Thursday 20 October 2016

Pandora's box is well and truly open - but we must stay hopeful

Published 29/07/2016 | 02:30

Tony Blair talks to reporters after the publication of the Iraq Inquiry report Picture: Getty
Tony Blair talks to reporters after the publication of the Iraq Inquiry report Picture: Getty

MM O'Brien (Irish Independent Letters, July 27) correctly states that the policy of divide and conquer is foremost in the minds of the Islamist movement, which is attempting to destroy democracy throughout Europe, if not the world. The letter writer adds: "We need to return to reasoned and respectful argument based on mutual interest as opposed to retreating into bunkers."

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In my opinion, the problems European nations are facing today have more to do with the lack of responsibility from elected politicians, who in recent times have removed parliamentary responsibility by appointing a specialist or a committee to make any decision.

Christine Lagarde made this very clear after the Brexit referendum, when she said, "The people of the UK should have left it to the experts."

Brexit has opened yet another Pandora's box, as Bush, Blair and their puppet Howard in Australia did when they invaded Iraq. We should always bear in mind that Pandora did manage to prevent hope from escaping. That we must keep foremost in our minds - along with faith and charity - in these tempestuous times.

Declan Foley

Berwick, Australia

Getting one's look right for Galway

Glamorous Irish summer events like the Galway Races are under way. So starch and iron the shirt, check for the latest fashion look. Book the hairdresser. A hair colour change from chocolate to champagne? Maybe not. Highlights or extensions? Fascinators for a night-time as well as a day-time look? Practise your balance on uber-high heels. Book the babysitter. Make travel arrangements. And don't forget to make arrangements for the dog - and the cat. So much to consider. And that's just for starters - that's just for the men. Times were simpler when men were men.

Joseph Mackey

Athlone, Co Westmeath

Religion in primary schools

The mantra that Irish primary schools spend up to two-and-a-half hours on faith formation each week has developed in the media. This is misleading. In the Irish primary school system, because of the "integrated curriculum", faith formation can and often does permeate the entire school day. This doctrinal "integrated curriculum" renders an opt-out from faith formation virtually impossible, in effect nullifying the conscience provisions contained in the Constitution and the Education Act 1998.

It has been well documented that the lack of objectivity and neutrality in the teaching of the integrated curriculum has resulted in the involuntary indoctrination of children. The virtual impossibility of exercising a right to opt out from faith formation is compounded by the fact that around 96pc of primary schools are under the patronage of religious institutions, resulting in a situation where the right of children and parents to opt out of faith formation is null and void in much of the country.

In its 1996 report, the Constitutional Review Group noted the "unsatisfactory nature of the constitutional situation created by the near monopoly provision of denominational education and the rights of minority believers".

It stated: "If a school under the control of a religious denomination accepts State funding, it must be prepared to accept that this aid is not given unconditionally. Requirements that the school must be prepared . . . to have a separate secular and religious instruction are not unreasonable or unfair."

Successive Irish governments have ignored the group's recommendations. Religious education is, in the context of the Irish primary school system, an oxymoron.

It is not provided in an objective, critical or pluralistic manner that avoids indoctrination (imagine, for example, if children learned about economics through the prism of socialism "as if it were true", or biology through the prism of creationism "as if it were true"). It crosses the line from objective information and places undue emphasis on the patron's religion and therefore crosses the line from education to indoctrination.

The oft-made distinction between 'religious instruction' and 'religious education' is (in the context of the Irish primary school system) a false one. This game of linguistic smoke and mirrors has to stop. They are both forms of faith formation, AKA indoctrination.

Rob Sadlier

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

A poor choice of presidents

The 2016 US presidential election has offered the world a choice between a demagogue or someone mired in controversy and unable to send secure emails. Trump wants to make himself 'great', and Clinton wants to make herself 'great' again. What a rotten choice. God help the rest of us for the next four years.

Dominic Shelmerdine

London SW3

Questions about questions

With regard to Colette Browne's article regarding parliamentary questions (Irish Independent, July 26) I had occasion to ask our local TD to put two parliamentary questions to the Minister for Health on July 2, 2015, because the HSE could not or would not explain why my father's Medical Card was withdrawn. (My father is in his mid-nineties.)

The text of the first question (26847/15) sought the general views of the minister on how a public body (the HSE) in receipt of public funds and which operates under his aegis should interact with citizens with whom it is charged to serve, and the second question (26890/15) sought general statistical information on how the HSE was getting on with what the Taoiseach led the Dáil and the public at large to believe it was going to do.

Both questions were answered by the Minister of State, who said: "The Health Service Executive has been asked to examine this matter and to reply to the Deputy."

Can such a response really be compatible with Article 28.4.1 of the Constitution, which provides that, "the Government shall be responsible to Dáil Éireann."

As citizens we have put in place a Constitution that provides, inter alia, that we elect fellow citizens to represent us in Parliament (Article 16.1.1 and Article 16.1.2), those whom we elect are charged with electing a government or executive from its ranks (Article 13.1. 1 and Article 13.1. 2), and the government is responsible/answerable to us, the citizens, via our representative (Article 28.4.1).

While the answers from the HSE when they were eventually received (July 28 and November 9, 2015) were unsatisfactory, one has to wonder why it was necessary - and indeed, was it appropriate for the HSE to "examine" the minister's views on how it should interact with citizens and "reply to the Deputy"?

While I can fully see the logic in the minister consulting with the HSE about his response, the HSE itself "examining" and responding directly to an elected member of parliament would appear to be incompatible with the meaning and intended purpose of Article 28.4.1, quite apart from being beyond logic in my view.

Patrick Houlihan

Douglas, Co Cork

Irish Independent

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