The terrible states of fear
Sir - I read the article about Dr Randles and the letters in reply (Sunday Independent, July 16 and 23).
I, too, suffered corporal punishment at the hands of the Christian Brothers, but I am now mature enough to know that they were not entirely to blame. At that, time young boys were very much under the control of their mothers and we all know that to have a priest or brother in the family raised the status of that family in the community.
But I write about another feature of our society at that time. As well as corporal punishment we had to endure an even worse matter.
As a young boy or girl it was instilled into us at a very early age that if you were a bad person you would end up in hell, and out of hell there was no redemption. It was for eternity. That was if you were not in the state of grace when you died. There were three types of sin: Venial (you only went to Purgatory; Mortal (you went to hell; and Sacrilege (you were a goner). The trouble was it was impossible to tell the difference. It was, after all, very important.
This introduced a young person to terrible fear and terror which was a very controlling influence.
It was wrong and it destroyed many a good life.
Today, I am still a Catholic, but I try to be honest with myself and I now accept all that is good about my Church and reject all that is bad.
Salute to daily ascent of many
Sir - Please allow me today, 'Reek Sunday', to salute all those faithful men, women and children, many of whom may have been unable to travel to Co Mayo today for the traditional climb, yet who continue to make the more arduous daily ascent up that "inner mountain" of living the Catholic faith in our modern world.
In full knowledge of the sins of the Church, so thoroughly documented and for all to see now, they have not lost sight of the great good that has been achieved. In the face of a general public amnesia and media reluctance to acknowledge the force for good that the Catholic faith has been in Irish society, they continue their pilgrim way up the increasingly steep gradient of weekly Mass and reception of the sacraments.
They struggle to pray for all, especially for those who "persecute them, abuse them and speak all kinds of calumny against them" on account of their faith - often, sadly, from within the intimate circle of their own family, friends or workmates.
Yet despite the great pressure to the contrary, they do not lose sight of the great good achieved by the Church, the huge majority of good priests, the selflessness of most of our religious and of most of our bishops, and indeed the holiness of the Catholic Church that continues to offer Christ to us all.
I salute them and rejoice with the Church in their faithful and courageous witness, of which St Patrick must indeed be proud.
Fr Freddy Warner SMA, Portumna
Sins of Fr Brendan
Sir - Hell, we can't judge, but supposing we were asked. I think that scary, horrible, leering-sneering Fr Brendan Smyth (Sunday Independent, July 23) admitted his sins against God and offences against persons and against Church laws before he died. What if he was really sick and his brain cells faulty?
The poor, innocent children suffered so much, but I think those in power and knew of all that should have reported to gardai or whoever.
No, I won't dare to judge, but it makes one shudder to think how such pain the victims suffered could be hidden.
Challenges facing today's pensioners
Sir - Dan O'Brien (Analysis, Sunday Independent, July 23) claims that the over-65s in Ireland are "detached from the realities faced by the young". I would argue that pensioners are very aware indeed of the plight of young adults, as many of them provide free childcare, income subsidies and often a home to their adult children and their families.
The pensioners of today faced their own challenges 30 to 50 years ago. Unemployment, emigration and high interest rates were often the norm. Homes were commonly furnished with second-hand goods, and frugal living was part of everyday life. Foreign holidays were a rarity. The marriage ban forced many women to give up careers and households struggled on one income. Third-level education was a privilege that only few could avail of, and social welfare was not the cushion it is now. Compulsory social insurance was only introduced in Ireland in 1974, and few benefits were available to current pensioners during their earlier years of struggle. As children, many of them were reared in genuine poverty. The Celtic Tiger years have created a changed sense of what normal standards of living should include.
Pensioners have no further opportunity to improve their living standards, or to amass further income or wealth. For Dan O'Brien to imply that they enjoy a life of comfort, untouched by the difficulties of the young, must be insulting to those who worked hard for what they have. He is creating the intergenerational divisions that he speaks of.
All social welfare payments were protected during the economic crisis, not just old-age pensions. It could be argued then, that in terms of income, all social welfare dependants enjoyed the luxury of maintaining their standard of living, not just pensioners.
Considering that the State has already, under the guise of a levy, plundered the pension funds of those who sacrificed current income to save for their own retirement, I would be interested in knowing how Dan O'Brien thinks we should proceed to address the intergenerational situation. Steal more money from pensioners while they worry about an uncertain future and about who will care for them in their final years?
If the young of today become the wealthy of tomorrow, will they too be expected to hand it over to the State and retire in poverty?
There is no denying the hardships facing young adults. Zero-hour contracts, lack of employment security and pensions, and unaffordable housing are all commonplace. These are the result of bad government policy decisions, and lack of proper planning.
Policy is to blame, not our pensioners.
The shame of hospital parking
Sir - Some years ago my father passed away in Waterford hospital and I spent a lot of time visiting him, each time paying a €3 parking fee. I was disgusted as the charge was - taxing the sick and the people who try to comfort them, but I had more important things on my mind.
I recently had to take my son to Cork hospital and I had to pay a €10.50 parking fee. Had I been any longer I would have had to pay €15.50. These are public hospitals owned by us, the public. Shame on those who came up with idea. Shame on those who implemented it, but most of all shame on us for accepting it.
Tramore, Co Waterford
Mixed legacy of 'prophet' Conor
Sir - Eoghan Harris's statement (Sunday Independent, July 23) regarding Conor Cruise O'Brien being a prophet without honour in his own country, is, to put it mildly, a bit over the top. This same prophet failed to demonstrate even common sense while serving in Jadotville and we all know the consequences of his rash judgments there. His skills as an orator may not be in any doubt, nor his use of the English language, but his ability as a diplomat was abysmal and costly in the extreme.
