Dear Sir... Readers' Views (27/06/16)

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Dear Sir... Readers' Views (27/06/16)

Brexit impact lot less than our debt

Apparently, Finance Minister Michael Noonan was worried that the British exit from the EU could reduce Ireland’s economic growth by 1.2% over two years, potentially wiping out much of the Government’s “fiscal space”.

This is surely a drop in the ocean, when he and his colleagues are quite happy to pay €8bn every year, on our behalf, in interest payments for private banking debts not of our making, not to mention the €64bn of our money pumped-in to shore up our toxic banks at the behest of our EU masters.

Mr Noonan shouldn’t worry as, clearly, the Irish people, in the recent past, have demonstrated an infinite fiscal capacity to cope with such little setbacks and for absorbing vast, extraneous and dubious debts to help our European partners in their time of great need.

John Leahy
71 Wilton Rd
Cork.

Zika an excuse for Olympic athletes

Could it be that athletes are using fear of the Zika virus as a cover for some other problem and/or inadequacy?

Dr Florence Craven (PhD)
Carton Court
Maynooth
Co Kildare

 

We had cash surplus pre-2008

A Leavy, yet again (Irish Examiner, June, 2016), repeats the myth that the mess that is Ireland’s finances, and the austerity enforced to pay for that mess, result from poor economic management before 2008. They do not. Before 2008 and the economic crisis, the country had a large current-account surplus and trading balance and the lowest-ever national debt, at €37.6bn.

No-one is claiming there would not have been major cuts, but they would not have been on the scale experienced and they would not have been permanent. The current debt, of €204bn, costs €9.7bn a year in interest alone, which doesn’t even repay the capital. So, after 20 years, if we didn’t borrow another cent, we would still owe €204bn, but we would have paid nearly €200bn in interest.

Of that €204bn, about €70bn is purely banking-related. That means, instead of owing €204bn, we could owe €135bn, or 66% of the current burden.

We would be paying 33% less in interest, which would mean an extra €3.2bn to tackle the housing crisis and repairing some of the damage done to the life chances of the most vulnerable people. Then again, that supposes we had a political and public sector capable of rising to that challenge, even if they had the money. The evidence doesn’t look too good, on that front, at the moment.

It’s easy to blame the EU for this mess, but it was our own Irish politicians who bent the knee. Certainly, we don’t know what would have happened, but we didn’t even try. If we were always going to crash and burn, we could have at least put up some fight. If plucky Iceland was able to face down its banks, at great cost but less cost than our society has paid, then why couldn’t we?

Also, in case people wallow in the delusion that Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan would have acted any less pathetically if they’d been in office during the crisis, I think we can safely conclude that is a dangerous nonsense that shouldn’t be indulged The evidence of how they’ve acted in office, since 2011, exposes that myth for what it is.

Kenny and Noonan not only gave away more money to the banks, in return for nothing, but they don’t even want to convert the national debt into a single bond, where the capital itself is repaid like in a mortgage, so that, after the 20 years, as referred to above, if we have paid interest we’d at least have cleared the actual debt. Instead, while Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan landed us with the debt, Kenny and Noonan landed us with the never-ending interest payments.

Every cent of that interest is a cent taken from our schools and hospitals and from the other normal needs of a so-called modern country.

Even now, the new flagship policy of Fine Gael is to cut the USC to protect the middle class, instead of retaining the USC, and all the other taxes, while putting in place a structure that can provide the scale and quality typical of that level of tax, and to reduce the need for people, including that middle class, to beggar others to protect their lifestyle.

If people didn’t have to also pay for VHI, or private childcare, or run two cars, or pay over-the-top mortgage debt on top of their tax, that tax burden would be fair. Fine Gael should focus on the former and the latter will take care of itself.

