Villagers: Letters to the Editor 2006-03-30

Skateboarders and local politicians - Councillors out of Limerick's parks!

In view of the dwelling disaster that has been imposed on the People's Park, Limerick City Council should now introduce a new by-law banning councillors and officials from our parks. Some of the city's councillors are totally opposed to the proposed skateboarding facility in their own areas but they do not mind imposing it on the Arthur's Quay riverside park in the city centre.

It is my information that no decision on the location of the skate-boarding rink had been made by officials of the City Council. There is a move by some councillors to have the skateboard rink located in the city centre, but it is my view that it would ruin the park for many senior citizens who use it. While a top official of the City Council tells me that no site decision has been made, I am now putting forward Gough's Quarry on the Childers Road in Rosbrien as a suitable venue.

The facility would be welcomed by young people in the nearby Ballinacurra Weston, Prospect, Hyde Road, Greenfields and Ballinacurra Gardens areas.

We have seen the record of the councillors when it comes to parks. Already they have destroyed the People's Park by selling part of it for luxury dwellings: they cannot be allowed to ruin the Arthur's Quay riverside park. They should be banned from going near public parks!

Sean O'Neill, Prospect, Limerick

Legitimised terrorism - Presidential prerogative

Recently, the US National Security Strategy Report reaffirmed the policy of pre-emptive war against terrorists and hostile states. However, I feel the invasion against Iraq has proved to be a deliberate act of terror by one state against another, lasting three years so far. I regard the speech on 1916 in Cork University by President McAleese to be a pre-emptive success. Sometimes in life the best form of defence is attack. However, President McAleese's war of words is far more civilised and honourable than President Bush's war of armaments.

Peter Kennedy, Dublin

Village letters - Village needs womens' voices

Village's Villagers pages encapsulate – no, amplify – the boring, male-dominated argy-bargy, of which much of Ireland's public "discourse" seems to consist these days, especially with the column-metres devoted to 1916. Maggie Kennealy's comment about loquacious presenters (Radio review, Issue 77) is right on the target. Cut the guy-waffle Vincent, and give over half the letters pages to women, or hire a few more women columnists to fill the space with intelligent comment about things that they think matter today, not those of 90 years ago.

S O'Reilly, Maam, Co Galway

Sporting inaccuracy - Setting hurling records for Cork

Ciaran Murphy, in his article, "The Purest Form" (Village 16-22 March), contains a factual error. In discussing the young hurling phenomenon, Joe Canning of Galway, in line this year to win a third all-Ireland minor medal, the piece says the legendary Tipperary hurler, Jimmy Doyle, was the first and only hurler to win three all-Ireland minor hurling medals on the field of play. This is not true. My uncle, the late Kevin McGrath, won all-Ireland minor hurling medals for Cork at right half-forward in 1937 and 1938 and at left corner forward in 1939.

Finbarr Bradley, Blackrock, Co Dublin

John Waters - Democracy and power

Much as I admire and sympathise with the sentiments expressed by Anthony Leavy in his response (Village, Issue 77) to John Waters' The Chorus column (Village, Issue 76), I am reluctant to give him the last word in his response (Village, Issue 78) to my response to Waters (Village, Issue 77).

It should be obvious to any social, economic or historical analyst that, in our time, power and the means to influence is concentrated far more in the hands of media moguls, corporations, and the more wily of celebrities, than it is in those of politicians.

As for his declaration that ordinary people have to hold on to their hard-won democratic institutions in the face of these changed circumstances, does Anthony Leavy seriously believe that a government which cares about "ordinary people" has any chance of achieving a majority, or even an influential minority, at the next or subsequent elections?

Politicians, particularly those of the major parties, tend invariably to become public representatives not out of any notion of civic duty, nor a desire to better the lot of their fellow citizens, but rather to protect their own personal interests and provide for their own career advancement.

Nor is the choice, as Anthony Leavy supposes, simply between an imperfect but ultimately essentially benevolent democracy, and a brutal, censorious, tyrannical, totalitarian dictatorship.

To look no further than the history of this State, Ireland was, until relatively recently, nominally a democracy, which imposed strict and onerous censorship laws. More contemporaneously, America and Britain (with a little support from Ireland at Shannon) have for the past three years been prosecuting a war which consists of imposing democracy through the use of military force.

