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Letters: They walked alone for more than 43 years in the pursuit of justice

Most people carried on with their lives, relying on the State and its powerful politicians to do their timely duty.

But the State failed these families and obstructed them at almost every turn in their quest for justice, just as the chains on the exit doors on that awful night obstructed those who tried to flee to safety.

Hopefully, we will learn to always listen and will never give up on those who search for truth and justice.

Love and peace to the families, for they are true heroes. May all those affected find solace.

Aidan Roddy, Cabinteely, Dublin 18

Anything stirring on Ireland manager job?

Sir — I am reminded of the RTÉ classic Glenroe (1983-2001) in which Miley (Mick Lally) and Biddy (Mary McEvoy), having taken their time in “tying the knot”, were soon thereafter pestered by Miley’s father Dinny (Joe Lynch) about starting a family.

“Anything stirring?” he’d repeatedly ask.

Could I ask the FAI, through your letters page, if there’s “any­thing stirring at all, at all” in terms of the conception of a new manager for our men’s international soccer team?

Michael Gannon, Saint Thomas Square, Kilkenny

Downsizing not easy, so stop asking me

Sir — Politicians are asking older persons to downsize from their present home so younger people will have a chance to buy a house. It’s very difficult to do as there are no bridging loans any more.

I don’t have half-a-million in the bank and I don’t have the energy to up sticks, sell and rent a place in order to be ready for a house to come up on the market.

I want to live in my village to be within walking distance of shops, post office, restaurants and church — and this is what it costs for a house in the village. I have a beautiful seven-bedroom house that is much too big for me now and a studio apartment attached to it. Any offers?

We are wise old people, not dead people, who have given our best years to this country — wise old eyes who can see through these politicians with their empty promises.

Terry Healy Riordan, Kill, Co Kildare

Great reporting on Westbank orphanage

Sir — We thank Maeve Sheehan for highlighting so well the abuse suffered by former residents of the Westbank orphanage in Greystones, Co Wicklow (Sunday Independent, April 14).

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation twice said Westbank should have been included in the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

As Maeve noted, a Dáil committee supported this call. She also reported our appeal to new Taoiseach Simon Harris, who is from Greystones. We await his response.

Emotional, physical and sexual abuse in Westbank are well-documented. It is no different from comparable institutions in the redress scheme. Our inclusion was hindered by the absence of an organised lobby and a sympathetic media putting pressure on civil servants, TDs and ministers. The conscience of an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic public, disgusted by revelations of abuse by priests and other religious, was not sufficiently exercised by Protestant inhabitants of Westbank.

The State’s responsibility for educating, caring for and detaining citizens was transferred to churches, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. Westbank orphanage was within that church-state framework. Because institutions like Westbank were not run by religious orders, Protestant churches hypocritically claim they are not responsible for what happened.

In fact, institutions like Westbank were integrated into Church of Ireland social services. Clergy and parish bodies throughout an effectively borderless Ireland facilitated entry to and exit from institutions like Westbank. Mainstream Protestant churches were not put off by the Free Presbyterian and Bray Gospel Hall beliefs of those who ran the orphanage.

The State was complicit in the abuse and dysfunction its system of social control created. Its responsibility for Roman Catholic institutions has largely been recognised. It is time for Simon Harris to recognise what happened in his own backyard, in the town of Greystones, in a dysfunctional Protestant orphanage.

Sid Herdman, Niall Meehan, Westbank Orphanage Redress Campaign

​Let’s stop thanking each other endlessly

Sir — In the US, Thanksgiving is celebrated in November. Here we have the equivalent most days of the year, with guests on radio programmes politely thanking the presenter for “having me on”.

I am eagerly awaiting a case of one of the hosts replying by saying: “Oh, thank you for thanking me.” But, seriously, all the niceties can become an irritant.

Leon Coogan, Drumcondra, Dublin 9

Sam McBride highlights Sinn Féin’s dismal record

Sir — Well done to Sam McBride for highlighting Sinn Féin’s 20-year disastrous record in government in Northern Ireland. I am reminded of the old saying: “When a man talks about what he will do tomorrow, look at what he did yesterday.”

