There’s no going back to the bad days of the USSR for eastern Europeans

Sir — Isn’t it wonderful that we Irish along with the citizens of other free democratic countries live in a society where we can openly criticise those we do not agree with, without fear of being arrested, imprisoned or even murdered purely because our opinions or political views are at odds with that of the state in which we live.

he reason the USSR collapsed and subsequently the eastern European countries lined up to join Nato and the EU was that the USSR was a failed social experiment created by a mass murderer who used fear, oppression and bullets to subjugate the local population.

The similarities between Putin and Stalin are becoming more evident as his dictatorship grows ever longer.

With Russia invading a fellow European country and sending warplanes and warships so close to our shore, we should embrace the protection that our allies and friends in the US, UK and Nato afford us directly and indirectly in keeping the Russian threat from our door.

We cannot sit on the fence any longer and espouse neutrality. Our very existence and way of life has always been and will always be more aligned with our US and European partners than with the failed ideals of communism. Democracy and capitalism, for all their failures, allow us to live in a free and modern society where we all get to choose who governs us and for how long.

I was a teenager in 1989 as I watched tens of thousands of my fellow Europeans leave their homes and risk their lives to cross borders saturated with Russian mines, electric barbed wire and soldiers with machine guns, so that they and their children would have a chance at living in a society where they would be free and have opportunities in life that previously they could only ever have dreamt of. I don’t ever recall ever seeing anybody trying to make the opposite journey into Russia.

Sean O’Dubhda, Ballinteer, Dublin 16

The swifter we tackle ‘evil’ Putin the better

Sir — I am 78 years of age and have worked all my life to achieve satisfaction. With my well-earned pension I would consider myself financially secure. Like all others I hated Covid-19, but I accepted it as a small kick from Mother Nature to tell us to get our house in order. Again, like all others, I was happy to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Then along came this madman named Putin whose aim is to become king of the world by whatever evil means possible.

Now the world has witnessed this type of megalomaniac in the past and left it too late until the damage was done. Like history repeating itself, we have allowed this latest dictator to kill, maim and pillage while we cowed down and did sweet FA.

He is not going to stop and, later, when the death toll has become unacceptable and the general public puts force on our world leaders, we will go after him and eventually bring him to justice for his war crimes — but not until he has shattered everything that we have legitimately built for ourselves, and laid waste to a large part of Europe and the world.

Forget about all of this ‘hype’ of World War III, this is the civilised world against one man. Remove him now and the threat is gone.

John K Kenny, Dublin 5

We do have a role in resolving conflict

Sir — Our Constitution states that we are devoted to the principle of the pacific settlement of international disputes by international arbitration or judicial determination. The website of the Department of Foreign Affairs states that it “promotes Ireland’s interests and values in the world”. Why then are we not taking a more proactive role in addressing the current situation in Ukraine?

Why is France, a member of Nato, and not neutral Ireland negotiating directly with Russia? Ireland as a small neutral country could have a pivotal role in the peaceful resolution of this and other international conflicts. We need to establish a centre in Ireland for the non-violent resolution of conflict. Being neutral does not mean staying silent. It is the only way to a peaceful resolution of the current crisis.

Elizabeth Cullen, Kilcullen, Co Kildare

Fair Deal can help Ukraine refugees

Sir —Reading in your paper about the plight of these poor women and children fleeing from Ukraine is heart-breaking. Ireland, even with its housing crisis, can do a lot more to help these people. There are hundreds of good, unoccupied houses across the country due to the nursing home Fair Deal scheme, which in itself is a great scheme and the only way people can afford the cost of nursing homes.

The reason all these houses are unoccupied is, if rented, 80pc would be taken in rental income. Now surely the Government can come to some arrangement with these householders to let them open these home to Ukrainians for a reasonable rent. With a little imagination there could be a much fairer deal for all.

