Sir — There was a time, pre-Covid, when we were all getting younger, when 60 was ‘the new 50’, and it was still OK to have a midlife crisis at 55. And then along came the pandemic.
While we were distracted by lockdown and keeping everyone at a two-metre distance, society, it appears, surreptitiously recalibrated our biological clocks. Fifty-plusers mutated into a demographic cohort in the final throes of physical and mental decline, haunted by the fear that their ventilators could, at any minute, be switched off.
Like many of the ills to have emerged from the pandemic, the perception of 50 being the new 70 is one that has continued to steadily gain momentum.
In post-pandemic Ireland, research recently revealed that 90pc of workers believe being over 55 has increasingly become an issue when searching for employment.
It could be argued that much of this is based on perception and how we interpret the way we are treated by others. But, perhaps, therein lies the point. When it comes to ageism (and age), reality and perception are never too far apart.
As the saying goes: “You’re only as old as you feel.” And right now many 50-plusers (like myself) are feeling old, and — let’s be honest — vulnerable, as a result of what we have experienced and witnessed during the pandemic.
With the concept of ‘mature cool’ now firmly confined to the dustbin of pre-2020 history, we are finding it hard to recast ourselves in a post-Covid landscape that grows ever harsher and more unfamiliar by the day. Is it any surprise we have developed an exaggerated sensitivity to the ageing process, the merest glimpse of a grey hair being enough to plunge us into an acute state of existential angst?
Ironically, while many of us in the 50-65 age bracket are struggling to come to terms with a newly aged identity, our elders seem to be making an
altogether better fist of it — none more so than our beloved octogenarian President, Michael D.
Whether speaking out fearlessly in support of refugees from Ukraine or warmly greeting rugby players from Toulouse, the wee man born in Limerick displays the same gusto and graciousness as he did when he first stepped out onto the turf at Lansdowne Road 12 years ago — a remarkable achievement in an era characterised by perpetual change.
Gerry Coyle, Downings, Co Donegal
Sir — Eilis O’Hanlon does not mince her words, and may be guilty of generalisations about why people marched in Dublin last week in solidarity with those seeking asylum here — but she has a point in suggesting that many saw it as an opportunity to criticise those in government and anyone who does not agree with them.
In an ideal world there would be no war, no persecution and no poverty — but the reality is that until we have a fairer distribution of wealth, we will have many economic migrants who are desperate to have a better life.
While we must provide shelter for the most vulnerable people who need protection, we still need effective border controls to combat illegal immigration — or else we may play into the hands of the minority who want no more immigrants to enter Ireland despite their circumstances.
If we remain true to our historic values of care and respect for others, we should be able to strike a fair balance on the issue of immigration.
Frank Browne, Templeogue, Dublin 16
Sir — As I’m an Irish citizen and live in a democracy, I have the right to express my opinions on subjects that concern me.
I can also take part in a peaceful protest. It’s my right.
So why do I feel that these rights are being eroded? When did it become unacceptable to express an opinion on a subject? Why do I feel that if I take part in a peaceful protest I will be labelled a racist? If I feel strongly about something, then I’d like to think that I am free to comment.
Current media reporting is discouraging people from expressing their opinions. This was especially noticeable on last Sunday’s Brendan O’Connor radio show on RTÉ Radio 1, when panellist Karl Dieter tried to put forward his view on a protest that had taken place in Dublin the previous Saturday.
RTÉ obviously did not approve of what he was trying to say and he was promptly gagged.
We need to be able to express our opinions on various matters that concern us and not be labelled far right or racist.
Teresa Kane, Leixlip, Co Kildare
Sir — Firstly it’s important to say that I’ve been a U2 fan for as long as I can remember. My older siblings were fans. U2 songs are a soundtrack to my life. I was born the year Boy was released. I first saw them in 1997 in Lansdowne Road.
Having defended Bono and Co on many an occasion, I feel entitled to comment now.
The definition of success for U2 is no longer in creating music. It’s being successful in monetary terms. Maybe that’s always been the in the mix, and that’s fine.
