Sir - Today, March 8, is the United Nations' designated International Women's Day.
We should ask whether this is just pointless tokenism, given how relatively little progress has been made towards genuine equality for women internationally and even in Ireland.
Internationally, we have seen the US and Nato wage wars of aggression across the Middle East and north Africa using bogus humanitarian excuses, including liberation and equality for women.
The US has just signed a peace deal with the Taliban, who are now likely to regain power in Afghanistan after almost 20 years of war, in which women and children have suffered catastrophically.
Have the women of Libya been liberated by the Nato overthrow of Gaddafi? Have the women of Iraq or Syria been liberated by the UN, or by the UN's most powerful members?
Or has the UN stood idly and powerlessly by as its most powerful member states wage wars in contravention of the UN Charter?
In Ireland, some equality has been achieved, but not nearly enough, especially in areas such as equality of earnings, the numbers of women in politics, and especially the almost total exclusion of women from the leadership of the Catholic Church. It's time to stop this tokenism and create real equality for all.
It's especially long past time to end unjustified wars where women and children are by far the most victimised.
Sundays will never be the same
Sir - When I heard the news about Brendan O'Connor I was shocked. Surely this brilliant writer could not be leaving the Sunday Independent for RTE?
I was sure he was just messing, so I convinced myself that the news of his departure was 'grossly exaggerated' and the writer himself had just taken artistic liberty to scare his readers, me in particular. Roll on to next Sunday's paper and all would be explained. And it was, by Barry Egan in a most eloquent and heartfelt article. Yes, Brendan was leaving. It was all true. Sundays would never be the same.
You often meet a person you are familiar with through the media while walking the streets of Dublin - and in fairness to them, they cannot be grinning, waving and chatting to every individual that recognises them.
However, one day about two years ago, I was walking along Nassau Street with the husband and I spotted Brendan striding in our direction through the throngs. It all seemed to happen in slow motion.
He was chatting away on his phone, but as he came up to us, my husband pointed at him, and said: "There he is now."
Well, despite being occupied on his phone he gave the pair of us a big beaming Brendan smile.
Yes, he is a 'people person' - and I was delighted to also read in Barry's article that Brendan will still write for the Sunday Independent. So all is not lost.
Thank you, Brendan, for the wonderful witty writing.
Glenvale Park, Wicklow town
I loved your GAA street hurling story
Sir - I just had to put pen to paper to say how much I really enjoyed your article about the street hurlers of West Belfast.
It really shows you how hard times were in Belfast - and thank god how much better they are. We have a lot to thank the GAA for. Dermot Crowe is nearly as good as Paul Kimmage!
Parteen, Co Clare
What became of soldier on duty?
Sir - With regards to last Sunday's iconic photo in the sports section of the two boys playing hurling on the streets of Belfast. What about the other prominent person who made that photo so iconic?
Has he also got a family? Is he still alive? What is he doing now?
As we move on from the Troubles, should he not be included in your article?
Portlaoise, Co Laois
Ban cash to prevent the spread of virus
Sir - With the arrival of the coronavirus in Ireland, we need to review our hygiene standards.
While this virus is in our midst I suggest we ban the use of money. How often have I seen people in delis and cafes preparing food with gloves on their hands - and then taking payment without replacing them before serving the next customer.
Martin Concannon, Ballinrobe, Co Mayo
Rugby match ban is an own goal
Sir - Does it not defeat the purpose of cancelling the Ireland v Italy Six Nations rugby match on medical grounds, while at the same time allowing hordes of Italian supporters to spend the period in Dublin hotels as potential virus carriers?
This decision is a sick joke, and puts the country in grave danger of shooting itself in the foot and scoring one the biggest own goals in sporting history.
Cloonacool, Co Sligo
Stop these junkets during virus crisis
Sir - Later this month many of our elected politicians will fly off on their annual junkets to the US and other parts of the world as Irish taxpayers pay for them to stay in fancy hotels and pick up the tab for their plane fares and meals in posh restaurants.
They desert their posts to be with strangers, rather than with the people who elected them into the Dail or county councils.
This year these junkets are even more insulting as they travel during the coronavirus shutdown. I plead with them to stay at home and ask the caretaker Government to cancel not only their trips but also the St Patrick's Day parades.
They should declare a national emergency and put the country on shutdown, keeping foreigners out and us in until the crisis is over. Things are not normal. Let the politicians stop pretending they are.
Bring these Irish treasures home
Sir - I received the Sunday Independent of February 23 yesterday, while visiting my daughter here in Austria. It was ordered by my son in England and then posted from Sweden.(I'm not quite sure what the cost of getting your paper to this tiny corner of Austria is, but it does keep me up to date with the news from my adored homeland.)
I write to commend the article by Emer O'Hanlon about Irish treasures kept - often stored away - in the British Museum.
I accept some items were bought and presented by well-meaning benefactors but they are Irish treasures of historical value lodged in a foreign museum. I suggest it is high time we got these treasures back where they belong.
Put a time limit on government delay
Sir - It beggars belief to see two inadequate ministers, one in health and the other in housing, have been re-elected as TDs. Who can say they won't resume their roles in the new government?
Legislation should be introduced instituting a limit of three weeks from the election to form a government. Failing this, another election should take place. Furthermore, if a TD wants to change parties, they should have to face the electorate in a by-election.
Clonskeagh, Dublin 14
Let our current leaders carry on
Sir - The present difficulty in the Dail could be resolved by leaving the present Government in situ for a year or two. It would obviously need votes from the opposition to pass bills and budgets. Nothing undemocratic about that, though.
The only alternative would be a national government involving all, or most, parties. I would not be in favour of that as it would involve endless wrangling.