To quote Gustave Flaubert: "Democracy isn't mankind's last word, any more than slavery was, or feudalism was, or monarchy was." Or, once again, closer to our own time, the sage of Ravello, Gore Vidal (himself the scion of a prominent American political dynasty) has long maintained that the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States are merely two branches of the same organisation which, from time to time, apportion power between themselves.

While undoubtedly well-intentioned in his defence of democracy's role in protecting "ordinary people" against vested interests, Anthony Leavy would do well to ponder the role of democracy in furthering vested interests at the expense of "ordinary people". Perhaps he should ask himself: "Who owns the President?" Or, indeed: "Who owns the Taoiseach?"

Desmond Traynor, Dublin 6

Easter Rising - Obsessional revisionism

Pat Muldowney struck the nail on the head when he urged us last week to try to understand the motivation of apologists for English imperialism, or revisionists, as they like to be called, in terms of pathology. Indeed, reading the weekly tirades these individuals manage to have printed every week (some weeks ago Eoghan Harris went so far as to apologise to his loyal fans for writing the whole first half of his Sunday Indo column without so much as a single underhanded dig at the Republican Movement) it's impossible not to think of the pathology known as obsessional neurosis.

Sigmund Freud noticed that the ultimate source of the obsessional's illness is his horror at having been the passive object of his mother's pleasure. The obsessional will concoct any story or go to any lengths to remove the suspicion that he was ever associated with a passive position. Any ill that befalls him will be revised so that he may think of his roll in it as being active.

And so it is with our native Irish revisionists. How much more palatable it is to them to believe that we Irish were active participants in the British empire and not its passive victims. The British empire had one primary reason for existing, that was to loot the wealth of militarily weaker peoples. This is the primary purpose of all empires. A secondary purpose is to permanently enslave conquered populations by exterminating their languages and cultures and replacing them with a rather comical and exaggerated version of the imperial language and culture. Who can read the texts of our modern Irish revisionists without thinking of the ancient Roman dictum: "The language of the conqueror in the months of the conquered is always the language of the slave." But for all his unending protestations and inventions, the obsessive never moves to an active position.

The great achievement of individuals such as Wolfe Tone, Padraig Pearse and Bobby Sands is that they openly accepted that all the millions of people, including themselves, existing under imperial rule are passive victims of the pleasure of another. In Ireland, both Catholic and Protestant were ruthlessly exploited in the pursuance of imperial advantage.

Wolfe Tone recognised his passive position and moved to an active one. He sowed the seed of our Republic. One has only to look at the poor state today of Scotland, Wales and the North of Ireland to recognise the great benefit of a colonised people accepting the disaster that has been inflicted on them (conquest is not a just punishment for military weakness) and having the courage to make a better future, despite the constant attacks from obsessional revisionists and counter revolutionaries.

Donnchadh MacGill, Chapelizod, Dublin

'We are the fools'

I was neither disappointed nor surprised by the moral and philosophical distinction that Pat Muldowney makes between those who engage in so-called progressive wars and those whom he regards as the only obvious criminals: the policy makers in British Imperial history.

Pat Muldowney's hypocritical view of 1916 was most eloquently expressed by Tommy Graham in a by-monthly Irish history magazine, of which Graham is the editor, when he declared that: "the rioters responsible for the 'disgraceful' scenes of disorder" in Dublin on 25 February had "violated the principles of the cause they claim to uphold." If one were to follow, for want of a better word, the logic of that, one might reasonably expect that Graham and Muldowney should regard the 1916 rising as an infinitely more serious crime.

We are indeed a republican nation, but not a nation of republicans, for if we truly believed in the principles of of republicanism we would disown 1916, and set about constructing a true republic divorced from the criminal madmen and women in whose paranoid anglophobic political culture we continue, when it suits us, to submerge ourselves.

The 1916 insurrection was the result of a pathological apocalyptic fear, to use a modern term, of "cultural genocide." Ireland's economic progress from the early 1890s was seen by a cadre of violent pathological fanatics as representing the end of Ireland's pure Gaelic identity. The same type of rationale would be used by the Nazis to justify the annihilation of millions in defence of national purity.

