I am a mother of five children. I work in the public service and my husband is a sub-contractor. I have two children in college and I am writing to make people aware of the financial burden that third-level education is putting on parents.
We live some distance from the college so it is not possible for our children to commute. Since September we have had to pay two student contributions of €2,750, which is €5,500, and student accommodation costs of €8,000.
This is a total of over €13,000 just for fees and accommodation for one year and doesn't include travel costs of over €50 per week and food, pocket money etc. The total cost will probably not stop at €20,000 for this year.
I often hear in the news about the cost of creches and the financial burden on parents, and how the Government should give tax relief on childcare costs.
What about tax relief on student contributions and accommodation? All we are allowed to claim back in tax is 20pc on one of the student contributions, which is just €550 per year. This is absolutely disgraceful.
After paying all our taxes, USC etc, we are not in a position to come up with this kind of money. I have taken out a bank loan to cover some of the costs and my Visa bill is now over €3,000, as I have had to use it to pay for the some of the costs involved.
We both work hard but for what? Our account is constantly overdrawn. Every morning, I log onto our online banking to check if we can use our laser cards or not.
I have no doubt that we would be better off on social welfare and would qualify for medical cards for all the family, free school transport, back-to-school allowances, SUSI grants, etc.
We had to cancel our health insurance a few years ago. At the end of each week after paying childcare costs, school costs, school buses, food, bills, etc, we have nothing left.
We simply stop being overdrawn for a few days before having to use our overdraft again.
We have both worked since we were 19 and always expected that when the time came for college we would be prepared and have the money set aside to pay for our children's' education but it has been a difficult few years and our savings of €7,000 would not even cover one year in college.
I am asking the Government to allow parents to claim tax relief on the full amount paid for student contributions and also allow tax relief on student accommodation costs. This would go a long way towards relieving the financial burden on parents who have children in third-level education.
Name and address with Editor
Women are backbone of society
I refer to Brendan Cardiff's letter, (Irish Independent, March 25).
Whilst I respect that he may wish to point out good works that were carried out by the "intrepid, heroic and determined" nuns abroad, I would like to draw his attention to a dose of reality closer to home.
I would like to remind Mr Cardiff of the women who make sacrifices every day in the normal course of their lives here and now in Ireland.
They support their families, and they work hard in their role of carers of children, parents, and spouses.
They have to battle for support for their special needs children. They fight to get back medical cards that have been taken from their sick children needlessly.
They are mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts and wives. They are many readers' family members or the woman next door. They are the very backbone of society.
These women are heroes. The survivors of the Magdalene laundries are heroes. The survivors of clerical abuse in Ireland are heroes.
These women and men are my own personal "beacons of humanity".
Santry, Dublin 9
Thank you, King Henry
Much will be written about Henry Shefflin in the coming days and for long after that.
However, no words will do justice to Henry's immense talent and hard work, nor could they, because his modesty wouldn't allow it.
The best we can do is to simply thank him for his contribution to Kilkenny hurling, the GAA and Irish sport. He can truly wear his crown now. Thank you, Henry.
Shanbough, Co Kilkenny
Education's crucial role
Laurels to David McWilliams (Irish Independent, March 25) for illuminating the nobility of teaching as a profession, and the indispensable role played by teachers in igniting our propensity for enlightenment, and promoting creative thinking, hope, wisdom and opportunity in place of low aspiration, failure and alienation.
Schools and universities are places which should be encouraging the free and open exchange of ideas, thoughts and opinions within an amicable environment.
These are places with a unique mission to combat societal blights from anti-Semitism, Islamphobia and other forms of prejudice and racism to poverty, truancy, sexual violence, harassment and unemployment with all the weapons at their disposal in order to create a fairer and more equal and diverse societies.
We should aim for excellence and educational renewal and opportunities for all, not elitism and bad selective measures.
Talents exist in each of us - the mission of schools and universities is to nurture this talent for the betterment of human race.
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
London, NW2, UK
Rugby thriller will benefit all sport
Heartiest congratulations to the Boys and Girls in Green for the range of superb qualities, from skill to resilience, which led to both Six Nations titles.
Congratulations also to the players and coaches of all 12 teams who proved that the ability to play with 'Gallic flair' has not been forgotten - even by the French!
While a Grand Slam would of course have been welcome for us Irish, perhaps fans globally should commend Wales for the immensity of their performance in Cardiff.
Without their tackle-record display a week earlier, rugby and sports fans worldwide would have been denied the thrills and spills and variety of emotions which only the unpredictability of sport irrespective of shape or size of ball or colour of jersey can provide.
With sport offering the wonderful opportunity for favourites to be humbled and smaller teams and nations competing against their larger counterparts, can I propose that last weekend's 'Best Supporting' award go to TV replays, which had an impact on all three key games.
This perhaps never-to-be- surpassed sporting spectacle of six hours plus clearly illustrates that it is not rules but mindsets which prevent us all experiencing rugby played with pace as much to the fore as physicality.
After all, it is sport played with a preference for attack over defence which fills stadiums.
People well beyond our six nations will be grateful that last weekend it was not only rugby but all of sport which was the real winner.
Terenure, Dublin 6