Villagers: Letters to the editor 2006-11-23

The delinquent state that oppressed Irish children in institutional care is alive and well and is still denying justice to its former child victims. During his lifetime, one such victim, Peter Tyrrell, could not get justice in Ireland. He couldn't even get a hearing of his complaints. He took his life in despair after being betrayed by Ireland's bleeding-heart do-gooders in whom he had misplaced his trust.

Now that Peter has been safely dead nearly 40 years, Ireland's parasitic do-gooders are cashing in on his suffering. Peter's dreadful experiences can now be romanticised by Establishment Ireland and woven into Sean Ryan's myth of Ireland's "residential schools" and "child care system". The hypocrisy is nauseating.

Meanwhile, the living victims of Ireland's gulag (including myself) are being silenced by the state, the media and the do-gooders. It is just like the old times. A fraudulent and secret inquiry (the Ryan Commission on Child Abuse) and a secret hush-money court (the so-called Redress Board) are busily engaged in re-writing history.

If there is one thing worse than being oppressed, it is having one's history written by one's oppressors. For the sake of Ireland's children – past, present and future – that reprehensible project must not be allowed to succeed. Ireland's theocratic ruling elite is a prisoner of its history but it would do well to heed Santiana's warning that those who don't learn from their history are doomed to repeat it. An independent inquiry must be established to investigate the Irish gulag.

The former child prisoners could not get a public hearing at the Ryan commission. The tiny, unrepresentative handful of survivors that was selected for a hearing by the inquiry was heard behind closed doors. They were deemed unfit to be seen or heard by "respectable" Ireland – exactly as they were treated by the corrupt judges who illegally imprisoned them in childhood. Meanwhile, the commission gave everyone else a public platform from which to disseminate their misinformed opinions on the child prisoners.

Everyone, from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to government minions to gulag jailors were given a chance to speak – everyone except the gulag victims. Even the likes of Colm O'Gorman (PD parliamentary candidate), who never set foot in a child prison, was given a public platform by Sean Ryan, the commission's chairman.

Ireland is not ready to listen to those whose lives it wilfully wrecked in the industrial reformatories. We, the former gulag children, will never get justice in Ireland. Our history will have to be published abroad. Perhaps in another 40 years, when we are all safely dead, we will suffer the same posthumous fate in Ireland as Peter Tyrrell.

Jim Beresford, Former Artane child prisoner, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire


Coverage of the Congo: Ignoring our proud history with Congo

From 1960 until 1964 Ireland had soldiers supporting the UN in the Congo. This summer there were elections there and the results are still being disputed. Despite Ireland's proud history in the Congo, RTÉ chooses to ignore it and instead direct its radar against the Sudan, chipping away with a negative diatribe periodically.

Early this month, for the first time, Aoife Kavanagh revealed that Khartoum is a modern, successful, dynamic city like Dublin and that the Sudanese economy is booming. However, Kavanagh was telling us this good news in order that she could advise that some de-investment should take place in the country. (I am sure that Bertie Ahern would not like it if, say, Chinese journalists reported on successful Dublin and Ireland and then advised Chinese business people to stop investing in Ireland!).

Just imagine it, a thriving Islamic country!

Aoife Kavanagh, and before her Paul Cunningham, as well as working for RTÉ have carried out work for NGOs like Trócaire, etc. These NGOs are Christian-based and therefore reluctant to give a positive spin on other religions, especially Islam and Muslim, and this is why they constantly whinge and belittle Islamic states to undermine them.

About a decade ago there was a serious conflict in southern Sudan and many of the refugees from this conflict are now living in camps and settlements in the Darfur region, which is the size of France. With all the innuendo about why a UN force should be allowed into Darfur, one would think the EU/Nato has an ulterior reason for this aspiration. I suppose it would be nice for the EU to have a big military base for the rapid-response battlegroups in Darfur to keep an eye on its previous colonial land! In Africa!

Peter Kennedy, Sutton, Dublin 13


Protests in Erris: Surely it's good to help our friends?

Six years ago the Shell to Sea campaign warned that there would be severe conflict if Shell and our government persisted in bringing raw, unrefined gas to land in north Mayo. But Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Shell knew better. They pressed ahead for Shell's economic gain and left us in this sorry situation for which they, with all their so-called expertise, cannot find a just solution.

It is very sad for me, as an old-age pensioner, to criticise An Garda Síochána. But I am afraid that there have been enough trustworthy accounts and eyewitness reports to convince all but the most blind that a worrying number of gardaí are breaking the law in Erris. They are no longer guardians of the peace. Who is giving the orders?

