Wednesday 16 January 2019

Why it's only human to ask

Stephen Fry. Photo: PA
Stephen Fry. Photo: PA
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Sir - I don't understand the hype and big deal being made over Stephen Fry's answer to Gay Byrne's question.

He said that if and when he arrived at heaven's gate, he'd ask God why God allowed innocent children to get bone cancer and such.

I'm a practising, committed Catholic/Christian. And my faith/religion means a lot to me. But I frequently ask God why God allows so much suffering, pain, distress, debilitating illnesses, injustice, evilness and cruelty to exist in what is God's world and ours.

And I don't understand it.

At the same time, I don't think God has taken offence, at my asking. I think it's only human to ask.

And I don't understand man's and woman's inhumanity to women or men.

An awful lot of pain and distress in life is a direct result of how humans of both genders treat others.

What I do find offensive is the needless, inappropriate misuse, in a most disrespectful way, of the holy name.

After all, if one does not believe in the holy name, then why use it?

Margaret Walshe,
Dublin 15

Public sector pay is scandalous

Sir — Remember the cliche “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay”? There seems to be a competition among public sector unions to see who can extract the highest multiple of one day’s pay for one day’s work.

Sadly, this is the modus operandi of our master class and it leads to gross inequality in our society. It is bewildering why this cohort fails to accept that they are on a gravy train. Is it a slight oversight? Or is it being casuistic and greedy? 

They seem to conveniently compare themselves with those brethren in a more privileged position further up the train, instead of comparing themselves with workers at a similar level in the private sector. After all, it is quite simply, a matter of pounds, shillings and pence. 

Antoin O’Faolain,
Dungarbhain, Co Phortlairge

Saluting ‘the few’

Sir — Reading last week’s Sunday Independent, one sentence in Gene Kerrigan’s Soapbox column jumped out at me: “Few take the Dail seriously any more.” It appeared in an article complaining about the numbers present in the Dail at any one time. That sentence ignores the fact that the Dail is the most powerful decision making forum in our democracy.

I do not know how many TDs were sitting in the Dail when decisions were made which tripled government expenditure during the pre-2009 Celtic Tiger period. However many or few there were, the decisions they made bankrupted the country.

As a result of that bankruptcy, Government was spending twice what it was getting in taxes and unemployment was 15pc.

Now the budget is nearly balanced and unemployment is down to 6pc. Whether there were many or few in the Dail when the decisions were being made that created that outcome is beside the point. But the decisions that were made must be welcomed.

So contrary to Gene Kerrigan’s remarks, we had all better take the Dail seriously. They may not be in the House all the time — but the people we elect sometimes make serious decisions which affect us all.

A Leavy, Sutton,
Dublin 13

Sunday Independent readers have been remarkable in their support for our letter writer of last week who had €500 stolen from her.

To each and every person who responded, we would like to say your response is both humbling and very much appreciated.

— Cormac Bourke, Editor

Should the Bible face blasphemy suit?

Sir — In your report entitled ‘Garda probe Stephen Fry’s ‘blasphemy’ (Sunday Independent, May 7) you stated that Stephen Fry could face a €25,000 fine if convicted of uttering blasphemy on the TV programme The Meaning of Life. But the angry words Mr Fry spoke on that programme in 2015 are only a variation of certain words Jesus Christ, himself, is reported to have spoken on his cross. These lonely words of his were: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Words expressing similar loneliness have probably been said by every human being in history who has ever suffered heartache or loss. Who, ultimately, other than God can we take all our despair out on because he seems invisible to us when we need him. Just like Mr Fry, we can often utter angry words that reject him?

In The Book of Job, when Job was at his lowest and had lost everything and was covered in sores, he heard the voice of his wife tempting him to “curse God and die”. Should someone therefore have the right to take out a blasphemy lawsuit against the publishers of the Bible for putting these words of doubt about God’s love into the mouths of both Job’s wife and Jesus?