Brian Lube, Kilcock, Co Meath

But sticks and stones won’t shift Russians

Sir — Did any of us imagine we would ever again bear witness to the horrors of war? Particularly those of us born shortly after the last world war was over; it was easy to think how lucky are we — a generation that lived their lives without the need to enter into conflict with our fellow man.

Now it seems all bets are off. A powerful nation has decided to invade its next-door neighbour.

Ukraine is a peaceful democracy that bears no ill will to any country, yet President Putin has taken it upon himself to send columns of tanks to rain down shells on Ukrainian towns and cities.

So the question is, will anyone come to their aid? It seems not. The west, Nato, does not think it’s worth the risk… not willing to call Putin’s bluff.

So we stand by and do nothing other than send a few nappies and tubes of toothpaste while Russia levels Ukraine and kills its inhabitants in their thousands.

It’s time for the leaders of the western world to grow some balls, to call his bluff. Unfortunately the threat of nuclear warfare is a reality; we invented these weapons as a deterrent and this far they have served us well. Albert Einstein once said: “The fourth world war will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Mike Burke, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare

Channel our anger to guard against fatigue

Sir — One of the greatest challenges facing us citizens now is that we not allow our rage to become diminished, but to focus and channel our anger in order to guard against becoming ‘war weary’ whereby our humanitarian instincts, our sense of justice and our forbearance with the inevitable harsh effects on our comfortable lives in Ireland become blunted.

Michael Gannon, St Thomas’ Sq, Kilkenny

Good writers make us readers for life

Sir — In her review of Jennifer E Smith’s book, The Unsinkable Greta James (People & Culture, March 6), I’m sure Anne Marie Scanlon didn’t mean to imply that writers of books for younger readers are any less accomplished than those writing for adults? Get them reading young with well-structured stories for their age group, and the interest will be there for life.

Patricia O’Connor, Ballybunion, Co Kerry

Soulmates do exist — and that’s a fact

Reading Stefanie Preissner in Life magazine last week has pushed me to respond. She writes: “I’m sorry to slay a beautiful theory with an ugly fact but I feel a responsibility to shatter the illusion — there is no such thing as a soulmate.”

I can only say my husband, who passed away 10 months ago, was my soulmate. We met late in life — he was 80 and I was 61. It was love at first sight. I had kissed many a frog to know when I met my prince charming.

She also writes: “Another 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 from psychology to neuroscience, have concluded that the soul as we imagine it is just a vast network of nerve cells and associated molecules.” Next, you’ll be telling us there is no such thing as emotions, feelings and, dare I say, love!

I can only speak of my own experience with a man who was beautiful inside and out. Although we were just 11 years together, he was definitely my soulmate. We rarely had a cross word between us. We laughed and danced away the years. Every minute was a holiday with him. He was my lover and my best friend.

Stefanie, don’t be a killjoy. All you need is love.

Terry Healy Riordan, Kill, Co Kildare

Everything is going up apart from pay

Sir — Almost everybody in this country has recently woken up to a pay cut. What’s worse is there’s more to come. The reason is the cost of fuel increasing at a frightening rate — so everything gets more and more expensive — which is effectively a pay cut. Everyone’s pay will stretch that little bit less.

The cost of fuel impacts everything: transport, home heating, manufactured products, building materials.

If fuel goes up, the cost of food production goes up. Everything from your supermarket trolley to your cup of coffee goes up too.

This is a problem for the Government and it needs to be tackled immediately. It’s not a problem of the Government’s making but it’s a problem that they are going to have to solve.

If this administration thinks a €200 one-off discount on electricity bills is going to satisfy people, I can tell them here and now that they are in for some land.

John O’Brien, Clonmel, Co Tipperary

Red Devils in the detail of sporting loyalty

Sir — In his highly acclaimed book, McCarthy’s Bar: A Journey of Discovery in Ireland, published in 2000, the late Pete McCarthy recalled an encounter in Dublin with a German tourist who thought there was a place in Ireland called ‘Manchester United’.

