Why is despair in an older person treated so differently? Why is every other avenue, including gold-standard pain management and palliative care, not explored?

No compassion when those with terminal illness made wonder if they are burden

Macedonian schoolchildren have their hands disinfected on the first day of the new school year in Skopje. Photograph: Robert Atanasovski/AFP via Getty

Troubling studies from other countries suggest we might be behind the science

If the calculated grades delivered to the class of 2020 were a verdict in a court of law, they would be set aside as unsafe. Photograph: The Irish Times

Not only are the calculated grades a debacle, the Leaving Cert exams designed as an alternative are unfair, too

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was considered too tame and too incrementalist for the feminists of the 1990s.

They are lighting Ruth Bader Ginsburg votive candles now, but it could have been so different

Most people are unaware that FET courses already have better retention rates than higher education. File photograph: The Irish Times

Undervalued system offers lots of opportunities to progress to higher education in Ireland and abroad

Darknet offenders were quick to spot weaknesses in controls on the web during lockdown and to exploit them. Photograph: Bill Hinton/Moment/Getty Images

Lockdowns have led to weaker online oversight by tech giants and agencies

Henry Street: Mask-wearing is primarily about protecting others. A decent society should be willing to make sacrifices to protect others who are more vulnerable. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Face-coverings will be with us for some time. Be compassionate and use one

Senator from California and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris. In mid-August, the Wall Street Journal reported that Harris met with approval by Wall Street. Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

If you want to see America’s political future, you need to look back

If outbreaks are to be managed in schools the way they have been managed in nursing homes, direct provision centres and meat plants, there is little to inspire confidence. Photograph: George Frey/Bloomberg

As schools return, ongoing test delays will cause virus to spread unchecked

The funeral of John Hume at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry. Photograph: Stephen Latimer/Getty Images

Church is still living off a legacy of being a much stronger cultural force

Young people’s mental health will suffer if schools remain closed, never mind their education. Photograph: iStock

Getting schools open is a nightmare but remaining open is the bigger challenge

The Department of Education is entitled by law to compel schools to create special classes for autism.

Everyone agrees that children with autism have a right to education. Underfunded, overcrowded schools need significant investment (...)

A re-education camp for ethnic Uighur in Hotan, in China’s Xinjiang province. Photograph: Gilles Sabrié/The New York Times

China’s re-education camps and its persecution of religious organisations rival dystopian fiction

Christopher’s parents want to know where the tragedy of their son appears in the abortion figures. File photograph: Getty Images

Christopher was aborted on grounds of fatal foetal abnormality, although perfectly healthy

Emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic, there is an opportunity to explore different ways of working. File photograph: Getty Images

Incoming government needs to address our destructive long-hours culture

If we want to protect generations to come, one possible vaccine for the environmental crisis is learning some lessons from the current one, if only for the sake of our children’s children. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Climate change remains an abstraction for many in Ireland, but not for those suffering in Africa

One of the key reasons for going back to school is to resume productive interaction. Social distancing will make pair work and group work almost impossible.

Principals need guidance and funds to help pupils as social distance rules likely to shift

President Donald Trump holds a Bible outside St John’s church in Washington, DC, on Monday. Part of the church had been set on fire during protests the previous night. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

Bible was never meant to be used as a way of signalling to a target demographic

Those students who choose or are able to go on to further education will enter institutions radically affected not just by the pandemic but by a decade of underfunding.

Even when results are out, uncertainty will not cease for those leaving school

In a new documentary Norma McCorvey says that she was always pro-choice and that she was paid by the religious right to make anti-abortion statements. Photograph: Reuters/Shaun Heasley/File Photo

Norma McCorvey, aka Jane Roe of Roe v Wade was exploited by elements of both sides

This year’s Leaving Certs  have been battered by the backwash of the pandemic. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

This year’s Leaving Certs have been the focus, but incoming sixth, third and first years also need concern and planning

Seán O’Rourke, who retired from RTÉ this week. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Broadcaster showed rare understanding of centrality of religion in people’s lives

Last Sunday, the annual Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock, including a Youth pilgrimage, took place with people staying at home – 11,257 of them. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Rather than being in opposition to real community, virtual experience fosters it

A sign in relation to Covid-19 stands at the entrance to a nursing home in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Neglect of nursing homes during coronavirus pandemic has had disastrous results

Irish students might think predicted grades are the best solution until they get the results. If they feel they are unfair, what then? Photograph: Peter Thursfield

Global pandemic prohibits easy answer to question of when to hold final exams

Cardinal George Pell was acquitted of charges of historical child sex abuse by the high court in Brisbane, which quashed his previous six-year prison sentence on appeal and ordered his immediate release from jail. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/EPA

Quashing of Cardinal Pell conviction underlines need for safeguards

Pope Francis giving the Urbi et Orbi blessing on March 27th at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. Photograph: Vatican Media/AFP via Getty

The Pope praying before an empty square will linger as an image of this pandemic

Remote learning is now demanding that teenagers spend many hours in front of screens. Photograph: iStock

Teens are being actively encouraged to spend hours a day on screens. How do we keep a balance?