They were once heroes of mine, but now I just see salesmen for an already-outrageously wealthy corporation. I’m not saying it’s inappropriate to make large amounts of money — I’m saying it’s inappropriate to unashamedly go back for more on a third time re-sell in their forthcoming Las Vegas residency.
This is the real rub. This is what pushed me to write this.
U2 are going on the road again — without Larry Mullen.
A man known for his candour and directness now has the Edge and Bono speaking on his behalf. All is not right. And something tells me that Larry is well able to speak his mind as to how supportive or not he is of the band heading off to play without him.
The timing is intriguing. Back operation or not, Larry has been sidelined and silenced to meet commercial objectives.
Lads, know when your belly is full. Some of your kids — Levi Evans, son of the Edge, and Eli Hewson, son of Bono — are now making music. So why not compete with them and at the very least record some new material?
From what I have heard of the three reworked tracks on U2’s forthcoming Songs of Surrender, it sounds like someone taking a butcher’s cleaver to great songs.
Do a few nights in McGrory’s in Culdaff or the Spirit Store in Dundalk.
Surrender to that.
Pearse Doherty, Co Monaghan
Sir — The advert says that “AIB backs belief”. That appears to be the case regarding a well-known retired inter-county hurler. To have nearly €9.5m written off your debts is some backing.
The last time I looked, the State (on our behalf) held 57pc of the shares in AIB. On that basis, who in AIB had the authority to write off the debt in this, and indeed in other high-profile cases?
Like many thousands of Irish people, I got my mortgage from AIB and scrimped in the tough times to make repayments (once cashing in a portion of my pension to do so). However, in 2020, I proudly paid off the final part of my mortgage.
A week later, a letter from AIB came though my door. Naively, I thought a bank official had dropped me a line, congratulating me on meeting my commitments in full. Not a bit of it.
Instead, the letter said AIB would be taking €60 as a fee for releasing my title deeds.
Thousands of us discharge our commitments in full, others have millions written off.
Brendan Hogan, Kilmore, Co Wexford
Sir — Last week I read that the Central Statistics Office now reckons the number of Irish pensioners living in poverty has increased to 66,000.
These are mostly the people who left school at 15 to work for up to 50 years and pay income tax at rates of up to 65pc. The people who struggled to pay mortgages with interest rates of 16.5pc, who could never afford a holiday, but were told by government to tighten their belts as they were living beyond their means.
These same pensioners, some of who own their own homes, now cannot afford to heat them — but are still required to pay property tax, or have it deducted from their meagre pension.
The one-off payments of course were a help, but inflation and the cost-of-living crisis has taken its toll on the people who worked so hard to build this State.
Brian Lube, Co Meath
Sir — The war in Ukraine, now one year old, has posed some tough questions about what Irish neutrality means.
Early in the war, we saw our former ‘neutrals in arms’ Finland and Sweden apply to join Nato. Early on, too, we indicated that while we were neutral, we were not politically neutral — so how many shelves are there in our neutrality ‘cupboard’.
Is there a shelf for economics, or for religion? And is there a weighting as to what shelf might hold the trump card?
There certainly is a shelf marked ‘military’ which would seem to hold that card.
There’s the matter of us providing €77m in support to Ukraine, through the EU, that must be confined to non-lethal supports such as medical supplies, body armour, shelters and fuel, prompting the absurd image of some EU civil servant certifying the ‘Irish spend for Ukraine’.
Finally, last week the Government approved a decision to send 30 Irish soldiers to help train Ukrainian fighting forces in countries such as Poland.
In addressing whether this might compromise our neutrality, Tánaiste Micheál Martin stated: “Our military neutrality is defined — we’re not members of Nato and we’re not members of an EU common defence pact.”
It’s as narrow a definition as I’ve heard. Irish neutrality is still very much a case of ‘whatever you’re having yerself’ — and we continue to get away with it… so no need for change, I guess.
