Tuesday, January 1, 2013

my year in letters



It is not unusual at this time of year to look back over the year gone by and mull over some of the more important events.  I thought I'd go through the letters I've had published in various national papers. It's one way of looking at some of the issues that were in the papers in 2012. And it is interesting, for me at least, to see the wide range of subjects I've tossed off a couple of quick lines to the editor in respect of. I suppose they could be said to fall into two broad categories: social issues & those related to religion (often with a degree of overlap!). All the ones below were in the Irish Times, unless otherwise indicated (there was one in an Australian paper also, but I wasn't able to track it down - I forget which paper it was! Oh, & the reason why the list starts in May is that I didn't write any letters to the editor for the first four months of 2012 - for various reasons, I had decided to take a break from that task for a while).

Enjoy, or not, as you please ... and Happy New Year!


May 9
A chara, – David Grimes (Opinion Analysis, May 7th) believes that the term “militant secularism” is an oxymoron. Why? Is there some oath that secularists take that prevents them from being in any way militant in pursuit of their agenda? In which case, Dr Grimes should consider himself to be on report: the tone of his article was militant from beginning to end, especially in his use of denigrating terms such as “sky God” and “Stone Age tome”.

But perhaps he believes that to be a secularist is to be inherently militant? In which case the word he was looking for was “tautology” not “oxymoron”. – Is mise,

May 29
A chara, – Seán Byrne’s piece on rural dwellers (Opinion, May 28th) was truly a revelation. I never realised how selfish it is to live anywhere outside the environs of Dublin, Cork, or some other large urban area.

Nasty, polluting, greedy rural dwellers! What a pity we need them to put food on our tables and keep the countryside attractive for tourists. Perhaps now is the time to investigate automation options? Then finally these burdens on society can be warehoused in cheap, clean cities whether they like it or not. – Is mise,

July 7
A chara, – If the Government’s highly paid advisers are so good, let them work on a “no foal, no fee” basis. – Is mise,

July 18
A chara, – There appears to be a drive to legalise same-sex marriage without the democratic consultation of a constitutional referendum. Dr Conor O’Mahony (Opinion July 17th) suggests that the major political parties are on board for a legislative change. I wasn’t aware that they had sought a mandate to do so at the last general election. And why the eagerness to avoid a referendum? One might almost wonder that some worry the people will not give them the result they want.

However, I think it advisable that people have the chance to engage in debate. This is a highly emotive issue. It would be best to avoid the possibility that this change, should we make it, be tainted by the charge that it was done without meaningful consultation. – Is mise,

July 25
A chara, – Jessica Copley (July 20th) suggests I am an advocate of tyranny by virtue of wishing to see democratic consultation in respect of the issue of same-sex marriage. Is that the Ireland of today? Where an individual or group may declare something is a “right’ by fiat and those who wish to discuss the matter are tyrants?

All citizens do indeed have a right to equality before the law, as Ms Copley states. However, the reason we are having a debate on same-sex marriage is that no law exists to establish it as a right.

In our society law is established by the will of the people. That is a right I trust no one will dispute. It is not tyranny to wish to have a discussion followed by a vote to determine the will of the majority on an issue; it is democracy.

Tyranny is more likely to be found where the few seek to take charge of a society and run it according to their own will and pleasure, irrespective of the democratic rights of the many. – Yours, etc,

Aug 28
A chara, – As Donal Óg Cusack’s piece on the reasons for his coming out was an “edited extract” of an address he gave, one might ask why the expletive commonly referred to as the “f-word” was not edited out. If we have reached the point where that kind of language is found to acceptable for the pages of The Irish Times, then perhaps a campaign is required to stamp out its use in the public arena. – Is mise,

Aug 31
A chara, – Having occasionally strayed from my ivory tower, I am not unaware of the levels of profanity currently prevalent in our society, as Patrick O’Byrne seems to think (August 29th). I nonetheless thank him for his list of where and how I might find such profanity used.

Regarding Donal Óg Cusack’s account of homophobic abuse from the terraces, Mr O’Byrne might wish to consider that if the use of profanity was socially unacceptable, then Mr Cusack might have been spared such a foul-mouthed tirade.

If not, then at the very least onlookers and officials might have felt empowered to deal with the loudmouth with the megaphone. – Is mise,

Sep 27 (Irish Independent)
What was our Taoiseach up to during his visit to Castel Gandolfo?

Video footage of his visit, easily available online, shows a quite extraordinary display. The Pope begins speaking; Mr Kenny checks his mobile phone. The Pope continues his address; Mr Kenny continues to check his phone. The Pope finishes, his guests stand to receive a blessing; and Mr Kenny is the last to rise as he is, again, checking his mobile phone.

All the while sitting in the front row with nothing between him and His Holiness (and the press) but empty air. Try as I might, I could not see another of the European leaders present with their phone so much in view.

Was Mr Kenny deliberately trying to be discourteous or does he genuinely not realise that this is not acceptable behaviour? And why has our press, which surely would have expressed outrage on behalf of the nation if he had acted like this in the presence of any other world leader, or been treated this way by one, not called him to account for this incident?

Oct 4th
A chara, – A referendum on children’s rights alongside a proposal to cut children’s allowance? Clearly our Government has a sense of humour.

We’ll see who’s laughing come the next election. – Is mise,

15 Oct (Belfast Telegraph)
William Ennis says that William III, Oscar Wilde, and Roger Casement would not have had the right to marry in Ireland.

Of these three, two were, in fact, married: Oscar Wilde (to Constance Lloyd in 1881); and King William (to Mary Stuart in 1677).

While these unions took place outside of Ireland, there is no reason to believe that they would not have been allowed to celebrate their marriages on this island.

Oct 18th
A chara, – No one would argue against protecting children and preventing abuse. I’m just waiting for someone to show how this amendment will do so. Commentator after commentator in the letters columns and opinion pages of this paper have demonstrated that it adds nothing to the existing rights of children, while giving extra powers to the State.

As one of the main problems is the Government’s failure to use its existing powers to protect children, how will the referendum achieve anything?

Or is it somehow envisaged that the amendment will additionally give the powers-that-be a back-bone transplant? – Is mise,

Oct 25th
A chara, – Prof James P Mackey thinks today’s church is “not anything that Jesus could ever have contemplated” (Rite Reason, October 23rd).

This seems a claim to almost God-like insight into what was possible for Jesus’s human imagination, and suggests a rather lesser insight as to what is possible for the divine. – Is mise,

Oct 27
A chara, – Naturally the Government cannot pay Irish citizens their mobility allowance. Bondholders come first. – Is mise,

Nov 9th
A chara, - For millennia in all civilised societies the family has been the fundamental building block. The so-called "children's referendum" seeks to give the State almost unlimited power to tear asunder that building block, with the concomitant power, it would seem, to put in its place almost anything it likes.

This is not a children's referendum. It is social experimenting gone mad. - Is mise,

Dec 20
A chara, – Orla O’Connor describes abortion not only as a right but as a “critical right” (Opinion, December 17th). It should be stressed that she is writing an opinion piece; therefore what she is really saying is that in her opinion there should be a right to an abortion.

Despite her hyperbole, there is no right to an abortion. There is, however, a right to life. This is a fundamental right, a right without which no other rights can exist. Her opinion that abortion is a right is simply an expression of her belief that the most basic right of all may be denied to some. – Is mise,

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