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Dear Sir... Readers' Views (22/10/16)

Your letters, your views...

A homemaker is a ‘working mother’

At the age of 66, I am a feminist and always have been. When I was young, I noted that women’s social, economic, and political freedoms were limited. I also noted that women’s work within the home, instead of being rewarded and respected, was used to disenfranchise and silence them. Married women were chattels. Their husbands had a quasi-proprietorial right over them.

In speaking up with others, I did so to promote women’s right to full legal personhood and to free choice of occupation, whatever their marital status; and, no less importantly, to gain due respect for work within the home, by whomsoever performed. I now find that the wheel has turned full circle, back to point stupid, and that an influential section of society, in the name of women’s rights, denies the value of rearing one’s own children and running one’s own home. By means of neglect, scorn, and discriminatory taxation, full-time home-caring has become a difficult choice for any adult, be they man or woman. It is as though the desire to care full-time for one’s family is some sort of crime or socially undesirable phenomenon that needs to be discouraged.

This is beyond ironic.

Our policy-makers, and sections of the commentariat, are showing the same disrespect and narrowness of vision that rights campaigners fought against in the 1960s and 1970s. We have even reached the preposterous pass where the term “childcare”, as used in public discourse, does not actually encompass care within the home by the parent/s, and where a mature adult, who has spent years rearing and caring for a family, and who returns to paid activity, is described as “going back to work”. A woman working in a creche, minding other people’s children, is a “working mother”, and a woman at home and minding her own is... what, exactly? Idle?

There is no more adult and socially valuable occupation than childcare. In its many forms, it is what society is about. Wherever it happens, it is not a sideshow, or a spare-time activity, or work for people with nothing better to do. Government, commentariat, are you listening?

Nuala Norris

Sherkin Island


Co Cork

Citizens’ assembly should protect hare

I note that the citizens’ assembly is to consider, and make recommendations on, a number of other issues, besides the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, including climate change and the needs of an aging population.

As a long-time campaigner against blood sports, I would like to see the extremely cruel practice of live hare-coursing included for consideration.

I expect this proposal to be scorned on two counts. Firstly, that animal cruelty and wildlife protection aren’t important enough topics to be taking up the time of the assembly, with so many urgent issues pertaining to the wellbeing of our human population pressing for attention. And, secondly, it might be argued that the Oireachtas has already voted on hare-coursing and rejected calls for a ban.

I would argue, however, that, apart from the well-documented cruelty of hare-coursing, the practise is a calculated abuse of our treasured wildlife heritage. The hare belongs to all of us, and should not be the preserve of a small minority that sees fit to use it as live bait for dogs.

As for the argument that hare-coursing has already been dealt with adequately by our national parliament, I would point out that on the two occasions (June 1993 and June 2016) when an anti-hare-coursing bill came before the Dail, the main political parties refused to allow TDs to vote in accordance with their consciences on what was clearly an ethical issue.

In 1993, the result was 104 to 16 against a ban, thanks to the whips, and this year the bill was defeated by 114 to 20.

Given that every professional opinion poll since 1978, on attitudes to hare-coursing in Ireland, has shown a clear majority favouring abolition, the results of these Dáil votes cannot fairly be held to reflect the wishes of the Irish people.

Hare-coursing might not be the biggest blot on our country’s reputation, but it is a blot nonetheless, and an ugly one. In the absence of free Dáil votes on issues of conscience, I would dearly like to see the citizens’ assembly deliberating on whether the time has come to protect the gentle Irish hare from this barbarism.

John Fitzgerald

(Campaign for the Abolition Of Cruel Sports)

Lower Coyne St


Co Kilkenny

Legacy of disability activist Martin

Disability activist, Martin Naughton, was laid to rest in his native Spiddal, in Galway, on Saturday. He was 62 years old. He was a leader in the disability sector and his legacy will have positive impacts long into the future.

Martin was instrumental in Ireland’s shift away from the institutional approach. We now have a disability act, however imperfect, and Ireland is beginning to adopt the universal approach of personal assistance, rather than carers.