So it was very reassuring to read Bertie Ahern's statement that the rule of law must be upheld in Mayo. I take that to mean that gardaí who have broken the law will be brought to court.

I wish to thank Michael D Higgins for stating so clearly that negotiations are far from over, contrary to what the Taoiseach would like us to believe, and for posing all the other questions the government must face up to. I also thank Michael D Higgins and other Labour Party politicians for going to Mayo to see for themselves. I have asked the three government TDs in my Dún Laoghaire constituency – Mary Hanafin, Barry Andrews and Fiona O'Malley – to do likewise. They have not replied to me yet.

In the past year, having met people from the area and having visited Erris three times, I have gained some knowledge of the situation. Without exception, the people to whom I have passed on this knowledge have been horrified by what is happening. Meetings between a government minister and oil company representatives – no civil servants present; laws on compulsory purchase changed to suit Shell; no planning permission needed for the pipeline; no revenue accruing to the state to help finance, for example, our ailing health system; gross exaggeration of the number of jobs that would be created; danger to life from the risk of explosion in pipes carrying unrefined gas; serious environmental pollution – and all this in an important fishing area and a most beautiful tourist area.

I find all the talk from the Minister for Justice, some gardaí and Fine Gael about people (that is, 'troublemakers') going to Erris from other parts of the country to be extremely insulting. I always thought it a good thing to go to help your friends or those in need. Has Ireland changed that much?

Sean Ó Riain, An Charraig Dhubh, Co Bhaile Átha Cliath

Attack on Shell to Sea: FG's attack has wider implications

The Fine Gael leader's attack on people participating in the Shell to Sea campaign has implications for the trade-union movement and future coalition governments.

Firstly, was it the silence of the leadership of both the Labour Party and the trade-union movement on this issue which spurred Enda Kenny to launch his outburst at a recent trade-union conference?

Yes, members of Labour and the trade unions have issued statements in support of the campaign – but were they in an individual capacity? Are they endorsed by the hierarchy of their parent bodies? It is not clear. Surely we are entitled to demand that Labour and ICTU issue clear statements demanding an end to the current Corrib gas project and asserting that our national resources must be in public ownership?

Secondly, there is the fundamental question of coalition. The FF/PD government and Fine Gael support the current project. Sinn Féin, the Green Party and Labour oppose it. Isn't this interesting? FG has a pre-election pact with Labour, both eye up the Greens, while SF is willing to 'grasp the nettle' of coalition (obviously with FF).

FF handed over our oil and gas fields to multinationals. A FF minister for the environment's Strategic Infrastructure Act will further diminish the right of communities to resist the imposition of projects and will facilitate handing over our natural resources to corporations.

If the parties on the left truly support Shell to Sea, then the leadership of these parties must send a pre-election signal to FF and FG that the ending of the current project and the repossession by the state of our natural resources will be a condition for entering government.

Carmel McKenna, Avoca, Co Wicklow


Shell and driftnet fishermen: Making a mockery of the law

One of the toxic effects of the Celtic Tiger is the notion that people with wealth and power should have more of an influence on society. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than the present plight of the community in Rossport struggling against a pipeline and the plight of driftnet fishermen having their right to a livelihood forcibly taken away from them.

The similarities between the two issues and the way the government has dealt with them is thought-provoking.

On the one hand you have Shell, a huge multinational, given a licence to extract a finite natural resource from the sea. On the other you have coastal fishermen having a traditional licence, likewise to extract a resource from the sea.

The fact that Shell got its licence for virtually nothing while fishermen pay a sizable proportion of their income to the exchequer for the right to fish does not matter.

Shell's right to extract this resource has been fully backed by the government. A battery of experts and reports has been brought forward to ride roughshod over the community's rights. We are told Shell has the law on their side.

However the question that no expert, report or commission can answer – but we as a society must answer – is: have the people of Rossport the right to have their views taken into account?

Similarly, after countless reports and commissions, the government has decided to end driftnet fishing. We who have a legal right to fish and to harvest this wealth have been told the government will close down this public fishery and, essentially, privatise it.

As far back as 10 years ago, fishermen gave a commitment to work with the government and to only exploit those stocks that were in surplus. This offer was ignored. Vested interests with huge influence were allowed to 'call the shots'. Their only agenda was the nuclear option that is to get rid of coastal fishing forever.

As I write, up to 150,000 salmon are leaving the feeding grounds off Greenland and slowly making their way to the coast of Ireland. This year they will not be harvested at sea but will flow into our rivers, 70 per cent of which are privately owned. This wealth will become the property of private fishery owners, who I am sure, like Shell, will extract the maximum amount of profit over time.

