Thursday, 9 Apr 2020

Letters to the Editor: 'Brother Kevin’s help for homeless and hungry reminds us of the true meaning of community'

Dublin 1969 was a hungry place. Horse-drawn carts still rattled up and down the cobbled quays; if you didn’t have, you went without. That included food.

Of course, it was always the poor who didn’t have. So a Capuchin brother one October day, armed with a few sliced pans, a large pot and a gas cooker, started doling out soup to the destitute on his doorstep, in Church Street.

Five decades on, Brother Kevin is still doing the same thing. Only now his “soup kitchen” is making up to 350 breakfasts and 650 lunches a day – not to mention the food parcels, the lines for which snake all the way up the street.

Brother Kevin didn’t celebrate his “50th anniversary”, but he had a small party to acknowledge the invaluable volunteers who have worked down the years to keep the pot boiling. When the Pope came to Dublin, it was fitting the motorcade drove by the shining office blocks and turned into a side street to be in not the corporate, but the caring HQ of the city.

Brother Kevin Crowley, a proud Corkman, has given his huge heart to those who have needed a bit of a hand up in our capital.

His limitless kindness has inspired others to do likewise. Who knows, some day the Government might even be moved to do more for the homeless and those who find themselves swimming against the tide.

This week, three inquests were held into the deaths of people living alone whom had lain undiscovered for several weeks. We see protests around Ireland, with people objecting to emergency shelter for people seeking refuge.

Then there was the terrible news in Essex. Have we forgotten whom we are or where we have come from?

If you wonder what a community means, you could do worse than take a trip down to Church Street and see the difference a few good hearts can make. “For where two or three gathered in my name…”

T O’Brien

Dalkey, Co Dublin

Dáil needs a good fright and TDs to be dismissed

While I understand Sean McNicholas’s sentiments that housing the homeless and other urgent issues might seem more important than who pressed – or didn’t – voting buttons in the Dáil, he may be overlooking an important point (‘Health more important than TDs voting for each other’, Letters, October 24).

TDs are paid huge salaries out of the public pocket and all they need do is turn up for work once a week, sit in the right spot for about three minutes and press a button (and no-one else’s).

Done correctly, it ensures bills are passed or rejected accurately, based on the wishes of the electorate. It provides a record of how TDs voted for voters who wish to see if TDs can be trusted to stick to their promises when they come canvassing for votes next time.

The voting scandal may yet result in legislation being overturned, wasting valuable public time and resources as some bills may need to be re-voted on.

While Mr McNicholas might lament the lack of Government action over urgent services, he doesn’t seem to connect it to the deplorable condescension of some TDs towards their basic duties and constituents.

The very fact services are in such a shambles in the first place probably stems from this sense of entitlement. That’s why the voting scandal matters and why the Dáil needs a good fright in the form of sanctions and dismissals to knock it back into democratic shape.

Nick Folley

Carrigaline, Co Cork

Whose finger is on voting button doesn’t matter

This so-called Votegate nonsense strikes me as a real storm in a teacup.

We have one of the most rigidly whipped parliaments of any democracy in the world. On every issue, almost all of the time our politicians simply vote the party line.

Does being in a room to physically press a button really improve the quality of our democracy?

Politicians scrutinise legislation at committee stage, discuss it at debates and raise issues about it at parliamentary party meetings, but once their party declares yea or nay they simply do as instructed; the results are known before the vote, the voting is the least important part of their job.

In the House of Lords, for centuries, if a member was going to be absent, they could give their proxy to a colleague to vote on their behalf. Could that system not work here?

So before we all overreact and spend hundreds of millions of euro on a biometric scanner for the Dáil to make sure every TD is in the right seat, just ask yourself: if your TD is in a committee room discussing legislation or on the phone in their office sorting an issue for a constituent – ie, doing their job – but their expressed opinion is still being counted as a vote in the Dáil chamber, does it really matter if it’s Timmy Dooley or Niall Collins who has their finger on the button?

Peter Cosgrove

Wellington Bridge, Co Wexford

House of Commons full of parliamentary posers

If you ever need an insight into a single entity that holds the future of Brexit in its hands, the probable beginnings of the dismemberment of the UK into an independent Scotland and a reunited Ireland after the next general election, a body where its members squabble amongst themselves, peer at their mobile telephones whilst debates are taking place yet portrays itself as a “beacon of democracy”, you need look no further than observe the pathetic shenanigans of Britain’s House of Commons. Where has all the class, dignity, pride and honour gone from the place where the Queen’s English was once clearly understood instead of uttered by today’s semi-literates posing as parliamentarians?

Dominic Shelmerdine

London, UK

Rugby team deserves bouquets, not brickbats

I am appalled at the venomous air of negativity surrounding Ireland’s World Cup exit to the All Blacks on Saturday. Rúadhrí O’Connor’s piece in your paper took the biscuit.

He said all that has been achieved in the last six years has been set to naught by last Saturday’s failure, including the “historic firsts”.

All because the last box remains unticked, ie, a World Cup quarter-final. While admitting the team had “climbed Everest”, O’Connor berates them for having done so a year early.

He says they failed when it “mattered most”.

The logic of this is that every team should be primed to peak for a maximum of three knockout matches every four years.

I would contend that this is not possible, nor is it desirable.

There seems to be a consensus among the typing classes that Test rugby now fits neatly into World Cup cycles.

It is that everything now revolves around the four-yearly competition that has only existed since 1987 – including the Six Nations Championship in which Ireland has taken part, in one guise or another, for more than 100 years – and the June and November windows when we get the opportunity to lower the colours of the Southern Hemisphere giants.

I wonder if Willie John McBride, Fergus Slattery, Mike Gibson, Ollie Campbell et al ever got to play in a match that “mattered most”. Seemingly not, according to the scribes.

Yes, the World Cup is important but not uniquely so. And, yes, I want to see us break the quarter-final glass ceiling. And it will be broken one day as all the previous ones were, including victory over the All Blacks. This will be done in the context of building a consistent level of form.

However, any knock-out competition is a bit of a lottery and sometimes the best team does not necessarily prevail.

Success in the various competitions and series are not mutually exclusive but complementary and success in one should not be sought at the expense of another. And no success should be denigrated because of subsequent failure.

Finally, yes, the team performed poorly on Saturday while simultaneously we witnessed one of the greatest ever performances by another side against Ireland.

And while I disagree profoundly with many of the decisions and tactics of coach Joe Schmidt, captain Rory Best and the team – some of whom will no doubt now retire – deserve not brickbats but our thanks for the many memories they have given us.

Sean O’Donnell

Monkstown, Co Dublin

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