11 March 2010 Edition

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Mála Poist

Cuireann An Phoblacht fáilte roimh litreacha ónár léitheoirí. Scríobh i nGaeilge nó i mBéarla, 200 focal ar a méid. Déantar giorrú ar litreachta más gá. Cuir do litir chuig [email protected]
An Phoblacht welcomes readers’ letters. Write in Irish or English, 200 words maximum. Letters may be edited for brevity. Send your letters to [email protected] No attachments please

Ard Fheis and democracy

I will be very surprised if this letter will be published, but I want to put into the public domain my deep dissatisfaction at the chairing of certain sections of last weekend’s Ard Fheis (my 20th one since I joined Sinn Féin in 1989).
There has been a trend over the last few years, which results in party members being unable to have their say due to time constraints and as I witnessed last weekend, the steering committee blocking a member who had visitor but not delegate status from her cumann, being refused her right to address the gathering.
I’m beginning to question if democracy exists in the Ard Fheis any more. There are no longer debates – a debate being a motion being proposed and opposed, and then voted on.
The section that was titled, “CULTURE, HERITAGE AND SPORTS” had seven motions, but just five people were allowed speak. At least three of these spoke on the three motions relating to what I call “cruel sports”.
All three speakers spoke in favour of Sinn Féin supporting these activities. I and 5 or 6 others were waiting in the queue to speak on this section, when the chairperson, Eamonn Nolan, abruptly cut us off. The vote was taken without anyone in the hall hearing an alternative viewpoint about certain motions.
It seemed it was more important to give a half hour platform to a member of another political party (Mr. Jack O’Connor), than allow our own members engage in debate about issues we feel strongly about.
In disgust, I handed in my delegate card to Ard Fheis officials and left the RDS.
The whole issue of Ard Fheis motions and how sessions are chaired needs to be seriously reformed, in order to facilitate genuine debate, cut out waffling and censor out irrelevant motions. The organisers also need to adopt the slogans of “FAIRNESS” and “EQUALITY” that were emblazoned on the backdrop and actually apply them on how they conduct the Árd Fheis and treat us plebs at it.
Councillor Cionnaith
Ó Súilleabháin,
Cloich na Coillte,
Contae Chorcaí


Hare coursing debate

At this year’s Ard Fheis I was greatly disappointed with the lack of fairness when it came to the controversial Motion 66, that asked us to support the hare coursing industry. Unfortunately, only two speakers were allowed up, and it just so happened that both were pro-coursing.
They were smug and spoke about the anti-coursing members of the party as if they were hypocritical and plain silly.
They implied that not only are we against hare coursing, we must also be against boxing. Well, I can safely say that I have no objection with two consenting people entering a ring and taking swings at each other to win a prize, I do, however, have a massive problem with an animal being forcibly captured, held up to eight weeks in unnatural surroundings, chased around a field by dogs, and thrown back into the wild again.
We were told that anyone who eats meat is a hypocrite if they are against hare coursing. Well, that is an absurd and ridiculous thing to say; eating is essential, it’s not a sport, and no one would take particular pleasure in watching their dinner being terrorised, unlike those who enjoy a round of coursing, as they watch a hare flee for its life. I am a vegetarian, so anyone who still believes that argument can’t fob me off and call me a hypocrite.
Despite what coursing supporters say, hares do die, they are prone to contracting diseases as they are forced into confined spaces in large numbers; something they don’t do in the wild. They can be severely injured and they suffer from huge levels of stress (causing heart attacks), but then again, wouldn’t you if you were being chased around a field by a muzzled lion?
Hare coursing is barbaric, and any so-called ‘sport’ that sees the sadistic torture of animals should never have the privilege of our support.
Sorcha Berry,


Calling foul on coursing debate

I always enjoy the lively debate at the Ard Fheis but, unfortunately, I was rather disappointed this time. Motion 66 was one of the most contentious issues of the day and yet very little time was given to debate the issues at hand. 
What was more disappointing was that two speakers were given the opportunity to discuss their support for this motion, yet not one person on the opposing side of hare coursing was given any chance to speak. Some of the points I have heard over the weekend in favour of this motion have been; it’s only D4 heads against hare coursing, people against this motion are against boxing and fishing and if you had a fry this morning you’re a hypocrite.
This is the sort of sensationalism that one expects from the Sunday World, not a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis. 
I am against hare coursing. It is wrong that wild animals are subjected to terror and fear for the sake of sport. I was told very few hares are actually killed in the hunt; very few is a few too many. 
The hare, apart from being injured during the course itself, can suffer severe stress, which is the cause of an illness called ‘capture myopathy’. Many hares die from this when they are released back into the wild. 
At a hare coursing event in Wexford in 2003, 40 hares died from stress alone.  I look forward to next year’s debate already and hopefully we will get to hear both sides of the argument.
Noeleen Reilly,


Political pensions

With the government’s recent comments regarding pension reform in the public sector, would they consider reforming their own pension entitlements? Here are a few suggestions that have come to mind.
Politicians should only be entitled to one pension for their service to the state, irrespective of the job that they perform (TD, Minister, Tánaiste or Taoiseach). The practice of double and sometimes triple pensions should be done away with immediately.
Political pensions could be linked to the non-contributory old age pension. There should be no increases to one without increases to the other. Politicians should also contribute to their pensions, including all levies, at the same rate that they have forced the public sector workers to contribute.
Political pensions should only be drawn when the person reaches retirement age. Many public sector workers aren’t entitled to draw their pension until they retire.
Somehow I can’t see these or any other reforms being considered by the present government. Hardship and suffering are for the people and not those in power. Leadership by example is a concept that our current government seem to have sadly disregarded.
Until they realise that they cannot impose drastic measures upon us without paying the same price, they will not truly begin to repair the damage of the Celtic Tiger years to our economy, community and society.
Kildare Republican

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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