Tag Archives: Irish Times letters page

Vicky Phelan

The letter by Dr Katharine Astbury regarding cancer screening programmes causes me great concern.

The writers, all 12 of them actively involved in the important work of cancer screening, chose to take issue with the legal process rather than question the medical failings that have caused death and serious harm to so many women through failures in the cervical screening programme.

They chose not to address the issue of the clear failure of the colposcopists working with CervicalCheck to inform women for, in some cases, years of the truth about their screening history and the serious errors that they and CervicalCheck alone knew about – errors that the vast majority of the women only learned about after my own legal proceedings made hiding the truth no longer possible.

Sadly for those 18 women who have already died, that truth remained hidden from them to the end. Denied to them also was the small comfort of knowing that their families would be provided for, at least to some financial degree, after their death.

Instead, the writers claim: “Approaches to redress need to recognise that automatic financial compensation for future false negative cases could lead to all screening programmes being abandoned”, and elsewhere that claiming that politicians and commentators have called for “uncontested compensation” for “all individuals who have false negatives on audit review”.

This is not the case. Women who have a false negative smear result do not have any legal recourse. It is only women whose smear has been incompetently read and who have suffered harm as a consequence who can bring legal proceedings.

Incompetence has no place in any screening progamme and to seek to give shelter to such incompetence at the expense of even one woman’s health, let alone 209, is wrong. It is also incorrect to argue that the choice is a safe and accountable screening programme or no cancer screening programme at all.

After all, it was not the legal process they criticise that caused all this harm.

The writers call for those reacting to this controversy to act responsibly in the sole interest of the health of Irish women since the stakes are extremely high.

As the woman who exposed this controversy, as an Irish woman and as a woman whose life is at stake as a result of medical and management failings, I am acting in the sole interest of the health of Irish women.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of many others.

Vicky Phelan,

Cian O’Carroll,


Co Limerick.

Vicky Phelan on cervical screening scandal (Irish Times letters page)

Attending RTÉ’s Late Late Show in September 1998, I received a “one for everyone in the audience” prize of a long-life bulb. I placed it in the utility room and despite being used every day since (many times it was left on overnight), it still works. Is this a record?

Michael O’Connor,


Light-bulb moment (Irish Times letters page)

I heard on the radio this morning that the Chinese are no longer willing to recycle our recyclable waste and now we may have to pay additionally for that. I also heard that if there are any food remains in a single green bin then the entire lorry-load is discarded. If this is correct then the green bin is a waste of time.

I was born in south Dublin in 1966 and we had one bin about half the size of the current black bin and it was collected every week by the council.

The greengrocer called into the house every Thursday and delivered eggs and vegetables for the week. The breadman came and delivered the bread every day. The milkman came and delivered bottles of milk every day and took away the empty ones. There was no packaging.

At some point in time, all of these services were sent into oblivion because big companies could sell poorer quality produce cheaper. The people “running” these companies never did and never will understand anything other than “profits”.

The cost to the consumer today is that we will have to pay on the treble or the quadruple for succumbing to what appeared at the time to be a “sweet deal”.

I encourage consumers to seek out suppliers who produce and sell directly so that we might encourage a return to the ways of the 1960s and 1970s.

Ciarán Sudway,
Dublin 2.

Green bin charges (Irish Times letters page)

A woman walking in the snow in Glasnevin on March 4

I note that the current hospital bed crisis is in part due to pressure from slip and falls that occurred during the recent storm.

One contributing factor must be our apparent inability to clear snow from public paths and around homes.

This is not due to laziness or lack of civic pride but rather equipment failure.

I cleared 20 metres of snow at 8am each morning with a €7 snow-shovel.

I noticed other people using spades, garden hoes and even fireside shovels in futile attempts to keep paths clear.

What would be the cost saving to thousands of €7 shovels being left in town centres and on street corners during such weather events – allowing us all to play our part in keep this country moving and injuries down?

We could even allocate Tidy Towns points for additional motivation!

Adrian Mulryan,
Dún Laoghaire,
Co Dublin.

For the price of a shovel (Irish Times letters page)

Leah Farrell/Rollingnews

The then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe at the launch of the Public Services Card in 2016

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is now informing the Irish public that to renew a driver licence we will need a public services card (PSC). The RSA also states that the PSC will be the only form of identification acceptable for this application. This, we are told by the Government, is for security purposes.

As my licence will soon be due for renewal, I will have to obtain a PSC. To obtain this PSC I will have to visit, at my own time and expense, a government office where I imagine I will have to prove my identity. Not having a PSC, I will have to offer my driver licence or passport as proof of my identity. The person taking my application will, I hope, accept my passport or driver licence as proof of my identity.

So the situation will soon be, that for security purposes, my passport will be good enough to get my PSC, but not good enough to renew my passport.

With all the problems that need to be addressed and that require large sums of money, is this really the best use of the millions that have been spent on this?

Or has the Government come up with an expensive solution to a problem that did not exist?

Trevor Troy,

Baile Átha Buí,

Co na Mí.

Public services card (The Irish Times letters page)

Former Fianna Fail TD and GOAL chairman, director general of the Institute of International and European Affairs Barry Andrews

Barry Andrews is at pains to portray Pesco as separate from full defence integration at EU level. But his point is surely contradicted by the president of the European Commission who stated that Pesco “lays the foundations for a European defence union”.

The EU’s high representative for foreign affairs backed this up by stating that “in practice it is the foundation of a future European defence”, chiming with numerous supporters of a common EU defence who have welcomed Pesco’s establishment.

It would be better if the Institute of International and European Affairs simply stated this so that we can have a full and proper debate on Ireland’s place “at the heart of Europe” and all the obligations that this will entail.

