The good Doctor Randles
Sir - I buy the Sunday Independent regularly, principally for the excellence of the articles by its regular columnists, particularly, but not only, Eoghan Harris, Eilis O'Hanlon, Miriam O'Callaghan, Declan Lynch and Brendan O'Connor.
Brendan has written many wonderful columns over the years, particularly when writing about Down syndrome, a subject close to his heart. His article (Sunday Independent, July 16) about Dr Paddy Randles should strike a chord with everyone who attended primary and secondary schools before 1982, when corporal punishment was banned in the schools. It is impossible to quantify the harm that barbarous practice had on boys and girls in their later lives.
The erosion of confidence and self-esteem, which resulted from it, will have led to many people not reaching their full potential. How many people have turned to drink and drugs and crime as a result? I believe that many of the leaders and entrepreneurs who have emerged in Irish society since its banning would not have done so had it not been for the banning.
Brendan was very correct in his article to point out that: "Paddy Randles believed that what went on in the school was sadism, pure and simple, and he believed it is what you get when you pick men at the age of 12 or 13 to become celibate teachers." It would be very wrong to blame such individuals for a system which was imposed on them by a very powerful authoritarian Church, backed up by the State.
When Dr Randles started his campaign to have corporal punishment banned in schools, he suffered the same form of vilification that Maurice McCabe and others did when highlighting injustices.
I should like to see a campaign to have Dr Paddy Randles nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Thurles, Co Tipperary
Sir - Regarding Brendan O'Connor's article on Dr Paddy Randles (Sunday Independent, July 16), those were the days of the dispensary practice; so doctors returned from England to what they thought was a promotion.
Ireland back then was so different to now; so backward in so many ways and the Church controlled everything, even education.
Navan, Co Meath in the 1960s saw Dr Randles and my father Dr John A Clarke running two competitive practices. My father, who had sat his exams in Irish, was assigned to the adjacent rural area which comprised Tara Hill, Ratoath, Trim, Ashbourne, and Dunshaughlin (where we lived in Belper, a very large, old, cold dispensary house) with patients visiting day and night.
I attended Loreto Convent in Navan, Co Meath. I remember vividly the day of the News of the World story revelations. My dad bought all newspapers in those days, including the News of the World. He also attended Synge Street Christian Brothers and his accounts of the abusive and physical violence left him scarred.
When I went to school the next day, I recall the Reverend Mother nun entering the classroom and the question was: ''Do any of your parents read that paper called the News of the World with the horrors of what it reported and how morally incorrect the reports were?"
At 10 years of age and because of the broader scope of my social education, I decided, since nobody else even knew what the News of the World was, that I would say nothing, too.
My father did not want my younger brother Shane to go to 'The Brothers' as it was referred to then. I think Dr Randles and a few others then decided to send their children to a local country school called Kentstown (you know the type - a large room divided in two with young children taught by one teacher and the older ones by the headmaster).
In those days, if you were bold, the headmaster ordered someone to get a branch off a tree and then you got a belt from that. My brother subsequently changed school and attended the national school in Castleknock - he never made any complaints about corporal punishment there. My recollection is Dr Randles and a few others set up their own school.
Brendan must be thanked for this article. The dispensary system of medicine was a tough one; a competitive one for geographic boundaries where doctors worked seven days a week with a half day off on Wednesday. Nobody talks about the mammoth work they did, night and day. To speak out on social injustices was not part of the agenda the system wanted.
Why were the sadists let loose in our schools?
Sir - Reading Brendan O'Connor's article on Dr Paddy Randles (Sunday Independent, July 16) brought back traumatic memories to me.
There is a man in my town, now in his 70s who - and especially after having a few drinks - describes his trauma at the savagery of a De La Salle Brother to him.
I remember at six years of age, because I accidentally spilt some ink, a Brother, a county footballer, racing across the classroom with his fist outstretched and delivering a full-fist blow to my face, knocking me out cold.
I was afraid to tell anyone at home.
If he did it on the football field he would be banned and anywhere else he would face court.
I was in the US in 1970 and one evening in a hotel bar in Springfield, Massachusetts, a waiter told me that there were a group of about 20 ladies over in a corner, who wished to speak to me. I went over and they told me they were teachers having a meeting and that they had recently seen a documentary on TV about corporal punishment, and in plain, simple language the thuggish savagery at schools in Ireland.
They asked me if it was true, or just more anti-Irish propaganda?
When I told them it was true they were astonished, telling me if they hit a child they would end up in the back of a police car handcuffed.
Why were all these sadists let loose on Irish schools?
Loughrea, Co Galway
The poisoning of majestic barn owls
Sir — Joe Kennedy presents some interesting observations on the life and death cycles of wild Irish birds in another perceptive and revealing article (Country Matters, Sunday Independent, July 16). By a strange irony he comments on the deaths of the majestic barn owls, poisoned by eating rats and mice which had, in turn, previously fed on rodenticide.
Perhaps the owls are fragile? Perhaps the rodenticide chemical is too potent? Perhaps there are too many rats? Perhaps the owls’ diet is too restrictive? Perhaps the rodenticide poison is too broad spectrum? Whatever the answers, it is a real travesty that a natural and effective rodent control process is being annihilated by mankind.
This contrasts greatly with his observations regarding the grey heron or “grey diceman”, a tough, mercurial predator bird which seems almost “inoculated” against dangers, both natural and man-made. It appears to be everywhere and will consume anything unlucky enough to be within striking distance of its deadly beak (including cats!). Once eaten by humans, with a taste described “like an old boot”, it is safe to say its numbers will continue to grow and flourish.
Move aside the wren, this is the real king of the birds!
Brilliance of Hold the Back Page
Sir — I have just read Eamonn Sweeney’s article (Hold the Back Page, Sport, Sunday Independent, July 16). It is one of the best pieces of journalism I have had the pleasure to read. I love reading his page.
