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Turkey risks isolation in Syria due to its stance on Kurds

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US forces patrol the edge of Manbij, Syria, a flashpoint between Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters and US-backed Kurds. Photo: AP

US forces patrol the edge of Manbij, Syria, a flashpoint between Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters and US-backed Kurds. Photo: AP

AP

US forces patrol the edge of Manbij, Syria, a flashpoint between Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters and US-backed Kurds. Photo: AP

A significant development in the northern Aleppo countryside was the decision of the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) last week to hand over villages west of the city of Manbij to the Syrian government.

This allows for a government-controlled buffer zone, backed by Russian support, to prevent Turkish-backed Euphrates Shield (ES) from attacking Manbij, held by the SDF-affiliated Manbij Military Council (MMC).

ES forces have clashed with the SDF over the last few days, backed by Turkish armour and artillery strikes.

Now as Syrian government forces enter the frontline of west Manbij, they too have come under Turkish fire.

While Turkey has tried to convince the US to end its support for the SDF, arguing that a Turkish operation can capture the last Isil-held stronghold of Raqqa instead, the Kurds not only continue to enjoy US support but a rapport with the Russians as well.

Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn argued this week that "the traditional mix of rivalry and cooperation that has characterised relations between the US and Russia in Syria is shifting towards greater cooperation", which threatens to isolate Turkey if it continues its aggression against the Kurds.

Stephen Oliver Murray

Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

Paddy's Day junkets cost taxpayer

The annual junket pilgrimages of our ministers and other politicians going abroad on St Patrick's Day is once again upon us. These junkets are an expensive joke that have to be funded by the taxpayer.

Of course, those going on such trips will staunchly defend them by saying that they greatly benefit this country. However, there is never any tangible evidence that any jobs or other benefits ever accrue from those specific trips.

It would be nice to know what the itinerary is and brief given to those politicians, and who of importance are they going to meet on their travels and what important announcements will be made by them on their return.

Why are we sending these individuals abroad, as we are already sending IDA executives and representatives from other State agencies abroad on a continual basis to promote Ireland?

In any case, it appears that no other country sends its politicians abroad on its national holiday. American politicians do not go globetrotting on their Independence Day, nor French politicians on Bastille Day.

Of all the years, with the advent of Brexit and all it entails, this St Patrick's Day could be an opportunity lost as we are only sending one minister, Richard Bruton, to England. Junior Minister Finian McGrath is also going to Scotland.

Since the UK is our largest trading partner, and if the Government is serious about its concerns around Brexit, then the Government ought to be concentrating the efforts of our politicians there, instead of having them pointlessly gallivanting around the world to places whose people probably do not even know where Ireland is.

Christy Kelly

Templeglantine, Co Limerick

Greyhound industry allegations

RTÉ's 'Prime Time' report on March 9 about the Irish greyhound industry was stomach churning. Here is an industry on its knees financially even with the benefit of massive State funding, at a time when many essential public and voluntary services are crying out for support. This subsidisation by the taxpayer continues despite allegations of greyhound doping, race-fixing, managerial incompetence, and cruel abandonment and killing of greyhounds whose racing days are over.

The 'Prime Time' report included a disturbing revelation that a man severely censured in Australia for feeding a live animal to a greyhound (a practice known as "blooding") was able to come to Ireland and become fully involved in our own greyhound industry.

The Irish Greyhound Board defended its efforts to keep the "sport" drug-free, welfare conscious, and generally above reproach, but I was less than impressed by an assurance from one of its officials that there can be "no place in the industry for live animal baiting".

I agree with the sentiment 100pc, but I would point out that hare coursing is defined legally in many countries where it is banned as "live animal baiting". The definition, in my opinion, is an accurate and reasonable one. Video footage posted on YouTube shows hares being mauled, forcibly struck and otherwise injured or terrorised at Irish coursing events.

The 'Prime Time' programme asked if the industry had a future. My question is: given its reputation and track record, does it deserve one?

John Fitzgerald

Callan, Co Kilkenny

Wind turbines: 'put people first'

Communications Minister Denis Naughton left the Fine Gael party because he believed that standing up for the health of Roscommon people who voted for him was more important than his own political career. He strongly opposed the Fine Gael government's decision to close Roscommon Hospital's Accident and Emergency Department and he knew that his opposition would mean that he would have to leave the party.

Mr Naughton now needs that same determination to protect the health and welfare of the 19 families from Sliabh Bán in Co Roscommon who are being woken up at night by noise from nearby wind turbines.

Mr Naughton has promised to bring forward new wind energy guidelines this month which will define noise limits for turbines. He will be under a lot of pressure from wind energy developers, the green lobby and government officials to meet greenhouse gas emission targets by keeping wind energy viable in the midst of rural communities.

Once again Mr Naughton is faced with the choice of prioritising a government policy or protecting the health and human rights of rural people. As his campaign slogan states, this is his chance to 'put people first'.

Mike de Jong

Sliabh Bán Community Group

Strokestown, Co Roscommon

Is free-range market cracked?

I write regarding the news that Irish eggs producers will no longer be able to use the label 'free-range', as they will have to keep their birds inside due to instances of bird flu in wild birds (Irish Independent, March 9).

Does this mean the chickens have come home to roost for free-range eggs?

John Williams

Clonmel, Co Tipperary

Irish Independent