Country needs to grow up and eliminate political nepotism
* According to Ian O'Doherty (Irish Independent, April 28), Gabrielle McFadden's claim to a Dail seat is based on 'a promise' she made to succeed her late sister, Nicky McFadden TD, shortly before she died.
It would seem that a Dail seat is to be regarded as a family heirloom; a chattel that can be bequeathed with less formality than a legacy in a will, which is at least signed and witnessed; and that Ms McFadden is counting on the mystical inertia of a distracted electorate to fulfil her ambition.
There are 24 TDs in the Dail who are connected to family dynasties and 13 of these directly succeeded a close relative in winning a seat, reflecting a strong culture of nepotism embedded in the Oireachtas.
The familial nature of this culture is further aggravated when TDs employ relatives as drivers, assistants and advisers in sinecures funded by taxpayers. It is from these foundations that parish pump favouritism and chicanery flourishes.
How can Ireland ever evolve as a transparent and ethical meritocracy when nepotism drives our political system? Would the public good, for example, be enhanced if county managers, senior public servants and heads of state organisations were allowed to slither their close relatives into privileged positions in order to succeed them?
It is time for Ireland to grow up politically and for the electorate to think more carefully about the severe limitations of these family dynasties. No new thinking will ever emerge from a system that only looks defensible to people who are related to each other and whose span of accountability and vicariousness does not transcend their own tribe.
GLENAGEARY, CO DUBLIN
MAGNA CARTA'S 800TH BIRTHDAY
* On President Higgins's recent state visit to Britain, I think it would have been appropriate if Runnymede near Windsor had been part of the itinerary.
It is the place where the Magna Carta was agreed and signed in 1215. It is the embryo from which our modern democracies and human rights grew. The principles of liberty came from Runnymede. The US Supreme Court has ruled that its democracy and Bill of Rights have their foundation in the Magna Carta.
Next year will be the 800th anniversary and all the great democratic leaders will be there including President Obama and, I hope, we will be well represented too.
SOUTH CIRCULAR ROAD, CO LIMERICK
DON'T RUSH NEW CURRICULUM
* Regarding 'Quinn should teach these wolves a lesson' (Irish Independent, April 27), first, all three unions did not treat Education Minister Ruairi Quinn with disdain. The TUI listened respectfully.
Also, that "They earn more than €60,000 a year on average, take three months' paid holiday, have protected pensions, and jobs for life", is simply not true. I do not know one teacher who earns €60,000 a year.
The teachers I know are taking extra jobs in order to supplement their incomes. Also, I know several teachers who have gone from school to school because of the 'casualisation' of teaching. It is virtually impossible to get a permanent role in today's climate.
The main reason teachers are up in arms over Mr Quinn's new plans is because they care about the future of education and don't want to see a new curriculum rushed in without adequate planning.
AL AIN, UAE
MY GOD, IT'S UNBELIEVABLE
* God exists in the minds of people only, because no human has ever produced a scintilla of proof that a god or gods exist or ever did exist. We now know that the Earth is billions of years old, and science has proved that life forms started about four billion years ago.
Of all the millions of species of life that exist on Earth man in his present form is a very recent arrival and we represent less than 10pc of all life on this planet; insects represent about 80pc of life here.
Man has everything in common with animals – he reproduces in the same manner; he must eat, drink and breathe to stay alive; he has the same internal organs as an animal. All life is related, and all living things on Earth, from microbes to elephants and everything in between, will die, decompose and turn to dust.
Man has invented and worshipped gods from the dawn of time. It is amazing that so many people choose to live in total ignorance of the workings of nature and of the world around them even when it is beamed into their living rooms and explained to them in great detail by some of the greatest naturalists and scientists of our time, such as David Attenborough and others.
BALBRIGGAN, CO DUBLIN
LABOUR'S MADE ITS BED . . .
* What's wrong with Labour? Where has its vote gone? . . . Frankfurt?
Eamon Gilmore is under pressure from a colleague who represents nigh on half of the country geographically at European level, which doesn't really look good for a man who represents the people of a Dail constituency at a national level.
The party is certainly under political pressure. Is it because the Government can't hide behind the troika any more? Is it because the traditional union vote has collapsed following a High Court decision to prevent a mandated strike from taking place while a 'Labour man' sits in the office of Tanaiste? Is it, to put it very simply, as my child might say, people don't like Mr Gilmore any more?
The way Ireland works is very simple. Politicians put their faces up on poles, seep into the conscience of the nation and get elected. The unfortunate side-effect of this is that the Irish have become used to putting faces with policies.
ATHENRY, CO GALWAY
* Every cloud has a silver lining . . . the introduction of water charges may have deodorant manufacturers rubbing their hands in glee . . . or indeed raising their arms.
BEAUMONT, DUBLIN 9
A SAVINGS LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
* An Post published its results for 2013 on April 24. The annual report says the State Savings Schemes, amounting to €18bn, continue to attract large inflows of cash. It also states that these schemes account for 16pc of personal savings.
What the report does not say is that it operates under the umbrella of a 'state subsidy'. For example:
* With these schemes, there is no DIRT deducted. This is a subsidy of 41pc per annum on gains.
* There is no investment levy applied on entry to the schemes. The levy for insurance-wrapped non-state savings is 1pc on entry and for any new investments added.
* It distorts the market for bank deposits and credit union savings as these are subject to 41pc DIRT.
Why is there not a level playing field and why should some savings be tax free while others are not?
BLACKROCK, CO CORK
LEARN PRIVATE SECTOR LESSON
* As a private sector worker without any pension, no guaranteed employment and less than two weeks' holiday a year, I would like to welcome back the 27,000 teachers after their two-week Easter holiday on full pay, guaranteed jobs and pensions for life.
From the antics at your annual 'Whingefests' (conferences), it would appear many of you feel underpaid, overworked and not appreciated.
Guess what? None of the 70pc workforce I belong to in the private sector feel your pain, and any stress you're feeling will be softened by the fact that it will be no time at all until the two-month fully paid summer holidays kick in.