Sir – Nobody in the UK seems capable of cutting through the hubris of Brexit. You cannot run with the hares and hunt with the hounds simultaneously. If you have different customs and different standards in place between the EU and the UK, there will have to be checks to protect the integrity of their respective customs and standards.
As for the movement of people, if there is no border check between the Republic and Northern Ireland or no check between the island of Ireland and the island of Britain, what’s to stop someone from coming from any part of the EU to Ireland, then on to Northern Ireland and then on to any part of the UK? And vice versa with UK citizens to the EU. There will have to be checks somewhere, otherwise why Brexit?
Ireland was divided against the wishes of the majority of the Irish people, resulting in Civil War in the Republic and the Troubles in the North. Is Ireland to be further divided by Brexit, and at what cost to the Irish? And who will be responsible?
It is with much sadness I write this. When Anglo-Irish relations were at an all-time high, along came Brexit. It may surprise many that, on a pro-rata population basis, there is a higher percentage of UK-born citizens living in Ireland than Irish-born citizens in the UK.
Athlone, Co Westmeath
Beware perfidious Albion again
Sir – So the DUP is now describing the Brexit backstop as poison, as though its existence is preventing them from reaching some kind of nirvana with other Brexiteers in a brave new world. They would do well to learn a few lessons from history.
One of the watershed events in the history of the North, apart from Brexit and the conflict from 1970-1998, is the Siege of Derry. In 1689-90, a smaller force of Protestant defenders (Episcopalian, Presbyterian, non-conformist) held out for six months against a greater Irish Catholic force loyal to King James, and by the slimmest of margins and the luckiest of circumstances, managed to break the boom on Lough Foyle, thus allowing relief ships to come to their rescue. This courageous defence secured Ulster for King William and ensured Protestant domination there for 300 years until today.
But not everything was rosy thereafter in Ulster’s garden. A little recounted fact is that, for all their allegiance to King William, the Presbyterians in particular were to be sadly disappointed in thinking their loyalty to the king would count in their favour. Firstly, English landowners killed the flourishing Irish cattle trade by procuring laws from Parliament prohibiting the importation into England of Irish cattle, sheep, pigs, pork, bacon and even butter and cheese. The Navigation Act was passed under which Irish ships were prevented from any share of trade with the colonies and was thus annihilated.
With the Irish cattle trade killed by the jealousy of the English, the Presbyterians and other unionist landowners turned to sheep to produce wool of excellent quality. But English wool magnates again moved swiftly to ruthlessly kill the competition. In 1699, the British parliament enacted a law of such crushing severity that the export of Irish wool was prohibited to any country in the world. The Irish were told to switch to linen.
They fared better at this enterprise but already many Presbyterians, disillusioned by their treatment at the hands of the smug Walpole parliamentarians and the savage suppression of their agricultural and industrial success, began to emigrate to the new colonies of America in large numbers. Their descendants became US presidents such as Andrew Jackson, James Polk and James Buchanan. The heroic frontiersmen Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were of Ulster Protestant stock. Among the most fanatical and ferocious fighters against the British in the American War of Independence were the seed and breed of Ulster Protestant emigrants.
There is ample historical evidence to adduce that the Ulster Protestants, apart from those defending Derry in the siege, were treated humanely and fairly by their Catholic neighbours. Up to the ending of the siege, Irish Catholics held the overwhelming power in Ulster. The whole of the province, apart from Derry and Enniskillen, lay at their mercy, yet the Protestant population lived almost unmolested either by Irish troops or Catholic peasantry. Indeed the Protestants of this area later maintained they never suffered from the Irish Army such damage as was inflicted upon them by William’s commander, Schomberg. John Graham, a Protestant clergyman and fervent unionist, was at pains to list the names of 10 Catholic priests who had befriended their Protestant neighbours.