This government is investing time, effort and capital into celebrating a crime against the whole of Ireland that occurred on the 24 April 1916, as sick people, here and now, lie on trolleys in our hospitals; this is a terrible indictment of our country so eloquently expressed by Brendan Gleeson recently on the Late Late Show; the sick joke of course is that the ordinary people have never meant anything to the heirs of 1916, no more than to the lunatics inside the GPO in 1916. Pearse spoke of "the fools the fools" etc. By passively accepting the hideous idea that 1916 should be both commemorated and celebrated, we are the fools! And we should wake up to the fact. 1916 can never bind this island into a coherent nation, all that it did, and can do, is divide and embitter.

Pierce Martin, Celbridge, Co Kildare

'Fumbling in the greasy till'

Pierce Martin (Village, 9-15 March) believes Jack Lane's comment – that Ireland was integrating with the UK prior to the first world war – to be a vindication of his repeated assertions that the 1916 Rising was the work of a lunatic fringe, the exception that proves the rule. One problem with this theory is the rapidity with which the Irish populace turned from being apparently enthusiastic Redmondite Empire supporters to hard-boiled Republicans in the space of just a few years. The sea-change is all the more remarkable if Ireland was indeed supposed to be happily integrating with the Empire. The usual explanations given are the executions of the 1916 leaders and the conscription crisis. But these fail to satisfy. Revisionists keep telling us how unpopular the 1916 Rising was, so the executions of its leaders ought to have been something welcomed by a hostile pro-British populace. There were few qualms about the death penalty, and few tears shed when common criminals were hanged. The executions could only have caused such a wave of pro-republican sympathy if they touched some other nerve in the Irish psyche. The conscription crisis explanation also fails to satisfy. Again, revisionists tell us that World War One was hugely popular with the Irish, jingoism being almost as prevalent here as in the UK. Indeed they are correct to some degree, for almost 180,000 Irish Volunteers rushed to sign up from the outset. Yet by 1918 people were flocking to Sinn Féin and the Republicans and turning their minds to armed resistance if conscription for this hugely popular war were imposed here. How could this have happened? Might it have been that the promises about the war were shown to be hollow slogans right from the promise that "it would all be over by Christmas"– Home Rule was being scuttled by a unionist-dominated Government – who had come to power without any mandate. Even the "magnificent sacrifice" of thousands of Irish was apparently not enough, and Britain's war machine intended to seize the remaining cannon fodder by force. Perhaps Irish people began to understand that they were a "human resource"' for the Empire, in a most literal sense. Perhaps real Irish support for the War and Empire lay not in serving of the King, but the King's shilling. The war brought record prices for Ireland's agricultural produce, not to mention the "separation allowances" and so on. It was an Ireland of "fumbling in the greasy till" as Yeats put it, even before the war. Irish people might well have voted for complete independence (assuming it brought no reduction in their financial situation) instead of Home Rule back in 1910 it had been on offer. They were never given the chance since it was not in Britain's understanding to even contemplate such an offer, independence being so far off the agenda set by the Empire as not to even be up for discussion. Revisionists also like to believe Home Rule within the Empire would have opened the door into Ireland's Utopia. Yet our previous experience of Home Rule had been a disaster – such a limp ineffective sham that it led to the 1798 rebellion. Westminster had always ensured any power of real use was held by itself alone. The 1916 rising awakened once again in Ireland the possibility of its promise: "unfettered control of our own destiny". The people thus awakened, would no longer settle for Home Rule – the scraps from the master's table. Note to Pierce: nor will they settle for it now.

Nick Folley, Carrigaline, Co Cork

Learning from revolutions

I am glad that Pierce Martin is re-reading this debate as he tells us (Village 16-22 March). However, he has a most unusual method of interpreting what he reads. He claims: "I am grateful 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 a sequel to the Fenian Rising of 1867."

It is quite an amazing assertion that I actually accept the opposite of what I argue for. But this is the type of convoluted reasoning that Pierce has to engage in to make some seeming sense of what he himself writes.

One hundred years ago Ireland was integrating into the UK as part of the Home Rule strategy which was a well thought out way to consolidate the British Empire in a historically troublesome area for the Empire. The majority of nationalist Ireland came to support it and it seemed the inevitable wave of the future. But the future was hijacked. The Unionists revolted in 1912 against any kind of Home Rule Ireland.

This was a successful revolt and it is the elephant in the parlour that Pierce refuses to see. And this created a new type of genuine historical and political reality with parliamentary processes and democracy set aside by the government of the day. The more successfully that revolt progressed the more the Home Rule scenario inevitably declined and, as nothing succeeds like success, a minority of nationalists decided to imitate the methods of the Unionists to achieve the opposite of what they had achieved - more independence. And both revolts were successful.

