Well done for snow advice
Sir - I wish to highly compliment and congratulate Met Eireann personnel, the National Emergency Co-ordination Committee, all our emergency services and media outlets for their excellent work, judgment and professionalism over the past few days in bringing us all the advice and details relating to the very serious snow storm.
There were a number of cynics who were saying that it was over the top and that Met Eireann may have been over-reacting. But no, it was a very accurate and professionally delivered message by both Met Eireann and our National Co-ordination Committee, and they all deserve a big thank you from all of us. I have no doubt that their message has saved lives and has lessened the hardship for many people throughout the country.
We live near Naas, and our road is completely impassable with drifts nearly 10ft high, and but for the weather alert we may not have been properly prepared.
It is on occasions like this that we can see how all our emergency services risk their own lives doing heroic work in order that the rest of us can be safe and are able to go about our daily tasks.
Very well done to all.
Naas, Co Kildare
FG success is no real surprise
Sir — I’m surprised that Jody Corcoran argues politicians are surprised Fine Gael and Leo Varadkar are doing well in the polls (Sunday Independent, February 25).
There isn’t any mystery or skill to understand. The fact of the matter is that Fine Gael (it and the Independent Alliance is really the same thing) appeals to that 15pc or so of the population in Ireland who have always done well no matter what else is going on.
In a past life they were the Anglo-Irish, in more recent times the farming class, and now the professionals. They have always rallied to the party that protects their assets, which is what Fine Gael is doing. The other 20pc or so of people who want to have assets or want to protect what they feel is theirs by right (the inheritance they expect to receive in due course) will generally follow whoever is in power which is why they switched so seamlessly from FF to FG in 2011.
These voters are the descendants of the farmers who didn’t blink when it came to evicting their starving neighbours during the Famine and who didn’t blink when refusing to implement the Land Acts in full and instead kept ownership of land that was meant to have been allocated to their neighbours.
Using the Land Commission records you can map out the land held under lease by Irish Catholic farmers to the land banks held today and you can trace those families all across the professional classes and higher levels of the public sector. These are the people who now benefit most from the property rental market and they are not going to sacrifice an inch. They have private health care so don’t care about the public system and bought houses pre-1990s so have plenty of equity come what may.
There is not a hope in hell of any of these people feeling an ounce of solidarity with their fellow countrymen struggling to get a secure home or improve their life chances because to do that means the Fine Gael voter class has to make a sacrifice. They sailed through the recession without doing that and they are certainly not going to start now.
They now have as party leader a man who has never had to sacrifice anything in his life or earn his right to privilege. Every fibre of his being assumes the privileges he enjoys are his by birth right and he shares this trait with about 15pc of the population.
Another 25pc aspire to similar privilege, meaning there is a gene pool of 40pc for Fine Gael to target which varies depending on how guilty some people feel at any moment in time.
It’s not rocket science to anyone who grew up in Ireland and knows Irish ways.
The hope for people who believe Ireland can do better lies not with Fine Gael, but rather whichever party it needs to remain in government after the next election. The Greens failed to deliver, so did Labour and look what happened to them.
Who’s up next.
Gambling is a cancer wrecking many lives
Sir — I am a finance director of a medium-sized company and in the last six months alone we have had to deal with two instances of employees being driven close to the edge due to their gambling addiction. Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
I was a gambler myself (not a problem gambler but a relatively heavy gambler at times) and I like to think that I understand the attraction of gambling to so many people. I eventually packed it in when I saw how my wife and kids had to put up with my bad moods whenever a bet didn’t “come in”.
Looking at the availability of betting opportunities that exist for anybody who has an iPhone (ie, everybody over the age of 13) and the fact that gambling has been completely normalised makes me worry for all the young males who are being bombarded with special offers morning, noon and night by online bookmakers. Even the lottery is now available at the touch of a button.
If you look at bookmakers’ sites now they are more like fun gaming sites aimed at attracting vulnerable young teens into the world of gambling. The message seems to be that if you are not betting on sporting events online you are missing the craic and you are probably a bit of a square.
