Politicians should visit Capuchin Day Centre, not New York
Redirecting the cost of the recent trip to New York to tackling poverty and promoting sustainable development (Irish Independent, September 25) would have done much to alleviate poverty in Ireland, whose roots lie in unsustainable greed. The Irish delegation would have been more informed and inspired by a day spent with Brother Kevin Crowley at the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin, foregoing the New York outing and donating the money saved to the centre.
A defining characteristic of Irish political life has always been the subtle ways the rich succeed in influencing government policy in order to protect their wealth while the cry of the poor goes unheard. Big business has for years been driving government policy and practice.
Our rulers' worship of the free market, growth and low inflation services rather than solves homelessness and poverty. Additionally, the lowering of taxes for the better-off has weakened concern for infrastructure and access to education. This drift in economic thinking reflects the preferences of the rich, leaving the rest to live in hope or succumb to despair.
One TD on the election trail when asked "What are you going to do if elected?" is said to have replied: "The question for me is, what am I going to do if I am not elected."
What seems inescapable is that the life-blood of politics is raw ambition fuelled by self-interest; more refined sentiments are for losers.
The workings of politics cannot and ought not to be free from the network of obligations that binds the rest of us. Politics and economics are not moral-free zones. They have to take into account the quality of life of all our citizens, otherwise we will perpetuate the current unequal distribution of power, wealth and influence as we continue to create and sustain an under-class who are deprived of the opportunity to develop their capabilities.
All political policies should be radically opposed unless they work equally to the advantage of all.
No place for auction politics
The pre-Budget media coverage daily highlights the demands for taxpayers' money by every vested interest in the country. At the same time, the media keep warning us that it would be irresponsible to have any element of auction politics in the run-up to an election.
To put perspective on this present contradictory democratic discourse, it is interesting to compare it with situations such as Ireland during the boom era and present day Greece.
First, we could look at the auction politics that characterised elections in this country in the past. The run-up to the post-2000 boom time elections saw significant budgetary spending increases that can only be dreamed of today.
In contrast to what is happening now, however, these were given relatively favourable media coverage then.
At the other extreme, we should all be glad that we are not in Greece.
There years of auction politics - that put ours to shame - continue to cause havoc for ordinary people. In fact, they are still taking money out of much worse-funded public services. They also had a number of bailouts and a succession of elections.
When we see our own contradictory public debates, we should remember what happened in this country in the past.
We should also remember that the Greeks cannot afford auction politics, and their media have to address a different set of complaints.
Sutton, Dublin 13
Keep tablets out of reach
Surprisingly, Finance Minister Michael Noonan thinks that "every five-year-old in the country should be given iPads".
It would be interesting being around in 25 years' time to witness the outcome of his experiment. Psychologically analysed, the idea looks daft.
Children should be free to develop and mature naturally, physically and mentally, until they are at least 10 year olds, guided and verbally interconnected with pals, parents, guardians and teachers. Only then should they be gradually orientated into digital technology.
When one observes teenagers on mobiles to friends on the footpath across the street or sitting opposite one another on a train still chattering on mobiles to distant unknowns while ignoring a friendly verbal laugh or chat among themselves, it puts in perspective the addiction. Do we want a nation of geeks and nerds?
There is no doubt that tablets will change the dynamics between young children and their parents and teachers through decreased verbal and psychical interaction.
While admiring the minister's entrepreneurial spirit and his eagerness to mould Ireland as another Silicon Valley, I believe Mr Noonan should concentrate on the Budget and deal with Irish children "our" way rather than copying his German counterpart and "good friend" Wolfgang Shaeuble.
Thurles, Co Tipperary
Mileage out of minister's lift
A minister gets a lift in a garda car from Cork to Dublin. The media get the same amount of mileage out of the story, with RTE Radio 1's 'This Week' programme on Sunday devoting almost 20 minutes to it. RTE news on Sunday gave it top billing.
All I can say is thank God he didn't get a lift back.
Clones, Co Monaghan
Allow teachers to teach
From the other side of the Irish Sea I note with bemusement the naivety of those who criticise teachers in Ireland for opposing the assessment of their own students.
Working as a teacher in England, I have seen the lack of objectivity that prevails when examination results are paramount, inspection regimes are judgemental and schools quiver under the threat of undue public scrutiny.
Colleagues of mine are routinely pressured into allowing their pupils to continually re-write their submissions, in frequent consultation with their class teacher, until they reach whatever standard is deemed to be acceptable.
The reputation of the school is at stake if the results are not considered to be of whatever standard the prevailing wisdom demands.
It is highly ironic that course work and school-based assessments are now being banished in English schools which are reverting, almost exclusively, to end-of-course examinations.
Teachers will be able to return to being advocates for their pupils without being pressured by other considerations.
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