Sunday 23 October 2016

Politicians have little use for moral principles

Published 18/12/2015 | 02:30

Leinster House: ‘politics and moral values are invariably on a collision course’
Leinster House: ‘politics and moral values are invariably on a collision course’

Myles Duffy provides a very helpful context in which to address the question of standards in public life (Irish Independent, Letters, December 16). The 'Nolan Principles' that he details are essentially moral principles that are as old as the fields but do not sit easily with day-to-day politics.

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Politicians have little use for moral principles. When confronted with dodgy dealings, they appeal to the letter of the law, suggesting that they have not been engaged in wrongdoing. Besides, contrition is not a natural companion to their efforts. It is invoked at their peril.

Politicians talk of mistakes which they regret, not wrongdoings for which they must apologise. They dare not apologise as this implies an admission of guilt. This mirrors the banks' suggestion that they did nothing essentially wrong; they just fell short of their expectations.

In political discourse, moral considerations are for losers. Politics and moral values are invariably on a collision course.

Politics is not driven by reason and openness but by ideological thinking; this involves becoming obsessed by a set of ideas, taking them into our hearts and minds and closing the door behind us.

There is little recognition of our radical uncertainty about many things that matter. Our uncertainty is replaced by the irrational worship of the market, avoiding the many movements of the spirit afoot to liberate us from the assumption that everything has a price.

As we bid farewell to 2015, it would be a waste of our time and our lives to commit ourselves to more of the same, with politicians creating bogus differences between themselves, talking past one another whilst generating promises that are destined to be broken. We can only hope for a better tomorrow.

Moral resources do not become depleted through use but grow stronger.

Too often and too easily Ireland slipped into a preoccupation with being a Catholic country, bypassing the more fundamental need to be a Christian one committed to exhibiting humanity at its best in all our dealings with one another.

Philip O'Neill

Oxford, UK

True equality in education

I was quoted by Eamon Delaney in his article in Wednesday's newspaper ('It's unfair some parents have no choice but a Catholic school - but don't blame the Church', Irish Independent, December 16).

I completely agree with the title of Mr Delaney's article. The article does not quite say that I or Education Equality - the organisation I represent - blamed the Catholic Church for the discriminatory nature of the Irish education system when I debated with David Quinn on RTÉ radio last week. But lest this be inferred from the article's heading and from the fact that I am the only person quoted from the "equality in education" movement, I might clarify that I attribute full responsibility for this issue to the State.

The State has a duty to provide a reasonably accessible education for all children. It is also obliged to protect religious freedom. And it is not permitted to discriminate on the grounds of religious profession, belief or status. The Constitution says so, as do numerous international human rights treaties which the State has ratified.

Because of the unique system of predominantly religious-run schools in Ireland, the realisation of those rights for minority religion and non-religious families does require religious schools to accommodate all beliefs, by adopting equal opportunity admissions policies and by confining faith formation to a distinct period at the end of the school day, outside of core school hours.

It is the State which must ensure that all State-funded schools do so. I am glad that Mr. Delaney has found a school he is very happy with. But I can't agree that those who aren't so lucky are "extreme" because they don't want religious teachings which conflict with their own beliefs imposed on their children, or because they want their child to be able to access their local national school. What such parents are asking for are not "extreme" demands but respect for their basic human rights.

April Duff

Education Equality

Nativity plays and the Church

There seems to be something of a crusade developing at present against the influence of the Catholic Church in the primary school sector.

Indeed, one would almost get the impression that parents everywhere were being forced into accepting a system which they felt no part of.

Yet if you look at the numerous nativity dramas being enacted by small children up and down the country in these days leading up to Christmas, and their parents aglow with pride in the audiences, smart phones at the ready, you would have to conclude that the situation is not quite as clear-cut as the proponents of change would have us believe.

John Glennon

Address with Editor

Beware Seanad 'reform'

In her article (Irish Independent, December 15) Colette Browne complains that "despite yet another report on Seanad reform having been commissioned and published ... nothing is likely to be done".

She also asks if we have "any regrets" about keeping the Seanad.

The "reform" currently being discussed in the Seanad proposes to open up the elections to the Seanad to all citizens and to all emigrants worldwide.

That "reform" would essentially create another Dáil, and one that is less accountable to Irish taxpayers. Perhaps it is better that nothing be done.

The results of the recent referendum did indeed do the ordinary people of this over-indebted country a disservice and should be regretted.

It succeeded in maintaining the Seanad as an expensive talking shop for the insider elite and their cronies. This in a country that, when compared with similar sized nations, has too many politicians relative to its population.

How many extra hospital beds or extra houses for the homeless could be provided with the money that is spent on the existing Seanad?

Yet the senators are not satisfied. They are now proposing to set up another Dáil with a large, non-taxable electorate, thereby making it even more expensive.

We do not need a "reformed" Seanad. We already have a directly elected Dáil. We do not need another one.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin 13

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