Ireland is on the cusp of approving Article 19 of the UN convention for people with a disability. The legislative groundwork is being developed for direct payment to people with a disability, which should cover the cost of services such as personal assistance, and other essential supports, so that people with disabilities can live inclusively in Irish society.

I call on politicians of all parties to go the extra step and ensure these measures urgently go into legislation, so that Martin Naughton, and many more warriors like him, who sat outside Dáil Eireann on cold bitter nights, can say their work was fruitful in the end.

Charity has no place in the disability sector.

Dermot Hayes


Co Clare

Israel learning from Irish peace process

Subsequent to Juno McEnroe’s in-depth interview with Ze’ev Boker, the Israeli ambassador to Ireland (Irish Examiner, October 10), it is appropriate to ask the following question; is Israel genuinely pursuing a rapproachment with the Palestinian leadership, irrespective of ideological adherence? To be precise: Is the Jewish state willing to deal with Hamas in order to secure a long-term and viable peace settlement?

If the answer is yes, then it signifies a remarkable change in the political worldview of an Israeli leadership that has resolutely focused any previous overtures on the supposedly more moderate, and perhaps more malleable, Palestinian Authority. The willingness to even contemplate negotiations with Hamas, if genuine, is almost Damascene in dimension and seems to be grounded in a belated acknowledgement that lessons can be learned from the Irish peace process.

One of the most profound points in the ambassador’s interview was the admission that Israel might include Hamas in negotiations, on the same basis that the “Irish and British governments held secret talks with the IRA” long before the Good Friday agreement was implemented.

This revelation was reinforced by Mr Boker’s apparent concession that if Hamas recognised Israel as a sovereign entity, then everything, including settlements, was open to debate. The ambassador would not have issued such a statement if it did not have the imprimatur of Jerusalem, and, therefore, needs to be taken seriously by every invested party.

This template was, for many years, rejected by decision-makers, who reacted with disdain and contemptuously dismissed any analogy between the Irish and Israeli conflicts as the abstruse theories of academics who were not connected to the reality of its supposedly unique life-and-death struggle.

I know this from personal experience, as a member of a delegation that met senior officials in the Israeli government, diplomatic core, foreign ministry, and military, in 2014. When I posited that aspects of the Irish peace process could be adapted to the Israel-Palestine conflict, the response was dismissive to the point of contempt.

However, this type of absolutism is untenable, as any empirical observation of internecine conflict over the last century will show. For example, one of the greatest ethnic-religious slaughters occurred contemporaneously to the founding of Israel, when Hindu and Muslim hatred in post-independent India led to more than fifteen million people being involved in an unprecedented population transfer that left between one and two million dead.

No conflict is unique, but, as history has also shown, no conflict is unsolvable, if there is a willingness, and, more importantly, a leadership that recognises that no conflict is sustainable in the long-term. Perhaps the ambassador’s declaration, in the Irish Examiner, that Israel is willing to negotiate with Hamas, is the first public statement in a potentially transformative peace initiative. If so, it is a belated position that acknowledges the late Shimon Peres’s belief that security and peace were two sides of the same coin, where a negotiated two-state solution (which would include the potential dismantling of settlements) is fundamental to Israel’s long-term survival.

Kevin McCarthy


Co Cork

Clinton’s femaleness being ignored

Media coverage of the US presidential election leaves a lot to be desired.

One major issue that is being ignored is the fact that, for the first time, one of the candidates [for one of the two major parties] is a member of the majority of the electorate, ie women.

This is important, since women comprise a relatively small proportion of elected representatives.

There are two basic reasons for this.

The first is that, historically, despite receiving the right to stand for election, about a century ago, few candidates have been women. This was tackled in some countries, including Ireland, in recent years, by having a controversial policy of minimum quotas.

The result in the last election here was a modest increase in female TDs.

The second historical reason is that the few female candidates received, on average, fewer votes than male candidates.

Given the fact that Donald Trump, the male candidate in the American election, is providing a lot evidence that he is a misogynist, it will be interesting to see if Hillary Clinton will become the first woman to be the most powerful politician in the world.

That would be historical, but its significance is not receiving much attention.

A Leavy

Shielmartin Drive


Dublin 13


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