The older the fiddle
Sir - I have read Sarah Caden's article on Rupert Murdoch's marriage plans to Jerry Hall (Sunday independent, January 17) making no sense to her. Why should it - she is not marrying him! She also states the age thing and that Rupert Murdoch is 84. "I can't think of a good reason why any person of 84 would want to get married. Other than to prove something," she says.
The cheek of her. I was 63 when I married my merry widower of 83 just two years ago. And, my God, we are ecstatically happy.
Peter, my husband, was National Carer of 2012 and won Kildare Carer of the year too and Leinster Carer as well. I nominated him in writing a good story of his kindness, love and care of his two disabled boys and for also caring for his sick wife for years before she died. I met him by being sent to him by the Carers' Association as a health professional to help him care for his sons and to give him some space for himself to do things.
As regards her comment "And it's hardly for sex. We all accept that sexual activity lasts longer than anyone under 30 cares to contemplate - until they get older and the goalposts move - but 84?" So Sarah Caden points out that Rupert and Jerry are past it. Let me remind you of the old saying "The older the fiddle the sweeter the tune".
Terry Healy, Kill, Co Kildare
Great care from the HSE
Sir - I know a lot of people have very genuine complaints and issues with the HSE but this was our experience.
My husband died recently, he was almost 89 years old. He had been in failing health for some time. As his condition worsened we sought help. Our GP was ever attentive and then the public health nurse, followed by the palliative care team and the occupational therapists did everything that could be done for Tom.
Any medium that could help him, any aid, from a commode to a hoist was provided quickly and efficiently. At the end, though the efforts of his GP and consultant, he was admitted to the ICU in St Vincent's Hospital, where the care he got at all levels of staff could only be describe as exceptional.
He ended his life peacefully without pain or struggle. Our grateful thanks are again to all concerned.
Violet Dowzard, Greystones, Co Wicklow
Rights and wrongs of incarceration
Sir - I was furious with Fintan O'Toole's recent article in the Irish Times on David Drumm's incarceration in the US.
Delighted to see Eilis O'Hanlon's follow up article (Sunday Independent, January 17). Fintan O'Toole would be better served writing an equally lengthy and detailed article about the continued and unjustified imprisonment of Ibrahim Halawa in Egypt.
I would encourage Irish people not to holiday in Egypt or buy their goods and flood the Egyptian Embassy in Dublin with letters of protest. The Government has been mealy-mouthed and weak in their response to this blatant denial of human rights and ought to be ashamed of themselves.
The continued unjustified jailing of Ibrahim Halawa, an Irish citizen, ought to be an election issue. If this man is not released after the next hearing in March, Ireland should unceremoniously eject the Egyptian ambassador.
John Cronin, Wexford
John Bruton and the 1916 Rising
Sir - On so many levels, John Bruton is wrong on the issue of Home Rule (Sunday Independent, January 17) and why we as a nation should celebrate it in this year of the 1916 Rising commemorations.
He says that "conscription was not imposed on Ireland during the Great War. . . all the Irish who fought in the Great War were volunteers. . . John Redmond's 1914 decision to support voluntary recruitment was made for a number of reasons, one which was that Home Rule had just been passed into law".
While conscription may not have been imposed on Ireland like it was in Britain, the 'voluntary recruitment' Mr Bruton uses as a means of explaining the difference was not exactly voluntary, given that thousands of Irishmen were forced to join the British Army because of a lack of work prospects at home, as they had been for as long as Ireland was ruled by Britain. Irishmen had no place offering themselves as cannon fodder for British Army campaigns on the Western Front or in Gallipoli because this was not their war.
Home Rule had not "just been passed into law", it was suspended when the war broke out, the intention being it was to remain so until the war ended. Mr Bruton also portrays John Redmond as a shrewd and capable politician, willing to use the threat of "precipitating a general election to achieve his goal - the passage of Home Rule into law". He was a naive innocent whose mistake was to play by the rules laid down by the British political establishment who fobbed him off with a limited concession they never actually granted him.
By contrast, when Edward Carson and the Ulster Unionists threatened to resist Home Rule by force, the British were conspicuous by the restraint they used in bringing them into line, in contrast with their heavy-handed response to the Easter Rising. The Unionists were granted their security despite threatening to take up arms against a king they proclaimed loyalty to.
