Perhaps it's fitting that from the cradle of democracy itself, the flames of freedom and hope once more burn a little bit brighter in European politics.
The land where in 480BC King Leonidas and 300 Spartans stood and fought against tens of thousands of Persians in the Battle of Thermopylae.
Now a modern-day Battle of Thermopylae is set to be waged in Greece, once more against seemingly insurmountable odds, but this time the battle will not be waged with swords and spears, and will be waged against bondholders, markets and financial derivatives.
It remains to be seen how this particular fight will pan out, but one thing is for sure - the Germans would do well to remember recent history and the leeway afforded to them after World War II when billions upon billions were written off to help a crippled and defeated nation back on its feet.
The modern EU is a great idea in principle, but the subjugation of national sovereignty to serve the interests of an elitist few is an alarming and sinister development.
Perhaps it's time for countries to take back their nationhood and stand proud together amongst the nations of the earth, as equals, celebrating our differences, not being ashamed of them.
And no longer being dictated to by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. If history teaches us anything it is that people don't like being dictated to by faraway powers, in particular when those powers seem to serve only the few. It would be wise for our leaders to take note from history that the people can only take so much.
Seamus Hanratty, address with editor
Church must reform or wither
The Catholic hierarchical system, the clerical state, is built on shaky foundations. It reminds one of Christ's parable about the man who built his house on sand. The building materials used are contaminated with a heretical ingredient from the time of Augustine. Simply stated, it is the heresy that holds material things to be evil and only spiritual things good. Hence sex is evil. The clergy, to be holy, must be male only, and protected from contamination from women. Hence the compulsory celibacy of the male-only clergy.
Because the foundations are not sound, the male clerical state is dying on its feet before our very eyes.
I can speak about one aspect of this matter from my own experience of 36 years living the compulsory celibate life. It's all about the point of view. The view from the inside looking out is totally different from that of the outside looking in. When the Pope recently made the outrageous comment about Catholics not needing to breed "like rabbits", he hadn't a clue how it came across, because he hadn't been there. No doubt he had been talking to the Filipino clergy about the exploding population there. When I went to the Philippines in 1959, the population was 35 million. Now I hear it's over 80 million.
Old habits die hard, as my wife says. When Francis made that wisecrack, my first impulse was to laugh before I caught her eye and I bit my tongue.
And young priests today are ultra-conservative. What else is new?
Sean McElgunn, address with editor
Timely warning on extremism
John Waters's timely reminder of how German responsibility for the Holocaust was successfully diluted by a global urge to facilitate an immediate "post-war reconstruction" of the former Nazi state, and remake it as a modern and inclusive liberal democracy (Irish Independent, January 28), should warn us all about the inherent danger of describing a totalitarian ideology "as an aberration of human history".
This is as true of radical Islamic fundamentalism, as it was of Nazism, Fascism or 1990s Serbian ultra-nationalism. Indeed, even though Waters's astute comment about an "unprecedented cauldron (where) terror and ideology operated in concert to seize and hold the hearts and minds of millions", was describing the Nazi terror, it is equally as applicable to a sizeable pan-European cohort of disaffected and alienated modern-day Muslim extremists.
The only essential difference from Waters's thesis is that instead of "history (being) the only God or master", contemporary Islamic extremists have perverted the Koranic description of jihad, to justify the wholesale slaughter of anyone, including specifically those of the Jewish faith, who do not subscribe to their perverted ideology.
Dr Kevin McCarthy, Kinsale, Co Cork
State subsidies for big families
I refer to the article on high childcare costs (Irish Independent, January 26).
I fully support the right of mothers to work outside the home and certainly it is positive for the economy as well as for the mother (and therefore her child/children) to be able to do so. It therefore makes some sense for the State to further subsidise childcare.
But when I read about the featured mother, who has three children and wants to have a fourth child, I lost all empathy.
I'm all for personal choice, as this is what we have been slowly working towards in our cultural and social evolution. However, we need to balance our wants with our social and other responsibilities.
If individuals or couples choose to have a number of children, so be it, as long as they can provide the nurturing and education children need to become psychologically healthy, productive adults. But why should I sponsor this choice via my taxes paid to the State?
The argument in the editorial in the same edition, that Ireland needs the younger generation to ensure the pensions of the older generation, is a very weak and narrow one. There are plenty of creative ways in which to deal with a reducing population - it would cut childcare costs for a start. We all have to realise that the enormous human population is a big contributing factor in the significant psychological, social, economic and environmental problems facing us today.
Ann Fielding, Cork city