The treatment of fishermen's rights versus those of Shell makes a mockery of the rule of law and of our constitution. And the silence of the major opposition parties is deafening.

Seamus de Burca, Clonakilty, Co Cork (Member of the Salmon Commisssion, South Western Fishery Board)


Statement: Getting the facts right about domestic abuse

Green Party councillors Mary White and Bronwen Maher have recently commented on violence against women, quoting statistics supplied by Women's Aid which claim that 15 per cent of Irish women experience severe domestic abuse and up to 40 per cent of women seeking refuge were refused accommodation due to lack of space.

Before commenting on grave matters such as domestic abuse, public representatives should familiarise themselves with all available data, particularly non-sexist, non-biased, independent pieces of research where the experiences of both men and women are taken into account.

On 5 July 2005, the National Crime Council and the Economic and Social Research Institute published the first ever largescale study on the nature, extent and impact of domestic abuse against women and men in intimate partner relationships in Ireland. Among the notable findings are:

• 29 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men suffer domestic abuse

• 13 per cent of women and 13 per cent of men suffer physical abuse

• 29 per cent of women and 5 per cent of men report to the Garda

• 46 per cent of those turned away from refuges were for reasons other than lack of space

These statistics show domestic violence against men is an everyday occurrence in Ireland. According to the departments of health and justice, this is the definitive piece of research on domestic violence.

In September this year, a new study of patients attending their family doctors found that 52 per cent of men and 43 per cent of women in this setting experienced domestic violence. The authors of the study, based at Trinity College, Dublin, said it was "inappropriate to continue to address this issue solely as a woman's problem". The research indicated intimate partner violence is a major problem for men and for women.

This was acknowledged recently by another public representative, Senator Sheila Terry, who said, "I ask the Minister for Finance to look sympathetically on the organisations which deal with women and men experiencing domestic violence and that these organisations be funded sufficiently to deal with the problems." Other public representatives and social commentators should follow Terry's lead and include male victims in their considerations of domestic abuse. Their failure to do so results in mis-representation of the facts.

The government provides in excess of €15m per annum for services for female victims. Less than one per cent of this amount is provided for male victims.

If, according to the Green Party councillors, "the government's response to violence against women has been derisory", then their response to male victims of domestic violence is so far under the radar that it is undetectable.

Mary Cleary, Founder/coordinator Amen, St Anne's Resource Centre, Railway St Navan, Co Meath


Niall Meehan article: Revisionist spitting on graves

Pierce Martin (Village 16 November) has again implied that the IRA and republicans conducted a sectarian campaign against Protestants during the War of Independence. Yet in stating that the republican campaign was aimed at "those defined as England's Janissaries", he undermines his assertion. For if the IRA campaign was also aimed at Catholics, then it cannot have been sectarian.

It is clear from Pierce Martin's assertions that the republicans targeted those they knew or believed to be loyal to the English regime, whether Protestant or Catholic. Other commentators have noted the Irishness and Catholicism of the RIC to paint a picture of a fratricidal IRA. Again, this only drives home the point that the IRA was not sectarian.

Pierce Martin refuses to accept Niall Meehan's findings that the police also targeted Protestants. Niall Meehan had not attempted to suggest the police were sectarian, but that Protestants suspected of sympathy to the republican movement were subject to official censure.

Pierce Martin dismisses one instance quoted by Niall Meehan as being "obviously a Sinn Féin sympathiser", though conveniently when the IRA targets Protestants it was for sectarianism and not because these were "British regime sympathisers".

Pierce Martin paints a picture of "nationalist historians retreating from the relentless critique of revisionists". The reverse is the case: the revisionists make the accusations, "nationalist historians" diligently go and do the research and come back with refuting answers.

But some revisionists were never interested in answers in the first place, so they simply proceed to the next question. In a sense they are doing Irish history a favour by obliging historians to carefully seek out the known facts. Their failing is refusing to accept facts that don't fit their theory. Thus we see it is some revisionists, not "Niall Meehan and his cohorts" who are spitting on graves – resurrecting the dead and pressing them into service for their current agenda.

Nick Folley, Carrigaline, Co Cork


Sam Stephenson: Stephenson legacy still incomplete

One of Sam Stephenson's greatest architectural legacies is still incomplete. The men and women of no vision could not envisage the magnificent symmetry (if allowed to be completed) of his original Dublin civic offices. Will it take another generation to remove the unbalanced DIY cover-up of his first phase and construct the others as intended?

Keith Nolan, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim