Ireland 2023: Letters to the editor

Wed, Feb 6, 2013, 00:00

Edited versions of some of these letters appeared in the print edition of The Irish Times?s 2023 supplement. The letters, along with others not carried in the supplement for space reasons, appear here in full.

I wish to add my voice to those celebrating the spiritual revolution taking place in Ireland.

Having had the privilege of assisting at the inauguration of the world?s first woman Pope last weekend on the Skellig Islands ? I observed events from a light craft bobbing on the waves - I would like to share some thoughts with your readers.

That Ireland should have provided the first woman Pope in the person of Noirin Ni Riain is a great honor to our people and culture. To witness the ceremony was an unforgettable experience, as this Princess of the Church sang her Hymn to Brigid in Gaelic from the summit of Skellig Michael echoing the words of our ancient Irish saint that ?Heaven be filled with good wine for all eternity?. Her song was powerfully supported by Bono and the Edge, both astride the Eagle?s Eye, reaching out over the sea beneath the splendid holograph of a giant open-winged gannet (wing span 200 meters), created for the occasion by Cork artist, Dorothy Cross.

The aesthetic of the occasion ? for so long missing from our tired Christian liturgies - was well matched by the spiritual quality of the ceremony and its guests.

How could one not be proud to see Pope Ni Riain flanked at the ancient 8th century altar by world religious sages such as the Dali Lama, Sogal Rinpoche, Swami Chidananda and other leaders of Jewish, Islamic and Christian denominations(with Julia Kristeva as special representative of the New Humanists). And it was a very moving moment to see some former bishops called back from retirement to serve as altar boys for the occasion. Pope Ni Riain may be radical but she is not vindictive: men are still allowed to confer certain sacraments and officiate at Mass (as long as there is at least one female present). It was inspiring to hear the announcement of the Irish Church?s fivepoint plan, recently agreed at the Skelligs Ecumenical Council:

1) Approval of a new monasticism placing the original spiritual revolution of the early Irish monks (Eriugena, Columbanus, Gallus) in dialogue with the modern interreligious mission of visionaries like Merton, Bede Griffith, Sarah Grant and Abhishiktananda. The exchange of blessings at Skellig?s Eight Century Beehive Chapel - between the Abbot of Glenstal and Choqui Nyma of the White Monastery in Kathmandu - symbolised the contemporary meeting of ancient monastic traditions of East and West. A momentous encounter broadcast globally on live stream.

2) Concelebraton of an Interreligious Eucharist based on Teilhard de Chardin?s ?Mass on the World? attesting the threefold principle that ?matter is mystical?, ?Union Differentiates? and the ?Body of God is for all humans? ( not just those baptised in a single Christian denomination).

3) Replacement of the old Church prejudice against human sexuality with the acknowledgement that eros is a divine creative energy whose primary exercise is play and pleasure rather than procreation and property.

4) The reconversion of hundreds of ancient holy sites in Ireland ? dedicated to Brigid, Patrick, Finbar and others ? into postmodern pilgrimage destinations. Current figures indicate that the number of national and international visitors to these sites - and to the thousands of hospitality Godpods along the routes ? is already well in excess of the annual tally of visitors to Compostela, Lourdes, Rome and Jerusalem.

5) An environmental alliance between the neo-Celtic Spiritual Renewal and the recently formed Euro-Celtic Archipelago of Islands with a view to fostering a renewable bio-energy industry without Profit, covering all Ireland?s energy needs with a surplus for export. The fact that Pope Ni Riain?s Godotmobile is itself fuelled entirely from a local combination of wind, sun, wave and compost energy (composed mainly of Gannet droppings from Skellig Beag) was hailed as a powerful example of the new economic imagination now lifting all velomobiles on the Irish seas and skies.

I look forward to hearing the views of your own readers on this epoch-making event in Irish religious culture.


Charles Seelig Chair of Philosophy at Boston College

International Director of the Guestbook Project

As I write this, opinion polls consistently show public trust in government soaring to over 90 per cent. Unsurprising, given our country?s transformation over the last decade. With full employment, homelessness a thing of the past and enlightened health and education programmes, we have become the envy of Europe.

