* This year is the 100th anniversary of World War I and it is natural that there will be debates and arguments on the reasons for a war that led to the deaths of an estimated 10 million soldiers.
But modern war 100 years later is equally inhumane, with a civil war on an epic and vicious scale affecting civilians in Syria. Efforts by the UN and the US, urging both sides to end the conflict, have failed.
The war is three years old and last year the UN Secretary General said 100,000 people had been killed and 9.5 million had fled their homes within Syria. This is twice Ireland's population.
This war has displaced millions of people from their homes, not knowing if they will ever return. Some are living across the border in tent cities in Lebanon and Jordan and others have moved to Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
Irish and international charities are in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, but they can't do it alone. The governments of the US, Britain, Kuwait, Australia, Japan, Russia, Norway, Italy, Finland, Canada and Ireland and other countries have sent aid.
The UN has repeatedly told the Syrian government to preserve the lives of non-combatant civilians and captured enemy forces in the regime's attacks on what it believes are enemy bases.
Thousands of refugees rushed over Syria's borders this month, claiming that they had been fired on by government jets.
Some say charity begins at home, but the Choctaw Indian people in the US looked into their hearts and sent money that they collected to our own humanitarian crisis in the 1845-49 Great Famine. They suffered, too, in their history.
President Mary Robinson remembered them at one of the many 150th anniversary of the Great Famine events in the 1990s.
COLLEGE ROAD, CORK
GOOSE AND THE GANDER
* So the Minister for Justice and Defence is being called on to resign and the Taoiseach and his Cabinet have expressed full confidence in Alan Shatter. What does history teach us about the current situation?
For that answer, one may look at Mr Kenny's statement when the last minister to hold a similar position resigned from his post. It was, of course, Willlie O'Dea. Following Mr O'Dea's correct decision to stand down, Mr Kenny said: "The refusal of the Taoiseach and his colleagues in government to demand any accountability for this behaviour was the reason that I tabled a motion of no confidence in Deputy O'Dea. Now that he has bowed to the inevitable, he leaves behind a Cabinet whose credibility is in tatters."
He added: "This debacle raises fundamental questions about the Taoiseach's willingness to enforce proper standards of behaviour in government."
To my mind, one of the iconic photographs of the current Taoiseach's tenure is the image of Mr Kenny chasing a goose. One wonders if Mr Kenny has ever heard of the saying "What's good for the goose is good for the gander."
ATTYMON, ATHENRY, CO GALWAY
GROWTH HAS HAD ITS DAY
* I greatly welcome John Bellow's response (Irish Independent, Letters February 21) to my assertion that "work is dead". Mr Bellows disagrees with me but his challenge to my viewpoint is an indication that healthy debate on a most important aspect of our future might begin.
The 21st Century is a time like no other; no previous period in history was as successful for the human race. Far from it being a 'low point', it is the highest point, economically speaking, the world has ever experienced. The balance of supply and demand has swung greatly in favour of supply. Present economic ideology has no mechanism for restraining or controlling oversupply.
Oversupply adds to the present difficulty by eliminating the great driving force of economic activity through the ages. 'Growth' is no longer needed, or indeed possible, in a situation where production has already 'grown' to oversupply potential.
This requires urgent management and restraint if business and marketing are to survive and prosper and we are to avoid constant chaos.
* The news of Health Minister James Reilly's proposal for universal health insurance (UHI) came as quite a surprise to me. That a UHI package could cost an individual over €1,600 came as a shock. That it would be mandatory and could be deducted at source from the earnings or benefits of any dissenters almost sent me into palpitations.
This is more nanny-state interference with an individual's right to choose. Is the minister so myopic he cannot see this?
PAUGHANSTOWN, DUNLEER, CO LOUTH
TIME TO PUT A GSOC IN IT?
* Alan Shatter's response to opposition questioning: GSOC it to me.
WESTPORT, CO MAYO
COLD WAR IS STILL WITH US
* The received wisdom since the fall of the Wall and the 'dissolution' of the USSR in the early '90s has been that the Cold War is over. However, the recent events in the Ukraine have thrown up some interesting questions regarding whether or not the past truly is behind us.
Ukraine is at a crossroads, having come to a showdown between those determined to keep close to its old Soviet past and those who demand a closer future with the EU.
Furthermore, this issue highlights the extent to which the Cold War still exists in may ways between NATO and Vladimir Putin's modern, oligarchical Russia, a Russia ruled by super-rich ex-USSR men.
The idea that history moves in cycles is an old one and a relevant one.
CLARA, CO OFFALY
* Surely motorists who use their portable razors at the wheel are in danger of having a really close shave?
BEAUMONT, DUBLIN 9
TIRESOME VERBAL TICS
* Am I alone in detecting a proliferation of verbal tics in Ireland?
The single most overused verbal tic is the use of the phrase "I suppose..." It may well go something like this:
Presenter: "Well, I suppose, Minister, you are anxious to see an improvement in these figures?"
Minister: "Well, Mary (Sean, Pat, George...), I suppose we have to look at the whole background" blah, blather... ad nauseam.
Another is the widespread misuse of "absolutely", when in fact, the person merely needs to say "yes".
Again, some contributors insist on the reply of "correct" instead of a simple affirmative.
If we can moderate these verbal tics, I feel I'd be right in asserting that we could well eliminate supposition absolutely, oh... going forward.
WATERFORD COUNTY COUNCIL, DUNGARVAN
NO BARRIERS TO LOVE
* It is obvious that two women or two men cannot have a child together. But it is also obvious that often neither can one man and one woman.
Does anyone have a case that is not based on the Bible, personal feelings, or on a situation that can just as easily occur in a heterosexual relationship, for barring two people of the same sex who are in a loving relationship from marrying?
WOLLI CREEK, NSW 2205, AUSTRALIA