* Suicide among young people over the past few years has reached epidemic proportions, particularly among young males. This is immensely sad.
During my lifetime, and I am 62 now, the changes in society have been immense. When I was a child back in the 1950s and 1960s, we had one part-time radio station and a few newspapers. There was no TV until the mid-60s and the internet was unheard of.
Families were often very large, living in modest two- or three-bed houses with as many as nine or 10 children. Mothers worked in the home and the fathers were the bread winners. Very few people had either phones or cars.
There were very few social supports, so if the father was unemployed, very often poverty was rampant. Emigration to the UK was a very big factor.
It was really only in my generation that second-level education started to come in on a limited basis and in 1969 the then minister for education, Donogh O'Malley, introduced free second-level education up to Intermediate Cert level and free school transport.
During my time in school, all schools and most hospitals were run by religious orders and were extremely well run. We were a very religious country and our faith was at the core of our lives.
However, as Ireland came out of a dark economic period and our country's finances started to improve, social supports improved and expectations for material possessions greatly increased.
TV was a major factor in showing us how people lived in other countries and we started to focus on what was wrong with our society. As is usual when very big changes occur, there is a strong tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water and when it came to religious observation, huge numbers of people gradually opted out.
But the absolute truth of our existence has not changed one bit. We are still eternal spiritual beings and when we exclude God from our lives a huge vacuum is created, which simply cannot be filled by material possessions.
For the last 20 to 30 years, we have tried to operate on this basis and we now see a huge emptiness in people's lives and a huge level of confusion.
Dunmore East, Co Waterford
CHILDCARE AND MIGRANTS
* AkiDwA (the African and Migrant Women's Network in Ireland) very much welcomes the Interim Report of the Childcare Law Reporting Project.
Since 2006 we have expressed concern about the number of African children requiring state care or intervention. Protections and supports for unaccompanied minors, trafficked youths and those abandoned are of major concern for all. On the other hand, the report also highlighted instances where some cases did not need to go to court and where greater cultural understandings and appropriate training could have helped.
A key area of concern for AkiDwA has been the mental well-being of parents within the asylum system. It would appear to us that the longer they are left in a prolonged state of uncertainty, the more likely they are to fall into depression. This, of course, impacts on the care given to children.
AkiDwA now feels that a closer examination of the reasons that African children are taken into state care is needed.
* Regarding the gay marriage proposals, I'm glad we now have something to take our minds off the property tax. The timing is perfect.
DON'T FEAR DEMOCRACY
* How sad to hear that the Irish people are unable to deal with the 'stress' of too many referendums. When we had two questions to answer on one referendum our poor little brains couldn't, it seems, cope with the 'complexity' of it.
It brought to mind a presidential election in the US I once attended in one of Georgia state's 132 counties. Having been signed in rather grandly as a "foreign observer", I saw that the ballot paper contained not only the one federal question ("who do you want as president?") but no fewer than 33 other state and country questions, right down to who do you want as sheriff, who as headmistress of the local school etc.
It seems the electorate had no problem coping with those 34 questions. Apparently, America has a peculiar political system called democracy, whereby the people, rather than politicians, decide how their own state and county are to be run and use every opportunity to ask the people, who seem to be able to manage 34 "referendums" all at once.
And we poor Paddies cannot cope with just two for the whole country? Or is it possible the politicians tell us so in order that they make all the decisions and keep us well away from true democracy?
William F (Liam) O'Mahony
Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny
STOP GLORIFYING WAR
* Remembrance Day. What purpose does it now serve? Are we commemorating the war dead or are we celebrating British armed forces? There is a difference. Think about it.
The day was originally introduced as a reminder of how horrific war is, and that the appalling loss of life in World War I should never happen again. Having started as a more anti-war theme, does it now serve to glorify current wars?
AN ISSUE OF AN UISCE
* Enjoy water sensibly... every little helps.
CLUELESS ON BUSINESS
* I have often wondered about the decision-makers in our Government and felt some had an understanding of basic finance and some had not. I sometimes feel a lot of them would not last in the business world as they seem divorced from reality.
I heard Michael Noonan this morning. He said he would prefer if the money did not come in early as it would cause budgeting problems in 2014. If that happens, it means the 2013 Budget would be in excess of the projected take.
In my company you would be knighted for that. I can imagine the boss going to the church and thanking God he employed me.
Trim, Co Meath
* There have recently been some serious problems with the public authorities, their administrative systems and their failure to communicate. But they also get simple things wrong.
A couple of months ago I had to get a new passport and a free-travel card. For the passport, a photo taken in the local pharmacy was acceptable. For the card, I had to go to the dedicated facility in O'Connell Street.
Two weeks ago, I received a letter relating to the issue of my new Public Service Card. Here it was stated "do not send a photograph" as the one already supplied for the passport or card would be used.
But yesterday, I had to renew my driving licence. For this I had to go the National Driving Licence Service to have my photo taken by their special facility.
Apart from the inconsistencies in these approaches it is the two documents that have the less serious consequences from abuse (travel and licence) which require the most formal photo identity.
We are constantly told that progress is being made in ensuring that public services information systems can communicate with each other. This is hard to believe.
John F Jordan
Flower Grove, Killiney, Co Dublin