Nor did the leaders and defenders of Derry under siege fare better. They were treated by the English government with a shabby meanness. Colonel John Mitchelbourne, the city’s military governor, whose entire family had perished in the siege, was arrested in London in 1709 after he went to press his claim for compensation and thrown into debtors’ prison. Another, Colonel William Hamill, who had pursued a claim for Derry’s victims for 30 years, was imprisoned for debt, having spent thousands of his own money seeking redress for the soldiers of the siege. There are such harrowing examples of English ingratitude too numerous to mention.
The lessons are salutary. Irishmen of every stripe, Protestant, Catholic, Presbyterian and Dissenter, should be under no illusion as to their dispensability if it comes to a choice between them and Britain. It happened before and history has meticulous records of it. Indeed the phrase perfidious Albion was not coined by an Irish Catholic at all, but by an Ulster Protestant. It may be that the time is ripe once again for history to repeat itself. For the DUP, it may not be the backstop that is poison but those whom they perceive as their English political bedfellows.
Anti-abortion – but we still pay
Sir – Claiming to be pro-choice is all well and good, but what about the third of the electorate that voted against abortion in the referendum last May: what about their right to choose?
Soon this third of people, through the public purse, will be forced to pay for something which they find abhorrent, objectionable, repugnant and cruel, not to mention immoral, something which may be deemed one day to have been even worse than what went on at the Tuam mother and baby home, for instance.
And yet pay they must, because they will be given no choice. For in this new, secular, dare I say totalitarian, Ireland in which we now live, it would appear some choices are to be made more equal than others, and while some will have the right to choose to abort the lives of their unborn babies, many others will not have the right to choose not to pay for it.
Stop the protests
Anti-choice protesters have again managed to make their real agenda clear. It’s not about reducing abortion numbers, it’s just about the intimidation and shaming of anyone who might find themselves in a position where they need to terminate a pregnancy.
It is counterproductive to protest outside hospitals and GP clinics in order to harass these women instead of campaigning for better sex education and free contraception, which are known to have a direct impact on abortion rates.
Irish women deserve better. We can’t allow those who can now finally avail of free, safe and legal abortion care in their own country to continue to be abused by the anti-choice brigade in this manner. Legislation on exclusion zones can’t come quick enough.
Sir – Would it be too much to ask the 40 TDs who were absent for the final vote on the abortion legislation where on earth were they? What other business could they not have postponed/rescheduled to attend? Would they mind letting us know how they would have voted?
Wall of shame
Sir – Regarding Donald Trump’s wall, might I suggest that the Democrats give him full funding for it on the strict condition that he remains on the Mexican side of it.
This should put an end to many of America’s problems.
Oil disaster recalled sad family memories
Sir — On the morning of January 8, 1979, I was on a night shift at Great Island Power Station in Co Wexford, working as an operating technician looking after one of Ireland’s largest steam turbine generators of the time, the 120mw Unit 3.
About 6.30am, I turned on the radio in the control room to listen to RTE’s early morning news bulletin. The headline item was the Whiddy Island disaster, the explosion of the oil tanker Betelgeuse in Bantry Bay, with the loss of many lives.
After the initial shock had worn off, I telephoned my father with the news. My reason stemmed from several years previously when my dad was called to the High Court in Dublin — up against ‘wigs and gowns’, while John Baldwin represented himself — to be humbled (despite the sympathy of the judge) by the legal people representing the Gulf Oil company.
Gulf Oil had denied my father any compensation after a previous spillage of oil into Bantry Bay, when my father had been buying herrings from the local skiffs and processing the salted fish into barrels.
All of John Baldwin’s fish on the pier at Bantry had been declared ‘condemned’ by a local heath inspector, and around 20 tonnes ready for shipping to Holland had to be destroyed.
I will remember until my dying day my father’s words after that terrible incident at the Whiddy Island: “I only lost my livelihood, Thomas, but those poor men have lost their lives, lost everything, and all because of Gulf Oil’s continued ineptitude and carelessness.”
