As we toast St Patrick, let’s not forget our many dirty secrets


Sir — I wonder did we get rid of all the snakes in Ireland after St Patrick left , or did they just undergo a metamorphosis and join roles in the church, S tate and civil society?

The reason I say this is because I watched the RTÉ Investigates programme, Ireland’s Illegal Adoptions – Still Searching.

Yes, it’s another of Ireland’s dirty little secrets, where children were illegally adopted, their birth certificates altered and, to make matters worse, they later received redacted information from a State agency about who they were and who their birth mothers or fathers were.

These children, now adults, were, up to the 1970s, illegally registered to parents who were not their biological parents.

Can you imagine finding out that you are not who they say you are, and having to fight for the right to the truth?

That they were unable to access basic background information, constantly denied them, because of Tusla’s use of GDPR laws, is criminal as it is reprehensible.

That something like a piece of legislation would deny people their birthright is fantastical as it is totally wrong, and it must be challenged both in our Courts and the European Courts of Justice.

That the State — which is me and you folks — defend such action in our courts is appalling and I do not endorse nor condone such actions. How can we still, in this 21st century, hide our secrets from our own citizens who have been denied their rights for decades?

I’m ashamed to call myself Irish while some of our own citizenry have been denied their rightful citizenship. Where State and church actors, and some private individuals, colluded to deny these wonderful brave people their actual birthright.

While we rightly celebrate our patron saint, let’s give some thought to those who were appallingly treated by the church and the different organs of the State, in one of Ireland’s many dirty secrets.

Christy Galligan, Letterkenny, Co Donegal

Equinox shines a light on all we’re grateful for

Sir — The spring equinox occurs today, at exactly 3.33pm. The equinox marks the sun crossing the equator from south to north. At the equinox, the sun shines directly on the equator, as daylight and darkness are almost equal at 12 hours each.

That’s the science bit. Spring for me heralds a season of rebirth, fertility and brightness.

The anticipation of outdoor living puts a spring in my step. Summer time will begin at 1am next Sunday, March 27, when the clocks go forward. The days will be noticeably longer.

Animals are mating and producing offspring. Birds are singing and building nests. Trees are sweetly blooming. Warmth, growth and greenery are returning. The sunflower, Ukraine’s national flower, grows worldwide and is a symbol of solidarity with the country and its people.

The spring equinox restores my energy levels after the cold, dark winter. It makes me appreciate how good it is to be alive and living in a beautiful country. It whets my appetite for exercise, sport and outdoor living. My thoughts turn to swimming in the sea at Fenit, walking on Banna Strand, days at the races and the expectation of a successful season for Austin Stacks and Kerry football teams.

Above all this springtime, the resilient people of Ukraine will dominate my thoughts. I pray that Russia will heed the impassioned plea from Pope Francis to “in the name of God, end this unacceptable armed aggression and massacre”.

Billy Ryle, Tralee, Co Kerry

Putin’s hybrid war on world hits home

Sir — The hugely disproportionate size of the Russian embassy in a small country like ours has been rightly questioned. Recent tragic events have demonstrated the effectiveness of the hybrid warfare the Russians are engaged in across the entire globe.

Now that the prices of home heating oil, gas, petrol and diesel have soared, we can expect a vicious hybrid assault on those governments that are applying sanctions.

They will be undermined and castigated for inflicting severe hardship on their people — without, of course, any reference to the cause: Russia’s war on Ukraine.

In prosecuting this hybrid warfare, the very large cohort of “useful idiots” and populists can, as usual, be relied on to be of enormous service.

Mick O’Brien, Springmount, Kilkenny

Ministers fail test in university scandal

Sir — We learned from your journalist Wayne O’Connor last week that two men had been arrested in the process of a fraud investigation at the University of Limerick (UL) into severance payments to former employees. Within the past month, the Public Accounts Committee has been denied access to a KPMG report (with terms of reference set by UL itself) on the purchase by the university for €8m of a city centre property valued just two years before its sale at €3.2m.