Given that some people are worried about whether they will be alive at the end of the Covid-19 outbreak, a change in exam conditions begins to take on its proper significance.

Minister’s announcement to award full marks for orals and practicals has caused shock

Jean Vanier abused women who came to him for spiritual direction, an egregious crime.

In the midst of such darkness, how can one find the light?

Demonstrators take part in a global youth climate action strike in Barcelona, on Friday. Photograph: Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

Breda O’Brien: Young people are paralysed with fear about the planet, and we must take action

Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman, Eoin Ó Broin, and the party’s leader, Mary Lou McDonald, with a street trader in Moore Street in Dublin, on Monday. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA

The general election was won by outsiders who know how to listen to the excluded

Early-childcare providers, educators and parents took part in a protest in Dublin on Wednesday calling for greater government investment in the sector. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Social engineering caused by tax individualisation has come at a heavy cost

The Taoiseach with Senator Catherine Noone. ‘She made outrageous statements about Leo Varadkar being autistic and tried to make it better saying she did not mean it literally.’ File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Public funding and media visibility stack the deck in favour of ensconced political parties

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín: party has raft of pro-family policies encompassing everything from housing to regional development. Photograph: Tom Honan

Aontú offers pro-family policies to bring much-needed real change to Irish society

Junior Cycle reform was under-funded and the same is likely to be true of the Leaving Cert.

Breda O'Brien: Education will only become an election issue if voters choose to make it one

Qassem Suleimani: killed in US drone strike in Baghdad. Photograph: EPA

We should question the morality of killing any person, even those supposed to be evil

Dark: Even though the series is set in a town, everybody walks, runs or drives through the forest at least twice a day.

Episodes of Dark can make you notice stark German and Irish cultural differences

Advertising storm: Adoring middle-class wife gazes in reverential rapture upon her husband – the Peloton bicycle gift-giver.

Allegedly sexist commercial unwittingly reveals phenomena far worse than the offence

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has been a disaster, not just because of this dismal electoral result but because of a complete inability to read the public mood. Photograph: Getty Images

Research reveals two tribes who intensely dislike each other, and who are not terribly informed about each other

In rare cases, a non-detected twin with a genetic condition may have died in the womb and the test picks up that DNA, not the living twin’s.

Limitations of non-invasive, pre-natal testing are ignored by opinion-formers

The plight of Christians in Pakistan illustrates some of the reasons why the West should care about Christian persecution. Photograph: iStock

Secular institutions need to end their neglect of 245 million Christians who face extreme persecution

Fine Gael election candidate Verona Murphy. Photograph: Patrick Browne

Between extremes of open borders and xenophobia, there is a generous Ireland

‘However inadvertently, by citing Wojtyla in this way to make this point, Dr McAleese attributes to the author the very opposite position to the one that he holds.’ Photograph: Tom Honan

Former president should say she never intended to imply Pope John Paul II endorsed marital rape

Some adults are not willing to admit there is any downside to pornography, even as it normalises violence in sexual relationships and becomes progressively more misogynistic.

Ethical porn is doomed. Child protection needs legal and cultural change

The Vatican criticised the theft from a church and discarding in the river Tiber of statuettes representing a pregnant naked woman. Photograph: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

The Amazon synod focused on the wrong solutions to very deep problems

An anti-abortion activist demonstrates outside Parliament Buildings in Belfast on Monday during a special sitting of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

Sinn Féin and DUP show abortion ranks higher than nationalism or unionism

A total of 7,429 children and teenagers are waiting for appointments with a public-health psychologist. Photograph posed by a model: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Chronic underfunding and understaffing need to be addressed

Cardinal John Henry Newman ‘ministered patiently to the poor immigrant Irish in his care in Birmingham’. Photograph: AP/Catholic Church

Prelate failed to establish a Catholic university and Irish education is the poorer for it

The emergency department at St James’s Hospital in Dublin: “a different sort of purgatory, a grim one with security personnel and an air of healthcare professionals stretched to breaking point”. Photograph: Alan Betson

Do we have Stockholm syndrome that makes us accept appalling conditions?