One simple step that could be taken is for the BAI to ban those segments on radio shows given over to the “charity bet”. In this segment a bookmaker will get a five-minute slot discussing all the great betting opportunities available to the listeners over the weekend and in return he gives a free bet to a named charity — funnily enough, a gambling charity has never been the recipient of one of these “free bets”. I wonder do the radio stations also get paid for these little bits of harmless fun?
I don’t blame the bookmaking companies as they will do whatever it takes to maximise profits for their shareholders. It is up to us as a society to ensure that proper regulations are in place that protect the vulnerable in our society from these bookmaking companies with their massive marketing budgets.
Like a lot of people, I have a very strong feeling that the Government is not on top of this issue and does not fully understand the dangers that exist in relation to online gambling.
The appointment of an independent gambling tsar or a gambling ombudsman to oversee the industry would, in my opinion, be a good first step in getting to grips with this cancer that is causing so much harm to so many people, many of whom are young and vulnerable.
Name and address with Editor
Smile that shows road to recovery
Sir — It was truly very heartening to see a smiling “Tony 10” on the cover of LIFE (Sunday Independent, February 25). While the disease of gambling is progressive, when one reaches “rock bottom” and admits there is a problem, recovery is also progressive, as the photo clearly illustrates.
A gambling addiction is a very serious and very insidious type of addiction. You can clearly see the physical signs of the more well-known addictions such as alcohol and drugs. But a person’s life can be slowly destroyed by a gambling addiction in a much more hidden way.
This is illustrated in the extract from Declan Lynch’s and Tony O’Reilly’s book, Tony 10.
It tells the startling story of a post-office manager from Wexford who gambled and lost to the tune of €10m.
A decent man who got caught up in the tsunami of a gambling addiction to the extent that he stole €1.75m from An Post, was jailed, lost his job, his marriage and his reputation from the ravages of this addiction. And while all that was going on, his wife had no idea that it was happening!
It is great to see that smile coming back. It says: “Recovery IS possible.” And there are lessons to be learned from this story. I am looking forward to reading Declan Lynch and Tony’s book. Perhaps everyone who, “has a few bob” on a bet should read it. And heed it.
What a story!
Greyhound racing is ‘affront to sport’
Sir — I applaud the GAA for banning sponsorship by betting companies.
It is an entirely appropriate move given the catastrophic effects of gambling on so many lives.
The GAA’s new policy will be in stark contrast to the ethos of our blighted greyhound industry, which is heavily dependent on gambling, as well as being steeped in corruption and animal cruelty.
Doping of dogs is widespread, as is the reckless abandonment (or killing) of greyhounds whose running days have ended or that fail to perform. And the industry encompasses hare coursing, which thrives on both gambling and a fondness for watching a harmless animal dodging injury or death in a wire-enclosed field.
All sports are bedevilled by misbehaviour and rules get broken at every game, but there’s a big difference between a foul in hurling or Gaelic football and its equivalent in either coursing or greyhound track racing.
A player may suffer a minor injury on the pitch if pushed, elbowed, or tripped. A doped dog may suffer intense pain, or die, as a result of being drugged to make it run faster or slow it down. A hare struck at high speed by a greyhound in coursing may have its bones crushed or die from a heart attack afterwards.
Or it may have to be “dispatched” with a chop to the back of the neck to quell its misery. Even the worst foul or breach of the rules in Gaelic Games wouldn’t have such dire consequences.
So I say: well done to the GAA… but shame on the vile greyhound industry. It’s an embarrassment to Ireland; an affront to the whole concept of sport, and to all true sportspeople.
Joined-up thinking over airport metro
Sir — Perusal of the scheme for the airport to city metro link leads me to surmise yet again that joined-up thinking seems a most elusive concept in this dynamic go-ahead country of ours.
