* In my opinion, the world of international relations took a turn for the truly surreal in the past week with the extensive coverage of the US's National Security Agency's 'Prism' spying scandal.
The protestations by France, Germany and other states that their leaders' phones were "tapped" and their private conversations were listened to surreptitiously has dominated the news in Europe, the Americas and around the world. The US's international standing is now very much under attack, reeling as it was already from Russian leader Vladimir Putin's diplomatic one-two over the Syria debacle.
The allegations being made are that the US listened in on the private telephone conversations of national leaders around the globe in addition to millions of communications being sent by ordinary people, as well as financial and industrial leaders. However, I do take issue with the level of "shock" and "horror" being expressed by some critics of the 'Prism' programme.
First off, the idea that spying on friends was "never acceptable, no matter in what situation", as the German chancellor put it, is naive in the extreme. As long as there has been diplomatic relations between states, there has been spying, especially among allies. Allies always want to make sure that the people they sign treaties with won't stab them in the back in some way.
Secondly, don't we, the people, condone a simpler form of surveillance in the form CCTV in our towns and cities to curb criminality, and in the form of reality television like 'Big Brother', where, in the early years at least, sane people's privacy was invaded on a daily basis for the sake of ratings and entertainment? With the rise of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and the kind of uninhibited gossip on them, people practically throw their privacy away.
Thirdly, more than a few government leaders, like our own Enda Kenny, have the good sense to assume that their communications are being monitored by others.
A rare dose of common sense in a world going mad.
Clara, Co Offaly
DOES GOD EXIST?
* The national debate has swung to the Council of State and the notion of members having to make an oath in front of God. The question seems to be whether someone who does not believe in God should have to swear an oath on His or Her name. This opens an interesting debate on the subject of the existence of God.
So, what does science say about God? It proves His existence, of course, but in order to understand this, one must remember that terminology has changed greatly since the time that God got His name from our ancestors.
The proof? Newton's Law on the conservation of energy proves "God's" existence. It states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, it merely changes from one form to another.
Death is the changing of one form of energy to another. The lifeforce leaves our mortal coil. But it cannot be destroyed, according to Newton.
Attymon, Athenry, Co Galway
WE'RE SMOKING LESS
* Christopher Snowden suggests that Ireland's high ranking on the European tobacco-control scale hides low rates of smoking reduction here in his piece 'Why our efforts to cut smoking have been a failure' (Irish Independent, October 23).
However, contrary to Mr Snowden's claims, the prevalence of smoking in Ireland has fallen from 33pc in 1998 to 22pc today – a drop that directly correlates to measures such as the workplace smoking ban and increased duty on tobacco.
Numerous studies point to the influence that branded packaging has on young people's decisions to start smoking and highlight the positive effect that plain packaging has on smoking prevalence.
The Asthma Society of Ireland strongly supports the Government's commitment to introducing plain packaging, yet this is only one of a suite of measures contained in its Tobacco Free Ireland 2025 policy. The banning of smoking in cars where children are present; tobacco-free environments at schools, playgrounds and other public places; and smoking cessation support services are just some of the measures put forward.
Over 5,000 Irish people each year die prematurely from tobacco-related illness, and smoking affects the quality of life of many thousands more.
The Asthma Society of Ireland
* I read Marian Finucane's interview (Irish Independent, October 26) with interest. She said that a friend of a friend who was a retired professional led too quiet a life for her to contemplate retirement herself.
I have a friend who has a friend who is retired on basic pension. She gets up in the morning, goes for a long walk, goes to Mass, and then does not have time to read the paper until lunchtime because she volunteers at a local charity.
After that, she is off to deliver meals-on-wheels and then, if she has any time left, she campaigns for those on the state pension who have suffered several cuts in benefits during the recession.
I am a retired journalist (who worked abroad) and when I gave it up I was asked if I would miss my name in print every day. I replied that I would enjoy the anonymity of just being an ordinary person again, even though I enjoyed my job. Sometimes it is good for the soul to move out and let others take over and take the credit for a change. You would be surprised what fills the time!
Castletownbere, Co Cork
KEANE ON ROY
* Rachel Wyse has described Roy Keane as an unsuccessful manager.
He brought Sunderland to the Premiership and saved Ipswich from relegation. He was an outstanding footballer with a great work ethic and a credit to himself and his country.
He is also probably the best TV pundit in the UK at present.
He is not perfect – who is – but he is living a full life and is not afraid to speak his mind. He is who he is.
Vernon Avenue, Dublin 3
DEATH OF A LEGEND
* As a lifelong supporter of Dundalk FC, I was saddened by the recent death of Tommy McConville. Always good humoured and available for a "footie" chat on Oriel match nights, Tommy was one of the best players ever to lace a boot for the club.
May he rest in peace.
Beaumont, Dublin 9
TRYING TO BE NICE
* What's the difference between Ryanair and the Government? Ryanair is trying to be nice.
Westport, Co Mayo
HAUGHEY HATCHET JOB
* I read that some members of the family of the late former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey are concerned that the forthcoming TV series about him will turn out to be "a hatchet job" on his reputation (Irish Independent, October 25).
If only. I think Mr Haughey did the hatchet job himself as, in his lust for riches, he sold himself to big business. If the Haughey family were cute, they'd keep their heads down at this time and let the hurricane pass.
To many, though, Mr Haughey's reputation will remain where it rests now – in the gutter.