Madam – A few years ago I had a letter printed here in the Sunday Independent regarding my contributions to several various charities, and how I was getting dubious about them all, and that charity begins at home after all. Within a week I had letters from practically every one of them explaining how the money I sent was being utilised, and reassuring me that all was well, and hoping that I would continue to subscribe.
However, not one of them told me how much of the money went to pay off and give top-ups to executives.
In the light of recent events in that regard, it has definitely made up my mind, once and for all, about future contributions from this pensioner.
If I am to make contributions in the future it will be to send a sick child for treatment abroad, or for some charitable event (eg, a hospice) where the money is paid into a fund or bank account to go directly to that event.
It is a disgrace that so many letters are being dropped through my letterbox, and so many phone calls made to my house, begging me to continue with contributions, to what now is turning out to be payments to top dogs who are earning hundreds of times more than my measly pension.
We have had many shameful events down through the years in this country of ours, but surely recent disgusting disclosures must rank with the very worst.
Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo
SHANE ROSS HAS SERVED THE STATE WELL
Madam – In the past week Independent TD and Sunday Independent journalist Shane Ross has been the focus of government parties' attacks amid a bid to try and neuter the Public Accounts Committee. In one of the more insidious suggestions, it was stated that there is a conflict between his roles as an Independent TD and a journalist. There is only ever a conflict of interest between a person who is both a politician and journalist when they sacrifice truth for political expediency.
The role of a journalist is two-fold – to report facts and to speak truth to power. The journalist in Shane Ross and his zeal for truth has served this State well in finding a number of spending scandals and attempting to hold those responsible to account. The politics of our country has at times meant governments, even in the face of journalists showcasing horrendous failures, were unable to hold [those responsible] accountable.
However, the platform that Shane Ross held in the Seanad and now in the Dail has allowed him to be play that role. The values of journalism should not be diminished in such a fashion. If more politicians had more faith in the values of journalism than political expediency, then our country would be better off.
ARTICLE FAIR BUT VERY ILL-TIMED
Madam – I believe it is of the utmost importance that your columnist Gene Kerrigan is challenged for his somewhat distasteful comments in an otherwise fair comment column. (Sunday Independent, January 26, 2014).
I believe in the freedom of speech. Gene Kerrigan is a well-known journalist and author, and as such ought to have had the decency not to sink as low as he did in his last column. Whether he intended to cause offence or not by his words, he gave very little thought to the family and colleagues of the late Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe who did lay down his life in defence of the rights of the people of Ireland to go about their business without the fear of being robbed or intimidated.
His article was well thought-out and researched, so why did he have to go that extra yard to have a sly kick at those who serve their country, when he said: "Mr Callinan rejects the case for reform and he insists that he is the 'accounting officer' who must alone decide what, if anything, needs reforming.
The defenders of this position traditionally put forward the 'thin blue line' defence – gardai put their lives on the line – as if that trumps everything. But no Garda ever sacrificed his life to defend the force's right to do wrong."
It is not the intended meaning of his words, but the timing of his comments which causes offence – whether justified or not.
Detective Donohoe was cold-bloodedly murdered in the course of his duty exactly one year and a day before Mr Kerrigan's column. As a retired member of An Garda Siochana, I take particular offence at his comments. If Mr Kerrigan reflects on his comments, I am sure he would see the error of his mistimed comment and consider apologising to Adrian's widow and young family.
Brian Sherry, (Det Insp) Ret, Dublin
LAW MUST APPLY TO GARDAI TOO
Madam – Once again Gene Kerrigan produced an excellent article on An Garda Siochana following a week when the force was under scrutiny in the Dail and in the national news media.
Mr Kerrigan was quite hard-hitting but he was also very fair. He covered a lot of points where the gardai had been under scrutiny without ever suggesting that all gardai were bad. But the Commissioner seemed to take the view that nobody touches my boys and, anyway, they are all good boys.
It is the national police force that is under scrutiny and the force is for all of us – not just the Commissioner. My own view is that the law must apply to everybody equally.
On the question of whistleblowers, the system is far from perfect and listening to the Commissioner, it must be an awful position to be in if you want to make a complaint.
UMBRAGE AT 'LARGE BELLY' REMARK
Madam – Could someone explain to Barry Egan the process of a pregnancy of which two months remain. It is quite normal to exhibit a gain in weight around the tummy. Barry Egan's comment that "her ambition – as large as her belly" was less than acceptable in my opinion. Lucinda Creighton is entitled to have her ambitions even while pregnant.
Dunleer, Co Louth
PAC STEPPED UP TO THE PLATE
Madam – The 2011 referendum to allow full investigative powers to Oireachtas committees dealing with matters of public interest was rejected by the electorate. At that time, there had been genuine concern that a government could populate committees with their own party members.
However, in the last few weeks the Public Accounts Committee has stepped up to the plate. The PAC's recent inquiries have proven it does have teeth. This is because the members are from the four main parties with one Independent TD, making it non-partisan. Its work involves those all-too-rare occasions where all parties pull together in search of the truth. Secondly, its probing has raised public awareness. Those under scrutiny shouldn't underestimate public opinion as it can be a formidable catalyst for change.
Dunleer, Co Louth
TACKLE SCOURGE OF RURAL ISOLATION
Madam – Last week's Sunday Independent covered the important political events of the week. Declan Lynch, however, captured so well an issue of grave concern in today's Ireland.
