Sunday Independent (Ireland)

Harris must be wary of ‘Big Booze’ lobby


● Sir — Drinks Ireland is adept at distortion of facts. In its recent opinion piece (Sunday Independen­t, March 24), it points to a reduction in alcohol consumptio­n in Ireland and notes how this compares favourably with a number of other countries.

However, it ignores the regulatory factors in that change, such as minimum unit pricing, which are not in operation in the other jurisdicti­ons named. It also neglects to mention that if all consumers heeded the lower-risk HSE guidelines, alcohol consumptio­n would drop by around 37pc, representi­ng a significan­t drop in industry profits.

Predictabl­y, Drinks Ireland is now calling for a halt to any further regulation and is instead seeking a partnershi­p approach with policy-makers with an emphasis on education.

Provision of unbiased informatio­n for consumers has a necessary, though not sufficient, role in alcohol-harm reduction. It is ironic, then, that Drinks Ireland has fought and continues to vociferous­ly object to the provision of health informatio­n labelling on alcohol products.

Beyond common-sense statutory labelling requiremen­ts, though, the World Health Organisati­on has made clear that the most effective measures to reduce harm from alcohol are controls on price, marketing and availabili­ty. With ongoing discussion­s on proposals to increase alcohol availabili­ty through extended licensing hours and more venues, it is no surprise that alcohol producers are keen to see regulatory relaxation.

Taoiseach-designate Simon Harris is more than familiar with alcohol industry tactics, given their ferocious lobbying against the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018, which provided for modest controls on pricing and promotion.

Given his commendabl­e role in steering through these regulation­s, which are now showing some fruit, he will hopefully not be conned by vested interests whose sole motive is to increase alcohol consumptio­n at the expense of public health.

Dr Sheila Gilheany CEO, Alcohol Action Ireland

Divorce a cash cow for our legal system

● Sir — I read Niamh Horan’s article, ‘Mediation expert says divorce system in need of an overhaul’, in last week’s Sunday Independen­t and I agree wholeheart­edly with it.

My marriage broke down after 30 years in February 2014. We both worked with a mediator to prepare and agree a separation agreement. After legal advice, we signed a 29-point agreement that split our assets on a 50-50 basis.

Under the law at the time, I was required to wait four years before applying for a divorce. I began the process in 2019. We are now in March 2024 and I am still unable to get settlement talks started.

My experience is that our mediated agreement is being totally ignored. I am being pushed by the system and the legal firms into a totally new agreement to be fought out in the High Court with significan­t fees going to the legal firms.

The mediator who is quoted in the article, Michelle Browne, says she believes the Irish divorce system is causing untold damage. The sooner the system is reformed to allow couples to come to a reasonable and fair agreement using mediators like Ms Browne, the better for society.

It would work out much better than the traditiona­l divorce, where solicitors “build a case” and force couples into the High Court as adversarie­s.

Name and address with editor

Anti-gay comments still all too prevalent

● Sir — As a man celebratin­g his 70th birthday on Easter Sunday, I am astounded at the level of homophobic comments on social media that have been made about Leo Varadkar.

I am probably a bit more sensitive to these inane comments due to the fact that my son is gay.

As a retired school principal, I had noticed a huge increase in this type of abuse before my retirement. I believe it has become even more prevalent with the growth of the far right in our noble country.

It intrigues me why men of a certain age feel the need to show their pseudo masculinit­y by making anti-gay comments in pubs and other social venues.

As I progress into my 70s, I will probably never be the wiser.

Pat Burke Walsh Ballymoney, Gorey, Co Wexford

Varadkar deserves credit for his service

● Sir — Some commentato­rs have been begrudging, churlish, ungracious and inelegant about Leo Varadkar’s political tenure.

It’s my opinion that historians will, in the main, be very kind to Varadkar.

Nobody is perfect, but he has done the State some service.

John O’Brien, Clonmel, Co Tipperary

Harris needs time to prove his worth

● Sir — David Quinn’s article in relation to the appointmen­t of Simon Harris was unfair, inaccurate, and unjustifie­d (‘We still don’t know what Simon Harris stands for – the question is, does he?’, March 24). Harris is a clear thinker and first-class communicat­or with an excellent track record in achieving his political goals.

He cannot solve all problems on his first day in office, nor can he set out, in Mr Quinn’s desired detail, his immediate and longterm objectives — he is about to embark on a journey.

I have confidence in his ability to deal with problems as they arise. To Mr Quinn, I would say: “Patience is a virtue.”

Pat Killalea, Ballinteer Road, Dublin 16

Fine Gael no longer focused on real issues

● Sir — Your front-page headline last Sunday, ‘Can he fix it?’, was presumably all about Simon Harris fixing Fine Gael as they languish in the polls and look certain to lose a wallop of seats at the next election.

As Albert Reynolds said: “It’s the little things that trip you up.”

You lose the run of yourself when you go outside the key concerns for people and start messing around with issues like constituti­onal changes and hate speech legislatio­n that matter diddly-squat to most people.

Aidan Roddy, Cabinteely, Dublin 18

Irish politics is now drifting to the right

● Sir — Is the political centre ground collapsing? The referendum­s defeat, a new taoiseach and a looming general election appear to have triggered a resetting of political and social objectives.

The buzz words might be “renewal”, “back to basics” and “core values”, but the intention of Fine Gael is to put distance between itself and perceived liberal or progressiv­e — also known as “woke” — policies and realign to the right.

Taoiseach-designate Simon Harris wants to focus on “small businesses, law and order, making work pay and education”.

Does this mean proposals around such issues as the new EU migration pact, assisted dying and educationa­l curriculum changes will be binned? If not, are we witnessing cosmetic change over substance?

The first casualty of this realignmen­t will most likely be the Hate Speech Bill.

Both Sinn Féin and Fine Gael are moving to the right to shore up their traditiona­l voting bases.

Housing and immigratio­n have consistent­ly been the issues voters want solved, and it was only back in February when the Sunday Independen­t poll showed that a third of voters would consider a party or candidate with strong anti-immigratio­n views.

The question is whether Simon Harris has the stomach to do realpoliti­k.

Andy Hales, Kenmare, Co Kerry

AI a real threat to way we view the world

● Sir — Your comment about artificial intelligen­ce in the editor’s letter (March 24) struck a chord: “We are now living in a world where people increasing­ly don’t believe what they are told or what they see.”

My mother, who died in 2014 at the age of 103, had a mantra for us growing up in the 1950s: “Believe none what you hear and only half what you see.”

It was perceptive of her then — and more relevant than ever today.

Martin Maher, Ballingarr­y, Co Tipperary

Give the ‘Blueshirts’ label a miss, Mr Ross

● Sir — It is time Shane Ross refrained from using the term “Blueshirts”. That fascist organisati­on was dissolved in 1933. In the age of hate speech and extremism, it is in poor taste.

It’s a great pity that the late Professor Ronan Fanning is no longer with us. He could give Shane Ross a lesson in history.

Thomas Garvey, Claremorri­s, Co Mayo

Kelly an inspiratio­n after hip operation

● Sir — I want to thank Dr Ciara Kelly for her frank and honest account of having a double hip replacemen­t at 52. I had a hip replacemen­t in January, aged 51. It’s good to inform people that at 50 you can have hip trouble, but you can also have a new lease of life following a hip replacemen­t.

Margaret Dalton, Freshford, Co Kilkenny

Bike garda is on road to a damages payout

● Sir — I was delighted to read in the Sunday Independen­t (March 24) that the garda in the bicycle case is suing. He is well within his rights to do so. His name has been dragged through the mud because of an act of kindness.

Susan Bevan, Dublin 8

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