Let's choose our politicians on the basis of merit, not gender
Regarding Liz O'Donnell's enthusiasm for quotas and gender balance (Irish Independent, January 24) in various fields including politics, etc., surely the most rational and common-sense model to adopt in these and other fields is a gender mixture, but with the emphasis on ability and expertise rather than gender per se and so not tied to rigid gender balance and quotas?
By the way, the term "gender balance," which Ms O'Donnell uses rather loosely, implies a male/female ratio of 50:50.
Now, however persuasive arguments about "critical mass" may sound, it remains a fact that quotas are contrary to equality of opportunity (correctly defined), and introduce a restrictive practice into a selection process that will inevitably shift the main focus onto filling the quota, most likely by whatever means are easiest for all concerned. This is not a recipe for choosing the best candidates on the basis of merit. However, as the main purpose of the exercise seems to be ideological, this probably doesn't matter much to proponents of "equality."
In any case, our current political system does not encourage the best and brightest of either sex to enter politics - the brief and unfortunate political career of top economist George Lee (who was one of those who warned against the excesses of the Celtic Tiger when that phenomenon was at its height, only to be ignored by the political establishment) comes to mind - and tacking a gender quota onto this system won't improve matters.
Another aspect of Ms O'Donnell's article is that she - like almost all proponents of "equality" - focuses exclusively on the position of women. This prompts the question: what about the large and growing gender imbalance in the teaching profession - with its implications for the academic performance of boys - which has widened from a male/female ratio of 40:60 in 1971 to 26:74 today (at primary school level the ratio is 14:86 - no "critical mass" there)? It would be interesting to know the views of Ms O'Donnell and other proponents of "equality" and gender balance on this matter.
Athboy, Co Meath
We're victims, not heroes
Last week the hard-pressed Irish people had to endure another session of patronizing and nauseating back-slapping codology when the IMF chief Christine Lagarde hailed the Irish people as heroes while being cheer-led by her tea boys and girl, Enda, Brendan and Joan, along with her "good friend Michael".
Unfortunately, the Irish people are not heroes but victims of an inept banking system and financial treason aided by developers, speculators and a self-serving, uncaring political class, whereby their debts were undemocratically foisted onto the shoulders of present and future generations. This has resulted in widespread social deprivation, increased taxes and cuts to vital services, along with massive emigration.
Far from being welcomed with open arms and treated like royalty, Ms Lagarde and her fellow travellers of austerity should have been turned back at the airport.
In reality, Ms Lagarde, with her €7,000 handbag, is a financial hit-man for the IMF and its cohorts.
On enquiring how women in Irish society are doing at the moment, instead of asking Joan Burton, Ms Lagarde should have vacated the luxurious surroundings of Government Buildings and gone among the real people of this country.
That experience could have given her food for thought before she jetted off to the Davos version of the Galway tent, where she was meeting up with the wealthiest people in the world. The ones who probably lost their bets in Ireland but who got bailed out by the Irish people as a result of the policies pursued by Ms Lagarde and the IMF, helped by our past and present governments.
In essence, the Irish people are victims of selective austerity and betrayal, whereby those in the golden circle were protected.
Templeglantine, Co Limerick
State's hard choices on Aer Lingus
One of the top ten safest airlines to fly with, healthy profits and route expansion - Aer Lingus is flying high! The Government has some serious thinking to do on the latest IAG offer.
Aer Lingus provides much-needed connections to London Heathrow from Belfast, Dublin, Cork and Shannon. If IAG were to take over, naturally assurances would be given that the slots would be maintained for their current use. However, IAG would only be obliged to do this for a three-year period, similar to when it took over BMI British Midland.
IAG could possibly then deploy those slots on more lucrative routes, such as to the US, China or to the Middle East. Where would this leave our island nation? What effect would this have on inward investment? What effect would this have on jobs, not to mention the job losses that would surely occur at Aer Lingus itself?
The Government shareholding could net the State some €348m at €2.60 per share. This might cover an overspend in the HSE for one year at best (though estimates put this at €510m). Short-term gain could lead to some long-term pain. Caution is advised because once the shareholding is gone, it is gone.
Malahide Road, Dublin 17
Varadkar's U-turn on family
Just over four years ago, Leo Varadkar told the Dáil, "Every child has a right to a mother and a father and as much as possible, the State should vindicate that right. That is a much more important right than that of two men or two women having a family."
That was a very clear and profound statement which left no room for ambiguity on the matter. Fast forward to last Sunday morning and his interview with Miriam O'Callaghan and the subsequent chorus of chirps and tweets, mostly in his favour, from all the usual quarters.
Surely the minister must realise, however, that his determination to push through this referendum has very serious and negative implications for children as a whole. The debate is, after all, about the value or lack of it which we attach to motherhood and fatherhood and the preferential treatment which should be due to the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman as opposed to what in my view, is the artificial concept of same-sex marriage.
It seems to me at any rate that his misguided notion of equality cannot be achieved without deliberately inflicting the loss of a mother or father on innocent children.
M O Riada
Tralee, Co Kerry
People are born gay
As a retired primary teacher who taught junior classes for many years, I am amazed that it has taken so long to recognize the fact that we are not all born with the same sexual tendencies.
In the early 90s, I attended a course given by a well-known education psychologist. At the end of that course, I asked him some questions regarding some students I reckoned were born gay.
These were children aged from four years upwards. The psychologist questioned me about these children's backgrounds, place in family, parents' personality, whether there was a domineering father and docile mother, etc. As far as he was concerned, these children were products of their upbringing. I didn't agree with him.
Life has moved on for us all. Three of these young men are openly gay, one is married.
These young men were born different. Neither I, nor the educational system under which I taught, could help them. But as their teacher, I could only encourage them to be themselves.
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