The terminology used at all levels obscures conveniently the real picture of what is happening throughout our country. The spin used to cover up the pain, isolation, and potential of human beings cast aside, many of those just because of their age and location, is breathtaking. The numerous jargon-filled reports – compiled with conclusions reached with 'focus groups' – conveniently never delve beneath the surface. The value of the chat with a cigarette, pint of stout, post-mortem on the races won and lost in a warm pub, with a neighbour who lives miles away, is now sadly confined to history.
Declan's article should be compulsory reading for planners. Politicians have a responsibility to address this issue.
Rural isolation and indeed pockets of isolation in urban areas should be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Alice Leahy, Director & Co-Founder, TRUST, Dublin
MCCARTHY FAILS TO SEE BIG PICTURE
Madam – Colm McCarthy says we alone can't save the world's climate. but we will not be alone, the US and China are already joining the battle. Their people are as vulnerable as anyone to climate change. The US military already admits this is their greatest challenge of the 21st century. Every parent in Beijing, like every parent here, will want the same for their children: clean air.
The question will soon become: who is leading the race to have a clean, secure and still competitive power supply? If you look at the companies which have a tradition of thinking long-term, they are all starting to go green. Many of them are based here. IBM, Intel, Glanbia and Guinness now take this issue more seriously than any Government does.
They know that as the world's weather becomes more volatile, their customers will want to know how sustainable their products are.
I think Mr McCarthy is taking too short-term a view and is missing the bigger picture. The climate plan set out by the European Union last week was not a retreat from ambition, but rather a tactical change, putting the onus back on governments to show how they intend on doubling their carbon reductions in the next decade. It is a messy policy process, but in the next 12 months our Government is going to have to take a position.
Mr McCarthy has a responsibility as he joins the Government's new commission looking into the pylon issue. I hope he uses that space to raise some of the wider questions that need to be asked and that he is open to question about his own very ideological position.
Green Party leader, Dublin 2
PLEASE KEEP ON LYRIC VETERANS
Madam – I was disappointed on reading Phil Baker's letter (Sunday Independent, January 26, 2014), complaining of Lyric FM. It is the only bright and interesting station on RTE at the weekends, especially the two broadcasters mentioned; otherwise it's nothing but sport, sport, sport!
Keep the veterans on.
VOLUNTEERS NEED A NATIONAL STRATEGY
Madam – Further to John Greene's article in last week's Sunday Independent (January 26, 2014), I would like to highlight the vast contribution of volunteers across all facets of Irish life and the need for us to ensure that volunteering in Ireland is recognised, supported and valued at a national level. Mr Greene's article, 'Neglect hasn't diminished volunteer spirit', highlighted Ireland's history of volunteering – a culture of active citizenship and community involvement that we should be very proud of.
Interest in volunteering has risen significantly since the recession. Registrations through our website volunteer.ie and our affiliate 22 local volunteer centres have increased by over 100 per cent since 2008 – and this interest shows no sign of diminishing. Volunteers are connected to almost every facet of Irish cultural, social and political life. They are the backbone of our community and voluntary sector – over 9,000 organisations whose purpose is to contribute to the public good.
If we are to encourage the development of an Ireland where everybody who wants to volunteer can do so, it is vital that there are supports and structures in place to harness the power, energy and enthusiasm of volunteers. Mr Greene's article highlights the need for regulation and policy in the area of volunteering and sport, citing the development of a new 'masterplan' for Irish sport – which is, of course, to be welcomed, but this is a need that extends beyond sport alone.
The recent negative coverage regarding a number of Irish charities largely failed to note that in the absence of policy or regulation, many community and voluntary organisations adhered to best practice and published accounts. A code of governance developed by a group of community and voluntary organisations has resulted in greater transparency. Similarly, in the area of volunteering, there is no existing government policy or strategy. Yet hundreds of organisations across Ireland have sought to comply with best practice standard in volunteer management, putting in place policies and supports to ensure that volunteers are valued and protected.
We welcome the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government's recent commitment to producing a departmental strategy on volunteering. If we are to ensure that we, as a country, value the contribution and role of volunteers to Irish society, we must ensure that there is a clear national strategy to support volunteering – across all aspects of Irish society. It is also crucial that community and voluntary organisations embrace the forthcoming regulation, ensuring that we uphold our duty of transparency to the Irish public – upon whose trust and support the sector so heavily relies.
Chief Executive Officer,
Volunteer Ireland, Dublin 2
GOOD RELATIONS WITH GARDAI VITAL
Madam – The 'penalty points-gate' fiasco is such a non-issue as to be considered a bad Irish joke.
Good relations between the public and gardai is not corruption when leniency is the decent action to take where discretionary application of the rules applies. Penalty points may, or may not, be then applied. What's wrong with that?
Peacekeeping and good relations with the citizens must always be promoted. We do not wish to be afraid every time the police stop us on the road. We need to be able to put our case to them on the reasons for our possible misdemeanours.
Bantry, Co Cork
BUSKER PROPOSAL HITS A SOUR NOTE
Madam –What a great country we live in. I read (Sunday Independent, January 26, 2014) that buskers who play loud music on the streets of Dublin could be arrested and have their equipment taken off them and be fined up to €1,000 for breaches under new proposals by Dublin City Council.
Is this some sort of April Fool's joke?
Bankers got us in this mess and the best we can come up with now is arresting buskers who are trying to make a few bob.