Letters to the Editor

Attitudinal shift required by some Irish motorists towards our cyclists

I admit to being slightly biased but I can’t think of a better mode of transport, pastime, leisure activity or sport than cycling. Individually and societally, it ticks many boxes for positive outcomes. Improving physical and mental health, reducing pressure on the health service, easing city congestion and benefiting our environment are among those positives.

In my utopian vision of a future Irish society we will invest properly in cycling and cycling infrastructure and allow a great revolution to blossom. Part of the revolution is a complete change of attitude from an awful lot of vehicular road users. In the last 10 years 18 cyclists have been killed and 467 have been seriously injured on our roads.

As a cyclist, who this year alone, has clocked up 7,000 miles on my bike, that statistic is of great concern. Given my own experience I can’t say that the figures, stark as they are, surprise me.

During most cycles I unfortunately feel the need to gesticulate wildly at the rear windscreen of passing vehicles whose drivers show little regard for the fact that all between me and their three tons of steel is some Lycra. On one short cycle over the Christmas period I had two close shaves that encapsulate the attitudinal shift that is required by some Irish motorists. On a big wide open, straight main road, I was passed with only a few inches to spare by someone driving at least 70 mph. They could see at least a kilometre in front and knew that there was no oncoming traffic but still chose to remain within the white lines and only inches from me. If I had noticed a pothole or a puddle (things we cyclists encounter quite often) just as he/she approached from behind or was blown slightly to my right by a sharp crosswind (again an occupational hazard on Irish roads) and moved even slightly to my right I wouldn’t have been able to type this letter. Even though it was daytime I was wearing a yellow top and had a bright back light on my bike so I was easy to spot. The pink socks I was wearing were purely for fashion.

The second instance occurred on a smaller rural road. Again the car approaching me from behind had sight well in advance but chose to pass me even though there was oncoming traffic. They barely got beyond me before sharply pulling in narrowly avoiding a collision. I had to take evasive action and ended up on the grass verge.

For some reason, many motorists are begrudging about cyclists on the road. This needs to end. The roads belong to all forms of transport with cyclists having as much right as any other mode of transport to expect respect. The 485 cyclists that make up the statistic in my second paragraph are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. Why not make 2019 the year when we begin to lower the number of collisions involving cyclists and increase the number of people feeling safe enough to get on their bike?

Dunloy, Co Antrim


Safer is not the same as safe when it comes to vaping

Serious people, including broadsheet journalists and medical people, unthinkingly now parrot Public Health England’s line about vaping being “95 per cent less harmful” than tobacco.

There are two problems with PHE’s conclusion: The first problem is that it’s being spun into something it isn’t.

‘Safer’ is not the same as ‘safe’.  Cigarette smoke is one of the most toxic concoctions ever devised by humankind. Being ‘safer’ than cigarettes also means that you’re still toxic. Eating 37 burgers a day is a lot less harmful than eating, say, rat poison, but you really shouldn’t be doing either.

The second problem is the so-called ‘landmark study’. Its methods and conclusions were flawed.
The Lancet (a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal and one of the world’s oldest and most reputable medical journals) pulled no punches.
First, there was a “lack of hard evidence for the harms of most products on most of the criteria”. Second, “there was no formal criterion for the recruitment of the experts”. In other words, the opinions of a small group of individuals with no prespecified expertise in tobacco control were based on an almost total absence of evidence of harm. It is on this flimsy foundation that PHE based the major conclusion and message of its report.

The reliance by PHE on work that the authors themselves accept is methodologically weak, and which is made all the more perilous by the declared conflicts of interest surrounding its funding, raises serious questions not only about the conclusions of the PHE report, but also about the quality of the agency’s peer review process. PHE claims that it protects and improves the nation’s health and well being. To do so, it needs to rely on the highest quality evidence. On this occasion, it has fallen short of its mission.

The Lancet’s take-down of Public ‘Health’ England was largely ignored and the “95 per cent safer” claim runs unchecked to this day.

Trillick, Co Tyrone


Think beyond stereotypes

I am an Englishman living in France with good Irish friends and neighbours and I would like, in the interests of greater understanding in those islands, to challenge the idea that we English are hated by the Irish. 
The Irish have every justification and right, historically and more recently, to hate the British military and political establishment, particularly the Conservative Party.

In the form of box ticking questions for brief reflection on, could I briefly question research, how real that hatred truly is:

Have you ever been to England?

Have you ever met English tourists in Ireland or abroad, or worked abroad or in Ireland with English people. If so, what was your impression, experience of them?

What is your immediate reaction to random personalities such as Michael Caine and Michael Parkinson?

Would you accept that there have been friendships, cooperation, collaboration between many of the large Irish community in England and the native English and indeed foreign immigrants – for instance in the Health Service, hospitals and schools where many Irish doctors, nurses and teachers work?

Would you agree also that many English have Irish blood?

I feel a consideration of all the above might cause some, both English and Irish, to think again, beyond stereotypes.

Clermont Ferrand, France


Gerry Fitt would turn in his grave

I am somewhat bemused by the talk of the proposed merger of the Social Democratic and Labour Party with Fianna Fáil – ‘The Republican Party’.

The SDLP began as a political party emphasising ‘social democracy’ and ‘labour’ issues and not nationalism. It later transformed into a nationalist party, much to the annoyance of many of their members.

If this merger goes ahead with Fianna Fáil, will the SDLP have completed their transformation into ‘The Republican Party’?

I cannot help but think that Gerry Fitt would turn in his grave.

South Antrim

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