Kevin Hiney,

Pesco and EU defence co-operation (The Irish Times letters page)

Related: EU defence co-operation is no threat to Irish neutrality (Barry Andrews, The Irish Times)

Benbulben, Co Sligo

Reading Roger Garland’s letter (September 27th) reminded me of an unpleasant incident about 20 years ago.

My wife and I were leading a group of young French walkers in the Sligo area. One day we climbed onto the rough grazing land of the Benbulben plateau, to be confronted by a foul-mouthed, angry farmer telling us in no uncertain terms to clear off.

The French visitors may or may not have visited Ireland again but this type of behaviour hardly encouraged them or their friends. Nor would they be encouraged to know that this could happen anywhere in Ireland, not just in this area.

That was the situation on access to the countryside then and it is the situation now. Nothing has changed.

In stark contrast to other European countries, landowners have absolute rights over their lands, no matter how unused, no matter how remote. With untold damage already caused to our tourism interests (among others) one would expect the State to do something other than sit on its hands. Some hope!

David Herman,


Access to Benbulben (Irish Times letters page)

Previously: Missing Sligo?

Pic: Active Me

Fintan O’Toole, left, and Fianna Fail TD Barry Cowen

In recent weeks Fintan O’Toole has at great length called upon the people of Ireland to follow him in adopting a more challenging and complex view of identity.

It is therefore surprising that he should so soon afterwards have chosen to write Tuesday’s crass and superficial commentary on Fianna Fáil’s housing policy.

Instead of addressing the full policy, he unfortunately chose to caricature one element of it and compare it to an unclear story about the purchase of a pub a quarter of a century ago.

Because Fintan O’Toole decided that there was no need to complicate his piece with any context or extra information, let me explain what we have been talking about concerning increasing house supply.

We have for a number of years been pointing to the inevitability of the housing emergency that has grown because of the neglect and lack of basic planning by the Fine Gael government.

This applies to every type of housing – from private rental and social housing to owner-occupier.

The decision of Fine Gael and Labour ministers to effectively abandon the social and affordable housing sector has caused particular destruction – with there being in place today 6,000 fewer social houses than there would be if the rate of building in 2010 had been maintained (just 2,400 have been built since 2011).

This is not to mention the damage done by their decision to reduce by half the Part V obligation on developers (which provided 16,000 new social and affordable homes) and to abolish all affordable housing schemes for low- and middle-income workers in 2012.

The sole objective of our policy is to increase the supply of more affordable housing and we have proposed a wide range of measures to achieve this. This prioritises the interests of individuals and families, not builders or developers.

These include a return to the building of significant numbers of social and affordable houses by local authorities and approved housing bodies. But we cannot ignore the role of the private sector.

The reality is that the State will never be able to build enough social and affordable housing to accommodate housing needs of all low- and middle-income households. It is fantasy to suggest otherwise.

This is why we proposed to directly incentivise the construction of units (houses or apartments) to be sold below affordable price points.

This would involve the application of the special rate of VAT (9 per cent rate) only on residential properties sold below an affordability threshold, such as €350,000 to €400,000.

A unit sold above the affordability threshold would not be able to claim special rate VAT reduction.

We still need economic analysis from the Department of Housing to assess the full impact of this on the market and what the cost to the exchequer would be. While we have asked for the specific information, it has not been provided.

The department costing of €240 million of our proposal is overblown as our special rate VAT reduction is proposed only for units sold below an affordability threshold, whereas the department costing is for all residential units.

To suggest that this is some dark, corrupt idea is absurd. If Fintan O’Toole wants to argue that it wouldn’t work he is welcome to do so, but this type of ad hominem attack is not what one would expect from the holder of a George Orwell award for commentary.

Barry Cowen TD,
Co Offaly.

FF, housing policy and the builders (Irish Times letters page)

Previously: Like Nothing Has Happened

I have often wondered how I have managed for most of my 80 years without receiving text messages. I have just received one from Three telling me that Kasabian will be at the 3Arena in Dublin in November.

I can’t wait.

Tom Grealy,


Getting the message (Irish Times letters page)

Ray Kinsella’s call for an “Irexit” was surprising, confusing, and deeply disappointing.

While Brexiteers have lately been drenched by a cold shower of reality, “Irexiteers” frustratingly cling to the same toxic fantasy that has driven the UK to its greatest foreign policy disaster in decades.

Europe is our home. We have benefited and grown greatly as a nation from our EU membership, and remain members because it is overwhelmingly in our interests.

The Irish people have repeatedly recognised at the ballot box that, whether we are in the EU or not, many decisions which are important to our country are decided in Brussels.

As such, we’re far better off as equal members, with our vote, our veto, and our seat at the table of the world’s most important trade bloc – all of which the UK has gambled away.

Mr Kinsella disappointingly blames the EU for issues not of its making, such as the existence of the Irish Border, the US-led bombings of Syria and Libya, and even the consequences of Brexit.

While claiming that Brexit renders Ireland “marginalised, peripheral and dependant”, Mr Kinsella also bafflingly seems to believe that an Irexit would reverse this.

How does losing our vote and our rights in Europe strengthen us? How does cutting ourselves off from the single market we helped to build make us more prosperous or secure?

Does Mr Kinsella not recognise that leaving the EU actually results in a very real loss of control, as the UK is currently finding out?

Finally, Mr Kinsella asks “who will uphold and advocate Ireland’s national interests?” The answer is simple. Ireland will. To do so, we need an equal seat at the table, and a vote to cast.

A stupid, pointless Irexit would deny us both.

Saoirse Ni Chrualaoich,
Dublin 4.


Should Ireland seriously consider Irexit? (The Irish Times letters page)