Dr Pat Mc Grath, Monkstown, Co Dublin

Tim Pat Coogan

​In praise of Tim Pat Coogan and the tales he told

Sir — The letters page in the Sunday Independent of April 14 contained a reference to the late, great journalist Tim Pat Coogan.

In his memoirs, Tim Pat recalls being seated at a bus stop across the road from Goggins’s pub in Monkstown on Bloomsday in June 1954. He was accompanied by young Goggins, the publican’s son. A horse-drawn cab pulled up in front of the pub and decanted Brian O’Nolan, Patrick Kavanagh, Brendan Behan and a couple of other bohemians.

It was obvious they had already made a number of pit stops, and they were conversing in raucous tones. Tim Pat recalls young Goggins saying: “Jaysus, I hope that crowd are not coming into our place.”

James Harden, Adare, Co Limerick

​Interesting read on decline of church

Sir — I refer to David Quinn’s article about the decline of the church and reduction in the number of dioceses (April 14).

I suggest the church authorities should review how the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul reduced the number of regions in Ireland following an in-depth study of its organisational structure and services in 2013.

The society reduced the number of regions from 13 to eight as follows: North, North East, East, South East, South, South West, Mid West and North West, with an average of four counties per region. This restructuring was implemented in 2014, resulting in a better service to those in need and reduced admin costs.

Richard Whitty, Swords, Co Dublin

​Sir — Not that his philosophy of life and mine would always agree, but David Quinn’s article was simply outstanding. Not since the 1152 Synod of Kells, he explained, had there been any great need to redefine Roman Catholic dioceses. It was most informative and reasonable.

Sean O’Dwyer, Dundrum, Dublin 16

Michael McDowell, come back to politics

Sir — I would love to see former tánaiste Michael McDowell make a return to the cut and thrust of full-time politics. Since the two recent referendums, I did get the sense that at 72 years of age he might again have that desire to serve the public.

McDowell is cerebral, smart, logical and analytical. In a world of talkers, he is a thinker and a doer.

John O’Brien, Clonmel, Co Tipperary

​Action is needed here now on Cass report

Sir — The response of the HSE bureaucracy, the Children’s Ombudsman and the Government to the British Cass report reads like a script from Yes Minister on how to emasculate a critical review.

Maintain a masonic vow of silence, delay a response by pointing out that the HSE is developing a new model of care for the treatment of gender dysphoria — expected delivery date 2026 — and play down the number of children involved and the wide use of puberty blockers.

In the meantime, GPs, private clinics, schools and the HSE are carrying on business as usual.

Eilis O’Hanlon (April 14) may proclaim that “they have no excuse any more”, but vested interests and ideologues are still pressing the case that puberty blockers are safe, reversible and reduce the risk of suicide.

The Government is mute on this question. Dr Hilary Cass has described the “important role of schools and the challenges they face in responding appropriately to gender-questioning children”.

As Mark Tighe points out in the same edition of your paper, schools are using transgender material and inviting advocacy groups to advise teachers.

In short, they are promoting social transition and an affirmative approach. What is the education minister’s stance on this?

Andy Hales, Kenmare, Co Kerry

​Any reward for those who pay TV licence?

Sir — Like your letter writer John Martin (April 14), I hesitated in February when I received my TV licence renewal reminder, but my conscience got the better of me and I renewed it, like I have done for the past 40 years.

I do believe we should pay for services, including the TV licence, but it will have to be a different type of charge.

When Labour TD Pat Rabbitte was communications minister, he hinted at a charge to cover all devices that can download programmes and films, but that fell by the wayside.

There is a great reluctance to pay for anything on the part of some people in this country, but An Post could do better at public relations and could, for example, give out a random free licence once in a while, let’s say to 1,000 loyal customers like myself and John.

Simply send out a letter saying: “Thank you for your loyal custom over the years. This year, you don’t have to pay.”

I think we deserve it.

Eamonn Kitt, Tuam, Co Galway

Gesture politics and Alan Shatter’s Israel

Sir — Alan Shatter brands the Irish Government’s plan to recognise the state of Palestine as “bizarre”, insisting that “recognition of states is dependent on there being a reasonably well defined territory” (Opinion, April 14).

