Definition of insanity: voting same way, expecting change
* Is it expecting too much for the people of Ireland to grasp that, even if all the banking debt were to disappear, the hard financial reality is that it costs more to run the country than the country generates in taxes? That figure is the constant around which policy decisions about spending are made.
As the political parties line up to outbid each other, is it also too much to hope that there would be someone in the political class with the vision and integrity to challenge the whingeing about water and property charges head-on? To ask voters: how exactly do they propose that the infrastructure that delivers water to the tap is built or maintained; how are roads and local services paid for? As is typical in Ireland, the focus is on the charge itself and not on what it is used for. Wouldn't it be better if a political party made a promise that 100pc of local property taxes would be retained and spent locally, or that the new water monopoly would be set up on a self-funding, not-for-profit basis, without the need for a subsidy of €500m – which doesn't just appear by magic, but is funded by cuts to other services? Just think what a difference an extra €500m would make to disadvantaged schools or the disabled.
I give fair warning to friends and family that I do not want to hear any more whingeing about how difficult life is in Ireland if they go out and again vote for Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fail or even Sinn Fein. Because they do that in the full knowledge that none of those parties' promises are genuine. The comment by Pat Rabbitte, on campaign promises as "things you tend to do during an election", should be borne in mind.
I believe those seeking re-election should have the amount they have received in expenses and allowances printed on their election literature too. In the 2011 election, the myth peddled by the political class and media was that we voted for change, when the reality is that 73pc of people still voted for the same main three parties that 79pc voted for in 2007. The only change was that more voted for Fine Gael for the first time.
So if people vote for the main three parties in such numbers again this May, then please, no more whingeing and moaning about the state of the country, because people are clearly happy with things as they are and content to wallow in denial. But those of us obliged to be exiles have a duty to point out this folly and not to pander to those who claim they vote for the same tired old parties because there are no good new candidates to choose.
Canary Wharf, London
TEACHERS PUT UP WITH FAR WORSE
* I did not support or partake in the heckling of our Education Minister. I stood silently outside the hall with an ASTI Fightback poster condemning his part in destroying our education system. I didn't attend his speech because I knew it would be practically the same speech he gave last year. He does not listen. I didn't support his invite, but it was supported by ASTI's standing committee and our general secretary – who must have known the inevitable outcome.
It's amazing that the heckling is such a big story. Teachers all over Ireland face worse on a daily basis. Physical assault, sexual harassment and deliberate disruption of learning are all faced in the classrooms of Ireland week in, week out. Reporting of these incidents is rare. While the vast majority of students behave themselves, supports and guidance for those who can't behave have been withdrawn.
I am also terribly sorry that our general secretary was bullied online. It is important that a proper complaint process is followed. I'm not sure if a public podium is the best place for such a complaint, but that is his choice, as it happened to him, not me. I condemn all online bullying – but, sad to say, it's a regular event for many teachers.
The media will focus on internal divisions in the ASTI, but ASTI members are united in our opposition to the new Junior Cert. Many debates and discussions occur in ASTI daily – the vast majority taken part in by unpaid volunteers worried about the decline of our education system and profession. The vast majority of debates are properly held and it's sad but natural that tempers will fray given the downhill direction of our education system.
Bray, Co Wicklow
A MASSIVE STEP BACKWARD
* I wish to support Pat King's condemnation of a minority group at the ASTI convention who barracked, heckled and abused Minister Quinn throughout his speech.
The teacher who used the megaphone and his main supporter, who addressed the media, are founding members of the self-styled 'ASTI Fightback Group'. This small group of disaffected ASTI members (comprising seven or eight activists) does not have the right to use the acronym ASTI in its title; it is not a recognised or legal structure within ASTI and, most importantly, it does not have a mandate from the 18,000 members of the ASTI union.
My colleagues and I do not pay our union subscription every two weeks of the year to have crucial business at an annual convention derailed by a small, very vocal group who hog the microphone throughout convention debate yet whose raison d'etre at conference is simply to wait for the minister to arrive and to disrupt proceedings. Right on cue, the rabbit from the hat will be produced – or in this case, the megaphone (last year, we had the cards).
The behaviour of these people has deflected attention from the real concerns surrounding Junior Cycle reform and assessment and other important matters in Irish education. This group has done a tremendous disservice to students, teachers and the union. I am appalled at this outcome which has, in effect, swung the pendulum in Minister Quinn's favour and therefore has done great damage to the future education of students who enter first year in 2014.
Address with editor
DISGRACING A NOBLE PROFESSION
* My late mother spent 40 years as a teacher. She loved her profession. She was one of five siblings who followed this path, between them giving two centuries to Irish education. I am very, very proud of my family's contribution to the development of generations of children.
Allegations of online bullying and death threats; images of megaphone 'diplomacy' – surely this is not to be the 21st-century successor to chalk and talk?
Tower, Co Cork
CRIMEWATCH: DOING VERY WELL
* Enterprise and Innovation Minister Richard Bruton has welcomed the recently announced Phonewatch expansion as a vote of confidence in the Government's management of the economy. Surely it is more pertinent to ask: what does it say about the Government's management of the gardai and the crime and security situation?
Blessington, Co Wicklow
MAKING A MESS OF THE ELECTION
* I live in Dublin 15 and the number of election posters being erected is overwhelming. A number of candidates are putting these posters up in every possible space. Surely we should have a limit to the number of posters that can be put up by a candidate? Indeed I would even suggest they be banned. They are an eyesore and contribute to the litter problem.
Diswellstown Road, Dublin 15