* The moment of truth has arrived for this Government – particularly for Labour.
During the Celtic Tiger glory years, medical cards were flung around like snuff at a wake, many to persons and families who exceeded the official eligibility criteria. From the viewpoint of accounting and administrative rectitude, these cards should be reviewed and withdrawn.
However, there is a massive political problem. Some of these people have grown older, suffering all "the heartache, and the thousand natural shocks, that flesh is heir to". Others have seen their relatives become dependent on the card. Some, considerate of the body politic, have shuffled off the statistics and relieved their relatives with the aid of the bereavement grant, now to disappear.
The case would be open and shut were it not for the fact that significant numbers of the "comfortable" have not experienced the suffering of the recession. They will not even notice the extra 50 cent on wine.
In the early stages of the Famine in the 1840s, the prime minister, Lord John Russell, said it was not the role of government to feed the people. Correct, according to the ideas of the time. Over the years, successive governments modified this stance, goaded somewhat by the steady disappearance, through hunger, disease and emigration of three million of Her Britannic Majesty's Irish subjects.
Healthcare is one of the areas in which the difference between the well-off and the not so well-off is most marked.
When Labour signed on for this Coalition, it did so largely because the balance of opinion suggested it was its duty to do so, in a national emergency. But from the start it was made clear (on the symbolic issue of a third rate of tax for those on more than €100,000 incomes) that this Government would shield the "comfortable".
There is no simple answer to the problem of the medical cards. Nevertheless, Labour must insist that the review be paused, pending an objective examination and the formulation of a demonstrably politically equitable solution.
Tralee, Co Kerry
* I am a 24-year-old independent adult living in Dublin. I am currently employed, but will be let go at the end of next month. I have a degree behind me and an uncertain future ahead.
I left my home in Tipperary a few years ago in search of further education, further prospects and independence, as did the majority of my peers, most of whom have now emigrated.
I have had numerous minimum-wage jobs that I am over-qualified for, many of which I have struggled to survive on as they were zero-hour contracts – employers taking advantage of desperate young people in search of work.
In your paper, Eamon Gilmore was quoted saying that a big reason for cutting social welfare for under-25s is that many of the parents of the Dublin South West region do not want their children sitting in front of flat screen TVs seven days a week. Isn't it well for them?
I do not have a TV, never mind a flat screen one, because I cannot afford a TV licence. I do not go to the doctor when I am sick, because I cannot afford it. I am struggling to survive in a country that clearly doesn't want us here as independent adults, unlike the dependent darlings living with their mammies and daddies in the Dublin South West region that Mr Gilmore is referring to. The decision to cut social welfare to €100 is forcing me and many of my peers either abroad or into a state of human regression.
I will continue to struggle in a country that is creating one black hole after another for us, the result of which will force us to take the road more widely travelled these days, abroad.
YOUNG CHASED ABROAD
* I was appalled on hearing the Tanaiste's remarks about not wanting our young people "to be permanently in front of flat screen TVs''.
It reminded me of Maggie Thatcher's ploy in the 1980s of blaming the unemployed for being unemployed. It is a clever ploy that detracts attention from the unemployment crisis.
Saying our young people should be in training rather than on the dole while simultaneously ratcheting up college fees is ironic.
Being in my 20s and fortunate enough to work full-time and save for my post-graduate study, I can safely say our generation is keen to get going. However, this Government is ensuring that the only way most of us can get going is via the airport.
Maynooth, Co Kildare
* I congratulate the Government on its decision to reduce the threshold for medical card entitlement to those who are over 70.
However, I feel the Government has an obligation to protect the rights of a single pensioner who lives alone and who has the same financial commitments as married/cohabiting couples; but if their gross income exceeds €26,000 – €500 a week or €70.15 a day (this equates to the minimum hourly rate for an eight-hour working day) – they are not entitled to a medical card. Surely the Government should compensate the single person who lives alone by increasing the threshold requirement for a GP-only card by 20pc?
Leopardstown Road, Dublin
EQUALITY UNDER ATTACK
* How much longer can we put up with continued attacks on equality in Ireland? We have witnessed the closure or merging of bodies that were set up with the sole aim of giving equality within the State at least a chance of growing.
Yet the Labour Party has stood by while the following has happened: the Women's Health Council was closed in 2009; the Crisis Pregnancy Agency was merged with the HSE; Gender Equality Desk, Department of Education, closed; Higher Education Equality Unit, UCC, closed and merged into HEA; National Women's Council of Ireland, with 158 member organisations, has seen budget cuts of 53pc since 2008; Rape Crisis Network Ireland had core health authority funding removed in 2011; National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism closed since 2009 and not re-opened by Labour; Equality for Women Measure, co-funded by EU Operational Programme Budget, partly transferred out of this area and now under the Department of Enterprise.
A nation should be judged on the level of equality in its society, yet this Government has clearly set out to attack equality. Enough is enough.
* In your recent Budget coverage, your correspondent mentioned an interview with some politicians. A Fine Gael minister is quoted as saying that "Joan has f***ed him over and Howlin has f***ed him over''. Later in the article there is a quote from another TD saying "Ya know Reilly got a bum deal", and the expression "screwed over'' was attributed to yet another deputy. Could this be true?
These are some of the people we elected to represent us. We expect politicians to be articulate and have a reasonable vocabulary – they should not be using language more appropriate to a pulp fiction novel.
If these politicians spent more time doing what they are paid to do (whatever that is) and less time watching 'Love/Hate', we might occasionally see intelligent debate.
Celbridge, Co Kildare