Willie, prince of full backs
Sir - I read with interest Dermot Crowe's excellent article (Sunday Independent, January 1) regarding the great sports people who passed away in 2016. However, another footballing great passed away in mid-December, which seems to have gone unnoticed in the media.
I refer to Willie Casey from Ballina who represented Mayo from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s and who, at 19, was a sub when the county won its last All-Ireland title in 1951. In 1954, he won a National League and added a Connacht medal the following year.
My first time in Croke Park to see my native county was in that year's All-Ireland semi-final in which Dublin overcame Mayo by a point after a replay.
Willie was a regular on Connacht Railway Cup teams and his province won the competition in 1958. He also was regularly selected in an All-Ireland team that played a Combined Universities selection at that time.
The late Con Houlihan described him as a "prince of full backs" and many would share this view.
I would consider him one of the best right full backs to have played the game.
Julia and the world's species
Sir - Does Julia Molony (LIFE, Sunday Independent, January 8) realise her speciesism is showing? Being a member of the "I've never met a cat I didn't like" club doesn't prevent me appreciating the talents of other species. Take rats. How many people know there are hundreds of rats employed in detecting unexploded landmines? They are too light to trigger the bombs and they squeal when they smell the explosives.
No doubt, if we studied them hard enough, even cat haters would be found to have some admirable qualities. Most bird deaths in the USA are, excluding habitat change, caused by feral cats. Many modern owners confine their neutered cats to their homes or catios.
A line that should never be crossed
Sir - I have never read anything so filled with venom and anger as Julia Molony's 'Living with the Enemy' (LIFE, Sunday Independent, January 8). Some things are never funny; encouraging wanton cruelty is not. Advocating violence and shooting of anything or anyone is a line that should never be crossed. Many animals, as well as cats, are injured by air rifles. Some cats are found or they drag themselves home - others, who don't, die a slow and agonising death.
If Ms Molony has a problem with too many cats she could help animal welfare organisations which promote neutering and responsible ownership, like a lady in a wheelchair I knew whose two cats were so important to her.
(Address with Editor)
Give more respect to depression sufferers
Sir - I wish to reply in the strongest terms to Dermot Cooke's letter ('Depression is a thought process', Sunday Independent, January 8).
I agree with him in saying that depression is not a physical entity, that's true, and I would say universally accepted as such. He merrily states, however, that self-help is the cure for depression and that he was able to cure himself "many moons ago''. I can assure Mr Cooke that no one escapes from depression without some form of outside, professional help. I wish to add that I am not a medical person myself, but I suffered a bout of depression in early 2015 and it was the most frightening experience in my life. Completely devoid of energy, I had to summon all my mental and psychological will to get out of my bedroom and up to my GP, as a matter of urgency.
I was saved by my GP's empathy in listening to me and with the care and attention of my counsellor that same afternoon. I had suffered a mental breakdown in London in 1992, caught up in a lonely city, and though my father brought me home, I was never able to speak about the traumatic experience or indeed was never encouraged by anyone to "get the hurt out of my system''. Consequently, I suffered a bout of depression that came from nowhere and could have derailed me.
Please Mr Cooke, show a modicum of respect in the future for the thousands of people with depression in this country, possibly one in three people, who are fighting to get well and need our love and sympathy to help them get better, and understand themselves better. I will never judge a person with depression. In the first place, they should not be judged. It is a most serious illness, and must not be treated in the contemptible way Mr Cooke sees fit.
David Whelan, Galway
Not a personal failure by us
Sir - As one of many sufferers of clinical depression, I was appalled at the letter ('Depression is a thought process', Sunday Independent, January 8). Cognitive behavioural therapy, in particular, and other positive thinking techniques can be immensely beneficial aids in treating depression but Mr Cooke's letter is utterly irresponsible in its statement that "we can control our own moods and depression".
I, and a significant number of other people, cannot do so. We require medical treatment, including drug therapies, and it should not be implied in any way that this is some kind of personal failure on our part. I sincerely hope that no one needing help from a professional has been dissuaded by Mr Cooke's opinion.
Gay people and abortion debate
Sir - I found it refreshing to read comments on the abortion debate made by Panti Bliss ('Cool heat on the abortion debate', Sunday Independent). Shortly after the marriage equality referendum, Panti expressed his own pro-choice views and urged other LGBT people to support repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
He did it in the context of gay people gaining the right to marry, urging them to return the favour and support women who wished to have an abortion. In the months after this, I became aware of a narrative in the gay community equating marriage equality with women's right to choose. There didn't appear to be any room for gay, pro-life people like myself. In fact when I publicly articulated my pro-life views during my general election campaign last year, some of the strongest criticism of my views came from fellow gay people. It seemed to me as if they felt I had betrayed the cause in some way. Last September, Gay Community News, the magazine which purportedly represents all members of the gay community, ran a front-page editorial supporting the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
However, in speaking to some other gay friends, I knew I was not alone. I decided to set up a group called LGBT Pro Life Ireland (Twitter @lgbtprolifeirl). People began to follow the Twitter account and send me messages saying Panti Bliss or Gay Community News didn't represent them.
Direct comparisons between the marriage equality referendum and any proposed referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment are meaningless, despite what pro-choice people say. If anything, pro-life people should take comfort from the Yes vote in the marriage equality referendum. That referendum was about equality; likewise any proposed abortion referendum will have equality at its core, the equal right to life of the unborn. That is why it is good for Panti Bliss to break the link between these two issues and acknowledge there are members of the gay community who are pro life, or, as he says in the article, "even a gay communist can be against terminations".