About a year ago, Mr Justice Twomey threw out of the High Court an application for an injunction from a former HR director at UL to prevent an investigation into an apparently irregular pension payment.

The judge did so because of the importance of the public interest in this matter. Despite being cleared to begin, UL has shrouded the fate of this inquiry in more mystery than that of the Mary Celeste.

The Universities Act 1997 allows a minister who feels there are reasonable grounds for believing functions are being performed in a way that breaches the laws and rules of a university to appoint a “Visitor” to look into the matters in question.

Each one of the issues identified above merits the attention of a High Court or Supreme Court judge acting as a Visitor. Incredibly, they are just the most recent additions to a catalogue of well-documented governance and management failures at the university reported over more than a decade to ministers, departmental heads and a host of other authorities.

How in these circumstances can the Minister for Higher Education justify the failure to act in the way the statute so plainly envisages and appoint a Visitor to get to the bottom of this?

Jeremy Callaghan, Caherconlish, Co Limerick

Russia’s neighbours on borrowed time

Sir — About 10 years ago, I remember a survey in Russia showing Russians feared Estonia as their “most dangerous” foreign threat. Estonia has a population of 1.5 million. Russian paranoia is irrational but perennial.

Some Western commentators seem to have bought into the Russian complaint that Nato sought to advance to their border in order to threaten them. It seems to have been forgotten that it was the newly liberated countries of eastern Europe that were seeking some form of collective security.

They all knew Russia was a powerful nation going through a weakened unstable period — which would in time pass.

Russia would then return to what it had always been — a strong, expansionist empire, with little regard for its smaller neighbours, either in central Asia or in Europe.

Does anybody seriously believe Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would be free democracies now were they not to have the security of Nato membership?

Any neutral state bordering Russia is living on borrowed time.

Anthony Hanrahan, Renvyle, Co Galway

Families failed by the State deserve truth

Sir — The uncomfortable truth of the relationship between families and the State on the island of Ireland was amply demonstrated by last week’s RTÉ Investigates team revisiting their probe into Ireland’s illegal adoptions, a year after they first broke the story of the many adoptees who are still searching for answers and struggling to discover their true identities.

The programme revealed the role of the Catholic Church in facilitating these illegal practices and showed how civic society cast doubt on the continued influence of these organisations in how we live our lives free of oppression and coercion.

It was heart-wrenching listening to the victims’ demands to access the information they so urgently need.

To think that in 2022 the obstacles these people are expected to negotiate to obtain the records held by the State begs the question if government and civil society really want to help these people seeking answers.

The government of the day and its servants were actively involved in child trafficking on an industrial scale. The public deserves to be told the truth, however uncomfortable it may be.

We have witnessed the wholesale abuse of children by clerics, the role of mother and baby homes, the Magdalene laundries and the dumping of children’s remains in Tuam.

These horrors were perpetrated against Irish people by Irish people and are only being exposed by the unrelenting efforts of brave victims demanding the truth.

No barriers should be placed by the Government to families and victims demanding access to state records.

George Millar, Newtownards, Co Down

Ditching neutrality not a serious option

Sir — Ireland should resist all temptation to relinquish our neutrality. No small nation can furrow a peaceful path if it aligns itself with another great military power.

Our neutrality is embedded in our DNA and our souls as Irish people. We have for hundreds of years fought aggression and did not accept defeat.

Our neutrality is not cowardly, nor is it security in the face of any naked aggressor. Ireland stands unprotected, but like the people of Ukraine, no aggressor will ever possess our souls.

Ukraine has learned the hard way that seeking to align yourself militarily with another great power has unjustifiable consequences for innocent people.

Ireland should tread carefully before it gives up its neutrality.

Aidan Roddy, Cabinteely, Dublin 18

Trans claims have an impact on all women

Sir — I read with interest the article by Dónal Lynch in the People and Culture section (‘I never chose to be witch-hunted. I never thought I’d live to see society change’) about Rebecca Tallon de Havilland.

