What unity means
Sir - Maybe it's time we re-defined what we mean by Irish unity.
Three decades of horrific bloodshed failed to change the map of Ireland. When the Republican and Loyalist ceasefires were declared, the border was exactly where it was on the day that the first person was killed in the conflict.
But the border scarcely matters any more in today's world of free movement, except as a reminder that there are two jurisdictions on the island. People pass back and forth with ease between North and South, even if different flags fly on either side.
Since the Good Friday Agreement, the very idea of physically hurting people of a different culture or religious ethos, let alone actually killing them, is anathema to everyone in Ireland, except a few misguided hotheads with a nihilistic ideology.
How much better to be united in hearts and minds, in peace and reconciliation, in a mutually beneficial respect for our diverse ways of looking at the world and at the past, than to be overly worried about a line on the map that becomes hazier and less divisive with every day that passes.
Realising value we place in life
Sir - Brendan O'Connor's article on the tragic death of Ciaran Treacy (Sunday Independent, 1 November) brought the devastating impact on his parents, siblings and wider family to our homes.
For anybody who does drives or would consider driving under the influence of alcohol, his writing of this tragic death is a stark reminder of the potentially catastrophic consequences of doing so. As we read his piece, the sense of loss, pain and grief that the Treacy family are experiencing was heart-wrenching and shocking.
It also seriously questioned the compensation systems in our courts. How was the value of Ciaran's life and suffering of his parents determined in the sum awarded to the Treacy family?
Nothing will bring young Ciaran back, but the value placed on his life and suffering of his parents and family is shocking.
Writing about such tragic events is necessary to remind us of our responsibilities and the value we place on life, Brendan certainly achieved this.
Brendan showed the devastation
Sir - Congratulations to Brendan O'Connor on a stunning piece of writing ('The moment when Ciaran stopped crying', Sunday Independent, 1 November). He showed us the devastation of this poor family. I hope they find peace eventually.
Road laws have their limits
Sir - While understanding your need to lash out in your editorial following the awful death of Ciaran Treacy, it may be necessary to recognise that road traffic legislation, which has been highly effective, also has its limits.
Certainly the introduction of mandatory breath testing, together with a public awareness campaign, was very successful.
Following its introduction in July 2006, the RSA was able to demonstrate that road deaths had fallen by 23pc in the following 11 months. However, the reduction of blood alcohol limits from 80mm to 50mm in October 2011 did not have the success predicted by the RSA.
There was actually a slight increase in deaths in the following 12 months.
This didn't surprise those of us aware of bias and exaggeration in the experimental and epidemiological research, much of it funded by people who would like us all to stop drinking entirely. An understandably emotional media allows suspect claims such as "even the smallest amount of alcohol will impair driving" to go unexamined.
However there really is no credible evidence that, for example, a mature person like me cannot drive home from the weekly Irish music session in my local country pub, carefully and safely, after consuming a couple of pints over a few hours. Currently I'm within the law.
However the zero tolerance of drivers' alcohol consumption, that you suggest may become necessary, would make me a criminal, add further to the destruction of rural social life, yet have no effect in saving lives.
Kilcolgan, Co Galway
Let's close the legal loopholes
Sir - As a retired sergeant of An Garda Siochana, I am disappointed but not surprised to hear once again some spokesman for the legal profession trying to lay the blame for the low rate of convictions in drunken driving cases, at the feet of the gardai who had instituted the proceedings in the first case.
Do they feel they have any contribution to make to the reduction of convictions that we are experiencing? Why do they endeavour, by using every legal loophole, to ensure that these culprits are free to offend again, when it is obvious they are guilty as charged? The Government should close these loopholes and ensure that these drunkards are properly punished and not released to offend again.
John N Barry,
Malahide, Co Dublin
We need a debate on US trade deal
Sir - It is good to see the important topic of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) being discussed in the national media, 'Darina Allen warns of trade deal threat to Irish food market' (Sunday Independent, 1 November).
