The Catholic Church in Ireland finds itself in a rut. Its inability to see beyond the way things are, as revealed in the response to the recent referendum, does not bode well for the future. The only difference between a rut and a grave is its depth.
Ireland has an inspiring history of spirituality and thoughtfulness that continues in the work of many priest, nuns and laity who carry on the daily round of ministering to the needs of the people, many feeling that the bishops are an irrelevant burden they are constrained to carry. This is the real church from which will grow the future of a Christian presence in Ireland.
When reminding a Dublin citizen of the fact that many young people have lapsed from attendance at Sunday Mass, they replied: "There is more Mass on the Ballyfermot bus on a Saturday night than in any church." The wisdom embodied in this comment speaks eloquently of the need to return to one another, particularly to the poor and the marginalised.
Young people have not lost their faith. They could be said to belong but not to believe, finding salvation in one another. This is certainly true of my five children who are not church attenders but never cease to inspire me in their commitment to the traditional values of love and respect for others that are the heart of the Christian tradition.
Catholicism has become clouded in a haze of theological conundrums that trade in a God that demands our subservience and obedience, embodied in the meaningless notion of obedience to the church's teaching.
Some of the greatest evils in the world today are perpetrated by those who believe that God is on their side in all that they do and teach.
The common experience of life is that of its ambiguity that cannot be circumvented by bogus certainty.
It is for this reason that I often feel more at home with thoughtful atheists than with believers.
James Downey wrote last week that "only in Opposition will Labour renew the party's vision" (Irish Independent, June 5) - but had we stayed in Opposition the very people Mr Downey purports to care about would have suffered the most.
History will some day record the full extent of the crisis that this country faced at the time of the general election in 2011. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say Ireland's reputation was at its lowest ever ebb and national morale was devastated. Hard-working families were, and still are, suffering as a result of unemployment, distressed mortgages and loss of income.
The Labour Party had a choice. We could have walked away. We could have chosen to sit on the Opposition benches and avoid the duties of Government. We could have spent the last four years engaged in mischief-making, mock indignation and peddling fairy-tale economics in the hope that it would strike a chord with a section of the electorate. But we were not just interested in party advantage irrespective of the consequences.
Instead, we rolled up our sleeves and set to work in fixing the economy, in the full knowledge that it would take many, many hard decisions and several years before our economic problems would be resolved.
Four years ago, we took responsibility. We stood up, while the purveyors of fairy-tale economics and slogan politics ran the other way. We always knew it would be challenging. But now, we are beginning to see results. It wasn't easy. We knew when we took on the task that it would be a difficult journey. We have introduced a lot of reforming measures and, honestly, a lot of painful measures.
And ultimately, I believe, we have succeeded in getting Ireland out of the abyss dug by Fianna Fáil and the Greens.
We all know Labour would be immensely more popular today if it stayed out of Government and left the people to the mercies of whatever combination of the centre-right prevailed. But, the price of popularity would have been paid for in terms of considerably more misery for working people and those who depend more on public services.
I am in no doubt about the challenges we continue to face, but, as a party, we will not run away.
Michael McCarthy TD
Labour TD for Cork South-West
Albert Woodfox has been in isolation in Louisiana State Penitentiary in a cell 2.5m x 3m (the size of a parking spot). He has spent 23 hours a day in a cell that doesn't even have a window (Nelson Mandela had a window in his cell). He has been shackled. It has been this way for 43 years.
The remarkable news that a federal judge has ordered the immediate release of the longest-serving solitary confinement prisoner in the US is uplifting to those of us who have supported Albert's case. This ruling shows the power of justice and hope, as someone who has spent four decades in solitary confinement is to finally receive their long-awaited freedom.
Perhaps the one lesson we can learn from Albert's story is that just because you're convicted of a crime, does not mean the conviction was just. It is perhaps the best example of why the death penalty is so medieval, cruel and final.
Let's hope Albert can now live in freedom - something which he has waited for too long.
I am truly sick and tired listening to and reading people from the extreme left in Irish politics complaining about those people who "only receive a non-contributory pension of €219 a week", as one of your letter writers recently stated.
As a recipient of a non-contributory pension, I am very thankful to those Irish taxpayers who, through their generosity and tax contributions, allow me to receive this pension. As an adult, I was totally irresponsible in preparing for my retired years and I have no idea where I would be today were it not for the generosity of the Irish taxpayer.
Vincent J Lavery
Dalkey, Co Dublin
The articles on inheritance tax in the June 8 edition were excellent. The effect of the changes over the last few years clearly greatly exceeds the effect of both the property tax and water charges combined.
You are too generous in calling this a stealth tax. It was slipped through budgets in a manner which is best described as sneaky, particularly as it brings within the scope of the tax a large number of those who believe that it only concerns the wealthy.
The three articles were more than somewhat repetitive. However, that is well merited if it attracts the attention of those affected.
More importantly, it stands a better chance of driving home to Mr Noonan that the cat is now out of the bag.
John F Jordan
Killiney, Co Dublin