When it came to revolts, volunteering, arming, drilling, threats, gun-running from Germany etc, the Nationalists were slow learners compared to the Unionists – but learn they did.

The 1916 revolt was, in a real sense, a sequel to the 1912 revolt rather than the failed Rising of 1867 which had a dispiriting effect as all failures do. Pierce should not pay so much attention to hand me down nationalist myths.

As he has taken to re-reading this correspondence he will be pleased to know that it is now available in handy pocket-size pamphlet form from

Jack Lane, Millstreet, Co Cork

Economic analysis vs reality - Mythical statistics

I think it was Shakespeare who said "you might do anything with statistics." Watching the Late Late Show on Friday 17 March, you might be forgiven for thinking that Shakespeare was referring in particular to David McWilliams. He seems to be emerging as a guru in his own right. From his high-profile TV programmes and his recently released book full of opinions, statistics and quirky labeling of people with his own home-made names (ie Dubliner to country/dulchie). He is, I am sure, in a comfortable position financially. He quotes a myriad of statistics and opinions that relate little to life on the ground of the ordinary man/woman. We have seen this type of figure emerge before. The country is still reeling from the effects of people like him who got it right statistically but wrong in reality. With enough statistics in your head you can argue, debate and articulate any situation and make the worst scenario seem right. I think he needs a bit of tempering or a good dose of reality thrust upon him. He is entitled to his opinion but we must not make him or his likes unchecked gods.

Tom Carroll, Curragh, Co Kildare

Irish nationality - Irish now more English than ever

I share the frustration and indignation at Ireland's Call being referred to as the national anthem when the Irish rugby team play abroad. Those who view this action as an attack on the sovereignty of this State have a valid case. Recent events would certainly support this view.

Following an insidious and persistent campaign, the Irish state succumbed to pressure from a small unrepresentative, Anglo-centric, neo-unionist minority to participate fully in the annual Remembrance Sunday ceremonies of the Royal British Legion, thereby rejecting the National Day of Commemoration which was set aside to honour with dignity all those Irish who died in all wars, including service with the United Nations.

Last year the Irish Navy participated alongside the British Royal Navy in an event to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Admiral Nelson's defeat of the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar. I find it curious that the Irish Government participated in an event to celebrate the defeat of our historic allies by the armed forces of our former colonial masters. Also, in a bizarre event held in Carrigaline, Co Cork, last July a memorial was erected to honour the 16th century English warlord, Sir Francis Drake, and more recently the Irish Air Corps participated in the 65th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Britain at a Royal Air Force base in Britain.

In the past few years the British state has been bestowing titles and honours upon selected Irish citizens as if they were her own British subjects. This appears to be an attempt to gradually integrate Irish notables and elite into the social and political establishment of the United Kingdom. Furthermore, despite the refusal of the British Royal Mail to issue a special commemorative stamp to honour the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, An Post conceded to a request from the Orange Order and have agreed to issue this special stamp.

I note that Sonia O'Sullivan has taken out dual-nationality so that she can represent Australia in the British Commonwealth games. Perhaps if she held out for a while longer she might well qualify for Commonwealth participation as an Irish citizen, as we appear to be moving ever closer to Commonwealth re-entry.

Tom Cooper, Dublin 16

Rush for progress -Tara: a mirror of the heavens

It saddens me that the proposed M3 motorway will be going through the Tara landscape and destroying what we don't yet fully understand. During research for a book on aspects of Tara astronomy, I had a look at the path of the rising sun over Tara at equinox. An observer at Tara would be part of the following alignment: Sun rise aligns with Rockabill, St Patrick's Island, Fourknocks, Skryne, Tara, Bective abbey, Delvin Castle, Lough Owel, Lough Iron, Dunmore Abbey, Castle Strange, Ballinrobe Abbey, Maumtrasna mountain, Lough Mask, Killary Harbour, Rynville Castle, Inish Boffin. It seems obvious that natural features in the landscape have been chosen and augmented to mark this sunrise alignment, most obviously Tara. (Winter solstice alignment is marked by Newgrange.) And monuments thousands of years apart are united briefly at the moment of sunrise and sunset at Equinox. Cardinal points on this line are linked with legend so similar that there seems to have been an underlying knowledge of its presence in prehistory.