However, she suggests that a TTIP deal would flood the market with US hormone-treated beef. There is currently an EU-wide ban on the use of hormones in livestock production and the European Commission, which conducts the trade negotiations on behalf of EU member states, has consistently stated that TTIP will not reverse this.
She also affirms that "TTIP has stated it will abandon the precautionary principle". TTIP is an open negotiation and not a physical entity, and the European Commission has publicly stated that TTIP will not change EU rules, including the precautionary principle enshrined in EU law.
Darina Allen correctly notes that the European Parliament must approve any final TTIP deal, but so too must the national parliaments of the 28 EU member states. Even if the Commission was to go back on its word, it is almost certain that any deal proposing to change EU law on either of the above-mentioned issues would automatically be rejected by the European Parliament and a majority of national parliaments.
Finally, I agree fully with Darina Allen when she calls on ordinary members of the public to get involved in the TTIP debate. There is much to be gained from a balanced TTIP agreement.
A new approach to drugs would help
Sir - I beg to differ with Edmond J McCulloch on his view expressed in your Letters Page (Sunday Independent, 1 November).
The behaviour which he disapproves of has been induced by successive governments who have over-taxed fuel and cigarettes and then spend our taxes trying to stop smuggling. It is the same story with drugs.
The solution is not more money spent on increased awareness. With reduced taxation and the controlled availability of recreational substances at prices which put the smugglers out of business, you will get reduced State costs of detection and pursuit, and fill the coffers of government to finance awareness programmes of the dangers of substances abuse, broader education in our schools and improved facilities and counselling in our disadvantaged areas.
Absurd to predict our weather
Sir - In her feature last Sunday on Ken Ring, the so-called weather guru, (Sunday Independent, 1 November), Claire McCormack referred to his "accurate predictions" last year. In fact, they turned out to be totally wide of the mark.
He warned us of sub-zero temperatures for Christmas, a glacial New Year and heavy snowfalls for the third week of February. None of this happened.
But what really eroded Mr Ring's crumbling credibility was his failure to foresee the relentless sequence of ferocious gales and floods assailing us since before Christmas. Not a single solitary mention.
So, your readers would be well advised to have multiple grains of salt ready while checking the course of the guru's predictions while reflecting on the absurdity of forecasting the weather in a North Atlantic island on a particular day, months ahead.
John A Murphy,
Douglas Road, Cork
The importance of a good laugh
Sir - Barry Egan's brilliant appreciation of Maureen O'Hara (Sunday Independent, 1 November) captured the character, energy, spirit and beauty of the screen legend.
Barry's chat with her in the Shelbourne Hotel in October 2004 brought out the best in her, as he mischievously chided her whilst all too well aware of the walking stick wavering nearby.
It was easy to imagine the hilarity of the encounter and the two of them laughing their heads off. That's the way to write an obituary. Ah, there's nothing like a good laugh while reading an obituary!
It's no wonder she lived to 95.
Greystones, Co Wicklow
We're a destructive species
Sir - As a keen observer of nature, I can empathise with the feelings of Joe Kennedy (Country Matters, Sunday Independent, 1 November) on wildlife.
The numbers of species, particularly birds, so familiar in my youth, which have vanished, is awe-inspiring. Congregations of chattering sparrows and wagtails on the tarmacadam opposite the scullery window; the thrushes, blackbirds, goldfinches and robins in the shrubbery and on the lawn - sadly - are now rare.
This was the first time in 40 years there wasn't an array of swallows on the telephone line to bid us their farewell before departure to warmer climates.
On a more positive note, a lone robin-red-breast popped from the hedge to pick a few crumbs during the week and continues its unpredictable visits.
I don't consider cats and dogs as predators. Birds like to play games popping up and down to their feed trays. Pesticides and sprays, or interference with hedgerows, more efficient collection of grain and general hygiene are among contributory factors to their demise.
According to WWF's Living Planet records, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined on average 52pc from 1970 to 2010.