Contrast this satisfaction and optimism with the worried malaise that consumed our nation a decade ago. In 2012 a global study of confidence in leadership found that overall trust in government in Ireland was just 35 per cent and that seven in ten Irish people did not trust Government leaders to tell them the truth. (Source : Edelman Trust Barometer). Again, this was not surprising given the seriousness of the problems roiling our country at the time. We were all shocked by the fragility of the economy and shaken in our confidence that our leaders could fix the problem.

So, how did we get here?

Democracy stands or falls on the quality of its leadership, and we were fortunate to have had gifted leaders over the last decade. Perhaps Abigail Adams was right when she wrote to her son, John Quincy Adams, ?Great necessities call forth great leaders?. As a nightingale only sings when he hears another nightingale, so a leader?s power derives from his or her ability to inspire others. We needed leaders who inspired hope that they could lead us in difficult times and restore not only our broken economy but also the confidence of our nation. We had to get our optimism back.

Our Government?s candour impressed us most. They knew what needed to be done and had the will and capacity to communicate their vision to us. They understood that language should be used with precision to achieve transparency and clarity and not cut adrift from its true meaning to distort and mislead. People will accept almost anything except cant and hypocrisy and it was refreshing to find that our new leaders eschewed both. So they won our trust and we were prepared to collaborate with them to achieve significant change.

Leaders and the electorate are partners in the same dance - `how can we know the dancer from the dance?? Jim Collins wrote that great companies start by ?getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and the right people in the right seats?. Leaders govern with the consent of the governed and we put them there through elections because we support their goals. People ought to be informed participants in the process of governing themselves and they have an obligation to keep leaders accountable and focused on their joint quest.

Over the last decade we did that and got the right people on the bus.

We will not have this government forever, and we need to make our current prosperity sustainable, but for the moment let us bask in the knowledge that the ?Troika?, the ?bank bailout ? and the ?promissory note? are but a distant memory of times gone by and rejoice in the words of Nelson Mandela?s favourite poem: ?I am the master of my fate.?


Dublin 2.

This is the 10th anniversary of my first and best selling novel: ?Petrina Says Peut-etre.?

I write to acknowledge its motivation by my four disrespectful children who declared themselves disgusted by my continued scribbling at works in philosophy of religion and demanded that I write a romantic thriller and make some money.

I appreciate your rave review last week (Irish Times, January 25th, 2023) of ?What Perturbed Petrina in the Woodshed? - my eights and still best-selling account of the sleuthing adventures of glamorous detective Petrina Pulsating. You will be glad to know that its film rights have been acquired for a seven-figure sum. The studio is seeking to cast former boxing world champion Katie Taylor in the title role.

I can also advise your readers that the withdrawal of my papal knighthood, on grounds of ?unseemly fictional publications - unbecoming in a chevalier of the papal court?, has been more than compensated for by the award of an honorary dukedom by his majesty King Charles in this year?s honours list. I am reliably informed that this honour was awarded on the insistence of her majesty Queen Camilla, a dedicated fan of my novels.

Next month I will be the guest of honour in Chicago at the annual conference of the League of Sensitive and Concerned Mature American Matrons. (Scam-Am for short.) I understand that I am to be recipient of their Golden Hatpin award for my contribution to the recognition of the amorous insights and investigative intuitions of mature American matrons.

As you will note from my address, I now reside in California because the literary obscurantist Irish Government has rejected my request for exemption from all taxes on grounds of my literary achievement.


Chateau Petrina, Sunset Boulevard, California.

It?s hard to believe that this day 10 years ago I had just signed off the dole having been unemployed for a year to start my new company - How times have changed.

Technology then consisted of my many iDevices where communicating with friends and colleagues meant posting to your ?wall?. We watched the death of physical media where even Bowie became an iTunes only rocker and learning how to dance ?Gangnam Style? meant adding to the already humongous views on an online channel called YouTube.

Little did we know how much the cloud infrastructure of the past would radically change both our lines of communication and our connections of today. With the Industrial Internet now a reality and intelligent data flows enabling practically every machine we own to talk to us, it would have been easy to lose sight of the real opportunity where 10 years ago talk of revolution against the establishment thankfully became a revolution in how we connect and use people?s resources wisely.

It was a difficult time when dreamers like myself had to stretch outside their own imagination and have the courage and tenacity to re-invent, when resources were constrained, economies and markets were unstable and people were scared of being replaced. Even today I still believe that technology is the true enabler; the catalyst between progress and the realisation of the full human potential and I?m glad to say, with our company?s help, that it?s achievable and easily managed.