It wasn’t the ECB who started it
Sir — In his article (Sunday Independent, January 6) Colm McCarthy spends a lot of time blaming the European Central Bank for what happened to Ireland as a result of the bailout in 2010.
He fails to mention the basic fact that it was the decisions of a small number of the most powerful citizens in this country, in charge of government, financial institutions and so on, that bankrupted the country and caused the need for a spectacular bailout.
The Irish government deficit in 2010 was of world-record proportions relative to the size of the Irish economy. Due to having to bail out the banks and a collapse in tax take, Irish government expenditure was twice Irish tax take and the consequent deficit was nearly a third of Irish GDP. To put those figures in perspective relative to the size of both economies, they were three times worse than the equivalent figures for Greece, which was bailed out at much the same time.
When we are blaming the ECB, which was funding the bailout, for the conditions imposed, which were successful, we should remember that the vast majority of the countries of the EU, including the poorest, did not bankrupt their economies but contributed to our bailout.
Brendan up front
Sir — I wouldn’t miss the Sunday Independent each week, mainly because of Brendan O’Connor’s front-page article. It’s always so simple and very witty and funny. How he thinks of the subjects to write about amazes me.
Last Sunday he wrote about coffee and the Irish craze for it. I must be one of the few who never got into those cardboard coffee cups. I suppose at pushing 70 it just wasn’t my thing and I never took to or ever bought a coffee in a cardboard cup.
It just wouldn’t taste the same as my days in Grafton Street, when Dublin could be heaven with coffee at 11am in Bewley’s and a stroll through Stephen’s Green. Coffee in cardboard cups is not all it’s cracked to be.
However, Brendan, keep writing those great articles as they make me smile and laugh and that’s a good thing for a Sunday morning.
Show poet’s positive side
Sir — It was very sad to read the uprooted 70-year-old news about Patrick Kavanagh threatening some bookshop owners in Dublin that, if his book The Green Fool was not in a prominent position in the bookshop window, there would be reprisals from him.
This may or may not be true, but do we really need to know after all this time? Kavanagh may well have been cantankerous, but it never shone through in his work. All the young students studying Kavanagh’s poetry, for their Junior and Leaving Certs, do not need to know the negative side of his life.
Granted, some of the lines in his long poem The Great Hunger were a bit explicit, but they needed to be to show the desperations and frustrations of the main character. I am sure when he wrote ‘remember me in 100 years from now and what I was like to know’ he was not thinking of silly quarrels with bookshop owners.
I, for one, would like to remember him as he was, when he first saw her and knew that her dark hair would weave a snare, as he sauntered down Raglan Road on an autumn day, so long, long ago.
James J Heslin,
Sickly hospital rebranding spin
Sir — I would like to appeal to the authorities not to rebrand our local hospital, but to retain the name of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, because of the place it holds in the hearts of the people.
What the HSE fails to realise is that Drogheda people are proud of their history and tradition. Local people appreciate and admire the work of the hospital’s founder, Mother Mary Martin, and the international missionaries who provided care, compassion and healthcare long before the State was in a position to do so.
We feel a sense of pride and loyalty to the Lourdes Hospital where many of us were born or treated by a caring and dedicated staff.
Many of the country’s hospitals were originally founded by religious orders, due to the inaction of the State and our political masters at the time. Retaining the original Christian names of hospitals such as Our Lady’s, St James’s, St Vincent’s or the Mater (ie, Mother of God) is no longer politically correct, apparently. Our pluralism and respect for diversity apply to everyone in theory, but not in practice to those of the Christian faith. The logical conclusion is that the State should now ban religious feast days, such as Christmas and Easter holidays, as well as St Patrick’s Day. Where does it all end?
Hospital management should not allow itself to be distracted by spin, by promoting style over substance.
Whatever problems or challenges the hospital is facing, it has nothing to do with its title. Hospital management should focus on real issues and improve outcomes for patients. Rebranding the hospital is only an expensive distraction which nobody wants. The hospital can only retain its good name by putting patient care first.