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Lockdown hurts our kids

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'On behalf of primary schoolchildren in particular, I beg the authorities to please try and open the schools for even a few weeks before the summer holidays' (stock photo)

'On behalf of primary schoolchildren in particular, I beg the authorities to please try and open the schools for even a few weeks before the summer holidays' (stock photo)

'On behalf of primary schoolchildren in particular, I beg the authorities to please try and open the schools for even a few weeks before the summer holidays' (stock photo)

Sir - Our over-70s spoke and were listened to about their cocooning. They now have the freedom to leave their house and go for a walk. It was a victory for common sense.

No such concession for the nation's children. They have been cooped up in their homes and not allowed to play with their friends and not allowed to see their grandparents.

On behalf of primary schoolchildren in particular, I beg the authorities to please try and open the schools for even a few weeks before the summer holidays. They need to enter some type of normality in their lives and then be able to take normal summer holidays. It would be feasible to have the schools open for one or two weeks of July.

This youngest part of society has paid the price of this virus - even though they do not seem to be as susceptible to it themselves. It should now be time to look after them and thank them for their efforts. Every child in the country just wants to get back playing and interacting with their peers.

Has anyone suggested the psychological effect all this will have on our young people in the future? Please re-consider the postponement of schools' return until September. Please.

Or will we realise too late that this is just not fair on our little ones?

Catherine Dodd,

Clonsilla, Dublin 15

Too weary to fight retirement?

Sir — Seldom do you hear of people employed in essential services such as a nurse, a bus driver or a bin collector, etc, challenging their retirement on the grounds of ageism before the Labour Relations Commission.

Is it because, unlike working in places such as RTE, these jobs are low paid and physically demanding?

Mick O’Brien,

Springmount, Kilkenny

This is no time to be playing doctor

Sir — In economics, the principle of comparative advantage refers to the ability of an individual to provide services at a lower opportunity cost than someone else.

It is a straightforward economic concept. Likewise, a CEO does not do the photocopying.

So why is our Taoiseach playing doctor during an unprecedented emergency?

Reamonn O’Luan,

Churchtown, Dublin 14

Paschal misses a trick over pay

Sir — We were  given proof last week that we are not “all in this together”.

Caretaker Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said: “I have not experienced any of the wage increases in recent years that any other public servant, or indeed many politicians, have.”

A pay cut for politicians would have been seen as a terrific gesture of solidarity. Donohoe is on over €175,000 per annum — €79,000 more than ordinary TDs.

The more we move into the crisis, the further the “all in this together” attitude fades away.

There are a lot of families struggling to put bread on the table at this time — but politicians’ families are not among them.

The caretaker minister would do himself a favour if he thought before making silly statements about his monetary situation.  

Ken Maher,

Rathcoole, Co Wicklow

It’s the nurses we should look after

Sir — Last week Paschal Donohoe said he would not be taking a pay cut. One would have to feel sorry for Mr Donohoe that he may not be able to maintain the lifestyle that he has grown accustomed to while living from the public purse.

It is years since nurses received a pay rise.

John Reade,

Sligo

Ireland isn’t ready for predicted grades

Sir — In last week’s Sunday Independent, GP and journalist Ciara Kelly talked about education, using NPCPP Survey results to promote the idea of estimated grades as an alternative to students sitting the Leaving Cert. She quotes the fact that other countries are this year using estimated grades in place of exam results.

What she fails to mention is that UK countries are data-rich. Universities have been using predicted grades even before I took A-levels well over 50 years ago. Back then I was offered my first three university choices on the basis of my school predicted results submitted in February. 

In my years as principal of two English comprehensive schools, all teaching staff were required to submit predicted grades in February. Teachers were also issued with government-expected grades for each student. These were based on past performance of each individual students at 11, 14 and 16 and included data based on gender, month of birth, educational and economic background of parents. The predicted grades issued by teachers were moderated by subject leaders to ensure consistency within the school. They were then submitted to examination boards. 

Teachers’ annual performance management targets, including those of subject leaders and senior management, were also based on examination results. Salary progression, including those of the principal, depended on an aspect of predicted results.

Teachers in these circumstances are well experienced and competent in matters to do with predicted grades. 

Irish teachers have no experience of these procedures and from what I understand would be reluctant to get involved. I make this statement on the basis of parental discussions and observations over the past six years with teachers in the two very different secondary schools that our girls attended for Leaving Cert studies. For eight years I was also a volunteer mentor in yet a third local secondary school.

Alan Whelan,

Killarney, Co Kerry

Have faith in our wonderful children

Sir — As parents, it is vital we teach our children resilience to rise to a challenge, to develop strategies to deal with the unexpected. The postponement of the Leaving Certificate, while far from ideal, is necessary.

Our children need to do this exam to give them a sense of satisfaction, purpose, and of a battle fought in adverse conditions. It is our job to encourage them to rise to this challenge.

Their schools and teachers are adapting along with them to plan strategies for the coming weeks. As parents we too have to encourage them with positivity rather than negativity.

Ciara Kelly’s article in your newspaper last Sunday incensed me to such an extent that I had to pen this letter.

Her battle cry for boycotting the exams and argument for predicted scores will not enhance the wellbeing of any student. Rather, it will unsettle them further. They need a goal to settle into this new routine. Children adapt to change if we let them.

As a parent and a teacher, I will leave you with this: have faith in our children. Let us not hold them back. They are a wonderful generation but at this moment they need our help through these choppy waters.

Martina Kavanagh,

Maidenhill, Kilkenny

Clear information so important now

Sir — Jack Chambers argues that more needs to be done to support newspapers, pointing out that in this crisis “there is a clear and present need for high quality public service journalism” (Sunday Independent, April 26).

