• Like Joan of Arc of old, Joan Burton has emerged in shimmering armour on a gleaming charger to carry the light out of the darkness, announcing that the end of austerity is nigh.
The Labour minister has declared that Ireland has "reached its limits of austerity" and that ordinary people are "shouldering too much of the burden".
At last, Ireland has reached an epiphany, our own age of enlightenment has dawned.
Not that we should necessarily discard the sack cloth and ashes, or hairshirts, immediately. No, not quite yet. But deliverance is at hand and the Government intends to make a major concession to middle-income taxpayers in this year's Budget as part of a strategy to demonstrate the era of impenetrable bleakness is drawing to a close.
It will be replaced with a new paradigm of mild flagellation and alternative adversity measures.
We can expect a significant package to recognise the sacrifices that middle-class taxpayers have endured over the past five years, through a combination of higher taxes and pay cuts.
A senior Fine Gael minister has been quoted as saying: "We have come to the point now where working people are beginning to suffer from (austerity) fatigue."
Needless to say, this minister did not wish to be named but added that: "We need to make a strong gesture to recognise their efforts and to encourage them to spend in the economy again. That, in turn, will stimulate growth."
So it's all over folks. Bring out your brightest colours. The Sean Bhan Bocht's ship has come in, and our economic fetters rent in twain. It's party time. Joan says so.
M J Gillbride
Aughrim, Co Wicklow
Sing our own praises
• When President Michael D Higgins addressed the European Parliament recently, he expressed recurring concern that the founding values of the EU are being threatened and disregarded. He reasserted the sentiment of Jacques Delors, who opined that Europe needs a secular soul – a deficit that Mr Delors attributed inter alia to a lack of interest by national governments.
The President also cited the "singular example" of three obscure European dissident thinkers as being a seminal influence on the intellectual heritage of Europe.
He offered no insight as to how Ireland, or Irish genius, contributes to the vitality of contemporary Europe or whether Ireland has been the author of any initiative whatsoever that could be deemed mission-critical to the vision of the founders of the EU, a catalyst to the formation of its soul, or its humanity.
Ireland applied to become a member of the EEC in July 1961 at a time when the nation was on skid row from an economic perspective and could not claim the degree of sophistication, prosperity and worldliness that we now take for granted.
The 50th anniversary of the iconic, address of US President John F Kennedy to Dail Eireann will be celebrated at the end of June. On that occasion, JFK proclaimed: "This has never been a rich or powerful country, and yet, since earliest times, its influence on the world has been rich and powerful".
Would it not have been appropriate, on the 40th anniversary of Ireland's membership of the EU, for our president to describe the influence of Ireland on the evolution of the EU, or must the citizens of Ireland rely exclusively on the remarks of articulate foreign leaders for such validation?
Glenageary, Co Dublin
Rights of the unborn
• In the weekend discussions regarding who should decide on whether or not an abortion should be permitted in the event of a threat of suicide, it was noticeable that there was no indication as to who should be there on behalf of the baby.
Article 40.3.3. of the Constitution means, in effect, that every time the life of an unborn comes under threat, there is a constitutional imperative on the part of the State to defend and vindicate that life.
The Health Minister, and indeed, the Justice Minister, must, therefore, ensure that if legislation is being drafted as is suggested, it must include a provision that at least one senior counsel should be involved to represent the baby, and also the State that is constitutionally bound to protect it. Otherwise the State will stand accused, not only of failing to carry out the constitutional imperative, but also could be sued for its failure to do so.
All the recent discussion has been in relation to the protection of mothers, but it must be remembered that the primary purpose of the inclusion of Article 40.3.3. was to protect the unborn.
If it is now being suggested that we must legislate to fulfil a constitutional requirement in relation to expectant mothers, it it similarly imperative that we legislate for the constitutional protection of the unborn.
Strandhill Road, Sligo
• It was touching to hear Leinster coach Joe Schmidt speak so openly about his son Luke's epilepsy.
One can understand his strident comments in relation to the head injury suffered by David Kearney after what looked like a very ugly challenge by Paul O'Connell.
Schmidt has been an outstanding chief at Leinster, commanding respect, and applying himself resolutely to the rigours of his role.
P B Dalton
Blackrock Co Dublin.
A nation on the rack
• I recently returned home to Dublin after a number of years abroad where I now live. I have come back to a very different Ireland.
I went down to my local village for a pint at the weekend. There were very few people out, but I did notice that the nearby off-licence was very busy.
I do not mind paying extra for the heat and ambiance that a well run pub offers, but the essential quality is cheerfulness and friendliness.
Alas, there were so few out and about that the pub, which I always remembered as being thronged and alive with the energy of people intent on a good time, seemed empty and a little cold.
Down the street the restaurants were kept going, but I was told that the bulk of the business was of the 'early-bird' type. True enough, by 8.30pm the village seemed solitary and even lonely.
I know people are struggling to make ends meet; I know, too, that the sacrifices demanded at the austerity altar would make even Abraham blanch.
I had listened earlier in the day to the Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan, suggest that our Government, which now controls the banks, would be well advised to put a freeze on mortgages for a couple of years to give a turbo-charge to our spluttering nigh-on moribund economy.
I know there will be a screeching chorus in opposition to this eminently sensible suggestion.
But there has been a deafening silence when it comes to solutions. My country has become a torture chamber with all the crucifying instruments of austerity. The whole nation is on the rack.
Unless we get proactive on stimulus or pro-growth as opposed to slash-and-burn policies, there will be no one left to turn out the few remaining lights.
J J Oliver
Cambridge, Mas, USA
Invite for a quick bite
• I believe it is normal for premier soccer teams to go for a few pints together after a game. However, following the "distasteful" ending to the match at Anfield, it was rumoured that the Chelsea full-back line invited Luis Suarez out for a quick bite!