Villagers: Letters to the Editor 2006-03-16

Government mismanagement - Need for community development

The coverage of the tragic events in communities decimated by gang warfare, availability of guns, drug addiction and general social breakdown omitted a vital dimension of the deterioration within disadvantaged communities: the total neglect of these communities by the Government.

For more than 20 years, many disadvantaged communities have been asked to solve their own problems through community development. This process was so successful in motivating and animating communities, that it was institutionalised in the Partnership development.

The initiatives under the Local Employment Services, women's community education, Community Employment schemes, and so on, reached out to very marginalised people, and have had great success in enabling people to overcome alienation. The regeneration in Fatima and Ballymun are testament to the great success of this process.

However, the problems that decimated so many disadvantaged communities, particularly those emanating from drug misuse and addiction, were too much for the most powerless people to overcome. The lack of support for the local people, when they attempted to tackle the most destructive problems, left a gaping opening.

When people first came out on the streets against drugs, they should have been supported by the State, and the difficulties, which caused the problems, should have been addressed. These difficulties include early educational dropout, but this is the symptom – not the cause.

The shift of community affairs from Family and Social Affairs to Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has been disastrous. The thrust of rural development has been to build social networks, and economic infrastructure, while community development is focused on helping people to identify their own problems and to look for support to resolve those problems. This is democracy, not simply the casting of a vote, but participating in the community and developing a culture which includes everyone. The stronger that culture is, the fewer people will resort to drugs and alcohol to overcome alienation.

When drug misuse is really tackled seriously, the knock-on effects are enormous. Fewer instances of drug misuse, and control of the outlets of the illegal drugs, equals no drug dealing, no criminality, no mugging, no guns, no gangs, no deaths, no decimation of impoverished communities. This is a social problem, not the personal problems of the handful of the thugs and criminals who are terrorising these communities.

The immediate response by the Government should be to support these communities, who are struggling to make sense of these awful events.

These communities need facilities such as childcare, adult and community education, arts centres, youth clubs, as well as measures to keep children in school. The Government needs to acknowledge that community development is democracy in action, and that it takes courage and fortitude to continue in the face of these tragedies.

Brid Connolly, Maynooth, Co Kildare

People Before Profit - What logic drives our national policies?

People before Profit is a group of community activists which seeks to provide support through collaboration for individual movements and to create political space for discussion of issues not covered elsewhere. We met in Dublin on 10 March to debate "Tigers of a different stripe – women in 21st century Ireland". Topics covered included child-care, abortion, sexual health, campaigning tactics, genital mutilation and the extent to which problems faced by modern Irish women are affected by class and income.

Key to the discussion is the paradoxical situation that, as the Government attempts to drive ever more women into a paid workplace, households are expected to take responsibility for an ever-increasing list of social duties. Childcare is identified as a private problem to be solved by individual parents; so, too, is care of the elderly and the provision of support for the ill and disabled.

This Government has an ideological belief that state participation in these matters should be minimised and this position is endorsed by the opposition parties without comment. No matter what the income level of the household, it is still the case that, in 21st century Ireland, it is women who bear these responsibilities to a disproportionate degree. It is their incomes which are normally used to pay for the system of private childcare provision and it is their careers which will be interrupted.

So, while we educate young girls to believe that they are fully equal to their male peers, the reality is that if they choose to form family households, they are unlikely to gain the full benefits of their early training and education.

It can be argued that, where the income level of the household is sufficiently high, it is possible to pay for somebody else to carry out these duties – but given the cost of providing childcare or nursing homes, how many households can afford this? What happens to the household when the income level is too low?

Is this why 32 per cent of Irish women work as part-timers for less than 33 hours a week, while the equivalent figure for men is seven per cent? Is it this need for family-friendly flexibility that forces so many women into low paid, low status jobs, often on short-term contracts and with little or no pension provision?

Our next meeting, on "Your health – whose business?", will be held in the IFI, Eustace St on 7 April at 7.30pm.

