Try a poster-free poll
Sir - Now that the General Election is almost upon us, I have a suggestion to make in relation to the eyesore that is election posters.
Rather than plastering every lamppost, traffic sign and ESB pole with their airbrushed, smiling faces - perhaps making one or two 'cast-iron promises' to save the universe with their forward-thinking policies - the posters for all candidates should be limited to one designated area on the approach roads to every town and village, as well as one position in the centre of urban areas.
During the last European elections, I saw this understated practise in effect in Italy and was mightily impressed by the suitably subtle locations.
Let's face it, it should not be a battle of how face-time can be logged with our subconscious.
If our representatives really want us to recognise them, they should perhaps knock on our doors and engage with us face-to-face.
Will the Dail enact the appropriate legislation to put this idea into effect? As always, it will if there is the will... but I for one will not be holding my breath.
Paul Moore, Mullingar, Co Westmeath
Dog owners lack concern
Sir - It really is about time that we spent some of the taxpayers' money on observing and fining offenders for allowing their dogs' excrement to linger in the playing fields, playgrounds and common walkways of our nation's capital.
Only last week I stopped to tie my shoelace on a rock in St. Anne's Park, Clontarf when I spotted not one but two bags of s**t which were obviously thrown there by dog owners who waited for the coast to be clear before discarding the remains of their dogs excrement.
Further evidence of this was seen on Dollymount Strand and Bull Island where myself, my wife and two young children ventured after the park. This surely is the crime of a clever wannabe do-gooder when on public show, who later stoops to show his or her true colours when Joe Public's back is turned.
I love animals and have no issue with people and dogs sharing the same space within reason. However, I have yet to spend a Sunday afternoon with my family without having either a near miss or soft feeling under my shoe of the unbagged type.
This is pretty bad stuff, especially when it is not noticed until you get back home for the early evening coffee and cookies only to find a trail of s**t through the hallway and on the heel bars of the fine stools one recently purchased for one's country-style kitchen - not to mention the break, accelerator and clutch pedal of one's car.
It is time to enforce new laws against the offenders of this crime. It's just not right having to make plans to avoid this problem as part of your normal routine.
Venturing out with fresh air and fun in mind is all that should be considered.
Real dog-lovers should act. Something needs to be done.
Paul Flanagan, Glasnevin, Dublin 2
Watch the birdies
Sir - Reading the letter from James Gleeson (Sunday Independent, 8 November), I realise how lucky I am here in West Cork. In my garden I counted gold and chaffinch, blue, coal and great tits, one robin, one wren, four collared doves, numerous rooks, a few jackdaws and magpies, not forgetting a cock pheasant who had arrived earlier for his usual feed. On the lawn were two blackbirds and one hen pheasant foraging for worms.
Look at birdwatchireland.ie to see the amazing work they do.
Hazel Vickery, Bantry, Co Cork
Who will care for the carers?
Sir - It's a little over six weeks to Christmas. My kids are thinking of what they want from Santy and all that, and I was thinking yesterday that I might just be able to swing it and get through the festive season frugally. And then I was told by my work that my hours are cut till further notice, and that this week my wages will be around €95.
For all the posturing in the Dail about the new minimum working wage and new rights for people on low wages, there is nothing whatsoever being said about one of the most valuable workforces in the country.
We are out in all weathers, 365 days a year, with no one to look after us when we need it. We have no union - indeed, the unions are not interested unless one of us sticks out our own neck for the chop and organises for them. Then they will come on board. We are exposed to hepatitis and all sorts of diseases, and yet we don't get sick pay.
Care companies, in the main, employ women who need to work around looking after their children and other family commitments. They advertise wonderful hourly rates of between €12 and €14 an hour. The brochures and photographs usually show lovely old ladies and a carer in a living room smiling away, and it's all very nice, sweet and lovely.
But here is the reality for us.
Your working day can be up to 14 hours long. The HSE puts a call out to tender and the companies jostle for position, each one saying they can do it cheaper and better and get it up and running faster than the next. The HSE pays around €30 to the company for a one-hour call. But the problem is, they won't let us do any one-hour calls. The vast majority of the time, the HSE will say that 45 or 30 minutes is sufficient, and we are told that we are to complete the job in that time. So the hourly rate you were told you would get is cut in half immediately. I work in a rural area where calls are spaced out maybe 10km apart, but there is no consideration given to the distance between calls and the petrol you use to get there. Most weeks my petrol costs me €70 to €100.
