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At least celebrities have tried to be positive agents for change

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Actress Angelina Jolie visits the Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan, in 2012 in her capacity as a UNHCR special envoy. Photo: J Tanner/Getty

Actress Angelina Jolie visits the Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan, in 2012 in her capacity as a UNHCR special envoy. Photo: J Tanner/Getty

Actress Angelina Jolie visits the Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan, in 2012 in her capacity as a UNHCR special envoy. Photo: J Tanner/Getty

Ian O'Doherty is right to foresee the doom of the age of celebrities' influence (Irish Independent, January 17).

It is widely known that the current refugee crisis is the biggest humanitarian calamity seen in recent history.

We witnessed the era of the lost generation, where innocents were compelled to leave behind everything - their families, possessions and memories.

Celebrities like Angelina Jolie were often seen in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq, mingling with refugees and calling upon the global community to intervene in ending the civil war which has blighted the lives of millions - and pushed them into the labyrinth of fear, disease, utter desperation, social inequality, financial terrorism and mass displacement.

No matter how noble their endeavours were, celebrities like Bono, Madonna, Ben Affleck, Bob Geldof and Ms Jolie were unable to induce any positive change in global governance, international development or economic and social inequalities.

But at least they tried to be agents for a positive change.

As Ms Jolie put it: "If we cannot end the conflict, we have an inescapable moral duty to help refugees and provide legal avenues to safety."

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London, UK

Thanks for that, Mr Obama

As Barack Obama leaves the US presidency today, I can recall his two noteworthy 'achievements' - namely his failure to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and his policies that have bequeathed the world a semi-demagogue in Donald Trump.

Although right-wing myself, I think Mr Trump and his incoming cabinet seem to be to the extreme right of Genghis Khan.

Dominic Shelmerdine

London, UK

Banqueting with Trump?

The pomp and glitz of the inauguration of incoming US President Donald Trump stands in glaring contrast to the plight of millions across Africa, where crop failure has produced famine, and to that of millions of refugees, huddled against the cold, in makeshift shelters, across the Middle East, and Europe.

Will there be a banquet?

Daithí Ó Frithile

Clonard, Co Wexford

Barack no more

Has the White House gone from Obama to Nobama?

John Williams

Clonmel, Co Tipperary

Schools of thought on religion

I don't know what school Rob Sadlier goes to (Letters, January 18), but his comments on the present state of religious education bear no resemblance to any experience of school I had.

At least as recently as the 1970s and 1980s religious education was a separate subject which one could opt out of. My parents opted me out, which meant sitting in an unused classroom with a supervisor, where I had an hour to do homework or just catch up on reading.

My supervisor probably used the time to fill in reports, etc, which they would otherwise have done in the staff room. It would not be feasible to have students "sit at the back of the class" while "not participating", as Mr Sadlier claims, as any teacher will tell you.

Religious education was never more than an hour a week at the time. I cannot imagine it takes more of the curriculum these days. It did not "permeate the entire school day". There were no morning (or any other) prayers except at occasional Masses held at various schools I went to (and again, opting out with parental consent was always possible).

There was no mention of religion in the subjects of geography, maths, physics or biology; so-called 'creationism' was not taught; religion was mentioned in history only insofar as the actual deeds of various religions impinged on world events - eg the Crusades.

In civics, religion barely merited a mention and was presented as one moral model alongside others - which is merely to report a fact of the world as it is.

Is Mr Sadlier trying to claim schools are more 'religious' now than they were over 30 years ago?

Nick Folley

Carrigaline, Co Cork

Winds of change

Deirdre Reynolds' article on etiquette (Irish Independent, January 18) reminded me of the man who belched loudly during a meal in a restaurant.

A man at a nearby table said: "How dare you belch in front of my wife?"

"I humbly apologise, I didn't realise it was her turn," came the reply.

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

North should have its say

In an interview on 'Today with Sean O'Rourke' on January 18, former Fine Gael minister of state Brian Hayes, who now represents Dublin in the European Parliament, rightly drew attention to the need for cross-party co-operation on an ongoing basis to deal with the implications of Brexit for Ireland.

One way to achieve this would be to create an all-party Oireachtas committee on Brexit, which should include elected representatives from Northern Ireland.

The present political impasse at Stormont makes their inclusion all the more urgent. Obviously, unionists would probably not wish to participate but this should not exclude nominees from Sinn Féin and the SDLP, drawn, preferably, from those elected to sit in the British House of Commons for Northern Ireland constituencies, irrespective of whether they take their seats there, on the precedent of the Oireachtas committee on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

To underpin this, the Government should reconvene the Forum on Europe, originally created to accompany the debate on a constitutional treaty for Europe to replace the Nice Treaty which led ultimately to the Lisbon Treaty.

Its running could be outsourced to the Institute of International and European Affairs.

As previously, the forum should move around the country and this time hold some of its sessions in Northern Ireland, possibly in co- operation with local councils there.

At the same time, when the Northern Executive is reconstituted after the Stormont elections, the Government should invite it to second civil servants to the Irish mission to the EU.

Ed Kelly

St Helens, Merseyside, UK

Irish Independent