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Letters: Bravery must be welcomed and understood

The brave women and men who relive the acute emotional pain of their tragic stolen childhoods when they speak out at the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry need all the support they can be given.

One of the most horrifying interviews I've ever done was in 1976, with a man who had spent his childhood at the Nazareth Lodge in Belfast.

I was shaken by his memories of the sadism, casual brutality, unending harshness, perversion, neglect and near-starvation inflicted on unprotected children.

His story went into a book written by myself and Mavis Arnold – The Children of the Poor Clares: The Story of an Irish Orphanage.

At that time, no other book had come out on the subject. No publisher in the Republic, or in Britain, would touch it until it was courageously taken on by Appletree Press in Belfast.

The silence had been breached and, in the following years, a flood of information about institutional child-abuse in southern Ireland came out but apart from individual stories, nothing seemed to be happening in the North.

The truth about the past must be told – however belated it is in coming out. Although it is too late for most – including the man I interviewed 38 years ago – I can only hope that the survivors who can bring themselves to relive the horrors of their childhoods will be treated with understanding and compassion.

HEATHER LASKEY

Co-author, The Children of the Poor Clares

Nova Scotia, Canada

Crow worked for the rights of genuine labour

BOB Crow believed that all workers should be paid a fair wage and pension for their labours and be accorded safe and comfortable working conditions.

He also believed in the right of workers to withdraw their labour when these conditions were lacking and was therefore hated by right-wing media and politicians.

Yet, what is the bleating excuse of those voices for the scandal of multi-million pound bonuses in the city? "We must not interfere with the sacred rituals of the market or these people will just go somewhere else." In other words, withdraw their labour.

STEVE EDWARDS

By email

Ireland united against cruel blood sports

While organised cruelty to animals may not be the biggest issue concentrating people's minds in the run-up to the European and local elections, I believe that Sinn Fein needs to ditch its abhorrent support for live hare coursing.

Not only does the party have an official policy of condoning and promoting the continued legality of this blood sport in the Republic, it has already tried – unsuccessfully, thank God – to reverse the hare coursing ban in Northern Ireland.

If it had succeeded, coursing clubs would have reactivated their "sport" and once again be free to capture hares and use them in baiting sessions in the north.

The hares would be mauled, forcibly struck by the dogs and tossed about like rag-dolls. Others would have died after coursing of stress-related conditions – all for a gamble and a laugh.

Right now, police across England and Wales are clamping down on hare coursing gangs, whose activities are widely deemed to be on a par with dog-fighting.The hare is a treasured part of Ireland's wildlife heritage.

Sinn Fein speaks of a united Ireland. I would remind the party that repeated marketing surveys point to big majority of Irish people, north and south, favouring a ban on hare coursing. Ireland is united – against this animal cruelty posing as "sport".

JOHN FITZGERALD

Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel Sports

Parents playing a dangerous game

Spotted enjoying the unaccustomed sunshine: a tiny girl, coasting at walking pace on a three-wheeled scooter, dutifully holding Mum's hand. Her small head is dwarfed by a crash helmet.

When we surround our children with ever more protection for their physical safety, I feel that their long-term mental wellbeing is not taken into account.

Somehow we need to strike a balance between reasonable safety precautions and instilling the idea that a walk in the sunshine is fraught with peril.

JULIE HYNDS

By email

A big thanks for your donations

WE CARE THIRD WORLD CHARITY: Derry (Feb 7) £173.10; Lurgan (Feb 14) £113.79; Newry (Feb 21) £176.94; Strabane (Feb 28) £131.52; Dungannon (Mar 7) £93.34.

E MANLEY

ACTION MS (NI): North Belfast (Feb 20) £100.86: South Belfast (Month of February) £1,014.40.

I MARTIN

Help with book on near death

I AM an author who is currently completing a book on people's experiences near death.

I would like to speak to anyone who has either experienced themselves, or heard of through others, the tunnel travel, bright lights, meetings with relatives, or encounters with a superior being associated with near-death experiences.

I will not use full names, if requested. The book will be published late this autumn, but is being completed now.

Please contact me on 00 353 86 8250164, or c/o 36 Raheen Park, Bray, Co Wicklow.

COLM KEANE

Bray, Co Wicklow

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