Letters to the Editor: Mystery over RTÉ’s footage of the 1991 Tall Ships Race in Cork

Retired commandant Ray Cawley asks what happened the footage sent each day to RTÉ by Tom McSweeney
Letters to the Editor: Mystery over RTÉ’s footage of the 1991 Tall Ships Race in Cork

The Polish vessel Dar Młodziezy at Cobh in July 1991 — just one of the magnificent vessels that took part in the Tall Ships event in Cork. Picture: Irish Examiner Archive/Richard Mills

I read with interest your article regarding Moya Doherty’s pending attendance, as a keynote speaker, at the invitation of the Royal Television Society — ‘Politicians invited to ex-RTÉ chair talk’ (Irish Examiner, October 26).

The fact that she states “she knew nothing of pay scandals” casts yet another serious shadow over the governance and responsibilities of those in the upper echelons of management of the national broadcaster.

Some years ago I had occasion to write to Moya Doherty [twice], following the refusal of the then DG, Ms Dee Forbes, to respond to three formal complaints from me to the station surrounding its non inclusion of the Tall Ships Race to Cork in the 1991 edition of the Reeling in the Years.

I received five lines from Ms Doherty, stating that she had, more or less, no control over all functions of the DG, Ms Forbes.

So I kept digging, and discovered that many hours of RTÉ’s coverage of the event, was fully edited and ready for broadcast, and sent each day to RTÉ by Tom McSweeney. Bingo, so where did all this highly historic footage disappear to?

Well, therein lies another headache for RTÉ’s new DG, Kevin Bakhurst, as I wrote to him on his appointment, and wished him well, and landed this king size hand grenade into his lap, concerning the disappearance of the up to 12 hours of broadcast quality footage of the second biggest event in the history of the state, coupled with such an insult to the people of Cork.

It saddens me greatly that our friend; our chairman, international sailor, and leader, Ted Crosbie, sadly passed away without ever seeing a re-run of the magnificent maritime spectacle that he created.

RTÉ's then southern correspondent Tom McSweeney filed reports about the flotilla of Tall Ships and countless smaller boats in Cork in 1991. Picture: Irish Examiner Archive
RTÉ's then southern correspondent Tom McSweeney filed reports about the flotilla of Tall Ships and countless smaller boats in Cork in 1991. Picture: Irish Examiner Archive

So, I am now calling Mr Bakhurst in time with a request for an immediate update on his search for the truth concerning this extremely serious matter. Cork needs answers. Cork needs its maritime history restored, now, irrespective of what it takes.

Perhaps Mr Bakhurst could feel free to respond publicly through the good offices of the Irish Examiner.

Ray Cawley (Commandant Retired), Douglas, Cork

Judge the ICA's board by their actions 

There’s something critically important that’s been missing from many stories about the Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA) that paints what’s happening at the ICA in a very different light.

The ICA’s current national executive board was elected to a three-year term in April 2021. For the majority, this is their first national board experience. Almost all the stories being reported on are old, resolved issues involving previous boards — yet the stigma of regurgitated historical issues seems to be sticking unfairly to the current board. To use an American political metaphor: It’s like impeaching Barack Obama for Bill Clinton’s deeds.

All these stories serve as distractions and impediments to the one thing this board must get done for ICA survival: The merging of The Countrywomen’s Trust CLG and the Irish Countrywomen’s Association itself into a single legal entity.

The issue was highlighted as needing immediate attention in September 2021 by the incoming CEO and this board has proactively reported it and engaged with the Charities Regulator. Since then, the board has been working with Mason Hayes Curran — arguably the best charity law experts in Ireland — to take the necessary steps to become compliant with the 2009 Charities Act.

With charities, schools, and other volunteer organisations, board make-up is often left to chance. Sometimes you get good boards, sometimes not so good. The current ICA board (along with its CEO) is truly exceptional. The members of the board are unpaid volunteers who accepted their roles with the expectation of attending two-hour meetings every other month — 18 meetings over three years. To date, they have attended more than 60 meetings, and worked hundreds of hours. In addition, various members have been travelling throughout Ireland to every federation to explain the legal structure change.