This article falls victim to the usual error of confusing and conflating “sex” and “gender”.

Sex is a scientifically-based, immutable binary; gender and gender identity, which is a social construct, can mean practically anything and has apparently dozens of iterations — such as binary, pansexual, demisexual, aromantic and so on.

The Census Office has itself fallen victim to this muddled and stupid thinking with its sex question giving people the option of identifying as male, female or both by ticking both boxes.

I understand you printed this article as Rebecca tells the story. I am also aware you have printed numerous excellent articles on the whole issue of gender ideology — a brave move, given most of the media will not touch the subject for fear of being cancelled. RTÉ is particularly notable for its total silence on the matter.

I think it is important to query the claims made by trans ideology. Women are born, not constructed by drugs and surgery, and the claims of trans activists impact on the rights of all women.

Julia Anderson, Kilpedder, Co Wicklow

Lost souls lose out to hard scientific fact

Sir — Writing on your letters page last week, Terry Healy (‘Soulmates do exist, and that’s a fact’) made me laugh when she quoted from an article by Stefanie Preissner, who on her website describes herself as “an influencer” among other things.

The quote: “A fundamental problem with the theory is that there is scientific evidence pointing to the fact that souls aren’t real. Scientists, from a range of disciplines — psychology to neuroscience — conclude that the soul as we imagine it is just a vast network of nerve cells and associated molecules.”

If Ms Preissner for a second thinks a scientist of any kind can determine what a soul is, she lives in cloud cuckoo land.

Declan Foley, Melbourne, Australia

Balancing the books has become a big call

Sir — The contrast between the articles of Conor Skehan and Shane Coleman on March 13 was very noticeable.

Mr Skehan says we need to “avoid being misled by conjurers and activists who scorn prudence in public finances” to save ourselves from the “unpleasantness of the 2008 crash”.

Mr Coleman, in contrast, tells us we will have to “write a blank cheque” in order “to protect every single voter”.

I wonder which of them is right?

Anthony Leavy, Sutton, Dublin 13

Martin can use old trick with new deal

Sir — I heard the Taoiseach deliver his chilling St Patrick’s Day message from America: “Recession cannot be ruled out.”

Of course, there is a solution. Micheál Martin needs to implement Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ tax programme of 1935.

Pat O’Callaghan, Mallow, Co Cork

Children hurt by age categories on books

Sir — Having recently discovered one of our children has dyslexia, it pains and puzzles me to see age categories on children’s books displayed in shops. Surely this is ageism and stigmatisation?

Rest assured that after years of over-learning and grinding at home each evening, our strugg-ling reader can read. However, it breaks my heart to see the deflation in their face when the age sign atop the book shelf is registered.

Can we not sell children’s books by genre in order to invite and encourage all readers? Children, like adults, will find their own level and don’t need to be publicly shamed out of picking up a book that interests them.

Mrs Dunne, Westmeath

Aughinish is a vital cog in community

Sir — I read Fearghal O’Connor on the back page of your business section last week saying the Government must “shut the gates” at Aughinish Alumina in Co Limerick.

Just how does he imagine the Government will make this happen — by sending in our Defence Forces to secure the facility?

Aughinish is not a luxury yacht off the coast of Italy. It employs 482 people directly and 385 downstream. That is 867 families suddenly deprived of a livelihood in north Kerry and west Limerick. And for what?

Tom McElligott, Listowel, Co Kerry

Focus on tillage good news for livestock

Sir — I always find Fiona O’Connell’s Lay of the Land column to be most informative. Recently she wrote about our lack of concern for farm animals compared with our love of pets.

So I was happy to hear the Minister for Agriculture ask farmers to increase tillage. In order to produce grains and vegetables, livestock numbers will have to be reduced. Hopefully, this will decrease the number of calves locked in boxes and sent for veal production to France and Belgium.

Teresa Mitchell, Arklow, Co Wicklow As we toast St Patrick, let’s not forget our many dirty secrets

Fry Electronics Team

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