Over to you: The best letters written by you to the Irish Independent this year
Every day, our readers take the trouble to fill our mailbag with missives inspired by everything from Brexit to the weather. Irish Independent Letters Editor Tom Coogan picks his highlights of 2018
How did it get so late so soon? It is a question anyone who has ever been singed by the after-burn of a missed deadline asks.
As the lid closes on one year and the gift of a new one is here to be opened, it seems appropriate to look at some of our national preoccupations. And most of those preoccupations can be found in the hundreds of letters we here at the Irish Independent received each day of the year.
What moved people to write to us is uniquely personal. Health, housing, Brexit, the weather, abortion and the race for the Áras all figured. To attribute motivations is worthless: what matters is people took the trouble.
All were valuable and we are the richer for them. So a sincere thanks to all.
The future of work or lack of it was a subject dwelt on by Padraig Neary from Sligo. The year opened with his musings: "While I acknowledge great national challenges of homelessness, inadequate healthcare, Brexit and many other deficiencies... I consider the prospect of collapsing economics more immediate and critical than any other. Nobody wants to face up to the reality that technology, which facilitates overproduction, does so by eliminating reliance on human input. Consequently, work is being greatly diminished and unless economies rethink the whole work/job relationship, unsustainable unemployment will engulf whole nations."
William Mathers from Limerick took us away from material concerns into the realms of the spiritual. "Responding to Anthony O'Leary's call to review 'Papal infallibility', the Enlightenment gives us some basics. The living God is invisible, with no material part and lives in zero time. He lives in the present. No future or past and difficult for us to understand. We have no scientific data to work on and therefore to a materialist there is no scientific basis to any religion. Using our imagination and accepting a spiritual God, an inference can be made that the universe was created by an invisible God outside of time. The belief is summed up in the answer of an Indian holy man. He lived for days without food in a city and the authorities charged him with the vagrancy act, that he had no visible means of support. In court, he told the judge that he had an invisible means of support."
February found us looking at crisis pregnancy with Alison Hackett from Dún Laoghaire, pointing out: "I am saddened by others who still want to put conditions on being a woman. What do they say to women if their crisis pregnancy in that first trimester is too hard to bear? Keep calm and carry on? Or tell them they must convince doctor, judge and jury that they will self-harm, or get in a bath with a bottle of gin, or throw themselves down the stairs - because then, and only then, will the State of Ireland step in (with a sniff of disapproval) and permit them to end their pregnancy? Born female? Terms and conditions apply (in Ireland)."
Brexit and its whirlwind of confusion stalked us relentlessly. A Leavy from Sutton felt its coverage in the Irish media "does not seem to adequately reflect either the severity of its consequences for the people of this island or its wider international implications."
By March our teeth were chattering as big snows hit along with hysterical fears we could soon run out of bread. Aidan Hampson corresponding from Artane, noted: "While there is a run on milk and bread on the north side of Dublin, I'm reliably informed that there isn't a mango to be had on the south side."
The Beast from the East, as it was termed, scarred us all, but John Cuffe from Dunboyne asked to remember those who kept the country going: "Photo ops with ministers, the forgotten. The bus men, council gritters and, of course, those marvellous coffee makers. I salute them."
With April came Easter and something most unusual as recalled by Ray Dunne from Co Meath: "It was Friday night I returned from my local hostelry where I enjoyed my first two legal pints in my long lifetime on Good Friday. Another of the last vestiges of Vatican dictatorship has finally been consigned to history..."
The Belfast rape trial generated many headlines, but Tom Roddy from Galway noted at least: "It has put the focus on consent in sexual relations... The whole case and acquittal has generated much needed debate on the issue."
Summer came after the freeze and Ed O'Brien from Dalkey reminded us: "Nothing lasts forever, even the heat, I know the poor farmers are having it bad. It can't be easy worrying about whether there will be enough water for the livestock or crops. But children playing by the seashore are enjoying the hot spell. In other words, everything is at our fingertips, and if it is not going our way it is not because we are somehow at fault or 'locked out' of the system. The truth is that we are merely passing through, and larger forces are always at work."
James O'Reilly from Mount Merrion in Dublin was moved by an article by David Kitt on how he can't afford to live in Dublin any more. "A very insightful piece. The truth is the bankers were bailed out, the rents have kept rising for many a year and the speculating goes on..."
Tom Gilsenan of Beaumont D9, was more than a bit peeved by our fixation with hard and soft borders. He was on the ball, as always, with his: "Definition of backstop... a good centre half?"
When it comes to where the buck stops however, Donald Trump also consumed much of our head space. Herb Stark from Carolina, clearly had enough: "CIA director John Brennan is threatening to sue US President Donald Trump over the revoking of his security clearance. I say it's just not worth it. This is the way President Trump works to keep his name and face in our collective faces 24/7. He is a man-child, school-yard bully who will say or do anything to pat himself on the back and make it seem like he's doing it for the American people."
There could be no rest from Britain's determination to disentangle itself from the EU. A Leavy from Sutton was again moved to ask in October: "Is it not an irony of history that the UK, which less than a century ago governed an empire which contained nearly a quarter of the population of the globe and which was on the winning side in two world wars since, should be complaining about being a prisoner of the EU?"
Michael D romped home in the Áras race, but it was dark horse Peter Casey who dominated the debate, if pipped at the actual winning post.
John Kelly from Clontarf thundered: "The unrelenting attacks on Peter Casey were a national disgrace. The fact an unknown Peter Casey could come second, having entered the race only days before the closing entry, is amazing and the story of the election."
We had too many letters and stories to do justice to all. It was Cicero who wrote that no-one can give you better advice than yourself; but if you have had your fill of your own counsel, can I suggest you stick with the letters' page?