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:: Letters to the Editor
Worst drought in 70 years hits Africa
More than 20 million people in Africa today are in urgent need of
food, as the world responds to a humanitarian crisis that the United
Nations is describing as the worst since the end of World War II.
If the current drought in the East Africa brings a sense of déjà vu,
it’s because we have been there before. In fact we are seeing this
situation occur with increasing regularity.
Droughts have left huge numbers of people in sub-Saharan Africa in
need of our help in each of 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2015 and in 2016
and 2017. As with the frequency, the severity has also intensified.
When the United Nations reported in 2011 that the drought was the
region’s worst for 60 years, they were speaking of a crisis that
affected approximately 12 million people. Today, it is many more.
We know, from the images on our computers, in our newspapers, and on
our television screens the unspeakable horror and personal tragedies
that lie behind these cold statistics.
And we can get frustrated, and attribute blame and responsibility -
on global forces like changing climate, or human factors like
population growth or political instability, but the reality is that
in our world of plenty, there are innocent people at risk of dying
from need, in great numbers.
At Gorta-Self Help Africa we have responded to this current crisis
in the best way that we know how. For decades we have worked with
small-scale farming families across the region, helping them to
increase production and income they can earn from small farms.
This month, we have begun distributing emergency supplies of drought
tolerant seed, fertiliser and other materials, so that tens of
thousands of rural poor families can plant and produce in the months
ahead, and thus have some chance of averting a catastrophe in their
In Kenya, more than 4,500 households are receiving nutrient rich
green gram and pigeon pea seeds – two crops that will grow in the
harshest of climate; while in Ethiopia, thousands more are receiving
seed and fertiliser so that they are ready to plant when the
seasonal rains do arrive, in the coming weeks and months.
While UN food programmes and others have begun distributing food aid
now, it is only by providing practical support, such as drought
tolerant seed that can grow high nutrient crops, that the region’s
poorest people, will be able to end this terrible cycle.
We are grateful to the many people who have responded to our appeal
in recent weeks, and will use any funds that we receive from the
Irish people for this purpose, in the weeks ahead.
Ray Jordan, CEO,
Gorta-Self Help Africa
Dear Editor 22.03.16
I wish to forward my sincerest sympathies to all concerned in the
tragedy in what turned out to be a horrible tragedy in Buncrana Town
Donegal yesterday when 5 people lost their lives in a senseless
accident. Buncrana, who suffered its own fair share of tragedy over
the years is home yet again to another. I have a most recent
affiliation with this town high up on the northern shores of this
island because my uncle John Boyle lost his life as his ship the SS
Haverford was torpedoed here offshore during WW 1 and unknown to me
or any family was buried ashore. Every year we remember this tragedy
and this new one is added to the list with great sadness; however
the saving glory is that a 4 month old baby was spared due the the
braveness of a local man who rescued the child ignoring the dangers
involved which could have taken his own life. What a true life hero
he is for sure!
My sincerest condolences to the immediate family of the victims; may
they find some comfort from somewhere, and to the lovely people of
Buncrana especially to Don McNeill, and Peter McLaughlin of the
Ulster Canada Initiative and SS Lauentric n SS Haverford Memorial
Committee who became good friends. My thoughts and prayers are with
you all at this sad time.
Buncrana's re-naming an 'Amazing Disgrace'
I am a Down man through and through but a frequent visitor to Co
Donegal, both Tir Chonail and Inishowen. I was therefore interested
in your coverage of the recent opening of the 'Amazing Grace'
While any event that can bring Sinn Féin and the DUP together is to
be welcomed, I feel that Inishowen and Buncrana, in particular, are
in danger of overselling the somewhat tenuous link between the area
and the composition of John Newton's well-loved hymn 'Amazing
Newton's ship docked in Lough Swilly a fortnight after Newton had
experienced a near-death conversion during a violent storm. This was
one of numerous epiphanies Newton had during his lifetime.
His defining one was in Liverpool when, sick with fever, he finally
embraced Christianity on May 10, 1848. So Merseyside would seem to
have a higher claim to be 'Amazing Grace Country' than Buncrana.
Even then Newton's conversion was imperfect as he continued to trade
in slaves for several years thereafter.
It was to be a quarter of a century later that Newton was to compose
his best-known hymn wherein he makes no specific mention of Buncrana,
Lough Swilly or even of the sea.
Inishowen and Buncrana are steeped in history. Colm Cille, the
O'Neills, MacLochlainn and O'Doherty clans, Wolfe Tone, John Doherty
and Agnes Jones are only a few of those associated with the area and
with the town.
The proliferation therefore of tacky mono-lingual signs at every
entrance to and exit from Buncrana welcoming visitors to the area,
now arbitrarily re-designated 'Amazing Grace Country', represents at
once the banalisation of history by soundbite and the biggest
landgrab in Inis Eoghain since the invasion by John De Courcy.
The signs themselves would be more appropriate to Nashville than to
Ireland. Like the polypropylane statue of St Pio at St. Eigne's
shrine, they are demeaning both to the area they seek to publicise
and the individual they purport to honour. After a decent interval
they should be removed and recycled.
Brian Mac Giolla Pheadair (Brian Patterson)
Parents can direct their child's education
As the first phase of the national parental survey on school
patronage draws to a close what will the results mean for Irish
Much opinion has been given in the media about the volume of
response rate, good or bad - but this is missing the point.
The real power of the survey is that parents for the first time,
have a chance to direct the future shape of the Irish educational
This bottom up approach, which has been the defining characteristic
of the Educate Together movement, is giving parents a role in
infrastructure planning that will serve that State and all patron
As for survey numbers and their ultimate meaning, there is a simple
conclusion to be drawn. In all five areas that have published
results one patron body was a clear first choice, Educate Together.
Also in each of those areas the numbers of parents that selected
Educate Together were amply sufficient to support a viable school.
There, surely, is the answer to the fundamental question on this
whole process. Is there sufficient demand in distinct areas across
the country to support the establishment of schools under alternate
Yes there is. The results of the remaining 38 survey areas that will
emerge in the coming weeks will also show viable support for many
more schools under alternate patronage models.
11-12 Hogan Place,