In the half hour allotted to you for a call, you might have to hoist an elderly client out of bed and on to a commode, wash them for the day, change their clothing, make breakfast, make the bed and tidy the room. Then you must fill in the care plan, and leave on the dot of half an hour. If, for instance, they are incontinent and have soiled themselves, it takes you 45 minutes to complete your tasks, and you will not be paid for that extra time. It's your tough luck.
We work in appalling conditions. I have worked in places where human excrement was smeared on the door of the bedroom and the commode was encrusted with it, and it was my job to chisel it off and make it clean, as neither the district nurse nor the family was going to do it. I have been bitten, scalded, kicked, punched, and verbally abused. I know one girl held at knife-point in a house for four hours (she wasn't paid for that either).
I know another girl who was sent into a house, alone, to deal with a violent alcoholic and had to lock herself into a cupboard to avoid the bottles he threw at her and the excrement he pulled out of his underwear and threw at her. Another of my colleagues had a handful of her hair pulled out at the roots while showering a client and was pinched so hard on her breast, she had to attend hospital for burst blood vessels. All of this for the princely sum of €11 an hour.
The families of the clients are often the worst. The vast majority of them are looking for us to work miracles with the minimum of intervention from them. We are often expected to wash a person who is doubly incontinent with little more than a face cloth and water. I have been in situations where a woman who was wearing pads night and day had no suitable underwear to put them in and was therefore soiled and soaked twice a day. I ended up going to Dunnes myself and buying a five-pack of knickers for the woman so she could be kept clean.
When a family decide to take a relative home from the hospital, there is often no thought given to where they will sleep and the bed is jammed into the front parlour. We are then in the unenviable position of trying to manoeuvre a hoist and all that comes with that around a china cabinet and the fireplace. And guess what? Breakages are deducted from your wages too.
We pay for our own training. The FETAC 5 in healthcare support is now compulsory for us care workers, as is patient moving and manual handling, CPR, elder abuse certification, and vaccination against Hep C, and the flu. The FETAC alone will cost you €1,900, with manual handling another €95 and so on... but you cannot work without them.
I am so disillusioned and unhappy in my work at times that I think of calling it quits, but why should I have to? I have paid for my FETAC and my other certs and am midway through the vaccination programme. Why should I waste three years of work and a year of hard slog studying and struggling, to go and work in an office or a shop where my training and qualifications would be of no benefit to me?
Will it ever change? Will anyone in the Dail ever look at what is happening to care workers and bring in some legislation for us that would even give us a little job security? Or is it that we really are invisible and no one gives a damn.
(Name and address with Editor)
It's health should make us angry
Sir - I don't agree often with Brendan O'Connor - but his most recent article (Sunday Independent, 8 November), clearly illustrated the reality of the health system in this country.
It's time for this Fine Gael Government to tackle the health crisis now before it gets worse over the winter months. At this stage, it seems as though the citizens of this country just accept the disgraceful health system in this nation. This is the main reason to demonstrate on the streets. Forget about water charges for now.
Mark Keane, Dublin 15
Bishop Casey remembered well
Sir - I would like to agree with Neill Kildare in your Letters page (Sunday Independent, 8 November). Bishop Casey was well regarded in Britain.
He was known for his work aiding Irish emigrants when he was a priest in Slough in the Sixties. He set up an association which bought derelict houses and then refurbished them for the homeless.
We could do with some of that today. I have done volunteer work for London and Slough Run over the years, a homeless charity which helps people on the street. But it was people like Bishop Casey who started things.
At St Ethelbert's Catholic church in Slough, Bishop Casey is still remembered for his good work in the community.
Bernard Rafter, Slough, England
Will this re-brand be improvement?
Sir - I note that Irish Water is set for a major rebrand in the coming months in order to restore its reputation (Sunday Independent, 8 November).
