Friday, 19 February 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I may, of course, oppose certain ideas along the way. The announcement of the proposed arrangements for the leaving certificate this year is, it is to be hoped, a move towards certainty where there has been considerable confusion and upset. I have no doubt that some of the confusion will continue and that there will be twists and turns in the road. I am concerned about the cancellation of the junior certificate. Parents have been in touch with me to say that this announcement, made in February, will have a significant demotivational effect on their children who are doing the junior certificate. One mother told me that her daughter would effectively down tools for the remaining three months of the school year. I was accused of being insensitive for using the phrase "down tools" but it is operative in this situation. Is this the right message to send to children? It raises questions. It is to be hoped that the Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science will look at the issue of leaving certificate reform but we need to think about the State examinations in the context of all of this. Are they the end point of a holistic and well-rounded education for our young people or have they been reduced to a box-ticking exercise and a great hurdle to be overcome if one is to access college? It seems to be viewed as a political hurdle to be overcome, with the cancellation of the examinations being the Government's response in this case. We need a debate on how our education is functioning and, in many cases, not functioning.
I also want to bring to the attention of the House a study reported on in today's edition of TheIrish Times. This study found that the wish to die among older people living in the community is often transient and is strongly linked to depression and feelings of loneliness. Apart from the challenge that poses to us to address such feelings in our society, it is also a reminder to us that is what often proposed as an argument for euthanasia or assisted dying is, in fact, indicative of other problems we need to solve. I also note that a group of UN rapporteurs issued an opinion in late January with regard to recent developments regarding laws providing for assisted suicide or euthanasia internationally.