Creeslough parish priest has been a true tower of strength

Sir — In the aftermath of the disaster in Creeslough, where 10 people lost their lives over a week ago in an explosion, great waves of grief have come crashing down on the homes of Donegal in particular and throughout the country as a whole.

he shock, grief and utter disbelief of this awful tragedy in a small rural community has been articulated clearly by parish priest Fr John Joe Duffy, who has been there for his flock day and night since disaster struck.

Listening to Fr Duffy’s tortured words on the local Ocean FM last Monday morning as he struggled to describe the way people were dealing with sudden death and injury on such a massive scale was heartbreaking to hear, as he tried to hold himself together.

Asked on RTÉ radio by Miriam O’Callaghan how he can even begin to console people in the face of such tragedy, Fr Duffy said: “You just have to be there for people.”


Fr John Joe Duffy, parish priest at St Michae’s Church in Creeslough, Co Donegal, lights the 10 candles for the victims who lost their lives. Picture by Mark Condren

During one of the funeral homilies, he said: “Life is a great journey, one which we travel on our own in our own way. We journey through life on a path we neither design nor control. We can shape the path with our decisions and choices, but the final direction of life is beyond our control.”

Such words of wisdom from this brave and caring cleric, whose life — and those of his parishioners — was thrown into utter chaos.

On trying to find the words to describe this awful event in his parish on countless radio and television interviews, at his many masses and during very difficult house calls, this soft-spoken cleric has talked on behalf of and about his
community in such a gentle way. He has been a true beacon of light for his people during these very difficult days.

Well done, Fr Duffy. You played a blinder.

Tom Towey, Cloonacool, Co Sligo

The generosity of the Irish and golden goals 

Sir — Four-month-old Marko Lukavska could, in time, be the next David Clifford. However, the Kerry-born Ukrainian had a lucky escape last week when some faceless bureaucrat attempted to uproot him and his 134 fellow Ukrainians from Killarney to Westport for “operational reasons”.

Killarney shouted “No”, as the refugees had integrated fully with the community. The people threw a protective cordon around their newest neighbours and refused to allow them to be treated as logistical fodder.

The generosity of Irish people is a wonderful thing to see, and was further evidenced by the dignified and sensitive manner in which the country united in mourning with the people of Donegal after the tragedy in Creeslough.

It was predestined that Amber Barrett, a young Donegal footballer, should score the goal that sent our team to the World Cup Finals. It proclaimed that sport is for everybody, male and female, able and disabled, black and white, young and old. It’s a clarion cry for unity, inclusion and equality.

It repeats a lesson we learned from an unassuming Irish soccer star. Colour is only skin deep. Solidarity and decency run far deeper. “Ooh, ah, Paul McGrath. Ooh, ah, Paul McGrath.”

Billy Ryle, Tralee, Co Kerry

IRA song needs tweak to strike right chord

Sir — The uproar caused by the singing in the dressing room has unfairly detracted from the historic victory of our women’s football team.

News reports referred to a “pro-IRA song”, which for me prompts the question: which IRA? Or perhaps, which incarnation of the IRA? That entity has been around for a long time now.

Is it the IRA of the Collins era, whose exploits are commemorated and occasionally celebrated at official state functions? Or the IRA of the late 1930s when our renowned author Brendan Behan joined upand tried unsuccessfully to sink a battleship in Liverpool?

Is it the IRA of the 1950s, recalled in songs such as Seán South of Garryowen? Or the IRA of the Troubles, who used tactics not terribly dissimilar to its republican predecessors.

Should all songs and anthems that glorify or justify violence be banned? Rule, Britannia! has a nice air to it, but it does remind one of past ‘glories’, like Bloody Sunday at Croke Park in 1920 or the massacre in Derry in 1972… or of uprisings against the rule of empire worldwide.

But getting back to the latest controversy, I suggest a compromise. Instead of prohibiting the singing of the ’Ra song, we could amend the words to chime with the spirit of the Peace Process and historical revisionism while paying due homage to the long and tortuous political journey of Gerry Adams.

We could sing: “Ooh, ah, I was never in the ’Ra.”

John Fitzgerald, Callan, Co Kilkenny

Brosnan’s heroics lost in chant fallout

Sir — What a great achievement it was for us to qualify for the World Cup, but I noticed the media gave very little praise to goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan for her wonderful penalty save.

If she hadn’t saved that kick, it might have been a different result. Of course, full marks to Amber Barrett for a superbly taken goal. Overall, a great night for Irish soccer.

Noel Skinner, Santry, Dublin 9

Football scandal has echoes of hypocrisy

Sir — The Irish women’s win over Scotland was historic, but what should have been a night for celebrating and singing songs descended into controversy.

The video showing the women celebrating by chanting Celtic Symphony in the dressing rooms attracted widespread criticism.

While it’s inappropriate to sing songs that even mildly mention the IRA, I’m dismayed at the hypocrisy of it all.

The women have apologised profusely, yet the negative campaign against them continues.

I could understand if they had intended to cause offence or a reaction, but I genuinely believe they were simply caught up in the moment, as anyone would be.

The narrow perception of some is timely, as at this time of year we await the annual backlash against James McClean for refusing to wear the poppy.

Respect should be mutual and easy, but for some it’s easy to deflect. What I saw last week was Ireland being victorious and triumphant — which was in fact what the song was about.

J Bennett, Co Laois

Politicians will soon be joining in chorus

Sir — Why all the fuss? At the present rate of progress, it will be the chant of choice to begin every sitting of both Houses of the Oireachtas.

And it will be a more honest reflection of the Government’s state of mind than the current prayer recitation.

Liam Power, Dundalk, Co Louth

I can see your lips move! 