Michael Gannon, St Thomas’s Square, Kilkenny
Sir — Instead of framing action on trans healthcare (Sunday Independent, February 19) around a personal commitment Mary Butler made in response to one email from one member of the general public, it should actually be seen as the Junior Health Minister responding in line with Programme for Government commitments.
These aim to create and implement a general health policy for trans people, based on a best-practice model for care, in line with the World Professional Association of Transgender Health.
Mark Tighe’s reporting is remiss to simply state there are competing models of care without this clarification. By failing to provide this context, it could misleadingly be misinterpreted as a junior minister who happens to have a trans child doing a solo run on this issue.
Brian Dineen, Clontarf, Dublin 3
Sir — So the word “fat” is now considered derogatory and was due to be replaced with “enormous” in Roald Dahl’s books.
Really? How delightful to be described as enormous. We have a well-documented proportion of the population suffering from obesity and yet we’re supposed to pretend it doesn’t exist. Good luck with that logic. Nothing like sticking one’s head in the sand to sort out a problem.
Oscar Wilde’s phrase “the love that dare not speak its name” comes to mind, but it’s probably opportune to now replace love with reality.
Aileen Hooper, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7
Sir — The sheer depravity of the criminals who attempted to murder PSNI officer John Caldwell in front of children must be condemned by all.
The blame for the shooting of this off-duty police officer, who was coaching U-15 footballers in Omagh, must be laid at the feet of those cowardly terrorists.
But the dogged refusal of Northern parties to participate in Stormont has created a power vacuum that allows a space for extremists from both sides.
We’ve seen it before — when Stormont isn’t functioning, terrorists leap in to take advantage of the instability and put their criminal stamp on society.
Christy Galligan, Letterkenny, Co Donegal
Sir — “Does anyone get past the first few pages?” asks Ciara Kelly in your Life supplement last week. She’s referring to James Joyce’s Ulysses in a piece about Glasgow University issuing a “trigger warning” on the perceived sexual explicitness of the novel, no doubt fearing a consequent campus full of aroused students.
But what roused me in this instance is Kelly’s suggestion that anyone who can read Ulysses is a rare bird indeed. There is a note, too, of the kind of odd pride so many Irish people take in what they have not achieved.
She then suggests that the “new Bolsheviks” may demand a rewrite of the “bloody book” with Bloom “as a signed up member of Woke-us Dei”. But if she hasn’t read the book (past the first few pages, where Bloom is not present), how is she acquainted with him at all?
Many Irish people have read Ulysses. It is a very funny book. To suggest a certain camaraderie in being unable to read beyond the first few pages is just silly.
Fred Johnston, Circular Road, Galway
Sir — Hugh O’Connell’s article regarding Denis Naughten was quite insightful and revealing.
However, the accompanying photograph and its legend regarding “the downgrading of Roscommon Hospital” as the reason Mr Naughten left Fine Gael might easily lead one to believe Mr Naughten is pictured outside the hospital, with the ‘downgrading’ complete.
Peter Declan O’Halloran, Belturbet, Co Cavan
Sir — After reading Luke O’Neill’s article about chocolate, I had my first taste in quite some time. A clear case of ‘have a break...’ thanks to Luke.
Tom Gilsenan, Beaumont, Dublin 9
Sir — Shane Ross talks sense yet again. It surely makes sense that Irish unity would only be workable if the people of the island behaved together in the same way the rugby players do on the Irish team.
The Ireland’s Call song, used at international matches, is far more inclusive than Amhrán na bhFiann. It surely would be a good idea to promote Ireland’s Call as our national anthem.
Aidan Walsh, Tullamore, Co Offaly
Sir — My mother, Eileen Mulvin, loves the Sunday Independent and Brighid McLaughlin’s Diary in particular. (And I do, too). She just loves all the stories that come over that half-door in Dalkey.
During those dark Covid times, it really contributed to her well-being. She turns 92 tomorrow and she’s doing great.
Keep up the good journalism.
Audraí Mulvin, Castleknock, Dublin 15