Cathy Swift, People Before Profit. ?More:

Behaviour in the Dáil - Michael McDowell needs to control his tongue

In Dáil Éireann on 9 March, Michael McDowell, referring to the recent Dublin riots, claimed that the PD offices were "ransacked by a group of Deputy Gormley's type of people" and that "there was muesli in the air and open-toed sandals on the street". John Gormley and the Green Party are well able to look after themselves. Nevertheless, I would like to express my disquiet and deep worry at McDowell's words

I wonder are we losing our sense of gentleness and respect for others? McDowell is an educated man but I wonder does he have any idea at all of the severe distress and mental damage caused by slagging/jibing directed by bullying school pupils at other pupils (sometimes resulting in suicide)? For this reason the type of insulting, personalised schoolboy bullying/slagging indulged in by McDowell is dangerous and unacceptable. Quite simply, he – as a senior Government minister – is giving an extremely bad example to all the people of this country.

Therefore, I ask McDowell to control his tongue and to act more responsibly.

Sean Ó Riain, Baile Atha Cliath

Cannabis debate - Hash is safer than climbing a ladder

Regarding Sean McKiernan's response to my letter, I would like to point out that the argument was not about the legalisation or otherwise of cannabis. Sean McKeirnan's letter does not refer to the actual issue, which was his support for the prosecution of all cannabis users, even for possessing tiny amounts of the drug. My point was that this is clearly a misuse of the state's resources, and prosecuting otherwise law-abiding citizens is a sure way to alienate large numbers of people and undermine respect for the law.

McKiernan cites mental health concerns, and seems to be labouring under the illusion that medical professionals are unanimous in the belief that cannabis is very harmful. Presumably, this precludes the thousands of doctors who know that some of their patients find relief from cannabis which they can't find through use of pharmaceutical drugs. The mental health risk of cannabis is very small and affects only young teenagers who are heavy users of the drug. Cannabis has no proven impact on the health of adults, and the most comprehensive lifetime study of cannabis users found it had no effect on rates of illness or death. Furthermore, the scientists who carried out the study which last year linked cannabis to mental illness in young people have said that their findings are an argument for the legalisation of cannabis, so that accurate information as to the potency and effects can be distributed along with the drug.

McKiernan's argument centres on the notion that cannabis use should concern the state because of its impact on the health of users. His solution is to put cannabis users in jail, presumably for the beneficial effect this will have on their health. If McKiernan is proposing to regulate the personal behaviour of people so that they cannot do any harm to themselves, perhaps he should campaign to outlaw hill-walking (100 deaths per year) and ladder climbing (50 deaths a year), rather than focusing on a relatively harmless drug.

Brendan Hogan, Drogheda, Co Louth

Response to Eoin Ó Murchú - Progress in Europe for Irish language

With regard to Eoin Ó Murchú's recent article in Village magazine entitled "EU rowing back on Irish language rights decision", I wish to clarify several inaccurate facts cited by the author.

Firstly, the right to use the Irish language in the European Parliament (EP) applies to plenary sessions only and not to committee meetings as stated in the article. This is currently the case with the Maltese language also.

Secondly, the statement citing the right to use Irish in the parliament being limited to translation from Irish to English only is untrue. Irish will be translated to English primarily (English being one of the EP's pivotal languages) and will subsequently be translated into all other languages, a system commonly known as relais. This is currently the case with Maltese also, and indeed is the case with many other official working languages as well. The logistics of providing simultaneous interpretation of all languages at the exact same time are both phenomenal and impractical for an expanding EU.

EPSO, the language recruitment body of the EU, will hold a competition for Irish language interpreters when it is certain there are adequate qualified personnel available to fill the posts. Until then it will employ people on a contract basis only, and will recruit official interpreters once they have attained the necessary qualification required at EU level. EPSO is currently advertising for Irish translators at A Grade level for any interested parties.

Finally, I would like to point out that the decision to afford Irish official working language was taken by the Council of Ministers and not by the Council of Europe as erroneously cited.

To state the "EU is rowing back on Irish Language rights decision" is a gross misinterpretation of the situation. Of course the whole process will involve growing pains initially, but I would like to invite sceptics and critics alike, to focus on the positive rather than the negative aspects of such a great achievement for our national language.

Seán Ó Neachtain, MEP, Gaillimh

Free talk on history - James Connolly and Patrick Pearse

In the early part of the 20th century two important figures emerged with clear and definite views about Ireland, its people, culture, and economic conditions. Their legacy has inspired generations of Irish people, but equally has caused controversy and hostility and their ideas have been blamed for the last four decades of political upheaval in the North. So what did James Connolly and Patrick Pearse stand for? What motivated them? What influence did they assert? What vision of a new Ireland did they want to present to the Irish people?