There are two things at issue here, one being that at present growth rates at Dublin Airport could crack the 40-million-a-year passenger barrier in the foreseeable future; the other being the basic principle of competently handling flows, whatever their nature.
Whether electricity, storm drainage or blood flow, the solution is the same, namely the translation of the cataclysmic into the peristaltic.
Once the latter condition is achieved, the benefits are enormous; infrastructure sized and suitable for 24/7 usage, economical use of all rolling stock and motive power, these are likely the least of it.
Our airport is a growing cataclysmic case, yet to relieve it we are offered a single line that dead-ends at both its extremities.
It would be a very simple thing to extend north-eastwards to connect into the mainline at, say, Donabate, as likewise to reconnect from Sandyford southeast to the existing line at, say, Shanganagh.
By these two measures one would provide direct access to and from the airport — by far the most enormous traffic nexus in the country — and from as far away as Wexford in one direction and Belfast in the other.
For a few kilometres extra you get all this, freeflow both servicing and ameliorating itself over a huge area instead of congealing at Swords and Sandyford.
Joined-up thinking, see?
Dail has descended into puerile charade
Sir — Desmond FitzGerald’s letter (Sunday Independent, February 18) ‘Charade in the Dail, but who is to blame?’ was answered in Gene Kerrigan’s article, ‘Welcome folks to the Wild Varadkar Way’(Sunday Independent, February 25).
There is further proof of the dangerous state of politics in the Irish Republic other than Gene Kerrigan’s excellent Sunday Independent reports. It is to be found in one of the last interviews of the late TJ Whitaker where he warned of the dangers of a civil service with a cabinet attached.
Sadly for the people of Ireland this has never been more evident than since March 2011 with the absolute and diabolical conduct of the Departments of Health, Housing, and farcically, and tragically, the Department of Justice.
Add in the absolute undemocratic reform — hatchet job — of local government and one can see from here in Australia — or in London — the quasi-totalitarian State, that appears to be evolving as we approach the centenary of Irish Independence.
Desmond FitzGerald correctly describes the Dail as a ‘‘charade’’, and I am of the firm opinion that the outburst from Marc MacSharry was due to the man’s frustration with the inane and puerile rules of the Dail. They are not fit for the 18th Century, let alone the 21st Century. Down the years, the two-and-a-half parties of FG, FF and Labour have diluted parliamentary accountability so much so that Dail Eireann is beneath the level of a public house debate: all talk and blather, with no real outcome for the citizenry.
The majority of the people of Ireland want the essentials of life: education, health and proper local government, with good national infrastructure. Alas, frivolity appears to take precedence over practicality in the Dail and the offices of Ministers. Why? Because no one is accountable any more.
President Harry Truman had a sign on his Oval Office desk: “The buck stops here.”
In Dublin, the buck is continually travelling on Bus Eireann free travel, more elusive than a Myles na gCopaleen character. But, who is to blame? THE ELECTORATE, that’s who.
Sports journalism at its very best
Sir — Eamonn Sweeney’s incisive attack on English football’s entrenched inequalities and their supine media defenders (Sunday Independent, February 25) is sports journalism at its responsible and, yes, independent best. His praise of Paul Cook (“What a man!”) applies to him, too!
Carers who deserve more than trophies
Sir — Watching Rory Cowan on TV3’s Pat Kenny Show last week brought home a very strong message.
Rory was expressing concern that the carers would be unable to reach his aged, ill mother during the adverse weather conditions.
Every year, we see various people getting awards — Iftas, Sports Star, Bravery, it goes on. But there is very little said and little recognition for the vital support that the wonderful carers provide in our communities.
For those who decide to nurse their loved ones at home, the visits by the carers each day provide not just practical help but a cheerful smile and kind words for those who are living with the sadness and heartbreak of their loved one’s terminal illness.
The carers are outstanding members of our society who carry out their duties with diligence and professionalism despite meagre hours and insufficient pay.
Perhaps the Government should start to recognise the vital role that carers play in the area of home care and reward them not with shining trophies but with appropriate remuneration.