consideration and implementation, to be assured that the matter would receive attention. Some 30 years later, the matter is still receiving attention.
Tony Hand (retired Garda),
Blessington, Co Wicklow
Legal implications of GAA contracts
Sir - Having read Joe Brolly's reference to St Brigid's Dublin senior footballers having to sign contracts with the club before they can participate in training or matches and having outlined some samples of the contracts to be signed by the players (Sport, Sunday Independent, January 15), I would have thought that Mr Brolly, as a practising barrister, would have proceeded further to examine the legal implications of these contracts for amateur players concerned and the ramifications for those players, if any, who might refuse to sign the contracts, other than concluding that "the CPA should start by rounding up those players' contracts and burning them".
Highfield Park, Galway
Sir - Almost every day the radio and TV stations report the numbers of patients on trolleys at all the various hospitals.
The staffs meticulously collect these figures each day for their cheerleaders in RTE. Anyone who believes all this counting is carried out for the patients' welfare must be foolish in the extreme. It is obviously a ploy to embarrass the Government into throwing more money into this bottomless pit. It has been seen that money will not solve the problem.
Only a strong government which doesn't have to look over its shoulder will ever make progress here. The Dail, at present, composed of small parties plus a horde of Independents, will never solve any problem. It is doubtful if future elections will show any change. The 'ship of State' has many navigators on board, all plotting different courses - a modern-day Flying Dutchman.
Poor rural life
Sir - In the article by Wayne O'Connor on rural life (Sunday Independent, January 15), the general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union was on about the loss to rural people if the express buses were discontinued. Rural people get no service whatsoever from this set-up. It is a service from town to town or city. Many would have to travel five or six miles to a bus stop.
Then again, it's only one of many things rural people have not got, but have to subsidise. They have no street lighting, no footpaths, no cycle lanes and, of course, no water.
Patrick J Hanlon,
Baltinglass, Co Wicklow
Great Willie Casey
Sir - I read with interest Martin Fitzpatrick (Letters, Sunday Independent, January 15) regarding the great sports people that have passed away.
I was proud to see that he remembered the great Willie Casey from Ballina. Willie was a top-class, stylish footballer when football was football. May God be good to his soul.
Westport, Co Mayo
No tribute to Brian
Sir - I read your Sports Section (Sunday Independent, January 15), all 16 pages, which was excellent.
However, I was very surprised that there was no reference or tribute to Brian Fletcher, National Hunt jockey who has passed away. Surely he was the most successful Aintree Grand National winner of all time?
He won it three times, Red Alligator (1968) and Red Rum (1973, 1974).
Ballincollig, Co Cork
A divine duo
Sir - Whether it's smart or modern to say that we need divine help now, or not, we need a few more people like Ken Whitaker and Dermot Gallagher, RIP. Both were God-fearing, decent, highly intelligent persons who had a knack of bringing people together and were using honesty and common sense.
Cootehill, Co Cavan