Can Patrick Pearse be reduced to an idealistic poet lusting after immortality in some blood sacrifice? What of the Pearse who stood four-square behind the workers of Dublin during the 1913 Lockout? Was he not a visionary in relation to education? Are his ideas worth exploring today in relation to our language, culture, and education, while our education system increasingly becomes nothing more than an arm of corporate activity?

Was James Connolly really only a "mindless Marxist", hell-bent on causing death and destruction, with nothing to offer? Does this caricature really give us any understanding of what he stood for, what he believed in, why he did what he did? Does it reflect this passionate human being; a self-educated man; a courageous fighter for the rights of workers and for women; an historian; a newspaper editor; a family man with a great love for his wife and children; a man who sacrificed 30 years of his life to the social and national liberation of Irish workers, who lived on a pittance in the fight for social liberation?

These are some of the areas that will be explored in the forthcoming talk on "Pearse and Connolly and their influence on each other", to be delivered at the Ireland Institute, 27 Pearse St, Dublin 2 by Mícheál Mac Aonghusa, a long-time journalist and writer on Irish history and politics. The meeting is open to the public and starts at 8pm.

Eugene McCartan, James Connolly Education Trust, Dublin 1.

Northern Ireland - Bertie needs to stand up to the DUP

On 8 March 2006, the Taoiseach and the British prime minister were to unveil their plan to lift suspension of the Northern institutions and return momentum to the peace process. Instead what was delivered was more prevarication, more excuses and more delays.

And why? Not because of an unfavourable IMC report on republican activity? Not even that discredited organisation had the temerity this time around to issue its usual allegations to hold up the peace process.

So what is it this time? After all of the false excuses are removed, the reality becomes clear that rejectionist Unionists and their ideological refusal to share power with the representatives of Irish nationalism remains the primary obstacle to the return of devolved government.

This begs the question of the two governments, but particularly of Bertie Ahern, as the representatives of the Irish people – are you prepared to allow one political party, the DUP, to dictate to the people of Ireland the pace of the peace process?

Unfortunately the answer would appear to be Yes, as once again nothing even resembling a definitive timetable for a return to the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) institutions has been agreed. The time for fobbing off that responsibility on to the political parties has come and gone. Sinn Féin and the SDLP want an immediate return, while the DUP has erected barricade after barricade to progress. And remember, it is the DUP's express intent to wreck the GFA.

Does Bertie Ahern seriously think that a party openly intent on destroying the GFA is serious about negotiating the return of its key institutions?

The time has come for Bertie to stand up to the DUP and if necessary to Tony Blair also, to ensure that a timetable for devolved government is agreed. If not maybe he should abdicate his new-found republican mantle and settle for something a little less taxing.

Chris O Ralaigh, Dublin 9

Waters' use of the press - Taking freedom for granted

John Waters uses the freedom of the press, which living in a democratic republic gives him, to preach that "politics is an empty ritual" and to question if it really matters if any of us "can be bothered thinking or talking about politics" (Village 9-15 March). It is complacent, to put it mildly, to take the freedoms we have for granted, as John Waters has done. Democratic institutions evolved over a long period of time to endeavour to protect the weak and the vulnerable from the depredations of the strong and the powerful. They do this imperfectly but they are better than nothing. It is precisely because, as John Waters says, "multinational capital" and "supra-national forms of governance" have become more important that we need to defend our hard-won democratic freedoms all the more.

Allowing the controllers of the media to distract us by reality TV and soaps so that we become disinterested in politics, as John Waters advocates, would be irresponsible and stupid. Democratic politics has not, as John Waters proclaims, "ceased to have significance". On the contrary, given the increasing concentration of control of the means of communication and the dominant position of spin doctors in the media, ordinary people have to hold on to their hard-won democratic institutions to endeavour to have some influence on decisions that control their lives. Otherwise we are reduced to throwing bottles at the gardaí and waiting for the knock on the door at four o'clock in the morning.

Anthony Leavy, Sutton, Dublin 13

The Chorus - John Waters has come around to my way of thinking

John Waters seems to have changed his tune considerably from the views expressed in his rant in the 2003 Annual of the Dubliner magazine, in which the noted neo-nationalist and neo-conservative fulminated at great length against "the young" for having no sense of Ireland as a nation or a community, and castigated the generation in power (whom he dubbed "Peter Pans") for their failure to hand on any sense of citizenship or patriotism, or indeed anything that might be regarded as a sense of an inherited communality, and also for having no concept of the importance of authority. Middle-aged people, Waters then opined, should "be at home watching the news", instead of out protesting.

