* There is insufficient moral consensus in Ireland to ground consideration of the country's future.
The clash of antagonistic wills, evident in the abortion debate and in current discussion of what to do in Syria or with our economy, often parades as rational debate, leaving us with little more than intensified divisions.
The latest Anglo Tapes further confirm that the management of our banks degenerated into incoherence.
The continuing drift away from the church is perhaps the most telling change. However, this is not indicative of a new paganism but a justifiable expression of dissatisfaction with a form of religion that had become radically focused on itself. Even the priests express unease at the church's sometimes neurotic fear of the slightest shift from fidelity to its programme.
For years, in religion and politics, we walked blindly into the future, drifting into a seductive state of comfort and complacency, responding with stinging aggression to those perceived as undermining this assuring world. We persisted in feeding the minimal demands of lazy minds. The Celtic Tiger blunted our sensibilities; all around us people's lives were corrupted by frantic mass acquisitiveness, as banks recklessly funded themselves with debt.
Ireland, echoing Seamus Heaney's comment on the North, was "a battened-down spirit that wanted to walk taller". Alas, it fell flat on its face, materially and spiritually.
Our new Pope has made it clear that he wants to shift our focus from the trappings of power and control in religion and politics, encouraging a form of Christianity that is modest, thoughtful and inclusive. This takes us a long way from the view that unbridled capitalism is the only secure means of salvation.
It also reminds us that economic growth without justice is not an aspiration that befits us as humans.
Oxford, OX1 4QB
* Deputy Regina Doherty, who plays Robin to Richard Bruton's Batman in Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein's combined campaign against Seanad Eireann, has described the Seanad as "toothless, elitist, undemocratic". Others say it is: "an affront to democracy"; "a waste of money; "a hotbed of cronyism"; "a nursery for Dail wannabes'; "a rest-home for failed and defeated TDs''; "unable to do anything"; "a non-contributor to legislation".
Among those whose youthful, and not so youthful, delinquencies, included using Seanad Eireann either as a 'leg-up' into national politics, or as a means of keeping their political aspirations alive – but are now deeply contrite, are: Ministers Richard Bruton, Frances Fitzgerald, Jimmy Deenihan and a whole clatter of junior ministers such as Alex White, Brian Hayes, Paschal Donohoe. Not to speak of wannabe ministers such as Pearse Doherty
At the core of Christian, and even post-Christian, charity or love is forgiveness. But central to the concept of true repentance and penitence is restitution as an 'earnest' of remorse. Therefore, it would seem morally consistent that all those in the categories indicated above should:
* Write to the appropriate Oireachtas officials and confirm that when it comes, in the fullness of time, to the calculation of their Oireachtas and ministerial pensions, their period of service in the Seanad should not be included.
* Return to the taxpayer whatever monies, emoluments, payments in kind, secretarial and office allowances etc, they received on foot of their membership of the said mad, sad, bad Seanad.
* Confess publicly – preferably on the Sacred Plinth of Leinster House – garbed in appropriate sack cloth and ashes.
Lest it should be said that only those without sin should hurl stones, pebbles, mud or venom, I hereby proclaim that not only did I serve as a member of Fine Gael in bygone days of yore for no less than 25 years, but was elected on the main panels to Seanad Eireann – and thought I was doing the State some service. (Sadly my two terms were almost instantaneous in their brevity and I did not qualify for an Oireachtas 'pinsean'.)
And now I shall return to my daily watch for the airborne pigs who participated in the recent FlightFest. Try to detect them out of the flocks of young wild geese bred and fed for export by this Government and its predecessors.
Tralee, Co Kerry
HOPE IS INTEGRAL
* With regard to recent articles in the Irish Independent (September 10), 'Time we opened all our minds to removing mental health stigma', and 'Almost half believe seeking help for depression is sign of failure', Paul Gilligan, CEO of St Patrick's Hospital, makes two very important points.
He says that "at the heart of most stigma and prejudice is fear and misunderstanding. Fear of facing up to the reality of our own psychological vulnerability often drives our stigma about mental health".
Too often in life we like to put things in boxes and find simplistic solutions for things. But life is not simple and is often a struggle, and we have great ways of coping and wearing masks. Unfortunately for some people, the conflict between the outer persona and internal distress can be too much. All of us need to be prepared to open up a little more and expose our vulnerabilities. We can help change a culture of hiding our problems.
He also says: "There was a need to promote mental health education in Irish schools and workplaces to ensure that everyone knew that recovery was possible and that those needing help did not wait to get that help." Integral to this ethos is hope. Without hope, recovery is not possible in my view.
CUT THE DEADWOOD
* For the life of me, I cannot recall a single time where the senators of this country have actually done anything for the betterment of Ireland.
They sit in their cosy little offices, and now and again a senator appears and waffles away for a time, and I'd like to add that the subject they usually waffle about is always something they know they can do nothing about. So let's call a spade a spade – they are overpaid, completely toothless, and if the bank deal is anything to go by, they would definitely be your last choice for a watchdog, I mean to say, where the hell were they?
All we need to do now is cut the deadwood and put the considerable savings into something useful, such as health, or indeed anything that benefits the Irish people.
A GENTLE NUDGE?
* Will Syria's application to join the Chemical Weapons Convention inspire the remaining dilatory nations to sign the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the Non-Proliferation Treaty, or should US President Barack Obama nudge the laggards with cruise missiles?
Dr John Doherty
Vienna 1040, Austria
DEFER LADIES' FINAL
* The decision to replay the All-Ireland final on Saturday 28 holds no logic. The GAA has shown no regard for the thousands of fans who have to travel, and for many people who work on a Saturday. A provision for a draw should always apply for the biggest event on the association's calendar.
Why not defer the ladies' football final to the following Sunday? I'm sure all sides would be happy with this.
Midleton, Co Cork