O'Brien may well be a hero to Eoghan; however, a little research might at least lessen that affection.
Cruise O'Brien's questioning
Sir - I found the article by Eoghan Harris on my late friend Conor Cruise O'Brien very thought-provoking (Sunday Independent, July 23).
During the unfolding of the Peace Process, Eoghan often phoned me to discuss it and to say what a great service to this island Conor was providing in his newspaper articles, in which he questioned the moral foundation on which it was all being built.
Conor once described me as his comrade, which surprised me as I thought he might regard me as a member of his little platoon that he mentioned in his great biography of Edmund Burke, The Great Melody.
Harold's Cross, Dublin
Gene Kerrigan gets straight to point
Sir - I just wanted to say how much I enjoy Gene Kerrigan's articles. Gene manages to get straight to the point on any topic he covers. His articles give a sincere understanding of the frustrations that the ordinary person experiences at the hands of the establishment (Sunday Independent, July 23).
He is not afraid to say it as it is and call out those who think they can fool the public.
I look forward to many more inspiring articles.
Broadcaster needs more equality
Sir - If the national broadcaster is to introduce equality then it should not end with matters of pay but also address its recruiting policies.
West of Ireland and other Irish-language speakers dominate, although they represent only about 15pc of the population. TG4 and other Gaelic broadcasters are being used as back-door vehicles for broadcast careers (in English).
Let's halt the "I come from a small farm in the west of Ireland" tradition and replace it equally with "I come from a large working-class PAYE housing estate in Dublin, Cork or Limerick".
It's embarrassing to hear well-known broadcasters, who do not speak fluent Irish, trying to keep on the right side of the powerful Gaelic-speaking lobby at RTE by mumbling the odd work in Irish.
Those of us who do not speak Irish as a first language are equal and worthy citizens as well.
Harry Mulhern, Dublin
Plight of living near wind farms
Sir - The lives of rural dwellers who live close to wind farms are increasingly affected by large turbines which are allowed to be built as close as 500m from their residences.
This is the inevitable outcome of the changes to the planning guidelines for wind farm development, announced by Minister Simon Coveney on June 13.
The increasing number of people who are forced to live adjacent to wind farms are well aware of the deficiencies in the planning system that has allowed developers to ride rough shod over the rights of local residences.
In many instances, people are denied the right to have a decent night's sleep, uninterrupted by excessive turbine noise, to watch television with signal interference and to live a normal and healthy life in the confines of their own home in the natural environment that they were born and raised in.
It's incomprehensible that this is happening in a country with a total of 62 uninhabited islands around its coastline.
In many instances they would be ideal locations for wind farm development
Sadism and legacy of Dr Paddy Randles
Sir - Reading Brendan O'Connor's thought-provoking article on the late Dr Paddy Randles (Sunday Independent, July 16), the words jumped off the page at me. Brendan, you hit the nail on the head. It [violence against children] happened in all schools in Ireland at that time. You also stated that Paddy Randles believed that what went on was 'sadism', pure and simple.
In my eyes, when a so-called "teacher" beat children on a daily basis he had failed as a teacher.
Those of us who survived school in the 1960s have memories of the big stick if the catechism or the Irish could not be sung off like a parrot.
The late and great Minister for Education John Boland banned corporal punishment in schools in 1982. Shortly afterwards, one little girl stood up and stated in school: "Sir, you cannot beat us any more, it is illegal." How brave and how sad!
Brendan goes on to state Paddy Randles's only crime - in the eyes of some of his neighbours - was to dare to stand up to the Church, not an easy or a popular thing to do in Ireland in 1969.
Brendan, move to the top of the class, for a brilliant article. Yes, the physical scars are long gone, but we will take the mental scars to the grave.
Trojan work of the great doctor
Sir - I have read Brendan O'Connor's article 'Saluting the legacy of a great doctor' (Sunday Independent, July 16).
What a great article. Sincere, honest, to the point. And what a great doctor, who did trojan work to expose the abuse of corporal punishment.
The religious weren't the only perpetrators of corporal punishment. Some lay teachers in primary and second level schools were also guilty of severe physical punishment of pupils under their care.
My son was severely beaten several times. We were aware that 'Mr Heavyhand' was a bully, but were afraid to complain.
Discipline was severe, callous. The fear must have been horrific.
Can you imagine the emotional scars? It was completely out of balance with the offences. The barbarity perpetrated by those teachers is inexplicable, unconscionable.
I myself was a primary teacher for 40 years - the last 10 as a principal.
I can vouch that I respected each pupil under my care with kindness and dignity. I hope they have happy memories of me.
Name & address with the Editor
National heroes of education system
Sir - Noel Kennedy (Letters, Sunday Independent, July 23) says he would like to see the schools campaigner Dr Paddy Randles nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Unfortunately, the good things that by right should happen in the future may not really turn out to happen in practice for a very long time. But if that really did happen, then both Dr Paddy Randles and John Boland (the former education minister who banned corporal punishment in Irish schools in 1982) should both become national heroes, just like Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins.
In fact, that special year of 1982 when school teachers stopped physically hurting children should be recognised as just as important as 1916 as a turning point in our history.
For just a moment in an early episode of the comedy series Father Ted, Fr Jack is shown kicking a student on the floor. In that short moment on TV, most of Ireland found itself laughing at the pathetic and harmful school corporal punishment system that was in force for too many years.
No one, real culprit was singled out on that show but a whole dreadful system of abusing children was, if only for a brief time, made a laughing stock. It was a cruel, out-of-control system nurtured in an age of darkness.
The system of strong teachers tormenting the weak students seemed to be unstoppable until John Boland intervened.
Kilrush, Co Clare