Human consumption, damage to habitat and exploitation through uncontrolled hunting or industrial commercial fishing, are given as the primary reasons.
Information on 10,380 populations of 3,038 species was used to reach these conclusions. Decline in freshwater species was the most frightening with a population fall of 76pc recorded.
We (mankind) are supposed to be the most intelligent species of all God's creations. Obviously not true - not only are we the most destructive species, we are also the most selfish.
Thurles, Co Tipperary
World turned upside down
Sir - The recession is only an illusion. A bag made from crocodile costs a lot - €2,900 in Grafton Street. It would pay the mortgage for a while, or help the homeless. Our world appears to have turned upside down.
And the meat won't give us cancer. I think it's the steroids they put in animal food to put the weight on at sale time. Sad, as we, like the poor migrants, live in dicey, dangerous times.
Cootehill, Co Cavan
Support music quota campaign
Sir - Well done to Johnny Duhan for his piece (Sunday Independent, 1 November) publicising Minister Alex White's hypocritical stance on Irish music. Either Minister White has little power in office or lacks the will power to push through legislation on an airplay quota.
One of the key promotional tools to put the musical artist into a financial earning position is repeat radio airplay.
The musical artist must pass through the electoral equivalent of a political party convention, or run independent, and canvass radio stations and/or DJs for possible airplay.
The higher the amount of exposure, the greater the chances of success. A campaign on the internet/social media without radio/TV/media coverage limits the degree of exposure on the politician's electoral patch and without it, there is a negative election outcome.
Minister White will campaign only in the constituency where he is running for election. The musical artist must do likewise. The constituency boundary for most Irish artists is Ireland, but the misconception is out there that because of global internet access that the constituency boundary is much broader.
Every musical artist is a small enterprise and they need to garner the electoral equivalent of the vote - that is, customers -who will purchase their musical works, thereby achieving a paid/earning position.
I wonder how Minister White would like to try getting elected in a constituency without having a reasonable idea of the quota he needed to reach for successful election.
Irish airplay for Irish artists is an issue, and quota legislation is a must. There are many musicians trying their musical entrepreneurship skills, because of technological advances, yet there are a limited number of national and regional radio stations thus limiting airplay.
Internet radio is still, relatively speaking, in its infancy. Income from YouTube and Spotify is negligible for most of us small operators. So the focus must be kept where it is most effective in producing the most positive results for the artist - on Irish radio and TV.
As all of us musical cows in the growing herd try to squeeze into the small gap that is the available airtime, we need that gap to be as broad as possible to maximise our chances of success.
A proud, confident quota for airplay enshrined in legislation would be a fine gesture to the idealists of 1916 who shaped our history.
Riverstown, Co Sligo
Minister's 'solemn declaration' a joke
Sir - Re: "Minister Sings The Same Old Song...While Irish Music Remains In Crisis" (Sunday Independent, 1 November) by Johnny Duhan, I think we can take it as a given from now on that whenever Minister For Communications Alex White makes "a solemn declaration" to promise to fix anything, other than his own two feet securely under the table, he is really only joshing with us.
Casey helped the Irish poor in UK
Sir - Tim Pat Coogan (Sunday Independent, 25 October) highlights the negative, or perceived negative aspects of Bishop Eamon Casey's life. He does mention he had a feeling for the poor, through Trocaire and supported protests against American Foreign policy.
I would like to assure Mr Coogan that when Bishop Casey was a priest in Slough in the early Sixties he had more than a feeling for the poor. He did untold good work for the Irish Catholic population in Slough at that time. He put his shoulder to the wheel to set up an association where he bought up derelict houses, cajoled building workers into refurbishing them and even physically assisted in this work.
I am sure that there is many a comfortable family in the greater Slough area who owe their security and happiness to the untiring work of Fr Casey, as he was then. I for one will always be grateful for Fr Casey's assistance when I was a young man in Slough in the early Sixties.