The existence of the line draws special attention to the Gabhra valley and its importance to the Tara complex, especially where the line crosses in the area of Dowdstown bridge. This is a place where the easterly and westerly flows from the hill meet, not only physically but in myth, lore and legend. One of the wells feeding the easterly flow is Bo Finne (white cow). Another westerly well is called Laeg (the calf) which flows into the Boyne river (Bo-and-cow goddess) which in turn flows out towards rockabill (Petrified cows according to one legend). Interestingly, the Irish name for Boffin is also Bo Finne, a petrified cow. Coincidence?

Take into account that the Milky Way overhead stretches east-west at Equinox and in Irish is called Ballach Bo Finne, Way of the White Cow. What I am suggesting is that our early ancestors were creating a mirror of the heavens on earth, as did other ancient peoples in Egypt, Peru, China etc. What the purpose of the line was for is open to debate, but it would be a shame to destroy any area it crosses before we could find out. That's why I question the wisdom of putting the route through the valley and would call for extensive place and field name surveys to be undertaken.

Unless we look for something we may miss it.

The rush for "progress" is regrettable. As Yeats so finely put it: "What need you being come to sense, But fumble in a greasy till, And add the halfpence to the pence..."

Martin Dier Navan, Co Meath

STATEMENT - Darfur situation worsening

International humanitarian agencies may be forced to withdraw from Darfur because of an escalation in violence. Hot on the heels of a UN report outlining a sharp deterioration in the security situation in the troubled Sudanese province, GOAL's CEO, John O'Shea, warned: "The world may soon witness another Rwanda-style genocide. It is clear that the International Community has been unable to stem the flow of deaths – and the aid community realises the time is fast approaching when the region may be deemed too insecure for relief activity."

GOAL, who has worked in Darfur for almost three years, was recently forced to abandon one of its major health programmes in the Jebel Mara district, due to fighting between rebels and Janjaweed militia."We knew from day one that protection was needed in Darfur. But the International Community has failed to do its job." The Security Council has not found the courage to take on the Sudanese Government nor face objections from Russia and China to deploy UN peacekeepers.

"The hapless people of Darfur – some two million of them – have been abandoned to thugs and mercenaries."


STATEMENT - Campaign for an Independent Left

One likely outcome of the next general election is that neither Fianna Fáil-PDs nor Fine Gael-Labour will have enough TDs to form a stable government. This means they will look to others for support: the Greens, Independents and possibly Sinn Féin. These forces are looking to "hold the balance of power". They believe they can implement some of their policies by being in government, or by doing a deal on specific issues in exchange for supporting a particular government. The history of parties with a radical agenda entering coalition governments is disappointing. Has Labour brought about significant social change while in coalition? Or has it revived Fine Gael at the expense of becoming a serious force representing working people?

Notwithstanding local community deals – which are short-lived and have not challenged the root causes of inequality and poverty – coalition and deals with Independents have weakened the left. Every controversial vote compels all who support a government to choose: leftwing TDs have been and will be forced to support the rightwing policies of governments committed to the interests of big business. Opportunities to build a real alternative to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have been and will be squandered. This is a crucial issue for those who want change in our society. Should those with a radical agenda support governments which will continue the neo-liberal assault on working people and allow Shannon to be used in Bush and Blair's imperialist wars, in exchange for what will turn out to be minor concessions?

Instead of doing parliamentary deals with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, the left can work inside and outside the Dáil – building a real opposition and mobilising working people to achieve real change through their own struggle. Séamus Healy TD and the Campaign for an Independent Left do not think that supporting Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael in government is the way to promote the interests of ordinary people. We are interested in discussions with other independents on how those with a radical agenda can work together without doing such deals.

The Campaign for an Independent Left will discuss this at its public meeting: Can coalition with parties of the right bring real change? on Tuesday 4 April, 8pm, Teachers' Club, 36 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. Speakers: Séamus Healy TD (Tipperary South) – CIL; Patricia McKenna (Green Party Dáil candidate, Dublin Central); Paul Dillon (Labour Youth); Daithí Doolan (Dublin City Councillor, Sinn Féin). Chair: Harry Browne.

More: For further comment on coalition and information on the Campaign for an Independent Left: Séamus Healy TD 087 280 2199 / Councillor Joan Collins 086 388 8151