Every now and then in life, ordinary people should get their feelings about God off their chests. Perhaps this should happen in a type of wonderful talking shop designed for everyone. Stopping people from speaking out is unhealthy for society. It could mean people might go on to do no good to themselves, or to others.

In speaking out, all of us should make sure to agree to disagree when we hear contrary opinions clashing over the nature of God. Hearing what Oscar Wilde once said works well, which is we should have “manners before morals”. It can be perhaps a little exasperating to hear people, silent so long, speak out for the very first time, but at other times they should be a real joy to listen to.

Sean O’Brien, Kilrush,
Co Clare

Wasting time and mandating it

Sir — Perhaps the sun has gone to our heads and we, as a nation, are experiencing a collective sunstroke. Firstly, we allowed the Garda to waste its valuable resources on a blasphemy allegation against Stephen Fry and then the unwillingness by some to stand for a prayer in the Dail creates front-page news.

Prayer is great but must we mandate it in the workplace like it is mandated in the Dail? If everyone who came to work in Bus Eireann had to stand for a prayer it would seem a little strange.

Why should we expect our politicians to stand for a prayer before work? We continue to conspire to make ourselves look like right eejits to the outside world. I am sure Mr Fry is resting easier now that the State will not extradite him to face a blasphemy charge. Perhaps Britain would retaliate by bringing Mrs Brown up on the Innuendo laws of 1779?

Ger Corrigan, Castletroy,

Calling out hypocrisy

Sir— I have the highest regard for Ruth Dudley Edwards because of her marvellous forthright articles in the Sunday Independent.

She is very balanced and fair and I must say she excelled with her article (Sunday Independent, May 7) in which she so aptly

portrayed the real character of Mary Lou McDonald as

“nauseatingly hypocritical” in relation to Jonathan Dowdall.

She and her cohorts are parasites who have no positive contribution to offer our country.

Bernadette Brennan,
Lucan, Co Dublin

The revering of perfectionism

Sir — Last weekend, thousands of people participated in the annual Darkness into Light walk. Not only is this Pieta House’s biggest fundraising event of the year, it is also very important as it brings attention to the problem of suicide in Ireland. It has become such a big event, being a conversation starter with people of all ages and backgrounds taking part in it. The sad reality is that the majority of these people would have some direct experience of suicide, whether in their own families, or group of friends.

We live in an age when perfectionism is revered. People are under pressure to perform in many aspects of their lives — both professionally and personally. This starts off when we are young, the education system places huge emphasis on academic success. If you do not measure up you can feel like a failure. While the causes of suicide are complex, suicide can be a reflection of society itself. Despite all the organisations offering help to people in emotional and mental distress, why do some people feel they have no choice but to undertake this drastic action?

Events like Darkness into Light highlight the issue of suicide and help reduce the stigma associated with mental ill-health. As a country, we have progressed massively in this area. In times past, we locked up more people in mental institutions than any other country in the world, including the former USSR. Mental illness was just never spoken about, despite the fact that so many families would have had direct experience of it. We all have a role to play in the reduction of suicide. A more compassionate society, with less emphasis on high achievement, would help. Despite some misconceptions in this area, people who experience mental ill-health do reach out for help. While the type of help they receive is, of course, very important, equally important is our attitude to people with mental ill-health or those who find themselves in severe mental distress.

As a society we need to be more accepting of people’s varying abilities. Such a society will be more understanding of the imperfections of life and the imperfections in individuals. We all have a duty in this regard in our interactions with our fellow human beings.

It is okay not to be okay and to feel accepted if we admit to struggling with our mental health.

Maybe then people who find themselves in mental distress won’t find this world such a cold and unwelcoming place.

Tommy Roddy,

Inferiority complex in sports coverage

Sir — Are we, as a people, and those at RTE in particular, so filled with inferiority complexes that the sports department of Ireland’s national broadcaster gives preferential coverage to reporting on English soccer matches, than it does to Ireland’s indigenous soccer leagues? Last Tuesday morning the principal item on Radio One sports was an in-depth report on the result of an English Premier league match between Chelsea and Middlesbrough, while the result of the Irish SSE Airtricity League match between Galway and Derry received secondary coverage.

