Letters to the Editor

Not the time to ignite contentious and divisive topic of academic selection

Exceptional times require exceptional leadership. In this  respect our local politicians have for once displayed a unity and acuity now found lacking in the crass actions of  a British prime minister for whom “hoisted by his own petard” seems particularly prescient. The pandemic has serious (though not insurmountable) ramifications for education. While all reasonable people claim that our young must be shielded from undue additional pressure this is far from clear from the ruminations emanating on the matter.

This is not the time to ignite the contentious and divisive topic of academic selection, a debate which has inflamed public discourse in Northern Ireland for decades without any agreement. I find it strange that the Catholic Church now seeks to give this subject prominence during a period of unprecedented turmoil when it knows full well that not only will it cause increased tensions from which our children cannot be fully insulated but also that the potential for any ‘quick fix’ is at best quixotic.

Archbishop Martin has stated that non academic selection can be used but does not explicate how the non availability of relevant data can be overcome. Even if his suggestion did not lack the obvious weaknesses  he has not advised on the potential effects of, inter alia, nepotism.

I also think that a two-week deferment of tests lacks balance given the loss of approx three months of classroom teaching. This too has potential for  additional pressure on our young.

Can the tests not be delayed until February or March which would allow all P6 students roughly the same time to recoup lost classroom time?

It is well known that once transfer tests are completed in November  both student and teacher are not as fully engaged, so a window of opportunity exists which protects the status quo. It is then up to the education authorities and the post primary schools to step up to the mark to ensure timely results and placement. It may put additional pressure on these areas but is that not the point, to take the pressure of our young?

Templepatrick, Co Antrim


Use common sense in relation to public protest during Covid-19 pandemic

The brutal murder of George Floyd in the USwas heart breaking to see on our TV screens in the last week. The fact that such levels of racism exist in the US in 2020 is both heart breaking and the cause of deep frustration for so many of us. For a country such as ours with such deep ties to the US, to see it burn night after night with such violence is distressing. It is radically important that there is justice for George Floyd and that racism is systematically rooted out in the US but also in every other country.

It can be easier to identify racism and prejudice abroad than at home. Many people are rightly angry at what is happening in the US, but are oblivious to what is happening to Travellers right here in Ireland. We need fix our own failings here in Ireland too.

In relation to the protest our response needs to reflect the health pandemic that exists in this country. It is ludicrous for thousands of people to march in a manner where social distancing is impossible in the middle of a pandemic. It is wrong for organisers who last week called on people to protect frontline workers to this week dismiss that threat and organise another mass gathering.

It is hypocritical to say to workers, bereaved families, small businesses; “take the pain, financial and emotional of the lockdown to protect the vulnerable and frontline workers while we go out and march in our thousands this weekend. Political leaders need to have a backbone here and speak clearly.
That the CMO can clearly state that these marches are a threat to public health and the Taoiseach can’t is worrisome.

Public protest is a key element of a liberal democratic society. But common sense is also needed.

Aontú, Baile Átha Cliath


Stay safe Boris, your country needs you

There are appalling sneers and slights directed against the great leader of the British people, Boris Johnson, who has taken Britain from hoped-for EU instigated Brexit chaos to overwhelming victory in just a few short months.

When he got sick with Covid-19, the half-hearted expressions of sympathy from his political enemies and various commentators were stark in their apparent indifference to his fate.

One woman entertainer recently admitted she had wished him dead, while another funny woman opined she’d wished it had been battery acid was thrown at Nigel Farage, rather than a carton of milk shake.

This is the kind of language the self-righteous use when disregarding opposition to their own polarised views, even to the point of voicing unbridled hatred in public.

This sometimes makes the shrill commentators popular in some quarters, yet these ‘sneaking regarders’ will not openly admit to such approval. Well, guess what – Brexit is delivered and is a resounding success which has united the British people, not least for those two particular politicians.

This means the clock cannot be turned back or that the current UK political reality can be viewed as some cock-eyed notion that Boris is somehow  incapable of  great statesmanship. He has more than proved himself.

Stay healthy Boris, your country needs you.

Bantry, Co Cork


Shame the bullies

LAST week on Radio 4, the Book of the Week  'Diary of a Young Naturalist' was read by Dara McAnulty from Northern Ireland. It was written last year when he was 15. He describes beautifully the wonders he finds in nature and its comfort when he is being bullied as he is autistic. He is now world famous with thousands of followers on social media. He read his poem to 20,000 at the environmental rally in London. If this recording from his book were played in schools here, it might shame the bullies.       

Newtownabbey, Co Antrim


Walking the Rosary

In our parish, inspired by our very respected parish priest, we have a wonderful solution to the present situation of lockdown.

Casually regarded as “walking the Rosary”, anyone can partake regardless of age or ability – simply go for a walk reciting the mother’s prayer at a pace that suits one’s state of fitness. I promise it will be 20 to 30 minutes that will bring both mental, physical and spiritual
well-being. I hope many people will get rewarded as I do.

Toome, Co Antrim

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Letters to the Editor