Now, it seems, he has cottoned on to the fact, which I expressed at the time in response to his article (the Dubliner, June 2004), that politicians don't matter that much any more, and that it is not surprising that many young people are no longer interested in the petty bickerings of party politics (The Chorus, 9-15 March). Pity it's taken him three years to come around to my way of thinking. But, better late than never.

Desmond Traynor, Dublin 6

Remembering home rule - 1916 – hijacking nationalism

Contrary to Andrew McGrath, (Village 9-15 March 2006), those of us who do not conform to the official creation-narrative of the Republic are not necessarily slavering running-dogs of British imperialism.

I stand corrected on "Redmond's mandate". What McGrath actually wrote (Village 16-22 February 2006) was: "The Home Rule party's mandate expired in 1915' – but that is as close as may be to "Redmond's mandate" and equally incorrect. Mandates do not expire when people look into their hearts. There are precise rules in constitutional democracies governing such things. Whatever about the growing irrelevance of his vision to public opinion on the ground after the executions, Redmond's mandate did not expire till the votes were counted in 1918.

McGrath goes on to write that "democracy is understood as the right of an electorate to choose representatives and influence policy". The nationalist electorate chose representatives in the two 1910 elections (Redmond's Party securing 80 out of the 106 Irish seats) and did not just "influence policy" but used the parliamentary system to secure a Home Rule Act, ie law – which, be it remembered, had by law to be passed by a majority of the British House of Commons – three times. An alternative scenario as strong as this would raise questions about the necessity for, let alone the morality of, a Rising, so, bizarrely, according to President McAleese, none of this ever happened. She simply does not mention Redmond, the Irish Parliamentary Party or even the concept of "Home Rule" (let alone the Act placed on the Statute Book in 1914) in what she intended to be the definitive presentation of 1916 in her speech. There never was any constitutional opposition to the Act of Union.

If McGrath seriously thinks that "the Rising was not a mandate for anything", he needs to meet a few of those who style themselves Republicans – and study the events leading up to the Civil War. The Rising is the gory albatross which has hung around the collective neck of the peoples of this island for 90 years. Not because of its worthy aspirations or the personal heroism and patriotism of the participants, but because it legitimised the right of any self-appointed minority or even individual to ignore the majority and to take unilateral violent action to determine the future of the rest of us. Even to the extent, as Pearse put it, of "maybe killing the wrong people".

There was no constitutional, legal, political or even popular mandate for the Rising. The overwhelming majority of Nationalists supported the Redmondite Home Rule scenario – which was already enshrined in law (as the Unionists feared it would be). Even President McAleese concedes that "tens of thousands" joined the British forces, whilst only "a few trained secretly" with the Volunteers. Not only did the Rising hijack Irish nationalists, (as Pearse quite explicitly intended it should do), onto a road they had not chosen, but it left a traumatic virus in our society which led to terrible and unnecessary deaths – as well as bitterness and hatred which last to the present day. As much as anything else, it handicapped the development of a politics of inclusion, democracy and social justice. Arguably, it sabotaged the very objectives of the Proclamation itself.

1916 is a fact. We cannot pretend it never happened. It is inextricably woven into our vision of who we are. To try to write it out of our history would be a nonsense – even if it were possible. It was, nevertheless, a profoundly undemocratic, even anti-democratic, event and if we are ever really to be serious about constitutional democracy, then we have to acknowledge the painful aspect of this fact and somehow incorporate it honestly into our understanding of how we got to where we are – and who we are.

My particular interest in the legacy of 1916 lies in its exclusion from our Republic, not of the Unionists, but of the tens of thousands of families of nationalists and Irish-Irelanders who did not support the Rising, but who never doubted their own Irishness. Time has moved on and I doubt whether my children's generation knows or cares about something that happened long ago.

Maurice O'Connell, Tralee, Co Kerry

Responding to critics - Remembering 1916

It is very rewarding to re-visit Jack Lane's letters to Village, especially the one dated 10-17 May 2005. In the fifth paragraph of that letter he "blurted" out that it was, and I quote, "obvious that Ireland was integrating with the UK in the pre-First World War years". He further added that he did not need Senina Paseta to tell him that, "it is heartening to re-discover that Jack, after all supports Professor Paseta's argument, that most of nationalist Ireland had assented to a policy of integration through Home Rule with Britain." This of course represented a "default position" to a minority who were determined to destroy the course of Irish history through terror, death, and mayhem.

