Letters to the Editor: ‘Lesson from Benn for Sinn Fein MPs’
Sir – Any MP who objects to swearing an oath of allegiance can make a solemn affirmation instead (Sunday Independent, April 7).
When Tony Benn delivered his oath of allegiance in the House of Commons, he prefaced the statutory affirmation of allegiance, saying: “As a dedicated republican, and under protest, and solely to serve my constituents, I declare and affirm…”
The Sinn Fein MPs could surely do something similar, take their seats and vote only in Brexit-related debates.
There is a Scottish Gaelic wording for the affirmation should they wish to use it.
Elected to abstain
Sir – Does Declan Lynch (Sunday Independent, April 7) not realise that Sinn Fein are clearly elected on an abstentious policy? Does he not realise that the SDLP lost all their seats for attending this parliament?
Sir – Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, April 7) was apparently confused by Dr Jennifer Cassidy’s profoundly insightful tweet in relation to Brexit and Mrs May. He should be reassured he was not the only one. The tweet can be best described as inarticulate, meaningless gibberish – and that’s being kind. And from an Oxbridge lecturer no less.
Unfair to say EU operates like Mafia
Sir – The UK’s contribution to the EU was described by Robert Sullivan (Letters, Sunday Independent, April 7) as “dubious mafia-style debt collecting”.
The EU is not the Mafia and the UK is no powerless victim. It is the most advanced effort at international cooperation in the world in a continent that was reduced to ruin over the centuries by totalitarian/imperial wars.
German contributions to the EU are more than 20pc of total and French contributions are more than 15pc. Given these relativities, the UK’s just over 10pc looks small, especially when we look at history.
Is it not ironic that the UK, which less than a century ago governed an empire which contained nearly a quarter of the population of the globe and which was on the winning side in two world wars since, should be complaining about contributing its share to the EU together with nearly 30 other European democracies?
In addition, is it also not a little ironic that the UK, which is a nuclear power and member of Nato, a permanent member of the security council of the UN and has one of the largest and most developed economies in the world should be complaining about cooperating with nearly 30 other European democracies?
A rich spectrum
Sir – I admire the way the editors of the Sunday Independent help the reader to navigate the rich spectrum of the topics covered. For example, I was alerted to Gina London’s piece on page 7 (Business, April 7) because it was prominently cited at the top of the first page of the supplement. I mean to say, if it wasn’t for that clever “nudge” I might have missed her interesting new alphabet focusing on ‘Appearance, Behaviour and Communications’.
This prompts me to weigh in on the topic of “communications” because for decades I have been involved in developing communications on the internet, in my role as a member of the USA-based Internet Society World Advisory Council representative for Asia. At the end of the second decade of the 21st Century, “communications” means “communications for commerce through computers”. Here the term ‘computers’ includes mobile phones.
Dr Sadiq Hussain,
All welcome under ethos of this school
Sir – Our innovative, successful and resilient country still cannot shake itself from the overreaching hands of the institutions of old.
The recent letters issued to parents by Catholic Church-backed schools in the northern suburbs of our country’s capital look to me like the type of scaremongering seen only in a ‘Father Ted’ sketch on a distant zany island; however this is our reality. These letters attempted to strike fear into parents: stating Christmas will no longer be celebrated or you won’t find a secondary school if you change the denomination. The letters also state that primary school children not having to wear uniforms will lead to arguments in the morning. In my experience, having to get dressed for Mass once a week tends to cause much more of a squabble in the households that still feel the guilt to go.
While this comedy sketch has been played out recently in most of our country’s media, for the past two to three years in the south of our capital city we have a fledgling school in Dun Laoghaire against all odds trying to break through the institutional dominance. This operates under the ethos of all are genuinely welcome (not just welcome if you come to Mass and pay your dues). At this school, the junior and senior infant children cannot exercise, have only one bathroom, are taught in prefabs and children with special needs have their one-to-one class sessions in the corridor. Currently no clear plan is in place for a permanent building with the facilities and commitment these children and teachers need.
Maybe we should cancel Christmas, is it really religious any more? We should use all the money and energy wasted on excessive food and gifts and redirect it all into the methods and system of education for our most precious resource.
Spot on, Brendan
Sir – Congratulations to Brendan O’Connor for his article on dehumanising politicians (Sunday Independent, April 7). It is something that needs to be said more often.
Honour Tony with a ban on coursing
Sir – To mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Tony Gregory TD, a photographic exhibition on his life and work will open later this month in the heart of his former constituency.
This event will be a fitting and deserved accolade to a politician who worked vigorously for his constituents; who took a brave stand against evil drug pushers and, famously and controversially, signed the deal with Fianna Fail that secured a desperately needed multi-million pound investment for Dublin Central.
There is, though, another way to honour this tireless fighter for justice and equality. He was passionate about the plight of animals in Ireland, and in particular he campaigned, within and outside the Oireachtas, for a ban on the cruel practice of live hare coursing.
Many other politicians of all parties concurred with his stance, but when his bill proposing the abolition of this bloodsport came before the Dail in June 1993, the party whips were cracked and a measure that would have given protection to the long-suffering Irish hare was defeated by 104 votes to 16.
TDs who had pledged opposition to hare coursing were corralled into voting down the bill. I was in the public gallery and I noticed that many of them had their heads bowed and eyes averted, as they passed through the “Nil” lobby.
As a tribute to Tony Gregory on the tenth anniversary of his untimely death, I would appeal to all parties represented in the Dail to allow a free vote next time a bill is tabled to ban hare coursing.
