While there has been much discussion in the media about reopening schools in September, there has been surprisingly little debate on what specific measures need to be put in place so that this is done safely for teachers, pupils and their families.
This will be a particular challenge in Ireland because of the relatively poor physical infrastructure in many older schools.
Here are two suggestions for consideration by the Department of Education. These are of course in addition to the obvious importance of hand washing, distancing insofar as possible, coughing etiquette and alertness for symptoms.
First, I suggest that the department should provide full face visors for all school staff and pupils at primary and secondary level. There is considerable capacity to manufacture these in Ireland and if a decision is taken now to order the variety of sizes necessary it should be possible to have them in place in time.
With bulk purchase, cost will be low. Given the timelines and urgency, lengthy procurement processes must be bypassed, using emergency legislation if necessary.
Each student and teacher should have their own dedicated visor.
For various reasons, widespread wearing of masks is not practical in schools. There is a substantial body of opinion among experts in particular in the US (see, for example, the recent opinion piece in the 'Journal of the American Medical Association')that face visors give substantial protection in particular to the wearer and also reduce spread from an infected person.
In the case of influenza virus, there is substantial experimental information that this is the case. Visors also protect the eyes, reduce the amount of touching of the face and can be worn by people unable for medical reasons to wear masks, as well as facilitating lip reading for pupils with hearing difficulties.
Secondly, ventilation is a topic which I believe has received too little attention in the context of Covid-19. I think this will be particularly important in classrooms.
Keeping windows and doors open may increase heating bills (and probably the State should assist schools with the cost of this), but I believe it could have a very significant impact on reducing infections.
National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology, Dublin City University, Dublin 9
Boxing away and writing off the over-70s is hurtful
We Irish over-70s are now a threatened species - have you noticed?
The first intimations came when somebody proposed that we should be cocooned. As if we were delicate breakable creatures, not able any more to partake in the joyous tangle of life. I wonder is it because the rest of Ireland is jealous of our free travel and the freedom we have because of it? Even with the limits imposed because of Covid-19.
Suddenly we seem to stand out. Probably it's because we look as if we are having a good time. Joyful trips abound, everywhere. Older people are being more adventurous. I belong to An Óige, which makes no exceptions to people getting out and about, no matter what their age, chatting away to each other as they walk in the countryside. Smiles all around. But I feel there is a consciousness around now which wants to box us away, as if we don't matter.
It is hurtful that we seem to be in the process of being written off. We have lived through hardship and spent our lives nurturing children and grandchildren. I feel we deserve respect and encouragement. I for one would hate to be overlooked and discarded. We have earned our places in life, and refuse to be written off. I was always one for enjoying myself to the full, even though this Covid has put a slight stop to our gallop. This is a worrying time for us all, but as a nation we are doing well in fighting the virus.
Let us hope we get through safely but spare a thought for the over-70s, who have no intention yet of shuffling off this mortal coil.
Sutton Park, Dublin 13
Jack left us with blueprint to beat Covid and Brexit
I sadly observed Jack Charlton's final journey, my mind troubled by the 'new normal' of Covid-19 and the shadow of an approaching Brexit.
But I was also reminded of a time when Jack gave us 'notions' about ourselves as a nation which could hold our own in the world, dreams we subsequently went on to realise in a manner that transcended sport to the great benefit of our personal and community lives.
While they threw away the mould when they made this remarkable man, he has left us with a blueprint of our better selves with which we can now beat the modern and immediate challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit.
The ease and appropriateness of our native expression 'Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís' with respect to this gruff Sasanach from Northumberland says much about our respect and indebtedness to the man.
Thomas' Square, Co Kilkenny
Stimulus package a weak response lacking courage
The Government stimulus package of grants, tax cuts and guaranteed loans to revive the economy represents a weak response, a squandering of the available €7bn and a waste of opportunity which will result in a low multiplier return to the economy and have little effect in healing an unjust and unequal society.
The measures proposed can be likened to a farmer sowing all his crop seed in the four farthest corners of his field, expecting harvest from a total field.
Much of this funding will not reappear and will not be spent in the economy and as a result will not create wellbeing. It is difficult to expect creative, imaginative and confidence-building measures from the prudent managers of our economy.
This Government's response is divisive and squandered the opportunity of building on togetherness, pleasing the few and neglecting the many. There is an assumption that the population has record levels of household savings and that we should be encouraged to spend, spend and spend. ('Government's challenge now is how to encourage us to spend record levels of household savings', Irish Independent, July 24).
Many have no savings and those who have are fearful of the future given past experiences of the recent crash. There is a need to put money directly into all citizens' pockets so they can be enabled to purchase the necessities they need, thus effectively reviving the economy.
The time was now for the implementation of a universal basic income which would ensure a greater return to the economy and renew society. It is not too late and ministers need the courage, belief and vision for our people and allow our society to emerge from constructed dependency.
Dromahair, Co Leitrim
Make phasing out special advisers an election issue
I am non-party political and non-violent. That said, if what is happening here happened in France or Greece there would be violence on the streets.
At a time when we simply don't have the money to do so many things which need to be done, the Government announces that there will be 17, yes 17, special advisers across the three departments of Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. This is not to mention all the special advisers across the other departments.
This Republic of Ireland has existed for almost 100 years and our parliament has functioned reasonably well for almost all of that time without a single special adviser. How? Because each minister has the backing of an entire department consisting of a secretary general and a team of civil servants. Furthermore, if you ask anyone who has dealt with any secretary general, they will tell you these people are dedicated and extremely able.
Yes, the Opposition parties are taken aback at the idea of 17 special advisers, but would they be in favour of getting rid of all special advisers? Hah, no way. They want to take advantage of the same system, at your expense, when they get into office. So, have you got grounds for complaint? Only if the electorate makes the phasing out of all special advisers an election issue at the next election.
Two final things. One, you, the voters, control what the election issues are.
Two, if you tolerate it, you deserve it.
Bishopstown, Co Cork
Time to mark O'Malley's legacy on rural education
I would like to endorse the generous comments of John M Leonard of former minister for education Donogh O'Malley on his innovation to introduce free secondary education and free school transport across rural Ireland.
This was a far-reaching announcement at a time when the country had a very primitive economy that he and his government would agree to such progressive thinking for the benefit of parents and their children.
This revolutionary vision transformed the lives of many families. Indeed, the time has come to honour his legacy.
Ballylough, Co Cork