Dr Wim Distelmans took a study group to Auschwitz. He said euthanasia is killing out of humility and unconditional love and he wanted to study a place where killing took place for the opposite reasons. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty

Medical killing is motivated not by love but cold functions of sexism, ableism and ageism

A smart board replaces blackboard and chalk: if a child is interested in planes, that interest should be nurtured with toy planes, books about planes, binoculars and aviation posters. Photograph: Eric Luke

Puny capitation grant deprives children of materials and forces staff to fundraise

The late Fr Tony Coote. His ‘Walk While You Can’ across Ireland brought people out in droves to cheer on this vulnerable and yet somehow indomitable priest. Photograph: Dave Meehan

We now draw a distinction between the deserving and undeserving believers

Activating our empathy may be a potent antidote to that learned helplessness, says Breda O’Brien. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

The complicated ethics of trying to live sustainably cause some of us to just give up

Sixth year students at Muckross Park College on their last day of school alongside nuns: The convent is irreplaceable. Photograph: Carl O’Brien

Far from corrupt religion, these nuns inspired as strong female role models

British  prime minister Boris Johnson outside 10 Downing Street. Modern Britain is a society in deep trouble if Johnson’s pattern of serial infidelity is now the norm in the UK. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

British prime minister’s living arrangements are modern sexism, not progress

Two in five under-16 children surveyed in the UK never told anyone about the worst thing that happened to them online. Photograph: iStock

Parents can unwittingly allow children wander in a treacherous online world

The Assisted Human Reproduction Bill includes provisions covering sperm, egg and embryo donation, surrogacy, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), embryo and stem cell research and posthumous assisted reproduction.

Committee prioritises doctors and academics over donor-conceived people

“In comparison with the rest of Europe, Irish people are still far more religious.” Photograph: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters

Christianity is no bulwark against new tribal identities dominating discourse

Smartphones: We blame teenagers for their addiction but parents are often just as addicted. We call it work.

Technology giants wean us on their apps and glowing screens. It is time to take action

A panel has been appointed to review the termination at the  National Maternity Hospital. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Panel to examine abortion on grounds of alleged fatal foetal abnormality

Anna Frizelle from Sutton and Libby Behan from Sandymount, students of Loreto on the Green in Dublin 2, following the Leaving Cert English Paper 1 exam. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

As a teacher, I have always known how tough the exams are. Reform is overdue

Edward McManus of  Aontú poster:  a moderate party with a social justice agenda being ignored by the media. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Trump bluster mops up media coverage at expense of small social justice parties

Although grief and loss are universal, grief is still a deeply lonely place. Photograph: iStock

We often fail to recognise that grief can result from major losses other than death

Divorce is painful and costly on an emotional level but it also costs the exchequer a huge amount of money. People’s mental and physical health deteriorates.

Government embraces divorce when it should help low-conflict wedded couples

Yes campaigners during the abortion referendum count at Dublin Castle last May. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

If the trend continues, more than 5,000 preborn children will be dead

Aontú’s Peadar Tóibín. It helps that the party has a real vision for fairness in everything. Our country desperately needs an alternative to the establishment’s entitled stagnancy. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Voters who care about the right to life must send a message to smug pro-choice parties

Election posters in Dublin, May 2007. Such posters  are unsightly, intrusive and damaging to the environment. Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA wire

Posters have downsides but online targeted advertising has serious drawbacks

Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Christian who spent eight years on death row for blasphemy. Photograph:   British Pakistani Christian Association

West often neglects anti-Christian bias, seeing them as unenlightened leftovers

 Notre Dame cathedral following the fire on  April 17th.  While Christians worldwide long for its  restoration, ultimately it will not have been saved at all if it becomes merely a ghost of a cathedral. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The cathedral touches the longing for something more in all of us. It must be rebuilt to honour the reason it was built in the fir(...)

People who know their history are far less easy to manipulate and are much less susceptible to propaganda in all its manifestations.

Educationalists marginalise history as a subject out of short-term utilitarianism

Expecting people to plump for a different model of school in the absence of any certainty shows a scary lack of insight by the Department of Education. Photograph: Christian Hartmann

Despite media messages, Catholic parishes are mainly benign presences in schools

‘GPs are already over-worked, highly stressed and leaving the profession in droves.’ Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

Doctors’ group is demanding members fall into line without expressing their concerns

Fibromyalgia is not a well-known illness and, until relatively recently, was often written off as a hypochondriac woman’s disease because it afflicts far more women than men. Photograph: Thinkstock

Fibromyalgia sufferers want the State to recognise the many costs associated with it

Lisa Smith from Dundalk (to right of taoiseach and Chief of Staff)  converted to Islam and moved to Syria. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Lisa Smith is emblematic of a problem facing many countries – how to integrate radicalised Muslims

French president Emmanuel Macron: wants an expansion of EU powers in exactly the kind of way that makes many Europeans feel alienated.  Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP

Breda O’Brien: Macron exemplifies elitist privilege that alienates people from EU

Pope Francis. “If the church is to have any credibility, it must be matched by radical, irreversible reform from the very top.” Photograph: Ettore Ferrari/EPA

Clerics in denial about abuse should learn from failures in Ireland and US

Anti-abortion protesters continue a vigil outside a Marie Stopes abortion clinic  in London. File photograph:  Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

A UK council thinks women should be protected from people offering leaflets on abortion

Revenue has decided to slap VAT from March 1st at the highest rate of 23 per cent on probiotics. And on all health supplements, everything from fish oil to vitamins.

