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Dear Sir... Readers' Views (23/08/16)

Your letters, your views...

Expand our educational opportunities

In most European countries, students can go into a stream of education for the trades at the age of 16. Why does our system of education keep pushing everyone towards the Leaving Cert and towards a third-level degree?

Is it because we don’t have teachers qualified to teach any other system of second level education bar the academic stream? Or is it snobbery? Are “Irish mammies and daddies” embarrassed amongst their friends if young Johnny decides to be a plumber rather than a teacher?

The former VECs, now the Educational Training Boards, were founded to educate those whose parents did not have the money to send their children to secondary school. Free secondary education for all only came in in 1967. From then on, the VEC schools began to struggle for identity. Traditionally, they had always supported students interested in trades but as they moved more mainstream so did the teachers they employed, coming for the most part from a university H Dip. So the pursuit of the Leaving Cert become the ultimate goal.

Second-level education is now nearly entirely Leaving Cert-driven. The former VECS have lost their uniqueness in their pursuit of respectability and deprived a large cohort of students the chance of becoming skilled tradespeople. Most schools have limited facilities for the teaching of carpentry, block laying, plastering, tiling or plumbing, household painting or electrical work. There is an embarrassment of being seen as a lesser form of education.

When the construction industry gets back to business, which it will in the immediate future, we will not have enough native skilled tradeworkers to take up jobs. Do we have to consider teachers from Poland and Germany, who have trade skills, to teach in our community schools if we don’t have sufficiently-trained teachers here?

We need more than one type of second-level education instead of a one size fits all. It does not allow for the varied ways students learn. We are furthering a system which is akin to “The Murder Machine” which Pearse wrote about. We need “student-centred education” rather than Leaving Cert-centred education. Allow every student to use the talents given to him or her, let them be the best they can be. “To be the best tin whistler he can be”.

Nuala Nolan
Bowling Green


Shameful levels of Irish governance

In what other modern advanced mature western democracy would an economic collapse on the scale of Ireland result in nothing changing? Just how low do we need to go as a people before the penny drops that each one of us contribute to the success or failure of our country, through our own moral and ethical weaknesses?

Every time you vote for that nod and a wink TD you chip away at the soul of the State. Every time you have a wry smile when some fraud is covered, and instead of being angry it happened, feel a bit annoyed you weren’t one of those on the take. Every time some petty backward parochial instinct kills off some national requirement, like a proper modern water and property tax system, because petty Irish people can’t rise to the challenge of putting their country’s needs first.

And yes even though seeing the national interest can be hard when you think you’re a lion led by donkeys, it’s worth pointing you those same lions are the ones who keep putting the donkey’s in charge.

The usual suspects are trying to turn this current mess over the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) into some weird crusade to clear the name of some angel. Yet the real question to ask is how can it be possible that there are still charities and organisations where men get to treat them as if they were personal limited companies owned by those men.

The lack of governance that led to the current situation, even if the men involved are found to be innocent, is astounding.

A properly run organisation would never even be linked to something like this scandal, not even by accident or incompetence. But not in good old Ireland, where we get to see the actual minister pushing his own trolley with duty free through the airport. The minister presumably thought that made him look like a man of the people. The idea that he couldn’t go outside the country without needing to buy duty free is bad enough by itself. Pity that the money wasted on sending people like him out to Brazil wasn’t better spent giving the competitors proper facilities.

Yet again official Ireland has failed to live up to even the lowest standards of governance and you have to wonder just how bad does it have to get, what depth of humiliation must be inflicted on us before we change our mindset and start to get that if we want a properly run country, then it starts with our own attitude to events like this ticket controversy. It starts by expecting to be held to the highest standards and it starts by not only holding some to account but being expected to be held to account.

The evidence suggests that for all our bluster about how great we are, we’re still like some immature teenager bragging they can drive the family car who has now stalled on the dual carriage way and instead of asking for help, just walks away and causes a pile-up. Immaturity will out in the end.

As we know to our cost but which we never seem to learn from.

Desmond FitzGerald
Canary Wharf


Hickey treated like a common criminal

What are the Brazilian police up to? Now they are seeking the passports of Willie O’Brien, Stephen Martin, Dermot Henihan, Kevin Kilty, John Delaney, and Linda O’Reilly, all executive members of the board of the OCI. Our legendary athlete, Sonia O’Sullivan, is on the executive board of the OCI. Is Sonia’s passport to be seized next?

Shane Ross ran out of Brazil and left Pat Hickey to defend himself and, apparently, has done nothing to get our OCI president out of one of the most notorious Brazilian prisons.

What is our Government doing?

This is a nasty international incident and I am amazed no Irish politician has voiced condemnation about the treatment of our OCI president who is detained like a common criminal without bail.

Michael O’Connell
Fair Hill
Passage West
Co Cork


New Olympics model required

Every four years a group of foreigners arrive in a nominated city.

The indigenous people step aside while their officials roll out the red carpet.

These foreigners are treated like gods for two weeks while the ordinary population are ignored.

In the end, it’s the ordinary people who are left to clean up those “special venues” built to allow the foreigners have their fun.

The locals will also be sent the final bills.

In my opinion a new model is needed to promote the true Olympic ideals.

Who is willing to call a halt to this current four yearly financial fiasco?

Damien Carroll
Forest Park
Dublin 24


Plight of retirees on low fixed incomes

Christy Kelly’s criticism of the manner in which the state pension has been cut are very well put. (“Unfair pension punishment” Irish Examiner Letters, August 22). Along with the losses being incurred as a result of the increase in the retirement age, the changes to the qualifying criteria brought in in 2012 by Joan Burton are imposing much greater hardship for retirees. A good example is a person who retired in 2012 with an average 39 contributions per week over a working lifetime received a near full pension of around €229. Following Burton’s hatchet job, a person retiring in 2013 with the exact same number of contributions saw their entitlement slashed to €209, a cut of €20 a week.

Recent comments by Leo Varadkar suggests he recognises the great injustice caused by the Burton changes and is considering taking action to restore the cuts. He should be urged to do so quickly by all who hold genuine concerns for the plight of retirees forced to live on low fixed incomes.

It is one of the great ironies of Irish politics that such cuts imposed on the most vulnerable were overseen by a leader of a “Labour” Party.

Mr Varadkar has it now within his power to once and for all bury the ghost of Ernest Blythe’s notorious pension cut of a shilling in 1924 which contributed substantially to Fine Gael’s inability to achieve an overall majority since. The Labour Party will now fill that slot, should it survive, for a generation or two.

Jim O’Sullivan


Knotweed needs urgent treatment

Knotweed and rotweed are prevalant around Kinsale and South West Cork and quite visible from Kinsale to Cork city. The yellow flower is a poison to all kinds of animals and must be eradicated. The responsibility for dealing with these invasive plants comes under the Department of Regional Development Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht.

This issue also needs to be addressed by the Department of Environment as Cork County Council don’t want to know unless it’s on their own land. This is an emergency that affects us all, especially the farmers and builders given the widespread nature of these alien plants. I will send an email to cork.heritage@corkcoco.ie and see what can be done

Noel Harrington
Co Cork


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