So despite the tough times of yesteryear and the journey that brought us to our present success, I?d say to anyone starting out - trust yourself and never give up on an idea.



It seems more than a decade since I was nine years old. In 2015, Apple joined forces with Irish company Carrot. Ever since, technology has been getting more and more advanced. In 2016 Apple and Carrot invented the Hoverboard and now they are as popular as bikes were 10 years ago.

They also invented the first mind-controlled laptop (a contraption that allows the user to surf the web without touching the laptop). As well as technology, architecture has been getting quite advanced. Architects have figured out how to make buildings with up to 1,000 floors without them collapsing and the Empire State Building has been extended to 800 floors! And a new island was discovered, and was named Barbon after a large discussion with most of the European presidents involved. Anyway the island is home to an uncontacted tribe. I should probably say where this island was found. It was discovered just off the coast of France but eventually it was named by Spain.

Now, more about Carrot. Carrot made their first major breakthrough in 2014 when they discovered how to make a robot look exactly like a human being. Ever since that, the CIA have been asking them for 3,000 of the things! Carrot put a fake skin over the robots, kind of terminator style. But after they drew up some blueprints for the flying car? Now THAT was Apple?s breaking point! Apple e-mailed the head of Carrot with a request to join forces, and they accepted. But I?d still say Apple?s golden age was when Steve Jobs was around. That man was the Leonardo Da Vinci of his time. But together Apple and Carrot didn?t just make fancy multi-millionaire type things, they also made useful around-the-house type things with their knowledge of technology, for instance, the walking toaster. As you can see it has been a fascinating ten years and a good ten years. That is all.



Co Wicklow

I write as a person long involved in organising the Irish in America for the Democratic Party. How satisfying that, in her State of the Union address, President Hillary Clinton referred to the ?special relationship? between Ireland and the United States. She went so far as to indicate that Ireland has overtaken the United Kingdom as America?s closest economic partner in Europe.

How times have changed since 2013 when Ireland was in economic pain and the United States was in political convulsions! Now Ireland is growing more strongly than almost any other European economy, and the United States seems to have broken its ideological fever.

How that break came to pass is worth recalling: It began with President Obama, whom many conservatives viewed as seriously threatening, but whose presidency was marked by pragmatism and restoration of order to the economy, and included his historic achievements in health reform, gun control and immigration.

The American people got a taste for competence over rhetoric and, in the circumstances, whom else would they have voted for in 2016 other than President Clinton? She too embodied a threat for some, but she too has governed not as the ideologue that some feared but from the centre, as a visionary of the achievable. The people trust her, and once again they trust the federal government to work competently in their interests. That is the reason the federal budget will be balanced next year for the first time in over 20 years, and that is how she succeeded in securing the historic peace deal in the Middle East last year.

America will always burn in the white heat of ideological difference, but just for the moment it seems also to be enjoying the light of pragmatism and co-operation. It is gratifying to note that many Reagan Democrats, of whom the Irish-Americans were perhaps the greatest number, have returned to the fold. And even those who never will return must know that their grandchildren have returned in their vast numbers and that the future is theirs.


President, Irish American Democrats

We are advancing as a race like never before, from the discovery of the Higgs Boson in Cern almost a decade ago to the recent triumph of man walking on Mars, we truly have explored and revealed the secrets of the universe from the subatomic to the grandest of scales.

However, these have all been eclipsed with the announcement from UCTD (formerly UCD and TCD) of the grand unification theory of the universe. With the universe finally surrendering all of her mysteries and her laws to UCTD we now think we know everything.

In summary everything has changed but not much has changed.



On a recent trip back to Ireland, I happened upon our esteemed President and your former colleague paying a courtesy visit to the growing German community in our country.

It is a matter of some regret that new arrivals invariably end up huddled together in the more down-at-heel parts of Dublin ? and Dalkey certainly has plunged into a stark decline since the discovery of oil ? yet the sight of President Fintan O?Toole, surrounded by the glowing faces of German kinder was enough to gladden the darkest of hearts.

Equally gladdening was the generosity of spirit this visit represented. Our President refuses to be counted among those still dwelling on the events of a decade ago: those whose bitterness prevents them from welcoming the German immigrant seeking honest work; just as the Irish have done so many times through the centuries.

These people also fail to grasp the economic common sense of having them here: much of the money they earn is remitted back to the mother country, adding some much needed grease to the rusting wheels of the German economy. And without this grease, how are they ever going to pay us back all the money they owe us?