During this public health crisis it is vital that we have a clear channel to accurate information and expert advice. This channel is constantly being disrupted. Some spread bad information deliberately, and there are unscrupulous people around the world who do connive to exploit crises to extend their power. For them, disinformation is a weapon.

Well-intentioned people who happen to be wrong about a particular thing may also promulgate bad information. Social media amplifies this, creating confusion when clarity is needed.

Experts also err. Scientists’ understanding is incomplete and continues to develop. Journalists have a key role to play in disentangling this jumble of facts, fictions, predictions and errors.

Equally important is the clear analysis carried out in light of those facts. Fortunately, despite all the difficulties journalism is facing with new forms of media of varying quality flooding the market, there are still newspapers in Ireland and around the world where accurate reporting and robust comment endure.

Colin Walsh,

Templeogue, Dublin 6W

Numbers, unlike people, don’t lie

Sir — What is happening in Ireland is a disgrace. Our unelected Government with no mandate has abdicated all decision-making and power to medical experts, who got caught in the headlights and overreacted when they saw images from Italian hospitals in February. They feared the same would happen here.

But the same did not happen here — as Italy has the oldest and sickest population in Europe, followed by Spain. What did happen here was a massive overreaction, induced by fear.

We now have a situation where the HSE is running our country and making disastrous decisions for our economy and the lives of all our citizens, based on fear and bad data (the World Health Organisation’s 3.4pc death rate figure, is more likely to end up as 0.2pc or less).

The price we will pay in non-coronavirus- and austerity-related deaths will be many times higher.  I have always been a numbers person as, unlike people, numbers never lie.

Paul Collins,

Rathbeggan, Co Meath

Let seniors play a part with bonds

Sir — After the pandemic eases, the Government will have to borrow billions of euros. So why can’t the Government create an Irish ‘cocoonbond’. There are billions in senior citizens’ savings lying in the banks, getting a tiny interest rate.

The bond could work just like the prize bonds — and have a draw each week. In doing this senior citizens could play their part in getting the country going again.

Michael Walsh,

Blackrock, Co Dublin

Tom has lost none of his writing skills

Sir —What an enjoyable article by Tom McCaughren in last week’s Sunday Independent. Everything he wrote about his childhood on a farm in Antrim brought back many similar happy childhood memories I had of growing up on a dairy farm in south Tipperary.

The horse-drawn hay float, the unlocked doors, the frequent visits by the neighbours, the building of the new cart but especially the arrival of the grey Massey-Ferguson tractor.

The tractor, with accelerator handle on the steering wheel, was one of the most revolutionary additions to farming since the reaper and binder.

Like Tom, I am now enjoying retirement. During my working life I had the pleasure of engaging with him on a professional basis over many years.

He has lost none of his much-admired journalistic skills.

Tom Butler,

Stillorgan

Herremas’ courage was an inspiration

Sir — It was with sadness that I noted the recent death of Elisabeth Herrema, further compounded by her husband, Tiede, following her to eternity some days later.

In the Ireland of my younger self, they were both lanterns of light, hope and of no little inspiration at a very dark time in our history, even more sinister than the crisis we are now

living through.

For my generation of school-leavers, college students and life apprentices in the 1970s, there weren’t too many role models for the distinguishing qualities of courage, integrity, resilience and humility necessary to hone us into becoming responsible and ethical citizens.

It is no exaggeration to say that we were the beneficiaries of the silver lining in their very dark cloud. Ar dheis De go raibh siad.

Name and address with editor

Time to bring our UN troops home

Sir — Clouded in the current coronavirus crisis is the very unsatisfactory situation pertaining to the rotation due in mid-May of Irish troops on UN missions in Lebanon and Mali.

It was recently reported that arrangements were being made to rotate the Mali mission on schedule — but that questions remained over when the far bigger Irish peacekeeping contingent on the Unifil mission in Lebanon would rotate.

Last Monday, April 27, junior minister Paul Kehoe would still not clarify the situation on ‘troop rotation’ for families when speaking on local radio.

It seems that the Government is appealing to the UN to facilitate the repatriation on schedule in May, an appeal that seems to be dragging on for some time.

This is not acceptable and continues the disrespect this Government, now in caretaker mode, has shown the Defence Forces.

It should be remembered that our soldiers have, for the past six months, been living in conditions of lockdown with very similar characteristics to those pertaining here for the past six weeks.

They have carried out a dangerous mission focused on securing local communities in a potentially hostile environment. Little or no freedom of individual movement is permitted. Maintaining a very strict regime of activity and curfew has been the rule for the past six months.

There may be veracity in the counter-argument that this is the nature of the business soldiers signed up to — but as we are experiencing, more than ever in the midst of this pandemic, the individual cannot prosper alone. These troops, too, have families awaiting them, children counting down the days, new arrivals yet to be greeted and cuddled, while spouses, partners, parents and grandparents need to be eased of worry until the next overseas mission.

And of course lurking in the shadows of this state of affairs is the perceived possibility that we may upset the UN by insisting on the scheduled Unifil rotation and thus jeopardise the possibility of an Irish seat on the UN Security Council later in the year — something the Cabinet has been eagerly working towards.

It is time for the Government to grasp its final opportunity to do right by our troops and their families. Our national airline is currently on medical support missions to Beijing, I’m sure it would facilitate similar to Beirut.

Michael Gannon (Colonel, retired),

St Thomas’ Square, Kilkenny

Three haikus

Trump is our Nero

Tweets — his lyre. He fans flames

higher and higher

 

But, long time ago

I remember your music

always made me smile

 

Star-Spangled Banner

Statue of Liberty, you’ve

been gone a long while!

 

Chris Fitzpatrick,

Terenure, Dublin 6

Sunday Independent