* Now that the time is almost upon us -- and I refer to December 15 rather than the 25 -- I want to remark on one particularly cloying cliche which has done the rounds in the media generally in the last couple of months -- and that is the phrase, "waving goodbye to the troika".
For me anyway, this turn of phrase almost implies some sort of fond farewell on the part of the Irish people, crowds thronging the streets and airport with tears welling in their dewy eyes and hankies at the ready, as if bidding a reluctant, bittersweet adieu to some kindly benefactor, rather than a group of people who socialised private debt, slashed the wages and conditions of ordinary workers and who, without electoral mandate, inflicted austerity on, if hardly all, then the vast majority of Irish citizens.
There is in this choice of wording a suggestion of friendly disposition which is entirely misplaced -- but perhaps it speaks volumes about our national character. I somehow doubt whether the media of our fellow PIGS countries will be quite so benign in their analysis when their time comes to part company with the forces that inflicted hardship on many for the benefit of an elite few. Furthermore, the so-called "waving goodbye" may be, in a sense, somewhat premature as from all media reports since the announcement of the December 15 date, their malignant legacy will persist in the form of regular "check ups" on the State's finances long after they have discontinued having a direct hand in the affairs of our State.
STILLORGAN, CO DUBLIN
REGULATE MY CHARITY
* I am about to set up a charity and in the interest of transparency and accountability I will pay myself €250. My pension arrangements will be ring-fenced and I will legally bind the charity to pay me a respectable sum in, say, 20 years time. By this date, I will be weary of trying to get foot soldiers to collect money. For operational reasons, I will not disclose how much that pension shall be.
Having watched Mother Teresa and Albert Schweitzer, I can easily see why they made such little impact. Basically, they had no idea how to self-enrich. Mother Teresa picking small children out of the gutter in Calcutta: what kind of remuneration would you require for that? As for Schweitzer, he relocated from a cosy upbringing in Germany to the African bush where he even had to build a hospital. His first consulting room was a chicken coop. That was beyond the call of duty. Compare that to some who retire with millions.
As a public relations exercise, I intend to write the odd letter about some African despot whose excesses divert attention to foreign shores .
There is very little I am not prepared to do in the interests of my charity, as long as I and my trusted lieutenants are handsomely paid.
If you still harbour doubts about my project, I can have it regulated just like the banks used to be.
BLACKROCK, CO DUBLIN
QUINN'S RURAL ATTACK
* I sincerely hope that the Education Minister Ruairi Quinn reads your informative piece in yesterday's paper which clearly shows the advantages of rural life over urban life. His decimation of the fabric of rural life, by destroying small and rural schools through the pupil-teacher ratio rise, will come back to haunt him. It seems our urban minister may be "suffering in the same way as animals kept in captivity".
In rural Ireland, we know the value of living and raising our children here. We are entitled to choose to live in the country.
Mr Quinn does not have the right to bunch us into urban centres and impose his ideal of urban living on us. Some 500 small schools will lose a teacher in September 2014.
This is an absolute disgrace and Mr Quinn must be held entirely responsible.
BELMULLET, CO MAYO
DANGER OF ESB STRIKE
* I will never forget the last ESB strike. Somebody in that organisation flipped a switch and one of my patients who was on oxygen was left gasping for breath. I will never forget the fear in her eyes when I arrived at the house a few minute later. The ambulance arrived quite quickly but the damage was done, she never recovered and she died a few days later.
The number of people on all kinds of machines to help their breathing or to support other organs has mushroomed over the years.
The threat of power cuts is different for them as they must face the very real prospect of living or dying in terror.
I do not believe any trade union should be allowed to treat sick human beings like this.
BLACKROCK, CO DUBLIN
TEEN ABORTION ERROR
* In the recent article on the hypersexuality of teenagers, reference was made to the increasing number of births and abortions.
Contrary to public opinion, the number and rates of teenage births in Ireland has fallen from 2,978 births in 2002 to 1,639 births in 2012.
The fertility rate for women under 20 (the number of live births per 1,000 women aged between 15 and 20) has fallen from 19.4 to 12.2 in that same period (Teen Parent Support Programme Summary of Work 2012).
The HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme states on its website that since 2001 the number of women giving Irish addresses at UK abortion clinics has decreased from 6,673 to 3,982 in 2012, a decline of 40pc since 2001.
TREOIR, 14 GANDON HOUSE, IFSC, DUBLIN
* An Garda Siochana were viciously set upon by some unionist assembly members during a Stormont debate on the Smithwick Tribunal on December 9.
To claim that one or two or perhaps even three members of the force, sometime in the distant past, dishonoured An Garda Siochana is very unfortunate; but to suggest that gardai today are colluding with dissidents is disgraceful.
It brings nothing but shame on those who made those remarks.
When rising to make those remarks they conveniently forgot that as recently as January of this year Gda Adrian Donahoe was brutally murdered in Co Louth after a dissident republican gang crossed the border to rob a credit union.
They clearly had no respect for the memory of Gda Jerry McCabe, murdered in Adare in 1996, or his colleague Ben O'Sullivan, shot and seriously injured in the same bank robbery by the Provisional IRA.
Even as these disgraceful speeches were being made, the gardai and the PSNI were working as a team on the Border, addressing the problems of illicit fuel oil and other activities engaged in by dissidents.
Facts don't come easy to some unionists who barely uttered a syllable about state collusion in the North but now want to brand an entire police service that has served Ireland with honour since 1922 with the same tag attributed to a very small number of garda officers who, it appears, contributed to the murder of RUC superintendents Bob Buchanan and Harry Breen. Someone needs to speak out.
As a northerner who lived in a border county in the Republic during seven of the worst years of the troubles, I know from personal experience just how critical the role of An Garda Siochana was.
To suggest there was any scale to collusion with killer gangs is both disgraceful and untrue.
PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS, STORMONT, BELFAST