It is also worth noting that Dalkey now boasts an excellent range of shops selling top-quality wurst and a dazzling range of fruit brandies: many of which our President found time to sample.


On a yacht drifting through the Mediterranean

May I use your columns to defend two recent decisions of Pope Clement XV against the vicious and unfounded attacks of the Ancient Order of the Defenders of the Tourbe who seem determined to undermine all the recently published documents of Vatican III. The fact that Mary McAleese is now a Cardinal of the Church can be described neither as heresy nor as nepotism. There never has been any reason why a woman could not be made a cardinal of the Catholic Church, it simply has not been common practice in a somewhat uniformly male assembly. As for the charge of nepotism: it is true that both the pope and Mary McAleese happen to be Irish but her elevation would have to be described as ?nepticism? if ever our use of language were to get back some of its gender balance. However, even in a culture where male is no longer the norm I still find it disappointingly churlish that our Taoiseach, Ivana Bacik, refuses to attend tomorrow?s centenary celebrations for the birth of Norman Mailer in New York, purely on grounds that he refused to donate his ego to neuro-biological research. Let?s not lose the run of ourselves altogether. There is truth in the cliche that a history of Ireland is written over every pub door in the country with one ?ambiguous? [Ferriter, 2012] word: pull. We can?t have it every which way, so let?s use it before we lose it.

That might sum up the philosophy of Chuck Feeney, who has travelled the world conducting a clandestine operation to give away his enormous fortune. His foundation has funneled $7.5 billion into education, science, health care, aging and civil rights in the US, Australia, Vietnam, Bermuda, South Africa and Ireland. Few people since the world began have given away more, and no one at his wealth level has ever given their fortune away so completely during their lifetime.

The question is simple: how much good can a good Chuck chuck, if a good Chuck could chuck goods? And the answer is, if everybody followed his example and began ?giving while living,? [which is his neat formula for leaving this world as you came into it, empty-handed] something in the region of $20 trillion could be made available for urgent social needs around the world. This is approximately the sum that the richest people in the world are preparing to hand on to the next generation in perpetuity. A dollar today is worth so much more than ever it will be worth tomorrow. So, even from the point of view of the wealthy, Chuck?s mantra makes better sense, and better value for money. Saints are those whose lives are held up to others struggling on earth as examples to be imitated. Could we have a better one at this time?

On another important matter entirely, could it be the effect of global warming that I might have heard the first cuckoo of the year two weeks ago on the feast of St Fursa?

Yours twittertweetly,


Ex-abbot of Glenstal Abbey.

What a difference a decade makes!

The Ireland Funds announced yesterday that that over €100 million has been raised from Irish-based donors in their latest campeign for great philanthropic projects all across the country. They cover a broad range of causes making a huge impact in local communities. Up to a decade ago most of their money was raised in the US and the worldwide Irish diaspora. Since then the Irish at home have joined to great effect. Support started growing during the recession of 2008-2014 and picked up significantly since then. Today a large number of Irish here actively support the funds and a number of other based foundations have been set up.

Jim Dunning, the captain of the All-Ireland winning Dubs team of 2023, spoke recently about how inspired he was when Bernard Brogan visited his youth club in the inner city in 2012. Bernard was a big star for the Dubs then and part of the Ireland Funds which supports the club. ?I was running with a pretty rough crowd getting into trouble. I had just joined the club when Bernard came in and showed such interest in us. He encouraged me to take up football. It gave me a self confidence and belief I never had and I never got into trouble again.

The number of Young Leader groups reached double figures last week with the opening of the Waterford chapter. The ten Irish groups (comprising 25-40 year olds) join the 60 other chapters worldwide whose donors work with a wide range of the Ireland Fund vetted projects. ?We have big plans for Waterford and what we can do with projects in our area. It?s great not to have to travel to Dublin, Cork, Limerick or wherever but to have our own group here.? When asked why she got involved, the leader of the group responded ?It?s just become part of my daily life. I get an education. Looked for a good job. Had my friends and interests and then involved in the network to help the community. And its great fun too!?

A feature of the recent corporate earnings season was the focus on community and social involvement projects. ?Our earnings have remained solid over the past two years but management and employees felt we had been a bit light on our social responsibilities over the same period?, said one leading CEO last week. ?Happily we have addressed that this year and both the number of employees engaged in community projects and our financial contributions have increased significantly. This has had a clear impact on employee morale and performance in addition to pride in our company.?

