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'What would we do here, if we were a real country?'

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Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn

* Is the Irish education system failing our children?

I have to agree with Ruairi Quinn and our progressive educationalists: in language, at least, our schools are not producing citizens competent in English!

A recent example of this was when I questioned a "yoot" on why he was cycling the wrong way up a one-way street, on the narrow footpath, at speed.

He failed to understand what I was saying to him, but was actually quite polite. Eventually he got my point but explained in a patient manner that he was, in fact, a "pedestrian". At that stage I felt we had come to an impasse as I had not the time or inclination to explain the derivation of the word "pedestrian", or try to undo 12 years of failed education, so we parted ways, with him cycling, around real pedestrians, merrily along the narrow footpath.

This linguistic failure is also evident in the "medya" misuse of two words: "systemic" and "systematic". I always find it useful to clarify this, in my own mind, with hypothetical examples. For example, there appears to be "systemic" misuse of power and privilege, usually in petty ways, by the Garda Siochana, HSE, FAS, Rehab, etc. On the other hand, we seem to accept "systematic" self-serving and misrepresentation by our treasured politicians, of every persuasion, to the extent that they appear not to be able now to recognise or repeat a plain and unspun fact.

In all honesty, I am saddened that I now assume politicians, and their spokespersons, when they make a statement, misrepresent true facts (not lies, of course). Worse, I suppose, is the arrogance in refusing to make any comment on real, urgent national issues to the "proles" (sure, they wouldn't understand anyway).

In conclusion, it is our own fault for the civilisation we have allowed evolve, but now is the time to rectify our society.

A good first step would be if our elected representatives started from scratch, looked at each and every possibly corrupt, and certainly incompetent, aspect of national governance, and asked themselves, "what would we do here, if we were a real country . . .?"

Frank Quinn, Dublin

WHEN SPORT TAKES A BACKSEAT

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* Like most people, I was shocked and saddened when I heard about the disgusting graffiti on the bridge dedicated to Liam Whelan. As a Liverpool fan, but more importantly as a human being, I am appalled that anyone could do something like that in the name of any football club. Liverpool Football Club has received, more than any other club in recent years, the full backing and support from other clubs and their fans in their search for justice for the 96.

I was alive for neither the Munich Air Disaster nor the Hillsborough Disaster, but one of the most enduring aspects of both disasters is the way in which grief transcended the normal footballing divisions and rivalries. These disasters were recognised to not only be "footballing tragedies" but human tragedies. True football fans know that regardless of which team you support, there are things that are much more important than that rivalry.

At no time is this more obvious than on the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster which was acknowledged and remembered so poignantly yesterday, not only in Anfield, but in Goodison, Old Trafford, Parkhead and numerous other stadiums and homes across these islands and beyond. Football fans from all clubs paid their respects to those who lost their lives going to see the team they loved to watch play.

Bill Shankly famously said that football was not a matter of life or death, but that it was much more important than that. Shankly didn't get much wrong in his long career, but I have to disagree with him on that.

Niamh Breheny, Westport, Co Mayo

TRINITY CREST DEBACLE

* Based on the highly logical reasoning found in the late Douglas Adams' important text 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy' (Ch 6, p52), the following theological argument can surely now be made:

"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies Faith and without Faith I am nothing."

"But," says Man, "the recent removal of the Bible from the crest of TCD is a dead giveaway isn't it?"

"For," continues Man, "the symbolic removal of the Bible from the very institution which has been vouchsafed custody of the ancient and wondrously illuminated gospels, known as the 'Book of Kells', simply must involve levels of irony vastly in excess of those that can possibly be generated even by the senior management of an institution evidently determined to become notorious as Ireland's foremost TCD (Third-level College of Dunce-craft)."

"Oh, that little 'rebranding' matter," says God nonchalantly. "Well, since it is well-known that I am the Cork team's most fanatical supporter, I can in fact admit to feeling secretly pleased that on the playing fields of my beloved Ireland the letters TCD shall henceforth stand for "Tipperary Colours Denied".

"I demand!" says Man, "that You engage in a serious theological discourse with me! . . . so less of the enthusiasm for mere sporting matters if You please! Now, it is, in fact, quite clear that the irony levels involved in the TCD (Trinity Crest Debacle) are so mind-blisteringly high as to conclusively indicate the existence of infinite irony.

"Furthermore, since we now know from cosmological observation that the Universe, while expanding, is finite, any infinite quality (even ironically, irony itself) must have an infinite source, and, if we are to take our monotheism seriously, that Source can only be You, God.

"Therefore," says Man, "I must inform You that your existence has now been officially TCD'ed – Theologically Completely Determined. For, by tapping into vast and infinite irony, TCD (Those Complete Duffers) have, quite accidentally, managed to prove that You exist , and so therefore, by Your own arguments, You don't. QED."

"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

Stan Reynolds, Macroom, Co Cork

CONCERN OVER CHARITY TAX BAND

* Concern Worldwide greatly appreciates the generosity shown by readers of the Irish Independent.

If everyone in the country signs and returns the form that Concern has posted them, the aid agency will have an extra €4.58 million to continue its life-saving work.

If you are a PAYE tax payer and have given annual donations of €250 or more to Concern in the years, 2010, 2011 and 2012, Concern can claim back money from Revenue on your donations. And it doesn't cost you a cent! In recent days you have received a letter from Concern about this.

For people on the standard rate of tax – 20pc, Concern can claim an extra €63 from Revenue for every €250 donated. On the higher rate of tax – 41pc, a donation of €250 is worth an extra €173. The tax is calculated on your gross earnings, which means Concern actually receives more than the 20pc and 41pc.

From 2013 Revenue put a new system in place. There is a universal rate of 31pc return on all donations above €250, irrespective of your tax band. This applies to both the PAYE and self-employed sector.

Please read the letter you received, sign the form and return it in the envelope provided. You don't even have to put a stamp on the envelope.

Call 01-417 7777 if you have any questions or check online at www.concern.net/tax.

Conor Doyle, Concern, 52 Lower Camden Street


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