“Joke fight has no funny punchline” was brilliant and I hope all your readers read it.
Devastation caused by alcohol abuse
Sir — I refer to two articles: ‘Alcohol advertising cuts would hit media’ (Sunday Independent, July 9) and ‘Lobbyists hammer our policymakers on alcohol laws’ (Sunday Independent, July 16). Both articles bring in to sharp focus the extent, size and influence of the drinks industry lobby in Ireland. Whilst this is not new news, who will shout stop, and when?
The human devastation caused by alcohol has been a blight on our society for countless years, and one that the Catholic Church has challenged for generations. Whether it was the mass temperance movement of the 19th century led by the Capuchin priest Father Theobald Mathew or the ongoing sterling work of over 50 years by Sister Consilio and the Cuan Mhuire residential treatment centres for people with addiction, the Church has sought in various ways to alleviate the incalculable suffering caused by drugs and alcohol to individuals and to their families.
After 20 years of service, our experience at parish level in the Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative is that alcohol continues to hold a tight grip on our national character. Even well-intentioned public policy can be trumped by its powerful influence. The fact that the Dail debate on the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 has now been deferred until the autumn exemplifies this point. The removal from this bill of a ban on sports sponsorship, limits on advertising, point-of-sales display controls and minimum pricing is of deep concern to us.
Irish society requires a public debate to discuss how and why alcohol has maintained such an influence on our culture, including an objective analysis of its effect.
We live in an era where the drinks industry’s well-resourced marketing and lobbying campaigns achieve huge success in identifying and influencing key target audiences, especially our young people. For example, up to recently, it was appalling to see young people playing sports with jerseys emblazoned with alcohol logos, effectively being used as beer mats by the industry. Such blatant promotion continues at an adult professional level.
In a similarly worrying way, the industry’s public relations strategies seek to disempower those working to decouple Ireland’s deep and troubled relationship with alcohol.
As for measuring the effect, the 1,500 hospital beds which are occupied nightly by patients with alcohol-related illnesses evidences the human damage whilst also placing an inordinate burden on our health service which itself is creaking at the seams.
When the drinks industry begins to invest its vast resources into addressing the actual damage caused to individuals by alcohol, only then will its supposed concern about consumption be taken more seriously.
Bishop Eamonn Walsh,
Vice-chair, Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative,
Columnists like Eoghan needed
Sir — I take issue with those who want Eoghan Harris to lay off Sinn Fein and the terrible Trots (Letters, Sunday Independent, July 16). We need columnists to counter the dominance of the hard left on our airwaves.
I’ll miss Vincent Browne but one gets tired of his bombastic leftist ideology and constant call for higher taxation — especially with his own high salary.
It’s enough to make me want to scuttle over to sup some tea with the Libertarians across the pond and join the chorus of ‘taxation is theft’.
Dr Stephen J Costello,
New challenges for Taoiseach Varadkar
Sir — It is encouraging to know Taoiseach Leo Varadkar keeps a picture of Sean Lemass in his office (Sunday Independent, July 16) as a reminder of how Lemass recognised changing economics of the post-war period and how he positioned Ireland to adapt and benefit from what was happening.
Sadly, however, the interview gives no indication that Varadkar understands what is happening to economic activity in the early 21st Century or that he even realises how critical it is to reposition Ireland to benefit from the positive aspects of the greatest economic change ever experienced by the human race, and how detrimental it will be to go totally unprepared into an entirely transformed economic era.
Five decades ago, the Taoiseach had the advantage of just having to lead Ireland towards participation in an historic economic system which was just gaining momentum towards enormous growth and improved prosperity. Ireland gained immensely from Mr Lemass’s foresight.
Mr Varadkar has a much more onerous task as he has to lead us into an entirely changed economic environment, one where the prospect of success or failure is governed by unprecedented technological ability which renders many of the old rules of economics unworkable and counter-productive.
Mr Varadkar, as one of the youngest national leaders in the world, must understand how greatly modern economics are changed and how a philosophy which evolved in very different times is finding great difficulty in administering the new situation. A concentration of wealth and power into fewer and fewer hands is being allowed while increasing millions are abandoned to insecurity and possible penury.
Ireland is a very small country which apparently defies the concept of minimal growth and reducing employment. Much of its apparent success is by many multi-nationals operating through Irish channels to minimise tax and recently the whole concept of substantial economic growth and increased national income is being questioned. The Irish economy will not be able to avoid the economic difficulties of the world. Ireland still carries an influential punch much above its weight, however, and if it seriously began to consider and debate new technological economics and how to adapt to them, it could bring an entirely new enlightened argument to Brussels which might get the EU and others to reconsider their understanding of the present situation.
This might lead to development of policy adequate to administer this wonderful, new and abundant economic miracle where there is more than enough for everyone and where no one needs to work very hard anymore. This is an awesome task but perhaps if Mr Varadkar thoroughly understood the changes wrought on economics by technological genius and put his mind to it, he might be the person to see it through.
Tubbercurry, Co Sligo
Trademark clarity and accuracy
Sir — Once again, Eilis O’Hanlon (Sunday Independent, July 16) nails an issue with her trademark clarity and accuracy.
The far left represent a small but extremely vocal minority. It is easy to attribute more importance to them than they deserve, not least because they enjoy strong support in academia and the media. Eilis O’Hanlon shines a merciless light on how so much of the left-wing narrative depends on existing in a narcissistic, self-affirming echo chamber and nowhere is this more apposite than in the increasingly intolerant academic space.
Gene Kerrigan’s cant and harrumphing on the exact same issue merely acts as a useful contrast that emphasises the brilliance of Ms O’Hanlon’s piece.