Sir — I enjoyed Maia Dunphy’s article in your paper last week about exploiting people’s bereavement. On a lighter note, it reminded me of an old joke.

A ventriloquist gets called in to his agent’s office to be told that work and bookings are drying up, but the agent has an idea and persuades the ventriloquist to do some seance readings.

The first woman arrives.

“Are you there, Albert?”

“Yes, I’m here.”

“Are you happy?”

“Yes, I am…”

At the end, she asks: “Can I come again next week? Same time, same price?”

The ventriloquist says: “No, next week it’s €10 more.”

“Why’s that?” asks the woman.

“Well, next week I’m doing it while drinking a glass of water.”

I live in Manchester and take the Sunday Independent every week. I love all the sections, especially Brighid’s Diary.

Peter McKinney, Wythenshawe, Manchester

Lords of war are still living in Dark Ages

Sir — I think we are giving the geriatric lords of war far too much credit. One of them makes threats about using advanced weapons while a row of antique landline phones and a fax machine are visible on his desk, and the other one is a grey Ron Burgundy.

Michael Coffey, Harold’s Cross, Dublin

Gender battle places children on front line

Sir — Despite the deep disquiet expressed in a recent National Council for Curriculum and Assessment public consultation, it is now almost certain that a new sex-education programme will be imposed on schools as part of an expanded SPHE (social, personal and health education) module.

This wave of sex-ed modules now being unleashed is a contrived gender-identity ideology that disregards both the science and the social aspects of what it means to be human.

We are witnessing a proxy war, in which our children are on the front line while teachers are being induced into the service of a flawed ideology. They are counting on parents and grandparents to be complicit by our silence.

Gearóid Duffy, Lee Road, Cork

Ill-defined legal terms mean trouble ahead 

Sir — Before the Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill becomes law, will we see legally robust definitions of gender, gender identity and gender expression?

It would also be good to know how Justice Minister Helen McEntee intends for conflicts between gender and gender identity to be resolved and which will take precedence.

How would someone know if a group they join is an “organised hate group”? Who gets to decide which are hate groups? Will there be a register?

If the minister can’t clearly define these terms and is not aware of the implications of including gender identity and gender expression in legislation, they should not be included in this bill.

E Bolger, Dublin 9

RTÉ must explain its Ross interview ban

Sir — Your editorial headline last week, ‘Transparency found wanting at RTÉ’, says it all.

The decision by RTÉ not to broadcast a recorded interview with Shane Ross about his unauthorised biography of Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald on grounds of editorial independence — or rather “on other editorial priorities” — just doesn’t add up.

While I accept there would have been a cautious approach, given it was an unauthorised biography, it was a strange decision to cancel the broadcast outright.

It would not prevent a skilled broadcaster such as Claire Byrne navigating her way around a few minefields and, with the ultimate benefit of legal oversight, making any editing adjustments.

The proper functioning of a democracy relies not only on a free press, but on a press operating without fear.

A private independent broadcaster has some licence to take a different course, but our national broadcaster needs to fully explain its decision.

RTÉ is very good at asking the hard questions of others; it’s time for the tables to be turned, but it shouldn’t take an Oireach-
tas committee to do it on a wishy-washy agenda of editorial independence.

Aidan Roddy, Cabinteely, Dublin 18

Inheritance tax is causing heartache

Sir — How come so much time was wasted recently by politicians and others discussing amending the tax on inheritances when the correct thing to do is to have it abolished completely?

Even the Tánaiste agrees.

Because of this silly act, one wonders how many unfortunate people were forced to sell their house in which they would have dearly loved to live, but because of the crippling tax bill they received on becoming the rightful owners of the property they had no option but to sell.

It is definitely time to have this senseless act banished to the dustbin and forgotten about.

PJ McGuire, Athlone, Co Westmeath

Val Joyce was such a pleasure to listen to

Sir — It was with great sadness that I heard former RTÉ broadcaster Val Joyce had died.

Val presented programmes such as Sound of Light and Pop Call, but he is possibly most famous for Airs and Races, which was on Saturday afternoons in the 1980s and featured songs as well as sporting events including horse racing.

He was the quintessential broadcaster, with a mellifluous and sonorous voice and was easy to listen to.

By all accounts, he is fondly remembered by the many people who met him as being a lovely, warm, genial and affable human being.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis.

J O’Brien, Tipperary

Going from bard to verse in my old age

Sir — Approaching my dotage, I have taken to composing Clerihews — those whimsical, four-line poems invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley when he was a lad of 16. I will be turning 90 myself next Saturday, and here is my latest opus:

If Eve’d
Not conceived
There’d be no trace
Of the Human Race.

James Parle, Drinagh, Co Wexford

Hairstyle school policy doesn’t cut it

Sir — I’m a Leaving Cert student, and in my school it’s against the rules to get certain types of haircut, as we are told that the haircut is a part of the school uniform.

The rule states that students must have a neat and tidy haircut in school and the length must be above a blade three.

But the haircut that’s most popular around Ireland for teenage boys is a faded back and sides (below a blade three), coupled with a neat, short fringe. This haircut breaches the rule in our school for its short length.

Our school is joked about for this rule, and we can only sit back and take the mockery.

So, a few weeks ago, I decided to get the forbidden haircut.

First thing on Monday morning I received a two-hour detention — and was told that on the second offence, I would be removed from school for two days.

It seems fair enough that we have to wear full school uniform during school hours — we represent our school well, and wear the uniform with pride, since we know the uniform can come off once school is over.

But the haircut remains. We can’t change it or take it off. I wonder is it right for such rules to deny us the chance to feel happy with our physical

Name and address with editor Creeslough parish priest has been a true tower of strength

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