Such is the slavish devotion to Manchester United and Liverpool soccer clubs by some people in this country these days, many of us must wonder if those two cities are actually in Ireland.

The amount of media coverage given to the English Premier League is surely more than public interest warrants.

While not anti-soccer, I find it difficult to understand why some sports supporters find such fascination with foreign teams made up of a motley crew of overpaid players and little Irish involvement.

Of course, the heavy defeat suffered by Manchester United at the hands of their City rivals last weekend caused doom and gloom in some households. But perhaps those affected will wake up some morning and realise which country they actually live in.

Noel Coogan, Navan, Co Meath

IRA propaganda will never be the truth

Sir — Deaglán de Bréadún’s eulogies (Sunday Independent, March 6) to John A Murphy, professor of Irish history in UCC, and to Detective Garda Ben O’Sullivan, the only guard in history to win two Scott medals for bravery, did both men proud. Solas na bhFlaitheas orthu. The latter was, of course, the victim of IRA gun violence, and Deaglán reminds us that the former was a “sharp critic of modern day Sinn Féin”.

He writes that Murphy “accused Sinn Féin of rewriting history and portraying IRA violence as part of a campaign for equality and civil rights which had been granted at an earlier stage in Northern Ireland”. Of course it was nothing of the sort.

It is Putinesque to argue that the brutal murder of Det Gda Jerry McCabe, the wounding of Ben O’Sullivan and the countless other outrages inflicted on innocent people for more than 30 years could even be tenuously connected to the pursuit of equality and civil rights.

Yet one has to admit Sinn Féin has been extraordinarily successful in propagating this myth.

It lends credence to the words of one commentator who said recently that today “the truth and the lie stood equal in western society”.

Jim O’Connell, Ashtown, Dublin 7

Census should think again on religion

Sir — The changes in this year’s Census — particularly putting ‘No religion’ as the first choice answer to the faith question — seem likely to downgrade religion in our country.

The fact that you may not attend religious services does not mean that you have no religion. Religions are about people living good lives. I believe that a good life is the best and happiest life. Society generally benefits too. Also, religions provide an explanation for the mystery of life itself and our world.

Seán Quinn, Blackrock, Co Dublin

Time for Cats to get claws into football

Sir — Kilkenny has been the most successful hurling county in recent years, with teams managed by Brian Cody gaining All-Ireland senior honours 11 times in the present century. However, those in the famed black and amber jerseys may have an advantage over other top counties in the small ball game with the county not competing in senior football for a good number of years.

Kilkenny were a strong force in football once, winning three Leinster senior titles. But in modern times football has been a poor relation of hurling in the county and now, perhaps, there should be a stronger emphasis on a revival of the big ball game.

For the last number of years, Kilkenny has been the only county not taking part in the National Football League and there should be a return sooner than later. If London can do so well in Division 4, why not Kilkenny? I look forward to the ‘top brass’ in Kilkenny GAA circles getting football up and running again in the county.

Willie Wilson, Waterford city

Ernest Skackleton’s legacy endures

Sir — It is great news for those of us interested in the Endurance22 expedition that last week they announced they had located the 144ft wooden ship; lost for over 106 years, 10,000ft beneath the Weddell Sea, east of the Antarctic peninsula and four miles south of her last location recorded by her captain, Frank Worsley, in 1915.

This year is the 100th anniversary of Ernest Shackleton’s death on January 5, 1922. He died on his final Antarctic expedition and was buried in St Georgia at his wife’s request.

Endurance was part of the 1914-17 Shackleton expedition to the Antarctic. When trapped in ice, her crew miraculously survived terrible conditions. Shackleton and others went for help in a small, wooden boat across 720 nautical miles of treacherous, freezing seas for the men left behind to be rescued. All 27 men and Ernest Shackleton came home.

Shackleton and the crew would be pleased and proud of this generation who located their ship lost and now found.

Mary Sullivan, College Road, Cork There’s no going back to the bad days of the USSR for eastern Europeans

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