How bizarre, then, that Mr Shatter raises no objection to the Israeli state’s lack of “a reas­onably well-defined ­territory”.

International consensus sees the Israeli state’s eastern border at the green line. The “barrier wall”, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice, forms a different de facto border strategically encircling illegal settlements far beyond the green line.

Many Israeli policy-makers, in turn, claim Israeli sovereignty over the entirety of the occupied West Bank. On this basis, under the criteria that Mr Shatter cites, the Israeli state, which he champions so vigorously, does not merit recognition as a state.

Mr Shatter vividly describes threats posed by a number of the Israeli state’s regional opp­onents, but in his innocuous portrayal of the occupied West Bank as “still being under Israeli rule” he neglects to mention Israel’s colonial illegal settlements, which are a breach of the 4th Geneva Convention, which Dáil Éireann has unanimously condemned as amounting to “de facto annexation” and which UN Security Council Resolution 2334 denounces as a “flagrant violation” of international law with “no legal validity”.

His glowing description of occupied East Jerusalem as being “governed by Israel as part of a reunited city” whitewashes the Israeli state’s illegal annexation and occupation of East Jerusalem, denounced in a slew of UN resolutions.

However, I thoroughly agree with Mr Shatter’s assessment that the Government’s ann­ouncement “is merely performative gesture politics”.

The Coalition should stop throwing shapes and simply enact the Occupied Territories Bill and the Illegal Israeli Settlements Divestment Bill.

Brian Ó Éigeartaigh, Donnybrook, Dublin 4

​Deaths of 34,000 in Gaza are perverse

Sir — Alan Shatter links the so-called demonisation of Israel with the announcement that the Irish Government might recognise a Palestinian state. He refers to this announcement as “perverse, bizarre” and ignoring “factual reality”.

So I ask, as a fellow Jew: Why does the suggestion of the recognition of a Palestinian state engender such panic? If there is to be a resolution of the ­“Israeli- Palestinian conflict”, surely there must be some similar recognition of the rights of Palestinians to self-determination as Alan Shatter would afford to the state of Israel?

I fail to understand why 34,000 deaths is not bizarre and perverse. If this is what it takes to make the state of Israel safe, it is a crime against humanity.

I wonder how any Jewish person of conscience can defend this onslaught on humanity.

There is no way forward from here that does not reference the absolute right of the Palestinian people to peace, security, dignity and equality.

Sue Pentel, Jews for Palestine – Ireland, Belfast

Benjamin Netanyahu will not yield settlements

Sir — Alan Shatter claims Ireland would be in breach of international law if we recognised the state of Palestine. I note his stunning silence in respect of Israel’s breach of international law in respect of the illegal settlements in the West Bank.

If a two-state solution, as advised by the Oslo Accords, were to happen, could he see the likes of Netanyahu and his assassins ceding the West Bank to its lawful owners?

Matthew Harmey, Dublin 8

Inaccurate retelling of history is no help

Sir — I have read the most appallingly biased articles in the Sunday Independent week in, week out. Emotional opinions aside, a line is crossed when historical and geographical facts are blatantly cast aside and reconstructed, as in Rosita Sweetman’s column on April 14 (‘Denying statehood isn’t just bad faith: it’s central to Israeli agenda’, April 14).

The Ottoman Empire ruled the entire TransJordan region for centuries. There never was a Palestinian state. People in that region never ruled themselves, nor could they have. The myth of 1.5 million Palestinians idyllically tending their olive groves and farms is well rehearsed — a fairy tale in the Middle East without a happy ending.

Rosita mentions the “blood and gore” of 1948 without saying that five neighbouring Arab countries invaded the former British Mandate for Palestine with the intention of wiping out the Jewish people living there.

The Jewish people maintained a presence in that land long before the Roman Empire — never mind the Ottoman Empire or the British Mandate.

A one-sided, biased and historically inaccurate revision of events is helpful to no one.

Ena Keye, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14

Coalition must hear both sides of story

Sir — I found it utterly disturbing that at both the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael ard fheis they invited the Palestinian ambassador and not the Israeli.

Surely this was a perfect time to show that, by having both ambassadors there, you listen to both sides always.

Úna Heaton, Limerick