Some interesting Irish start-ups which had been sold over the past year have seen their owners join the Ireland Funds and other foundations as donors. ?We saw some wonderful Irish Americans make amazing contributions when we were growing up. It?s great for us Irish to be doing it now as well.?

They start them young now. We saw the recent story of the school where mothers give their eight-year-old daughters three euro a week. She spends one euro on herself. The second is saved and the third is given to a good cause of her choosing. ?She really has gotten into it,? explained one mother. ?Hopefully it will just become part of her normal life and one day she can make a big difference. She learnt in history lesson last week that a famous English prime minister called Margaret Thatcher had said `There is no such thing as society?. She came home and said `It?s amazing that even famous people say such silly things?!?



As I am sure your readers will have noticed we are now surrounded by a well-rounded, well-educated, entrepreneurial generation of Irish young people who actively give back to society ?. and quite frankly, it?s just not good enough!

With all the positive things that have happened over the last ten years, if the older generation cannot complain about ?the youth of today? then what, I ask you, is left for us to complain about. Personally, I lay the blame for this sorry state of affairs on those people 10 years ago who, in times of economic crisis, took this nation?s entrepreneurial talent and used it to develop solutions that were not about making money but about making a difference. These so-called ?social entrepreneurs? apparently went on to address many of the entrenched social and environmental challenges Ireland faced and, in so doing, inspired a whole generation.

If this keeps up it will only be that perennial Irish favourite, the weather, that will keep us malcontents going! ? Yours, etc,


Social Entrepreneurs Ireland

The Arthur Guinness Fund is celebrating its 14th anniversary. To date the Fund has awarded upwards of €14 million to social entrepreneurs working to improve their local communities. Who would have thought it?

Fourteen years ago. in 2009, when the Irish economy was in freefall, it was hard to imagine that we could ever return to sustainable economic growth and full employment.

But at that time, during one of the darkest periods in our recent history, the seeds of change were being sowed, not just of economic recovery, but also the means to deliver a positive transformational impact on Irish society.

Back in 2009, few people had heard of social entrepreneurship ? in 2023 there are few people in this country who haven?t benefited greatly from it.

Diageo is incredibly proud to have been there at the start of that journey ? when it founded the Arthur Guinness Fund in 2009 to support social entrepreneurs. The combined impact of the hard work undertaken by these philanthropically-minded individuals and the support of the fund has effected an immensely positive change in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

From schemes such as Hireland that help the unemployed to find work, to education initiatives that improve quality of life and schemes that promote education, the fund awardees have played a significant part in returning Ireland to full employment.

Looking back on the foundations of the fund long ago in 2009, I am encouraged to think of the optimism and vision that characterised those early awardees in a time when Ireland needed a more positive outlook. Even in the first three years of the fund, we were beginning to see the enormous benefits to society being wrought by social entrepreneurs it was supporting.

The first 30 groups had a direct positive impact on 105,445 people. They employed

120 full time employees, 175 part time employees, 45 full time volunteers and 1,797 part-time volunteers.

In the dark days of the early part of the last decade when unemployment in Ireland was at 14 per cent and optimism was all too scarce, nobody predicted the remarkable transformational impact that the work of the social entrepreneurs would have on Irish society.

As we celebrate the 14th anniversary of the fund and think about all we have accomplished, I am taken aback by just how much individuals with passion for a better world can achieve.


Diageo Ireland (2023)

I remember when we approached your paper 10 years ago to produce a different kind of supplement, one that was full of good news and looked to a brighter future for Ireland. I had just finished college and like most of the young generation was forced to emigrate to the US to find work. Luckily I have dual citizenship, with both American and Irish passports. My dad like myself emigrated in the 1980s for the same reason and met my American mother and moved back to the emerald Isle to start their family.

It is fantastic to see the tables turned. Now Americans are coming to Ireland in droves. I run my own business ?American Irish? (AI), which allocates Americans ?Jayz 1? visas for US citizens to gain world class work experience in our booming economy. We have already reached our yearly quota of 20,000 visas and have been asked to petition Irish Government for a doubling of this amount next year.

I will be return home to start a family when the time is right. Until then I am just so proud that Ireland has come so far.

To the next ten years!


Original Member of the Hireland Movement