Celebrating curious and innovative minds
It is time for the annual celebration of the curiosity and innovation of Irish teenagers that is the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE).
The 1,100 second-level pupils filling the halls of the RDS over the next three days are shining examples of what is best about Irish education: encouraging and supporting young minds to ask questions, pursue the answers and, as this exhibition has shown on many occasions over its 53-year history, produce ground-breaking research. A newer kid on the block, the RDS Primary Science Fair, is also running this week.
Pupils and their teachers deserve the highest credit for pushing out the boundaries to embrace a greater focus on student inquiry, rather than a rote approach to learning, as do all others who entered but didn't make it through.
Yes, the competition is tough because there is an abundance of talent and enthusiasm out there. We have seen previous winners take their projects to European and world stages, and return with gold or silver awards. Many have gone on to stellar careers, some as global entrepreneurs.
The exhibition is an occasion of pride for all involved. Perhaps it could be an even more exciting showcase if the education system had responded sooner to the needs of students, through the introduction of new teaching and learning methodologies and the broader forms of assessment in science that are only now coming on-stream at second-level.
Beyond what it might offer the BTYSTE, ongoing reforms are needed if more students are to be encouraged and supported in the study of the Stem subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths - subjects on which society is increasingly reliant.
Time for TDs to outline their views on abortion
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has frankly reflected that TDs' and senators' proposal, to allow abortion up to 12 weeks, does go further than many people would have anticipated. His remarks came after a two-hour Cabinet debate on this difficult issue.
Otherwise, Mr Varadkar has reserved his position in the matter for now. But he is still relying on Health Minister Simon Harris to help deliver a promised referendum on changes to the Constitution by late May or early June.
The issue has periodically bedevilled and convulsed the nation on several occasions over the past 35 years. But it is 16 years since voters last had their say on the matter, and the original Constitutional provision at the centre of the controversy dates back to September 1983.
Our politicians have been trying to make sense of the matter for the past five years. But the time is rapidly approaching when the ordinary citizens must be given their chance to decide the way forward.
It is now vital that Mr Varadkar and his colleagues keep to the timetable already set out. We need clear options outlined in a respectful and measured debate to allow people to make an informed decision.
There will be a free vote on the issue for TDs and senators in both the main parties. But this does not mean that our lawmakers can shirk their obligation to let their constituents know their stance on it.
It is up to every public representative to outline their views as part of a meaningful national debate.