Letters to the Editor

Priests are becoming peripheral figures in all things spiritual

In the old Irish ballad The Juice of the Barley the singer tells of the priest ‘Reading him out from the altar and predicting his ending up with his neck in a halter’. A bit of a ‘stretch’ maybe, but a hint at two elements of former Catholic Irish society which are gone and not forgotten. One, the priest would have felt fully empowered to call attention to wrongful behaviour even to the point of public vilification and two, the offender would, despite his public sinning, be in attendance to listen to his public condemnation. Funny but not very ha, ha. To say that much has changed would qualify as extreme understatement.

Today, in Ireland, the priest, somewhat sadly, is fast becoming a peripheral figure in the scheme of things spiritual. Yes, he’s a useful presence if you need your child baptised or confirmed and he always looks good in first communion or wedding pics, where he adds a touch of solemnity to ‘the bride in her rich adorning’. Come checking out time he’s still the ‘main man’ as you wouldn’t want to be embarking on your last journey on your own, so to speak. All good so far, but we wouldn’t want him dictating to us on our everyday behaviour, would we? After all, it’s my life, my body and ultimately my decision.

And so, Fr Patrick McCafferty tries bravely to remind Catholics of the laws of God and Fr Brian D’Arcy tries to please everyone and we don’t hear of a single case of ‘Being read out from the altar’. A lone priest, lately, tried a constructive approach and, for his trouble ended up ‘starring’ in ‘the biggest show in the country’ courtesy of his disillusioned parishioners.

In the end it comes down to personal responsibility. Ireland today is educated and many are in a great position to inform themselves on many things including matters religious. The role of the priest may have changed dramatically but I haven’t heard of a reissue of the 10 commandments. Loose interpretation  is a modern phenomenon though and I just wonder does it extend to abortion. Two thirds of modern southern Irish people obviously believe it does.

Randalstown, Co Antrim 


Palestianian protesters far from peaceful bystanders

I strongly deplore the tendentious letter from Simon Atherton (Shoppers around the world should say enough is enough, June 14) in which he writes of “the recent events in Gaza with more than 100 killed and thousands injured including numerous amputations” which ignores the context of the riots instigated by the Hamas government in Gaza.

On May 14, the day with the highest number of casualties, there were only 62 Palestinian deaths out of 40,000 participants – an extraordinarily low proportion compared with what happens on a regular basis in Syria and other countries in the region. Of these, a Hamas official has acknowledged that 50 were members of his movement and three were from Islamic Jihad. So the collateral deaths must have been fewer than 10.

While the majority of protesters may not have been armed (if one discounts Molotov cocktails and rocks), they were far from peaceful bystanders. Their aim was to breach the border fence by force of numbers and enter Israel and, what is probably more significant militarily, make it possible for armed combatants to do so as well.

What would have happened if large numbers had managed to reach one of the nearby Israeli villages can easily be imagined. Perhaps Mr Atherton could clarify whether he would justify the resulting massacre should Hamas achieve its aims.

While any loss of life is regrettable, perhaps the Israeli troops should rather be congratulated for their extraordinary competence in managing to limit civilian casualties in a tense situation and Mr Atherton’s one-sided letter only exposes his own underlying prejudices.

Salford, England


A thank you card speaks volumes

I would like to add my voice to the debate on gifts from families to teachers – a practice, I believe, upon which we must have a unified voice. In my experience as a school principal since 2001, I have never received a gift from any parent greater than the trust they place in me and in our teachers to care for their children. Since day one in charge, like many others, our policy has been quite simple – a thank you card speaks volumes so no presents, no exceptions. The odd parent will try a clever way around this but will be respectfully dissuaded. Parents have financial burdens enough – we know we are appreciated and we all know our parents are kind and giving. They don’t need to put themselves out of pocket to remind us. It is incumbent upon us as school leaders to make life easier for families when we can. Banning gifts altogether offers us a further opportunity to do so. With deepest respect to our hard-working colleagues in all schools, if we’re honest, the bottom line is this – we don’t need it. What we do need is your cooperation and support – great gifts to any teacher. 

Bunscoil Mhic Reachtain
Béal Feirste BT15


‘Cultural’ aberration

So Leo Varadkar has visited an Orange Museum and nationalists are now supposed to gush over this ‘symbolic’ gesture. We are regaled with how Mr Varadkar believes ‘Orange heritage is part of our shared history’.

Of course, the Penal Laws, Cromwell, An Gorta Mór, ethnic cleansing, sectarian slaughter, clerical abuse of children and partition are also part of our ‘shared history’. It’s doubtful if many nationalists will want to celebrate those travesties any more than they would the Orange Order.

What the taoiseach has failed to address is that the Orange Order is a sectarian organisation. Its criteria for membership is anti-Catholic. Yet Catholics are continually expected to be OK with this ‘cultural’ aberration.

Newry, Co Down


Using word famine just adds insult to injury

Sometime back you were very kind enough to print my letter headed, ‘There was no famine in Ireland’. In it I stated the conditions that causes famine, none of which happened here –the failure of a single root vegetable does not meet those conditions. There was no shortage of food. Not one person should have died from hunger had the food that was being shipped into England been made available to the people. Therefore, I repeat there was no famine here it was mass murder by means of starvation. Here is my question: Why has no Irish government or political party sought to hold the British responsible for the unnecessary deaths of our people? Instead they all add insult to injury by using the word famine. Shame on all of them.

Limavady, Co Derry

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