You can't be a little bit pregnant, as the saying goes. The EU, however, could be described as being so. We're witnessing a period of gestation of unknown duration for a yet-to-be-determined species. This is one of the EU's big problems. There is no comparison between the Europe of today and the Europe of the first half of the 20th century. The EU has done much good, but we seem to be stumbling towards greater integration and greater disintegration simultaneously.
There is no agreement as to where the EU is headed. There is no vision. No individual, government or institution has the mandate to lead or bring any vision they may have to bear. There is no coherent vision regarding federalism/co-federalism, how to address the design flaws of the euro, fiscal integration, a banking union, Eurobonds, tax harmonisation, debt relief or youth unemployment.
For example, to my knowledge, no currency union that wasn't also a political/federal union has ever survived. Greater political integration might seem inevitable if we are to avoid continued economic and financial instability, but will EU citizens support ceding more political and fiscal powers to EU institutions? It seems that such hard decisions might never be made. That din you hear is the rattle of multiple cans being kicked down the road.
We ignore the absence of a vision for the EU and the need for greater transparency and accountability at our peril. If these concerns are not addressed, people will continue to feel alienated and marginalised and this will be reflected at the ballot box across Europe. It has already begun.
If you have no idea of where you're headed, the likelihood is you won't get there. Don't be surprised if people get disillusioned and gravitate towards those offering a 'clearer' vision in the coming years.
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16
Hogan has broken protocol
The EU commissioner for agriculture, Phil Hogan, has entered the debate about Ireland's future in the European Union and strongly criticised the position taken by the British government (Irish Independent, January 9).
In choosing to enter the fray at this critical moment in the EU deliberations on Brexit, Mr Hogan has compromised his own position and that of the European Commission. The Treaty on European Union (Title III, Article 17.3) states explicitly that "in carrying out its responsibilities, the commission shall be completely independent", and that members of the commission shall neither seek nor take instruction from any government or other institution, body, office or entity.
It is thus wholly inappropriate for a member of the commission to take such a partisan position prior to an EU negotiation. At the very least, they could be seen to prejudice the position of the commission toward the UK as London moves to trigger Article 50.
On taking up his position in Brussels, Mr Hogan undertook to act in the EU interest, rather than the Irish national interest. Yet Mr Hogan's interview is studded with references to Irish negotiating positions on Brexit.
I cannot remember a precedent for an Irish commissioner ever departing from the established norms of behaviour around partisan intervention in EU negotiations. Mr Hogan undoubtedly feels strongly about the potential impact on Ireland of a so-called 'hard Brexit'. But this is not the appropriate channel through which to deliver his message.
Professor John O'Brennan
Maynooth University, Co Kildare
Mental hospitals have no place
Another year has passed without any aspect of 'Vision for Change' being implemented.
This is no great surprise as the ultimate aim of 'Vision for Change' is the elimination of the current mental hospitals as they exist today.
I urge Health Minister Simon Harris to tackle the power of the major psychiatric hospitals.
They have existed for centuries and have far outlived their usefulness and effectiveness.
There has to be a better way.
Mullingar, Co Westmeath
Young can make the old happy
I was lucky to be in the company of several generations of relatives recently. At one point a young mother with her baby, perhaps a year old, walked past us.
Unsurprisingly, everyone stopped and gave both mother and child a warm greeting. Instantly questions arrived, with cooing and smiles and silly waves. That simple interaction created a smile that stayed with us for the rest of the evening. The biggest reaction was among the elderly grandparents.
Later it occurred to me that a relationship should be built up between our children and their local nursing homes all over Ireland. This could be done through our schools, in particular our junior and senior infants.
A simple half-hour visit by supervised children to a nursing home once a month would be so uplifting for those older residents, and it would also create a connection for our children to the older members of our society.
Perhaps Children's Minister Katherine Zappone and Junior Minister Helen McEntee could put it on the agenda.
We don't need money to make this happen, just a little forward planning.
Our older relatives in nursing homes will thank you.
Meryl can keep her opinions
It's that time of year when an unelected and extremely wealthy elite lectures and talks down to the plebs for not knowing their rightful place and daring to dissent from received wisdom.
Yes, it's film industry self-congratulation time again. The luvvies in the US are particularly gung-ho this year, due to their presidential candidate of choice, Hillary Clinton (another elitist individual), flunking in the recent election.
Meryl Streep, who surely deserves the award for 'the most over-acting actress of the century', reverted totally to type in her cringeworthy, embarrassing acceptance speech.
I don't know of any other occupation in which you are allowed to indulge your half-baked, adolescent views, and get plaudits for it.
Mind you, the plaudits come primarily from her like-minded, pampered peers. Pathetic. Can they not just stick to play-acting?
Navan, Co Meath
Fear of penalty pints?
Did the armed gardaí on the M50 drink-drive checkpoint think some driver would pull a pint on them?
Clonmel, Co Tipperary