Seven years after the financial collapse in Ireland and, in the second year of a proclaimed economic recovery, are the people of Ireland better off? Hardly.
The economy is better off only if measured in all terms except those regarding the main bulk of the population.
Low income workers see their earnings eroded by the galloping cost of services, which now include a high level of rents for private accommodation to which an ever-increasing number of people are resorting - as they are either not in a position to buy a house or their houses have been repossessed because of their inability to repay their mortgages.
It is quite paradoxical that a country like Ireland - with the population of a sizable European capital city, and a country with the highest number of foreign investments in Europe (700 to be precise, between large corporations and medium-sized companies) - has really not got much to show for it.
It would be quite legitimate to expect that, with such enviable assets, Ireland should be thriving - and ticking like a Swiss clock in every respect.
Yet there is an inordinate number of homeless, an inordinate number of people on the poverty line, an inadequate health service and an extraordinary legal system whereby you are sent straight to jail for not paying a fine, but you are still allowed to enjoy life and play golf with a fat retirement pension even when there is enough evidence that you are responsible for gross misconduct leading to your country's economic and financial crash.
Besides, where does all the money go, both in the public and in the private sectors?
It primarily goes to pay exorbitant salaries and pensions for the top brass in the state, semi-state and private concerns; it goes on production bonuses, the most ridiculous ones being those paid to bank executives as a reward for contributing to the economic crisis and the likes.
It goes on appointing costly and futile special tribunals and commissions of inquiry which only succeed in providing excellent material to fill newspaper pages and fuel pub gossip - for no one is held accountable and, if necessary, punished.
Paraphrasing a joke, the real culprits were not there - and, if they were, they were sleeping.
Concetto La Malfa
It is true that the real meaning of Christmas transcends its religious connotations, its symbols, the gifts underneath decorative trees, glimmering red bulbs hanging from the branches, Christmas cards, the snow, turkey dinners and street orchestras playing and singing Christmas carols.
It is beyond that. Christmas is a charitable event, it offers us the chance to donate money to the less fortunate around the world - those who are experiencing the ravages of war, grinding destitution and political, economic, social, environmental and religious upheavals. Then there are also those suffering the wrath of floods, hurricanes, mud slides, sand storms, terrorism and climate change.
For many Christians and non-Christians, Christmas will be a distant dream, and turkey dinners may be only a wishful thought - not a reality. That's why Christmas can be a catalyst for hope, healing, social cohesion, cultural strength and religious vigour.
So let us all celebrate the birth of Jesus, and invoke his passion in each one of us. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
London, NW2 7QY
'I don't want to be treated by someone in a hijab', said a patient in Tallaght Hospital (Irish Independent, December 10).
Thankfully, since 2005, doctors of the Muslim faith - along with their colleagues in Beaumont Hospital - have with the utmost professionalism and kindness treated my illness, thereby extending one's life expectancy beyond all expectation.
Such racist behaviour is unacceptable and worthy of condemnation.
Clontarf, Dublin 3
I am a professional in full-time employment. I have a tracker mortgage. I don't drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. I go to the cinema on a Wednesday night as tickets to see a movie are €5.
Recently, I got my bills for motor tax and insurance. I used to drive a 1.8 but have changed to a 1.2. I could only afford to pay my car tax for three months. I also received my bills for my home insurance, alongside the property tax.
After much consideration I paid property tax, as it will be taken from my salary if I didn't pay. I haven't yet paid my water rates or TV licence. I am in debt due to the management company fees for my apartment and, at present, cannot see how I can address this situation.
I believe I am one of many who, despite earning a reasonable wage, have been financially bled dry by our Government and the decisions that they have made over the past number of years.
Name and address with editor
The Met Office insists on saying that the weather is unsettled. In my view, the weather has been very settled for the last few weeks, and it seems, for the immediate future. It is settled with continuous wind and rain.
Gary J Byrne pointed out, if somewhat sarcastically, that, by technical definition, a baby is not a baby until it is born (Irish Independent Letters, December 10).
It is true that by technical definition it cannot be called a baby until it is born; it even excludes those within seconds from birth.
Since Mr Byrne asked for "respect for the facts", I hope he will give the following facts their due respect: That from the moment of conception, human life has been created. The heart begins to beat 18 days after conception and a few days later it is pumping blood through a closed circulatory system. Eight weeks on from conception all body systems are present and the unborn reacts to touch.
As Mr Byrne said, "respect is a two-way street and needs to be earned".
Dunleer, Co Louth