Implementing reform is never easy, but this board has upheld its commitment to address the legal structure problem; implemented greater operational verticality, improved governance and oversight; and hired security guards to protect ICA employees at national events (as mandated by employment law). 

Most members would not know how very fortunate the ICA is to have this group of courageous, gracious, and dedicated women fighting for the long-term welfare of the organisation. Judge this board by its actions, not by the relentless stream of negativity from its opponents. Actions speak louder than words.

James (Jamie) Braswell, Wicklow Town

Religion is not an issue in conflict

Sean O’Brien speaks of ‘religion’ as though it is a monolithic entity — ‘Religion’s role in long-running war’ (Irish Examiner, Letters, October 23).

Religion at core is an all-encompassing worldview that seeks to explain our purpose in this world, our relationship to the supernatural and afterlife. In a sense it is similar to secular philosophical schools of thought which ask similar questions. Beyond that, it as meaningless to talk of whether religion is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as it is to talk of whether politics are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ — the terms are simply too broad. There’s obviously a world of difference between say, Christianity and the human-sacrificing religion of the Aztecs; between constitutional monarchies and autocratic dictatorships. It is the same with ideologies. When Marx described religion as ‘the opium of the people’, he was stating his view that religion kept people in a suppressed stupor. We might observe that Socialism is ‘the cocaine of the people’ — a heady rush of rhetoric and rebellion followed by a severely depressing comedown once sobriety and reality return.

To suggest ‘religion’ is at the core of the conflict in Palestine / Israel is to greatly overstate the case. Mr O’Brien makes much of the Islamic fundamentalism of Hamas, or the supposed theocratic nature of the Jewish Israeli state. But the reality is most Israelis are secular in outlook, apart from Orthodox Jews. And for the vast majority of Palestinians, the reality of living in poverty, degradation, and hopelessness has far more to do with their actions than any religious outlook.

In the same way there was once an attempt to characterise the Northern Troubles, which trundled on for over 30 years, as a ‘Catholic v Protestant’ spat — as if the UVF and (Marxist!) PIRA were really fighting over whether the Pope was the head of the Church Church and issues like transubstantiation; and as if Protestants and Catholics couldn’t be found elsewhere on the planet living in harmony.

The real consequence of this view would have been to overlook the socio-economic and political roots of the Troubles instead. The reason most of the media haven’t picked up on the religious theme in Palestine is not, as Mr O’Brien suggests, because they’ve somehow overlooked it, but because it isn’t a significant factor.

Nick Folley, Carrigaline, Co Cork

Political entity of Israel to blame

I am enraged by the knee jerk, fawning support of Israel. The Israeli state brought this war on itself, it is singularly responsible for the bloodshed.

It is beyond my comprehension that the world can justify the ongoing, 56-year suppression of an entire culture, denying its right of self determination, forcing its people to live in cages called the West Bank and Gaza, without the ability to take care of themselves, relying on handouts for survival, with no hope of a way out, and that is after summarily kicking these people out of their homeland without their permission. Hamas wants the destruction of the political state that has denied them their freedom, their dignity, their ability to survive, and their homeland for 56 years. And they want their homeland back. The absolutely worst part of this is that the entire rest of the world turns a blind eye, allowing this massive injustice to persist. The Israeli state is a political entity, not a religious one, and its behaviour towards the Palestinian people does not reflect in any way the values of Judaism.

I should know, I converted to Judaism years ago after extensive study of its principles. So I am not an antisemite, I am deeply opposed to the evil behaviour of the Israeli state towards the Palestinian people and their culture.

Janet Nunan Cunningham, Dunmanway, Co Cork

Population pressure

Is it beyond us to realise that easing population pressure might lead to the point where our land could carry the problems that climate change is creating. Why must the reverse happen? The packing of our land with ever more people means that ensuring future problems seems political policy.

John Farrelly, by email

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