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Dear Sir... Readers' Views (17/10/16)

Your letters, your views...

Gorillas just shouldn’t be kept in zoos

We feel awful for Kumbuka the gorilla, who — like any living being — longs to be free, but we’re grateful that unlike an American zoo which recently shot a gorilla dead, rightly incurring widespread public outrage, London Zoo acted in a humane manner.

While this gorilla is still alive, spending the rest of his days in confinement isn’t much of a life at all since even the best artificial environments can’t come close to matching the space, diversity, and freedom that animals have in their natural habitats.

The salvation of these endangered species lies in habitat conservation, not a life spent behind bars — because the truth is that hardly any captive-born gorillas are ever released to their natural jungle homes.

Instead, they’re bred to be high- earning living exhibits until the day they die, thousands of miles from where they belong.

It’s time the public stopped paying to see miserable animals in captivity and instead worked on solutions to help them thrive in their natural environments.

Jennifer White

All Saints St

London

Budget not fair on many childminders not with Tusla

As it stands, Katherine Zappone’s childcare package in Budget 2017 unfairly discriminates against childminders on whom thousands of working parents depend.

Only 179 childminders are included because only 179 childminders are registered with Tusla. However, there are up to 2,000 more professional childminders who are registered members of Childminding Ireland, or notified to county childcare committees, or registered with Revenue for childcare tax relief. Most of these professional childminders have insurance, garda vetting, training in childcare, and surveys even indicate that over 50% may hold Fetac 5 in childcare. They are not registered with Tusla because they are not allowed to, since they mind three or fewer children at any one time.

Yet thousands of working parents choose professional home based childminding because they feel it’s the best form of childcare their children. Thousands of rural parents choose a home based childminder because there is no other option.

Thousands more choose a childminder because they offer flexible, often very long hours, to parents, who may need childcare for over 12 hours a day. All these parents should be able to avail of the childcare subsidies at their professional childminders.

In 2011, the Goodbody Report estimated that there were 19,000 childminders with as many as 57,000 children attending a “hidden” childminding service .

It is completely unacceptable that only 179, or 0.1% of childminders, are included under Dr Zappone’s new scheme.

Ultimately, all paid childminders will need to be included in some form of registration, and all families who choose childminder care should be able to access state subsidies for childcare.

In the meantime, it is imperative that Dr Zappone find a way to include all those who have spent considerable time and money in becoming professionals and engaging with professional and state agencies.

It is fundamentally unfair to exclude them, when they are professionals who cannot register with Tusla. And it is fundamentally unfair to the thousands of families and children whom they serve.

Miriam O’Regan

Avoca

Co Wicklow

Parents, children, childcare and the Swedish model

Katherine Zappone’s childcare scheme unfairly discriminates against stay-at-home parents. This is both unfair financially and disastrously flawed socially.

The scheme sees parents who are both earning the median industrial wage, with two children in daycare, increase their previous yearly net income of €32,542 by €1,920 (after tax and childcare costs).

Meanwhile, a similar family, except that the mother leaves paid employment to care for their children at home, gains €100 per year, though their net income was already lower at just €29,000 even before the budget. This scheme blatantly incentivises paid childcare, not parental choice in childcare, especially to low-income earners.

But this scheme is not just about euros in our pockets. It raises the question whether Irish society values, or devalues, the work and contribution of parents who take care of their own children at home during their early years.

Before abandoning this model in favour of a model where childcare by paid professionals is the norm, we could look to Sweden where that drastic social experiment has already been carried out — and failed.

In spite of the material prosperity of the country, the Swedish commentator Jonas Himmelstrand wrote last year that: “Sweden has youth with poor psychological health and poor school results, and stressed parents with weak parenting skills.”

If we want to imitate Sweden, by all means celebrate Zappone’s scheme. If instead we want to empower Irish parents to fulfil their role to decide and enact what is best for their own children, it must be reformed in a more balanced way.

Ruth Foley

Clondalkin

Dublin

America should work with Assad

When there were uprisings in Bahrain and Egypt, they were put down with force, backed by America and its allies. The uprising in Syria could also have been put down but Barack Obama decreed that Assad had to go. He had no right to do that but his action in doing so was a turning point, boosting the confidence of all rebels, encouraging jihadis to flood into the country and giving the green light to regional powers to send arms into Syria to their proxies.

The insistence that Assad must go has made all negotiation impossible. The fact is, Assad has substantial support in Syria and no outsider had the right to demand that he step down. The best way forward now would be to work towards an Assad victory in Aleppo which is as bloodless as possible. America could do that by working with Putin and Assad. That could lead the way to peace in Syria. Boris Johnson and Theresa May should be working towards that goal, not talking about an air war with Russia which would be just as likely to prolong the suffering in Syria as end it.

Brendan O’Brien

Arundel Gardens

London

Politicians not only ones to blame

The criticism of politicians getting a similar increase in salary to the rest of the public service seems to be biased. Especially when some of the people in the public service, ie the gardaí and teachers, who are threatening strike action looking for special treatment over and above everyone else, are not being criticised at all.

The decision to tie the salaries of politicians to the salaries of the whole public service was made in the good old Celtic Tiger period when salaries were much higher.

All were cut because the country went broke due to decisions in which the heads of our political, financial, trade union, developer, etc institutions were involved. We should criticise all for bad decisions but we should not single out just one group for increases or decreases in pay.

A Leavy

Shielmartin Drive

Sutton

Dublin 13

Poem on Eighth

Oh mammy please! Please let me live

To serve the life that God doth give.

Both dad and you received the grace

To help renew the human race.

If spared I promise to repay

Your love and trust in every way, each day.

I may, perhaps have some defect,

But then sure no one’s truly perfect.

Ailing granny’s very ill,in constant pain, feels she’s a flop,

Does current sentiment proclaim; she too is destined for the chop?

Some seek to scrap the eighth amendment,

But what about the fifth commandment?

Though fate may deign, I won’t attain, all I ought to be,

Right now, I am a living loving human being, not a mere commodity.

Mick Callanan

Crookstown

Co Cork

Third-level funding

The announcement in the budget of a yet another ‘consultation process’ to look at the needs of third-level education is deplorable.

Have we not just had the Cassells Report? Have we not just had two separate sets of data showing Irish universities sliding down international ratings? Have we not had innumerable warnings, ranging from the HEA to industry, warning that third-level education is in deep crisis and needs immediate investment?

If education is “the bedrock of our society” as stated in the Budget speech, why are decisions on reviving higher education being pushed back yet again?

Ministers used to be paid to take decisions, now, it seems, they expect to be thanked for taking soundings.

Finally, what is the “exchequer- employer investment mechanism” suggested in the budget? Is the Government formally suggesting that the state abandon third-level education, and seek whatever alms it can from business to turn third-level into one big training programme?

Mike Jennings

General Secretary, Irish Federation of University Teachers

Dublin 2.



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