It seems that English football is now regarded by RTE as Ireland’s national soccer league. I welcome coverage of all sporting events from around the globe but as a publicly funded institution, RTE should project a distinctly Irish world view.

Giving Irish sporting events fair and appropriate coverage on Irish television and radio would be a good start.

Tom Cooper,
Templeogue, Dublin

Politicians should show compassion

Sir — A gentle reminder that politicians are public servants who deserve no respect unless they have earned it. I am struggling to find, among our current Government, politicians who are showing true courage and compassion.

I am upset that a Cork mother, whom the entire country seems to support, has to go to the lengths she has, in order to secure medicinal cannabis for her daughter. We all want it for her, we all wish her daughter to have some health and wellness in her life. Why the delay? Why the paper-pushing? If it were a law or tax, it would be fast-tracked and brought in at speed.

Rose Servitova,
Co Limerick

Keep the hedgerow choristers singing

Sir — Like many people, I enjoyed listening to the Dawn Chorus on RTE. It’s great to hear all those birds chirping, warbling, whistling and filling the air with sweet music.

It certainly beats the so-called Eurovision. I can’t abide most of the offerings at that annual assault on taste — and some of the entries make even My Lovely Horse look respectable. But the eloquence of those avian choirs that usher in each new day is spoiled for me by the actions of so-called “sportspeople”.

In theory, songbirds are protected. But then the law also states you can’t drive after drinking. Unfortunately there are people who find pleasure, or a challenge of some kind, in blasting songbirds out of the sky, tree or bush. If you take a walk through the countryside, you’ll come across the small, lead-riddled carcasses. How sad to find these remnants of once-delightful entertainers, their voices stilled forever, their sweet notes cut short by man’s inhumanity. Blackbirds, thrushes, yellowhammers and many others fall prey to the guns and to unscrupulous hedge-cutting or burning.

Robbie Burns, commenting on the fate of a shot hare, fumed at the gunman: “Blasted be thy murder-aiming eye; May never pity soothe thee with a sigh…”

One might likewise castigate those who kill the singers.

John Fitzgerald, Callan,
Co Kilkenny

The sad fate of exported animals

Sir — Fiona O’Connell is to be commended for her efforts to highlight the suffering and cruelty of live exports. (‘Home versus a fearsome fate on foreign shores,’ Sunday Independent, May 7). The shocking conditions Irish cattle are forced to endure on these long journeys and the brutal fate that awaits them should surely raise concerns on moral and ethical grounds. 

Shamefully, Minister Michael Creed, his department and the IFA seem willing to continue with this business. Do profits and market share matter more than the suffering and dire end that awaits these animals in Turkey and the Middle East?

To reiterate Ms O’Connell’s point — “meat-eaters must show mercy, and demand limits on the atrocities inflicted on Irish animals by processors and exporters”. The words of Charles Darwin come to mind. “There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher animals in their mental faculties. The lower animals, like man, manifestly feel pleasure and pain, happiness and misery.”     

Mary C Fitzpatrick,
Bishopstown, Cork

Looking for justice

Sir — The deliberate killing of babies in the womb is the crime of the century. Surely with contraception so widely available there should be no need for this horrible act to end a baby’s life.

It is illegal to destroy eagle eggs but legal to destroy an unborn baby. Many people are condemning the nuns for how they treated children and babies in their care and at the same time calling for the slaughter of innocent babies. Where is the justice in all this?

M Dolan,

Macron’s tax move

Sir — Ireland ought not forget that, even before the new president of France was elected, Emmanuel Macron singled Ireland out for his notion of “tax reform” which, if he gets his way, will make us suffer even more economically as a result of his policies on corporate tax.

We might also remember that if France did not opt for Marine Le Pen, who garnered 11,000,000 votes, she did not make any such direct threat to Ireland.

Robert Sullivan,
Bantry, Co Cork

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