We have recently experienced a rebranding of Eircom. That rebranding has cost €16m and has resulted in the company taking the communications aspect out of its brand name. As a customer, who is paying for a broadband connection of "up to 100mb" but receiving 12mb on a good day, I regard it as a waste of money. For me, there was no improvement in company reputation.
Will we now see Irish Water "improve" its reputation by taking the water connection out of its name? That's "Irish", that is.
Thomas Gibson, Dungarvan, Waterford
Joyce should have got Nobel prize
Sir - While I agree entirely with the thesis of Emer O'Kelly's article on the disgraceful neglect of the National Library of Ireland (Sunday Independent, 8 November), may I point out another disgrace - the failure of the Nobel Committee to award a laureate to James Joyce?
Kieran Griffin, Bray, Co Wicklow
Tony Ward did the right thing
Sir - I was delighted to read there is a new autobiography of Tony Ward (Sunday Independent, 8 November). No Irish rugby player since could cut open the opposition defence with such pace and skill. His stand against apartheid was courageous. It may not have endeared him to the IRFU - but he did the right thing.
Tony, we salute your bravery and it's great to hear you have won your battle with cancer.
Peter Doyle, Castletroy, Limerick
Shane Ross has nailed 'Thor'
Sir - It's not very often that I find myself in agreement with Shane Ross, but his contribution last week (Sunday Independent, 8 November) on the launch of Operation Thor accompanied by a photograph of a grinning Justice Minister and a grinning Garda Commissioner together with four grinning gardai on bicycles, compelled me to respond.
Deputy Ross has nailed it.
This is political posturing at its worst. With a general election around the corner, they give the impression that they are in control of the situation and doing something about it.
"Crime trend analysis" and "high-visibility patrols" together with high speed cars... blah, blah, blah, is the core plan of Operation Thor - the typical smoke-and-mirrors response of the Department of Justice when public opinion embarrasses it into doing something when faced with a crisis.
Remember Operation Fiacla, launched in 2012 to clean up the epidemic of burglaries?
I respectfully suggest that, if electronic tagging and the modification of the law dealing with bail was incorporated into Operation Fiacla, there would be no need for any more smoke-and-mirrors reactions from the Department of Justice.
Don Byrne, Raheny, Dublin 5
A smarter way to fight crime
Sir - Well done to Shane Ross (Sunday Independent, 8 November). His article about burglaries was spot on. Fast cars and Government spin will not stop this epidemic.
We need more police on the beat who are visible in their communities. California has cut speeding using life-size cut-outs of police cars on highway bridges, and dummy policemen in supermarkets have reduced shoplifting there. Real policing would prevent even more crime obviously.
Police chasing thieves in cars is daft. They need more CCTV to spot the cars, and zappers to cut the fuel supply and lock the doors as well. Then the cops walk up and put the cuffs on.
We also need car speeds governed electronically to the limits - already tried and tested in Tilburg, Holland. Police could spend more time actually policing if there were no tickets to write, send, or fight in court.
CCTV has proven its worth in solving crime, so why not use the best technology to make Ireland safer? We could be the best little country to live in - using logic and smart technology.
John Gilmore, Former lecturer, Environmental Engineering DkIT, Dundalk
County jersey not just for elites
Sir - Colm O'Rourke (Sunday Independent, 8 November), wrote that county football is for the elite, and a county jersey is not special if given to second-rate footballers.
This is an unusual solo run for Mr O'Rourke, as he regularly writes on the GAA being back-boned by non-elitist values, such as the man or woman at the gate, or the tea lady (or man). I'd remind Colm that a county jersey is very special - to the "second-rate" footballers that get it.
The burn-out problem lies amongst Colm's "elite", where there are clearly too many demands being made of them.
Michael Reid, Slane, Co Meath
Don't censor abortion stance
Sir - I disagree with Dearbhail McDonald's opinion on the Eighth Amendment (Sunday Independent, 1 November).
Far from silencing people, Article 40.3.3 - the Life Equality Amendment - by recognising the equal right to life of mother and baby, speaks out for the right to life of a vulnerable section of humanity that can never speak for itself.
The truth is that induced abortion always involves the direct intentional taking of an innocent human life, and abortion can cause physical and/or physiological damage to women. These facts should never be censored in any debate on the issue.
Anne Murray, Youghal, Co Cork