I am gratified that Jack, despite his arguments to the contrary, accepts in principle and in fact, that genuine "historical and political conditions did not produce the 1916 rising". He must surely now logically also accept that the insurrection was solely the result of the perverse violent internal logic of separatism; and that it was in fact a sequel to the Fenian rising of 1867.

The First World War was a catastrophe; it took the lives of ten million people, however Pat Muldowney's intention is not to morally delegitimise the concept and execution of war, but to advance in history the idea of a "progressive war", a concept favoured by Marx, Engels and James Connolly.

Pat Muldowney both defends and glorifies the 1916 insurrection as the start of a progressive war. However, war is a blunt tool, the outcome is almost always uncertain and the cost in human life is always immense.

His demonisation of John Redmond is in striking contrast to his acclamation of PH Pearse. John Redmond, though flawed, was a democratic and pluralist visionary. He believed that Ireland's future lay in a rational, democratised Empire – an Empire that Pat Muldowney, with his Irelander mindset, would like to forget was in fact made in no small way by the Irish, and saved by the valour of Irish soldiers during the Napoleonic wars, when some 90,000 of them (more than half of their number catholic [Irish]) fought on Britain's side against the French. Yet we remember only 1798, a terrible calamity that took the lives of up to 15,000 people. Most of these deaths were on the rebel side; however, apart from a cadre of pro-French republicans, the majority were simply cannon fodder for Protestant and Catholic middle class Whiggish ambitions, spearheaded by Gratten from a safe distance.

Pearse was a bigoted Irish-Irelander fanatic, drenched in the blood and mythology of Carlye's "great man theory". Like his brothers, and sisters in arms he used this country by subjecting it to the torment of war, in order to advance an anti-intellectual and twisted cause. By 1923, because of the actions of those who perpetrated the catastrophe of 1916, thousands of people – both Irish and British – were either dead or wounded, the polity was smashed in two, the southern economy was ruined, an entire and remarkable young Home Rule generation was gone, two alienated communities faced an uncertain future and the nation, certainly in the south, lay dying. Now their descendants and those who think like them – who might be collectively termed: the neo-nationalist middle class wish to avail of the popularist distortions and lies that underpin the founding historiography of this State. We are, it appears, to join the two other "celebrated revolutions" – the American and the French in a trinity, of historical infamy. Both of these revolutions possess their own respective mythologies cherished by their citizens. However, our own exists in a class of its own, nurtured by the noxious breast of a perverse and embittered mother Ireland, clinging on to her precious myths.

Perhaps, rather than glorifying republican violence from 1916 to 1923, Pat Muldowney should add this episode to his growing collection of war crimes; in the scheme of things the British Empire, certainly in much of its latter phase, objectively existed at the more civilised end of human history. Pat Muldowney should look at other Empires rather than concentrating his polemic on just the one. (Would Maurice O'Connell like to explain what he meant by "the less savoury aspects of the tragedy of 1916?")

Pierce Martin, Celbridge, Co Kldare

STATEMENT - Compensation for salmon fishermen

Seamus de Burca's letter (Village, 9-15 March) deliberately or otherwise avoids the key issue – our salmon stocks are in a free fall decline. If something isn't done quickly then there will be precious few salmon to be caught by anyone. It may be unfortunate, but it is a fact, that the one action that is under the immediate control of man and which is essential to any attempt to reverse that decline in salmon stocks is the ending of drift netting.

Seamus de Burca describes the ending of drift netting as the "privatisation of a regulated public fishery". In reality what we have is a situation in which the State, anglers and their clubs and fishery owners put an enormous amount of money, time and effort into the improvement of the ability of rivers to produce salmon and then the main harvest is reaped by drift netters at sea who contribute nothing to the regeneration effort. Anglers and the tourism sector will, of course, derive a benefit in increased catches from the ending of drift and so will the estuary nets. But the real point of ending drift netting is to massively increase the number of spawners in the rivers to try to regenerate stocks.