Past generations imposing beliefs
Sir - Mary Stewart (Letters, Sunday Independent, January 8) lamenting what she sees as the lack of balance by journalists commentating on issues relating to her own religious beliefs, reminds me of what Tolstoy had to say about this quite a while ago: "Generations who have had their day in the sun almost always fail to understand younger ones. They think that their immutable beliefs and values are the only ones. And so these erstwhile generations bark like a dog at what they don't understand."
When it comes to enabling people to make up their own minds, perhaps Mrs Stewart would consider practising what she preaches and refrain from imposing her particular beliefs upon others at the ballot box.
Disability and 'simple' solutions
Sir - It is sometimes suggested that if a child has a serious disability, it is a compassionate act to end their life as soon as possible by abortion, to save them from suffering. Probably the people best placed to comment on this are parents of children born with a disability. An American research study in 2012 surveyed parents of 272 children with Edwards syndrome, or Patau syndrome.
They wrote that, "although most parents described their children as having significant neurodevelopmental disabilities, almost all parents reported a positive view of family life and the quality of life of their child with T13-18. These parents overwhelmingly described surviving children as happy and stated that they were able to communicate with them to understand their needs".
Interestingly, they also reported that a quarter of one- to three-year-old children alive at the time of the study could say "mama" or "papa" and over four-fifths of them could laugh, play with toys and eat by mouth. While there is a wide spectrum of how babies are affected, it would be a mistake to assume that having a life-limiting condition equates to having little or no quality of life for the child or his/her family, even with the challenges involved.
When parents find themselves dealing with the trauma of having a child diagnosed with a serious condition, and the difficulties of caring for a child with special needs, both the child and parents' needs should be supported in every way possible, with investment in accessible perinatal hospice facilities and longer-term provisions.
Is abortion a simpler and easier solution? In some senses, it may seem so - yet, crucially, a child's disability, however severe, does not make him or her any less human than you or me, as Helen Watt eloquently explained at the Citizens' Convention last weekend. Many Irish people owe their lives to our laws that respect and protect each person's human right to life, disabled or not, and, as laid down in the Eighth Amendment, both before and after birth. Replacing this respect for life with a utilitarian approach, in which a person's right to life can be set aside based on what they are predicted to need or to achieve, would be a step backwards in human equality.
Return to sender, address unknown
Sir, - Assuming it's not too late for New Year resolutions, may I suggest that when individuals send letters, they put their address on the envelope. I have lost count of the number of times I have received letters not meant for me, but for another resident on my road. I feel obliged to call around in the hope I find the intended recipient.
However, there are so many new residents on my road, so I must make many calls to deliver the letter to intended resident. I was told recently that in the USA it's obligatory to put a return address on letters.
Ivan Yates, a true gentleman survivor
Sir - I totally agree with the contents of Tommy Roddy's letter (Sunday Independent, January 8) regarding Ivan Yates.
Would people prefer that those like Ivan Yates lock themselves away in a room and not come out again? Ivan appeared on TV and openly answered all questions put to him. He did so in his own inimitable friendly manner.
I am sure he has endured many sleepless nights over losses that some may have endured through decisions he made.
I have known Ivan and his family for many years and I have always regarded him as a true gentleman. He suffered greatly also, through the loss of a home, farm and business which had been built up by his grandparents, parents and other family.
During his period as a government minister, he overachieved and with due respect to others, many would say that it was a massive mistake by Fine Gael it had not chosen him to lead the party.
However, he had always said that he did not intend to be in politics after he reached 50 years of age and in my mind he made a wise decision to resign from an occupation which would have eventually dragged him down to its own level.
I look forward to Ivan rising from the ashes of his current problems and reinventing himself. Keep with it Ivan, and best wishes to you, your mother and family for many happier years.
Eoghan's role as soccer pundit
Sir - What a pleasant surprise to see Eoghan Harris unveiled as a new soccer correspondent (Sunday Independent, January 8) and it was indeed fitting that his first article in his new role was an analysis of the great Liverpool Football Club and its charismatic manager Jurgen Klopp.
I suspect that Eoghan might have been mentored by his colleague Declan Lynch who would be well versed in Liverpool lore and could fill in the knowledge gaps in Eoghan's understanding of soccer, not to mention the magnificent history of LFC. However, Eoghan is a perceptive analyst and with his deep knowledge of the classics he will bring a new dimension to the Sunday Independent's soccer reportage.
Dangerous tackles and punishment
Sir - I would like to make a point regarding Joe Brolly's article 'Stagnant GAA must learn from rugby' (Sport, Sunday Independent, January 8).
The leading referees official, Pat Doherty, has stressed that referees have to be much more consistent in their use of the black card this season.
I think while the black card is far from perfect, it has curbed cynical play to some extent and if it is applied more consistently can work to greater effect this season.
I agree that rugby is quicker to introduce rules to improve its game and the pace of change in the GAA can be frustratingly slow, with motions concerning rules only being allowed at a specific congress and not annually as should be the case.
However, there are still dangerous tackles in rugby where the punishment most certainly does not fit the crime.
While I know it is 12 years ago, the most obvious example is the execution of the 'spear' tackle on Brian O'Driscoll during the first Lions Test in New Zealand, which immediately put him out of the tour and could have led to life-changing injuries.
The Dubliner was indeed accused of whingeing in some quarters - the implication being that rugby is a tough game and just get on with it!
And England captain Dylan Hartley recently received a paltry six weeks' suspension for his dangerous tackle on Sean O'Brien during the Champions Cup tie between Northampton and Leinster.