What is most depressing, though, is that, since the election, not one TD, from any party, has had the integrity to stand up and provide a moral example on the issue of their expenses. Others could follow that example and it may filter down to other areas. Your readers should contact some new TDs and ask them about publishing audited accounts of how they funded their election, and ask them why they haven’t published receipts for the tax-free expenses every single one of them has been paid since the day they were elected.

So much for new faces bringing change and so much for hoping the future will be any different. Welcome to the new Ireland, which is same as the old one.

Desmond FitzGerald
Canary Wharf
London

Sunbathing advice very dangerous

Re the article by Valerie O’Connor, Saturday, June 4, 2016, in the Irish Examiner, entitled ‘Safe Sunbathing — Why we need to get out a bit more in the healthy sunshine’. There were a number of messages in the article that were inaccurate and potentially dangerous.

1. It is stated that ‘The rise of skin cancer concurs with the rise in the use of sunscreen products, which are being absorbed through our skin and adding to the toxic load that we are walking about with.’ There is no evidence that the rise in skin cancer relates to sunscreen-product use. It is well-known that skin cancer relates to exposure to ultraviolet radiation, particularly the UVB component that causes burning. Sunscreens block UV exposure to the skin and can reduce the incidence of skin cancer.

There is no evidence of significant absorption of sunscreen chemicals leading to any toxic side-effects.

2. It is stated that ‘Some nutritionists (not dieticians, there is a huge difference) are now recommending short sun-bed sessions for patients with chronic fatigue, thyroid, and other auto-immune conditions, when there isn’t any sunshine available. If you feel yourself coming down with a cold or chill, four or five minutes on a sun-bed can nip symptoms in the bud.’ There is strong evidence that the use of sunbeds increases the risk of skin cancers, including malignant melanoma. Sunbed use is associated with skin cancer and is not recommended.

3. Advice is given for ‘a recipe for safe tanning’ — part of the advice is not to use sunscreen.

A tan is a sign that the skin has been damaged by ultraviolet radiation and that it is attempting to protect itself. As stated earlier, there is strong evidence linking skin cancer and sun exposure to ultraviolet radiation. The provision of a ‘recipe for a safe tan,’ particularly with advice that this should be carried out without the use of sunscreen, is irresponsible.

4. It is also stated that ‘If you want to build up a good, protective layer and enhance your tan, you can drink carrot juice every day.’ Beta carotene, which is present in carrots, is a poor photo-protector and cannot be advocated as providing ‘a good protective layer.’

5. The author states that ‘For the past few years, l’ve only been using coconut oil as a sun-protector. I love the sun and I love to get a bit of a tan. The oil has a naturally-occurring sun-protection factor of 10, so you can stay out for a while, but not the whole day. Again, why do coconuts grow in hot countries?’ Coconut oil cannot be recommended as a sunscreen. A high sun-protection factor (SPF) sunscreen, preferably of 30 or more, also offering high UVA protection of at least 4 star), should be used.

6. Further advice is also provided to prevent sunburn. ‘A friend tells me that her granny used to slather them in buttermilk and send them out in the sun and it worked. I haven’t tried that, as I might be tempted to bake myself.’ There is absolutely no evidence that buttermilk can provide any significant protection against sunburn.

7. Further advice is given for management of sunburn. ‘If you do overdo it and get burned, and I hope you don’t, a great natural sunburn relief is grated raw potatoes applied directly to the burn, or the leftover water from soaked oats.’ Sunburn should be avoided, as there is strong evidence linking episodes of skin burning to the development of skin cancer. Skin that has been sunburned is tender, irritable, and at risk of infection, particularly if blisters occur. Grated raw potatoes should not be used.

Avoidance of further sun exposure, the use of bland moisturisers, along with pain relief, are necessary. Individuals who have more severe burning, with blisters, may require medical consultation.

Publishing such an article is irresponsible and is transmitting inaccurate and dangerous messages to the general public.

Dr Kevin McKenna
President Irish Association of Dermatologists
PO Box 11445
Fonthill
Lucan
Co Dublin

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