Mr Bruton also says "Britain had an obligation to defend the neutrality of Belgium when it was invaded by Imperial Germany". Again he is selective in his analysis here. British defence of neutral Belgium was a strategic imperative in keeping with how Britain conducted its diplomacy. For more than 400 years it had schemed to prevent whatever continental power it was at war with, be it Spain, Napoleonic France or Imperial Germany from becoming dominant in Europe so the British can hardly be credited with altruism here.
Mr Bruton is trying to sell us a myth that Home Rule was won in principle. It was suspended in the name of political expediency and never came into being. The 1916 Rising may have been badly planned and ultimately a failure, but it set in motion the events that would see Ireland eventually win its independence. In the centenary commemoration we should acknowledge the sacrifices made by the leaders and rejoice.
Robert Byrne, Malahide Road, Dublin 13
Sir - John Bruton (Sunday Independent, January 17) holds the hypothesis that Home Rule would, if implemented, have led to the form of democracy we possess today. This assessment goes fully against the historical experience of our nation. Ireland was 'granted' Home Rule three times but our suffrage was denied by the veto of the House of Lords.
I believe, given recent Scottish conundrums in evolving to full nationhood, Ireland's chances historically were zero. Yes, the Rising may not qualify the strict criteria of a 'just war' but the fact remains that without the bravery and patriotism of Easter 1916 Ireland would in all likelihood still be denied her nationhood. As Winston Churchill put it, Ireland is not a daughter state but a mother nation.
The Rising, contrary to Mr Bruton's theory, had a very dramatic effect. It guaranteed that many thousands of innocent lives were spared due to the change in Irish public opinion after the executions against conscription. Indeed, in this respect, the Rising saved lives.
One point of history needs to be acknowledged. The Rising was an IRB operation. Ascribing any significance to Arthur Griffith's Sinn Fein betrays an appalling ignorance of our history. Mr Bruton is in effect handing all the vision, bravery and fundamental patriotism of the women and men of 1916 over to contemporary groups who are thus enabled to gleefully take possession of our bedrock inheritance in a lie akin to the Big Lie of Goebbels of Nazi Germany.
Philip John Griffin, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16
Sir - In his article ('Independence in principle was won in 1914', Sunday Independent, January 17), replying to Gene Kerrigan, John Bruton describes criticism of John Redmond's recruitment speeches as "questionable".
He makes a point of stating that recruitment at the time was "voluntary", therefore acceptable, and he justifies Redmond's passionate call on young volunteers to head to the trenches, on the grounds that France and Britain were defending "neutral" Belgium.
Mr Bruton then contrasts Redmond's stance with that of the 1916 rebels, who he blames for the deaths during the Rising, particularly of the "involunteers".
In this he misses a crucial part of the argument, that is that between 27,000 and 40,000 Irishmen were killed in World War I. Their lives were just as important as those of the 485 killed in the Rising. The reason for the Rising was to break Ireland free from the British Empire, so that Irishmen would no longer be cannon fodder every time Britain went to war.
Young volunteers signed up in their tens of thousands because Redmond called on them to do so in his Woodenbridge appeal. He told them: "It would be a disgrace forever to our country and a reproach to her manhood . . . if young Ireland confined their efforts to remaining at home." He then boasted of the "magnificent material of soldiers around me" and told them to "account" for themselves.
Mr Bruton also states that there was no conscription in Ireland because of "mass agitation, not because of violence in Dublin two years earlier".
But much of that mass agitation was organised by the swelling volunteer and Sinn Fein organisation that grew as a direct result of the Rising.
The claim that Redmond was not a meddler but "a tough negotiator" does not gel with the portrayal of him by Ronan Fanning, a historian held in high regard in both the Sunday Independent and Fine Gael, in his fine book on the London government's activities at the time, Fatal Path.
There is no doubt that Redmond was sincere in his belief in and support for the empire - his own brother Willie was killed in the war - but knowing what we now know, is Mr Bruton right to define it as a 'just' war?
Celebrating the Rising is not some kind of blithe endorsement of violence as opposed to democratic means. It is an acknowledgment that in a time of military control those men and women put their lives on the line for the ideals of the Proclamation.
It is their sacrifice and those ideals that we are celebrating.
Joe Walsh, Clondalkin, Dublin
One man bands
Sir - Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, January 17) relays to us the words of eminent Jesuit priest Seamus Murphy SJ who tells us that Pearse and Co had destroyed the Irish Parliamentary Party just as the Provos had destroyed the SDLP.
