Big questions for the next government

 

Sir, Further to Fintan O’Toole’s “10 big questions the next government must face” (Analysis, January 18th), perhaps a more pertinent question, which might render some of the 10 superfluous, is: What is the government going to do to eradicate the near-endemic level of incompetence in politics and the administration of government? It has become abundantly clear that our politicians and many civil servants do not have the training to equip themselves to deal with the substance of many of Fintan O’Toole’s questions.

As an Irish taxpayer, I have been appalled at the level of miscalculations and sheer waste exhibited in recent years. Cost over-runs on projects, such as the children’s hospital and the Dáil printer, are constant reminders of incompetence. There would appear to be a total absence of responsibility or accountability.

Happily this incompetence is not a national issue. In the commercial sector, Irish companies are led by executives who align with the very best internationally. But then they are trained to deal with complex management and control issues. Perhaps some of our retired senior company executives could be persuaded to provide some advice and guidance to our struggling politicians? The range of your columnist’s questions are wide and immensely complex. We need well-educated, experienced and competent people to deal with same. – Yours, etc,

MITCHEL BARRY,

Málaga,

Spain.

Sir, – I was greatly disappointed that the only reference to education in Fintan O’Toole’s “10 big questions the government must face” was to third-level education. While acknowledging the difficulties in funding for third-level education, a holistic view of investment in education must be addressed. Education at every level is a potent force for societal development and subsequent economic development. Unless the lack of funding at the other levels of education is addressed, third-level education and the aspiration to achieve it, access it and succeed in it will never happen for thousands of students.

Despite a gross lack of funding, the high ranking of Irish students in the most recent OECD Pisa report is a testimony to the dedication and hard work of all involved in education at primary and post-primary level in Ireland. This ranking is in stark contrast to the ranking of Ireland with respect to investment in post-primary education, in which Ireland came in last out of 35 OECD countries. The quality of Irish education has played a seminal role in the development of Ireland as a society and an economy. However, this gross underfunding of education is unsustainable, and evidence of this is the crisis in recruitment and retention of teachers. If government wants Ireland to survive and flourish as a modern society and economy it must increase significantly investment in education. Education must be put alongside housing, health, climate and the economy as a central issue in this general election. – Yours, etc,

DEIRDRE MacDONALD,

President,

Association of Secondary

Teachers Ireland,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s list of 10 challenges for the new government is rightly headed by the “energy” question: how are we to decarbonise the economy? Rightly, because the least difficult way to lower our shocking carbon emissions is through moving two of our highest emission producers, light transport and home heating, to electricity; that is, if the electricity is generated from a low-carbon supply.

Recent government plans rely on a huge increase in wind and solar to provide 70 per cent of our electricity by 2030. Very few of our citizens have any idea of how much of the countryside would need to be covered in turbines and infrastructure and concrete, if it were to be possible, affordable and efficient. The remaining 30 per cent to be provided from natural gas; this may well be imported “fracked” gas from the US and Canada which is most certainly not a low-carbon supply.

As a result of the renewable mantra from all government spokespeople, and through the Citizens’ Assembly, there is no public understanding of the other low-carbon, sustainable energy option to provide the basic supply when the wind is not blowing nor the sun shining: small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs), several of which are nearing completion and would be highly practical for Ireland’s energy requirements.

Over the last year a number of individuals have written to encourage an official recognition of these and an open discussion of their merits; at the same time others have pointed out the many environmental, social, and economic problems associated with wind turbines and solar panels in hitherto unspoilt areas of the countryside. One of the great advantages of the small nuclear reactors would be the concentrated energy provided in a small area while the diffuse energy provided by wind needs large areas, roads and infrastructure to provide very little – and unreliable – energy for about 25 years. – Yours, etc,

Dr ANNE BAILY,

Carrick on Suir,

Co Tipperary.