Rhythm of nature’s natural laws
Sir — Thanks to Joe Kennedy (‘Returning swallows herald summer’, Country Matters, Sunday Independent, April 7) for yet again writing a beautiful, informative article regarding the wonderful mystery of nature.
It is amazing that the swallows and martins can fly to Africa in winter and return to Ireland several months later, reminding us of the nearing of summertime.
I can only believe that there is an energy much greater than man, which is responsible for the beating of the tiny hearts of these long-tailed birds with toothpicks for legs!
It is truly wonderful to watch as the swallows return to rebuild old nests, and or find new spaces in barns, etc, to build homes for the forthcoming arrival of new chicks. Is it not a miracle to experience the rhythm of nature’s natural laws?
Sadly, as Mr Kennedy says and I quote: “There were, and perhaps still are, some homeowners who do not welcome swallows and martins to their properties, and knock down nest materials, hoping the birds will move on and not soil the decor of their porches.”
Yes, I can confirm there are homeowners who are prepared to knock down swallow nests regardless that they may include baby chicks. Shame on them. One may try to justify why they don’t want magpies around as ‘they cause mayhem’? Conversely, who can honestly say that to destroy a bird’s nest because they soil the decor of porches is justifiable?
Blessing of birds’ return
Sir — It’s great to hear from Joe Kennedy that our friends are arriving home (Country Matters, Sunday Independent, April 7).
All the way from South Africa, the swallows have reappeared in the sunshine of West Cork mornings.
No better place as John B Keane would say. While on holiday in Ireland, I hear they have been sighted in the Sligo/Mayo area. Numbers will build throughout April.
Swallows have arrived early, due to a mild spell early in the year. Every year in Easkey, Co Sligo, they come to build their nests in outhouses and high old cowsheds.
They have come back to the same nests for over 20 years. People around here consider it a blessing to have wild birds visit every year — like spring flowers and new life with fresh hope reminding us that summer is just down the road.
Voters have power to force a change
Sir — I find the political situation in the northern part of our island sad and annoying, yet feel helpless as its electorate must.
As a neutral watching from the southern part at two-and-a-quarter years without the Stormont Assembly, so many economical and social issues have been left unattended. The two main parties play a blame game and stalemate scenario.
So now should be the chance to change the system and give a more moderate party a chance to show what it can do and give a voice to the electorate that is demanding it.
Ulster has said “No” long enough and the money that was “negotiated” by the DUP for the people is there to be distributed evenly and properly for all to benefit.
The power is in your hands now so use it to the best of your ability and vote for the good of all citizens in the province!
Teach young people healthy living habits
Sir — It’s ridiculous, irresponsible and inappropriate that any organisation tells children to cut back on meat and dairy products.
It is parents’ role and responsibility to teach, train and supervise what their children eat and drink.
And encouraging children, at a critical time in their development, to cut down on vital, nutritious food can be harmful and dangerous.
There are already some children inclined towards unhealthy weight loss and anorexia. Is this dietary advice — connected with claims of helping the environment and pollution — going to tip them further into this train of thought?
We also have a lot of overweight children, some obese. Will this encourage more unhealthy eating, consuming unhealthy, empty calories from fast-food consumption and guzzling minerals?
Will it increase the amount of takeaway food and beverages, and all the unrecyclable wrappings and disposable, unrecyclable containers?
Surely encouraging the consumption of healthy food and beverages would be the more responsible behaviour.
Children should be informed of their own responsibility in reducing their carbon footprints.
They should be encouraged to walk or cycle to their places of education, sport and recreation.
They should be encouraged to do a little home gardening. Peas, beans and lentils are very easy to grow, and are very healthy foods. And they help the environment. Lettuce and other salad leaves are easy to grow. It is these kinds of practical activities children should be encouraged to do.
And children should also be taught and trained to dispose of their rubbish responsibly.
Recently, a few schoolboys, in their early teens, were coming towards me on the footpath, consuming their fast food.
In front of me, beside a rubbish bin, one boy threw his empty pizza box on the ground.
I said to him that this was littering and that he should pick it up and put it in the bin. And I said that there was a €3,000 fine for this kind of littering.
His eyes and mouth enlargened like saucers as he stared at me. But he picked it up and left it on the top of the bin.
So everyone, of all ages, should take responsibility for their own behaviour and lifestyles.
‘Old-school’ poetry more like real thing
Sir — Poet John Cooper Clarke is a man after my own heart, although his name was news to me (Waking Hours, LIFE, Sunday Independent, April 7).
He’s an advocate of “the twin dynamos of metre, precision and rhyme” in poetry, and I might add rhythm, alliteration and assonance as further tools in the art and craft of versification. Cooper Clarke considers his poetry as “very old school” and “some modern poets thinking” he was “some reactionary force”.
He mentions a teacher he had in school, John Malone, who “chose the poetry that we were to learn off by heart”.
An English teacher I had, Mr Murray, was a devotee of Oliver Goldsmith, and to this day, from many decades ago, I can still rattle off lines from The Deserted Village: “Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain/Where health and plenty cheered the labouring swain/Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid/And parting summer’s lingering blooms delayed.”
Like Cooper Clarke, your readers can guess that I, too, am of the “old school”, and not in tune with the moderns.
I am not afraid to say that I include Seamus Heaney in that category and also our President, of whom I have a slim volume and who writes somewhat in the same literary style. I would go as far to say that such work sounds more like “prosetry” than “poetry”.
I just heard that a selection of Seamus Heaney’s poems will be displayed on public transport for the next two weeks.
I would be interested to hear the views of the man and woman on the bus or train, on perhaps their first encounter with the work of a famous modern poet.