Whatever about the Irish Parliamentary Party - who it might be said have come to the fore again in mainstream Irish politics, particularly during the Northern Troubles - only a careless observer would suggest that the SDLP were destroyed by the Provos.
It might be said that the Provos reinstated the IPP in the South and made the SDLP strong in the North. The problem for the SDLP was that it had relied heavily on the vote pulling energies of John Hume and the party was almost a one man band in that respect, with only Seamus Mallon having a credible profile in the media.
When John Hume effectively retired in 1998 amid health problems, the party was inevitably on a downhill journey.
When John Hume and Seamus Mallon both retired from the leadership in 2001, the remainder of the party had a very low profile.
During these years, Sinn Fein were growing and growing, led by a man who might also, even now, be regarded as a one man band, Gerry Adams.
Since John Hume's retirement, the SDLP has yet to provide a leader who would match Gerry Adams.
Indeed, south of the border other parties are having similar problems.
But rest assured, Gerry Adams' demise, as for John Hume and the SDLP, will leave a party, who like the SDLP, has relied too heavily on one man, in a state of great difficulty.
And Sinn Fein's difficulty will be the SDLP's opportunity. People will wonder then what they were voting for.
John O'Connell, Derry
David Bowie and an ocean of tears
Sir - After an article by Brendan O'Connor (Sunday Independent, January 17) I sometimes wonder about him.
Two things bothered me about his article on David Bowie. Number one was when he wrote of the morning he heard the dreadful news of David's death: he emerged from the sea after a swim - this is mid-January
Brendan continued. He sat in his car and the radio came on. He was still "confused and addled" after his swim. He wondered why they were playing Bowie records. He then switched stations and discovered that the great showman was indeed dead.
Brendan got very sad. He drove off, but then broke down at some traffic lights and started crying. Crying. I presume he was still "addled" after the swim, or "confused".
I know that if I swam in the Irish Sea in January - or July - I'd probably be ready to cry after coming out of the freezing waters. And if I heard over the radio that even Kim Jong-un or someone like that had just expired, I'd probably burst into a flood of tears also, if only to take my mind off the freezing cold.
Anyway, I do hope Brendan gets over the awful shock of swimming in the sea, and David Bowie's death.
Holly Barrett, Mallow, Co Cork
Sir - In respect to the recent sad death of David Bowie may I share what my favourite story of his is? It is not one of his own, but a 'cover' version of The Little Drummer Boy in a duet with Bing Crosby. I think the single came out in December 1982 and made No. 3 in the UK charts.
What fascinates me is the inspired if unlikely juxtaposition of two very different personalities and voice. Bing was Straight Down the Middle, as the title of his golfing song says. He even died playing golf, his final words being: "That was a great round, fellas!" He was the uncrowned king of Middle America and Middle Ireland.
Bowie by contrast was bisexual and avant garde. The only guard Bing knew was Garda Richard Farrelly who wrote The Isle of Innisfree, a lovely song. I also love some other Bing songs, like McNamara's Band and Believe Me of All Those Endearing Young Charms.
I also like a lot of David's songs - the one that resonates most for me is China Girl. A "Dancing Queen" in a cabaret club, I used to go to on trips to London and would dance to it. I spent many happy hours there. My epitaph for Bing and Bowie - they played their best for Him and for us.
Hugh Owens, Douglas, Cork
Humour is a rarity
Sir - I buy your newspaper every Sunday because I enjoy reading your talented columnists, such as Gene Kerrigan, Eilis O'Hanlon, Colm McCarthy, Declan Lynch, and Jody Corcoran, to mention but a few. Your sports coverage is also great; indeed, Joe Brolly excelled himself last week ('Who needs life coaches when GAA teams are full of them?', Sunday Independent, January 17).
What made this article stand out was that it was written with great humour, a rarity nowadays.
And that is what spurred me to put pen to paper.
I accept the fact that it is not the job of those serious writers to pen humourous articles, but could not their contributions be leavened every Sunday with some clever and witty commentators on everyday life?
I recall with nostalgia writers such as Charles Lamb ('On eating roast pig'') or John D Sheridan ('My hat blew off'), who would regale us every week with witty observations on everyday events. Another in the same vein was Myles na gCopaleen.
Wars and disasters were always occurring when those writers entertained us - just as now - but their articles had a wonderful bonding effect because they were food for conversation and people would be reminded of similar events in their own lives.
Humour has the ability to elevate our everyday lives to something sublime and transcendent, so let us have more of the likes of Joe Brolly!
Bill Silke, Grattan Road, Galway