Sunday 17 November 2019

Time to end age discrimination in presidential politics

Michael Collins in London during Treaty talks
Michael Collins in London during Treaty talks
1922: Irish soldier and politician Michael Collins (1890 - 1922), whose high level involvement with Sinn Fein and the IRA led to his taking part in the peace treaty negotiations between Britain and Ireland in 1921. He was killed in an ambush in County Cork on 22nd August 1922 (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

By the age of 32 Michael Collins was old enough to lead the armed struggle against the British, old enough to participate in the subsequent treaty negotiations in London, old enough to serve as Finance Minister and acting head of Government and old enough to die in uniform. Yet in the Ireland of today he would not be old enough to even stand in a Presidential election, let alone be President.

On May 22 the people of Ireland will be asked to extend eligibility for the office of President to those aged between 34 and 21. On a day when it is expected that the people will make a statement in favour of equality on marriage matters, it seems unusual that the people may reject equality for those of a certain age when it comes to matters of State.

The age limit to join the Irish defence forces is 18-34. Precisely the age cohort precluded from running for the Presidency. Therefore our Constitution tells us that you can represent your country in military uniform and potentially pay the ultimate sacrifice to defend our Bunreacht - yet you are not deemed to be a significant enough human being to represent it as President.

I accept that those aged between 21 and 34 may not have the life experience of those more senior. This, however, seems to be the only coherent case that can be made against the proposition being put on May 22. It is worth remembering that the path to receiving a nomination to be a candidate for the presidency is a complex and arduous one.

Therefore should anyone aged between 34 and 21 come through this process they would have shown themselves to be an individual of some capacity and capability. Even then, it would be the Irish people who would have the ultimate say.

I do not believe that the people of Ireland would accept an upper age limit on eligibility for the presidency. Such a proposition would be met with robust opposition and derision, I suspect. Therefore it is regrettable that some level of passion hasn't been exercised in this debate. Political parties have turned their back on this matter.

Jonathan Hoare

Baile Mhic Íre, Co Cork


Overseas aid a necessity

Your readers have rightly called on EU authorities to act on the growing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean (Letters, April 21). For the truth is that the crisis is a humanitarian one, but one which is directly linked to EU policies.

The closing of the EU's land and air borders have made it virtually impossible for refugees to enter the EU other than via the dangerous sea route.

The policy of trying to "discourage" refugees has proved to be a failure and has ignored a fundamental truth: people in need of protection have no choice but to flee. Consequently, Europe should now place more emphasis on the causes of despair that drives people to flee their homes.

European governments must honour the commitments they have made - and often repeated - on human rights protection and international development aid.

The Irish Government and its EU counterparts must urgently stop the cuts to overseas aid budgets and increase investment in inclusive development, decent work and social protection in countries of origin, so that migration becomes an option, not a necessity.

Hans Zomer

Director, Dóchas


The country needs a pay rise

Eddie Molloy's claim of any sense of 'entitlement' among public sector workers is wide of the mark ('Public servants don't have a divine right to automatically share the fruits of recovery', April 22). His claim casually ignores developing pay trends across other sectors of the economy.

Modest pay improvements are happening across a significant portion of the private sector - and multiple surveys show that up to 57pc of employers will make pay improvements this year. This is excellent news for the Irish economy. The whole country needs a pay rise.

It makes sense for public pay to keep in step with these developments, further contributing to domestic demand and nurturing the economic recovery.

It makes further sense to begin the process of gradually unwinding the emergency legislation that cut public pay once the emergency itself has passed, and this is the basis upon which any future pay talks are predicated.

These talks will take place as public servants continue to meet the rising demand for services to a larger population, with 30,000 fewer staff than when the crisis actually began.

Niall Shanahan

Impact trade union


Committed to Halawa's release

An article on April 23 ('Taoiseach needs to intervene to ensure Halawa's release') misrepresented the position of my Department in relation to the case of Ibrahim Halawa.

As I have stated publicly, our objectives in this case are clear - to see this young Irish citizen released by the Egyptian authorities, and to provide consular support while he remains in detention.

The article is simply incorrect in asserting that the Department is not seeking Ibrahim Halawa's release. The Government has formally supported applications made by his lawyers for release, both under the Presidential decree, and the bail application being considered by the court in Egypt. I have underlined our position in several personal contacts with my Egyptian counterpart.

Where an Irish citizen is charged with an offence abroad, foreign law applies. The decision to release Ibrahim Halawa will be a decision that is made solely by the Egyptian authorities.

We keep our approach, including the possibility of further political intervention under review. In none of the other cases involving foreign nationals mentioned in the article, was any individual released while the original trial was being conducted, as is the case for Ibrahim Halawa.

The article was correct in noting that a key objective for me is that we do what we can to protect Ibrahim's welfare. To this end our Embassy in Cairo has undertaken 37 consular visits to Ibrahim in prison. Recent reports that he had been tortured in Wadi Al Natrun prison were, thankfully, unfounded, but could also have been damaging to our efforts on his behalf.

Of particular concern was the article's suggestion that my Department was treating this case differently because of the citizen's name or parentage. There is no other consular case being treated with greater priority at this time. The suggestion that my Department is somehow doing less because of this citizen's heritage may be attractive for a glib soundbite, but in fact is unfair, unfounded and utterly untrue.

With the Taoiseach's full support, I remain committed to taking all appropriate action in pursuit of our two objectives towards achieving a positive outcome for this young Irishman and his family.

Charles Flanagan

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Irish Independent

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