Seamus de Burca claims that the ending of drift netting would benefit "a cartel of individuals who own our rivers". This ignores the real situation about the ownership of Irish salmon fisheries: the State is by far the largest owner of salmon fisheries with the ESB, the Fisheries Boards, the National Wildlife Service and a plethora of other agencies own well in excess of half of them. If there is indeed a huge increase in the value of salmon fisheries then the main beneficiaries will be the taxpayers of Ireland. Secondly, angling clubs and community organisations own or manage another very large slice of the resource. Finally, the Central Fisheries Board has frequently drawn attention to the very fragmented nature of the ownership of those Irish salmon fisheries outside of State ownership – hardly a "cartel".

I am surprised that Seamus de Burca did not use the opportunity presented by his letter to advance the case for a fair scheme of compensation for those who will be exiting the industry and which was a key part of the National Salmon Commission's advice to the Minister for the Marine. It has been advocated from day one by Stop Now, as has the case for anglers and fishery owners contributing to such a scheme.

Niall Greene, Chair, Stop Salmon Drift Nets Now, Co Limerick,

Dublin City Council and civil liberties - Poster ban for 18 March peace rally

The issue of banning printed information from the streets of Dublin is again being excercised with vigour by Dublin City Council (DCC). Posters informing people of a demonstration against the Shannon/Iraq War on Saturday 18 March are being removed with alacrity by DCC. The last time such rigour was employed was against Frank McBrearty's posters, which were removed and destroyed by DCC. These posters advertised a public meeting concerning corruption (reported in Village, 24 November 2005). The Shell to Sea Campaign also had their posters removed and destroyed with similar determination and dispatch by DCC. DCC has invoked the litter issue in defence of this ban. Such prohibition is only applied to posters advertising issues of political and social concern and does not apply to, for example, "Smithfield on Ice" (as reported in Village, 9 January 2006). Nor does the ban apply to the myriad of other entertainment and concert posters that are to be seen all over the city, as a commercial return is ensured to DCC.

Similar, effective, dedicated poster sites could be erected to allow for the publicising of information on issues of social and political concern. If the families of Terence Wheelock and others, or the women mutilated by Michael Neary attempted to advertise a meeting concerning their plight in our capital city, the "blanket ban" applies.

A motion was tabled by Cllr Joan Collins to revoke this ban last December – the motion has not been dealt with by DCC. Village readers should write to TDs, local councillors and the Lord Mayor of Dublin to elevate this issue to the commencement of the next council meeting, under "Lord Mayor's business". This allows the Lord Mayor to bring any issue he or she wishes to the commencement of each meeting; the next such meeting is on 3 April.

Is it not ironic that we will be commemorating the 1916 Rising and such a basic civil right as freedom of expression is actively denied to ordinary citizens in 2006? Apart from that, it's as if the Constitution does not exist. A look at our own doorstep will reveal rapidily diminishing liberties. Eternal vigilance remains the price of liberty.

John Kelly, Dublin 12

Tara and the M3 - Tara and the lack of public participation

The High Court ruling on Tara had very little to do with the real issue of the destruction of Ireland's most important cultural and mythological landscape. It had to do with the suitability of the applicant and the timing of the case – in other words on procedures and the law. By not allowing any oral evidence by the independent experts on Tara, the court ensured that the real issue never saw the light of day.

This High Court ruling changes nothing. The decision to put a motorway in this sensitive and sacred landscape was wrong from the beginning, as pointed out repeatedly by many, it is wrong now and it will always be wrong.

As for Minister Dick Roche ignoring the clear view of Pat Wallace of the National Museum that the motorway should not go through the Tara valley, we now know for sure that the only safeguard that remained to Irish people for the protection of important heritage has gone the same way as Dúchas and the Monuments Act – down the Swannee.

The Irish have become a sad race with a very narrow view of what real progress means. Only one voice is heard; the shrill voice of "competitiveness at any cost". Those who value something more than the economic bottom line are increasingly marginalised and seen as a nuisance.

But it seems due to get worse. If the Government succeeds in bringing its fast-tracking Strategic Infrastructure Bill into law, it will put the final nail in the coffin of meaningful public participation. The genuine and valid questions and concerns of the citizen will be steamrolled like the Tara landscape.

Is it not time for us Irish to ask ourselves the question regarding which kind of future we want for ourselves and our children: a "society" with democracy and participation at its core or a tyrannical, unsustainable "economy" with competitiveness at its core. Who chooses?

Claire Oakes, Navan, Co Meath