I suspect the highest priority for some TDs is to secure cabinet posts for the sake of the pay and prestige, the national interest being a secondary consideration.
I am 86, and have been a Sinn Fein supporter all my life, but I am favourably impressed by Leo Varadkar. I do not see him as a tower of wisdom but he strikes me as a nice young man: competent, sensible, well-meaning and trustworthy.
I imagine many people would be happy to see him continue for another year or two.
Adare, Co Limerick
Politics is about emotion, not data
Sir - Michael Bloomberg made the fatal mistake of equating political success with data. But politics is about emotion, as Biden and Sanders amply demonstrated.
Always was, always will be.
Stillorgan, Co Dublin
It is time to end the hare's agony
Sir - I enjoyed Joe Kennedy's fascinating piece on the peculiar habits and culinary tastes of our native Irish hare (Sunday Independent, March 1), a creature feted in literature and Celtic mythology and which took pride of place on our threepenny bit back in the days when the euro wasn't even dreamt of.
But I lament the way this gentle and inoffensive creature has fared at the hands of misguided humans. A hare despatched by a clean shot or killed on the road might die quickly, but death can be prolonged and agonising when the animal is wounded.
Joe recalls hearing an injured hare emit an "almost human cry". I have heard that haunting sound, likened in verse and song to that of the banshee of Irish folklore, but not while walking in the countryside. It assailed my hearing at coursing events I attended as an observer for an animal welfare group.
One minute the fans are laughing and cheering, marking their cards, urging on the dogs they've backed... then silence as the hare's cry rises, piercing the winter air like a siren.
In 1993 and again in 2016 I hoped I had heard the sound for the last time when bills proposing a ban on coursing were tabled in the Dail. But these were heavily defeated.
Muzzling greyhounds only made the cruelty less visible. Instead of pulling the hares apart, the dogs can pummel or maul them, crushing their bones.
I note that among the newly elected TDs are quite a few who say they oppose hare coursing and would vote for a ban. I hope they can make that a reality so the Irish hare becomes a truly protected species, not one fair game for cruelty. It is time to call off the dogs.
Callan, Co Kilkenny
Accepting Garda should be a must
Sir - Diarmuid Scully's report (Sunday Independent, March 1) states: "A public statement from Sinn Fein that it recognises An Garda Siochana and the Irish Defence Forces as the only legitimate police and military in the State would help."
Would it not be better if such conditions were obligatory on any future Taoiseach and his or her party, before they assume power?
I would also expect that future references to the 26 counties should be the Republic of Ireland, as stated in The Republic of Ireland Act 1948, not "this State" as it is called all too often.
Dundalk, Co Louth
Whiff of humour in the home town I love
Sir - On a lighter note away from Brexit, Government and all the sad news in the papers.
During our long hot summer of 2018 (will we ever see one again?) I was on the beach for the day walking with my dog, swimming and sunbathing. Late in the afternoon I decided to go to town, about 7km away, to buy a new garment to go with my tan - as I was going out for a meal with some of my friends.
I put my sun-dress on over my now dry swimsuit, packed up my bag and off I went.
I got to the shop and went in the open door. As I passed two young girls at a dress rail, one shouted to the other: "Hey Mags, did you get the smell of Tramore from the 'Wan'?"
I laughed as I paid for my new top. I said to myself: "What a lovely Waterford accent!"
I have lived here all my life, over 70 years - and I love the place.
Pride aplenty in Irish war effort
Sir - The article by Prof Patrick Joyce of Manchester University in last week's Sunday Independent raised an aspect of World War II history rarely mentioned here in the Irish Republic - namely, the contributions of Irish people in Britain.
The day before I read the article, I had been in a central city cafe having coffee with a Jewish friend of mine. Talking about the war, he said had Britain been occupied we would be speaking in German today, ruled by a barbaric regime. During those perilous days, Britain stood alone, vulnerable to the Nazi menace which had conquered most European countries and patiently awaiting the instructions of America to commit and defend the civilised world.
We should be proud of our Irish and Northern Irish citizens who remained in Britain at this time - the nurses, engineers, builders, military servicemen, who contributed in the war effort along with people from the Commonwealth countries. Also, the unsung heroes, Irish seamen on the convoys in the perilous waters of the Arctic delivering vital supplies to an endangered isle.
Rathfarnham, Dublin 14
Farmers may have field day at polls
Sir - Maybe it is silly of me to write to you a month after the election, but here goes anyway.
I noticed that there were a great number of spoiled votes in every area (as far as I can make out, the highest number were in Laois and Tipperary). Nationwide, the total count was 18,427 - so there is a need to inspire people how to vote. Maybe TV or schools would enlighten them.
Also I saw that only two thirds or so bothered to vote at all - 2.2m voted but 1.3m didn't bother. There was no IFA or Macra candidate in any constituency. It might be an idea to resurrect a Clann na Talmhan - rather than going up the town with a lot of tractors.
Think about it, farmers, next time tell the people how to vote.
Maigread Ni Murchu,
In a jam with driver-only cars
Sir - While crawling through M50 rush hour traffic last Wednesday morning on my way to a college football final in Westmeath, I was absolutely amazed at the amount of cars with only one occupant.
Congestion increases vehicle emissions and degrades air quality. Can you imagine how much more environmentally friendly it would be if there were four occupants in more of the cars, taking three cars off the road?
As well as the obvious benefits to the environment it would also help hugely with traffic jams.
Would there not be a case for allowing cars with more than four occupants to use the bus lanes so as to encourage car pooling and help everyone get to work less frustrated and have more parking available in the city?
Johnstown Road, Dun Laoghaire