Supplements for gut health and macular degeneration not fair game for VAT hikes

“Not only are the Leaving Cert and Junior Cert/cycle exams an industry with offshoots, but so are the mocks.” Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill

Lack of exam system reform does not explain stress levels endured by students

'The idea that relationship and sexuality education can be delivered in an objective way that is free of values is absurd.' Photograph: iStock

The State wants to force religious schools to go against their ethos on the issue

Nick Sandmann, a student from Covington Catholic High School, stands in front of Native American Nathan Phillips, in Washington DC, last week. Photograph: Kaya Taitano/Social Media/via Reuters

A smirking American teen is treated as evil personified. Where were the adults?

Benedict, at a time of upheaval in the fifth and sixth centuries, established 12 monasteries, following a rule which emphasises work, stability, prayer and hospitality. Image: Getty Images/DeAgostini

Rod Dreher believes a sixth-century saint holds the key to strong Christian communities

A 2016 Iona Institure report found that unskilled workers are only half as likely as professionals to be married – 66 per cent compared to 32 per cent Photograph: iStock

If marriage is still an aspiration, the odds should not be stacked against working class

 Matt Murphy (85) (wearing spectacles) and Michael O’Sullivan (58) pictured after their wedding at the Registrar’s Office in Dublin. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Reaction to couple’s decision to marry to avoid inheritance tax does nothing to redress inheritance injustices for others

The World Meeting of Families at the RDS in August. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

This has been a terrible year for Catholics, but it has also offered a guide to the future

German chancellor Angela Merkel and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK): AKK, the new chair of the German Christian Democratic Union, has to put up with being tagged a mini-Merkel. Photograph: Filip Singer

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s promotion in Germany has highlighted lazy stereotypes

'Kate O’Connell's comments show the new, ugly mood, where only complete submission to the dominant ideological frame will be tolerated.' Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Fine Gael Deputy's triumphalist remarks in the Dáil on abortion are the new reality

Former Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín is beginning to establish a new political movement with a broad political platform. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

There is an appetite for change and Peadar Tóibín may be the politician to make it happen

Stormy Daniels arrives at a New York court for a hearing related to Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, in April. The title of  her recent Oxford Union talk was “Sex, Guns and Other Fluff: How porn can set you free.”Photograph: Yana Paskova/Getty Images

Porn is so normalised Stormy Daniels made headlines for losing her luggage

Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron  in a replica of the wagon where the Armistice was signed in 1918, in the Clairiere of Rethondes forest, during a commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/EPA

Conflict-resolution networks required rather than European fighting force

Minister for Health Simon Harris referred to the proposal to ensure dignified disposal of foetal remains as ‘extraordinarily distasteful’. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

No pro-life amendments have been permitted in the legislation for terminations

Presidential candidate Peter Casey, “a man who had no problem kicking an already despised minority in Irish society”.  Photograph:  Gareth Chaney Collins

The condemnation of Peter Casey’s ill-informed views was hypocritical

Parenting anxiety has never been higher and the irony is some anxiety can be traced to the social media that for many is a lifeline.

Social media sets unrealistic role models while State gives women scant support

Pope Francis blesses a portrait of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Photograph: Vatican Media/EPA

The archbishop was murdered because he wouldn’t compromise on the message of the gospels

‘Humans are notoriously bad at estimating future risk. This kind of thinking is fatal when it comes to climate change.’ Photograph: John Giles/PA Wire

Western culture is in direct conflict with the urgent need to take collective action

Photograph: Thinkstock

If doctors are legally bound to act against their conscience they will leave

Plans for the Central Mental Hospital site have potential to create a housing development focused not on the market but families. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Land agency’s reliance on market rather than social entrepreneurship is not radical

Minister for Health Simon Harris: should consider whether the Irish people voted for a culture where three days to think about an abortion is considered demeaning, but a fortnight to change your mind about a toaster is a good thing.  Photograph:  Gareth Chaney Collins

Three-day ‘cooling off’ deemed demeaning and freedom of conscience under fire

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