10 January 2002 Edition

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Mala Poist

The Referendum Commission

A Chairde,

The recent passing of the Referendum Bill through the Dail has done nothing more than to emphasise the extent of disregard this Government has for the Irish electorate. This bill effectively abolishes the Referendum Commission, ensuring now that both sides of any future referenda debate will not be heard from an equal perspective. Instead, the Government is to get increased state funding to finance its point of view.

The forcing through of this bill was a blatant abuse of power and an attack on democracy. What it says is if your opponent defeats you by the rules, fair and square, then change the rules. This is nothing more than a playground bullies tactics. All the major parties were defeated in the Nice Treaty referendum. Now, the scapegoat for this defeat is the Referendum Commission. This is nothing short of an attempt to fix the next Nice Treaty referendum.

You can't fool all of the people all of the time. The electorate trusted the Referendum Commission more than the fragile alliance built up in Leinster House during the Nice Campaign. Now with the Commission practically abolished and an election looming, I believe the people will make their opinion known by rejecting this bill and the Government that has imposed it.

Mary Lou McDonald,
Dublin West Sinn Féin Representative,
Dublin 15

Abortion referendum

A Chairde,

As a young woman, I believe that the current proposals put forward by the government to resolve the abortion issue once and for all are to be welcomed.

This is a wonderful opportunity to at last make some progress on the matter while at the same time protecting mothers' lives and respecting the right to life of unborn children.

In many other countries, any attempt to legislate for abortion in certain circumstances has led to wide ranging abortion on demand. In this act, the government is providing that certain medical interventions necessary to save the mother's life, even where they may result in the unavoidable loss of the unborn child's life, are permissible. The doctor must have respect for both lives and can never carry out a direct abortion.

It is clear that this is a mature, compassionate and sensible way to deal with the matter once and for all.

Eilis Nig Raollaigh,
Co. na Gaillimhe.

Old habits die hard

A Chairde,

I am writing in relation to the Ógra Shinn Féin protest in South Armagh a number of weeks ago. The protest made a number of things extremely clear. The need for demilitarisation across the north and especially in south Armagh, where the occupation is more in your face than anywhere else, was shown.

Those present on the day also got first hand experience of the extent of the changes in policing in the north: None! The RUC/PSNI dressed in full riot gear attacked and beat a number of protestors and were all too ready to resort to firing their lethal plastic bullets at the demonstrators. The behaviour of the RUC/PSNI in arresting and abusing protestors off a bus later in the day was nothing short of scandalous.

However, what also was made abundantly clear was the determination of Ógra to continue with protests such as these until the British withdraw their watch towers, fortifications, etc, which continue to blight our landscape.

Ciarán Doherty,
Chair, Trinity College Sinn Féin,

Where's our free health system?

A Chairde,

To judge by the media over the past few weeks, establishment pundits and politicians seem to be so keen to attack Gerry Adams for his visit to Cuba that they have lost all sense of the reality of Cuba's struggle for self-determination.

In 1959, against massive odds, the Cuban revolution, led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, overthrew the corrupt, US-backed Batista dictatorship. Since then, it has survived an attempted invasion, dozens of assassination attempts on Fidel Castro and, worst of all, an illegal 40-year economic embargo which would have crippled most countries.

Despite all this, Cuba has the best health and education systems in all of Latin America, and among the best in the whole world, including the rich western economies. Education is free to all citizens right up to third level and primary class sizes have been reduced to 20 or less.

The health service is also free to all citizens and is of very high quality. Cuban doctors have pioneered new treatments for cancer and drug addiction and have served in many countries all over the world.

Maybe the real reason for the right-wing rant against Gerry Adams and Cuba may be more to do with their realisation that many Irish people will be asking why a rich country like Ireland cannot also have free health and education as in embargoed Cuba. Perhaps they fear the answers when Irish workers, who generated the 1990s boom by vastly increased productivity and restrained pay increases, ask why it has been squandered on tax amnesties and concessions for the rich, rather that being invested in our health and education services.

Cllr Dessie Ellis,

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1