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Here are the most talked about letters of 2015

From the desks of Enda Kenny, Taylor Swift and a teenager with two dads, to name a few.

IT HAS BEEN labelled a dying tradition, but letters still get sent in 2015 (albeit sometimes online).

There have been many letters of note this year – sent from the desks of Enda Kenny, Taylor Swift and a teenager with two dads, to name a few.

Here are some of the most talked about ones from the past 12 months:

From: Anonymous
To: Tánaiste and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton

Context: The writer wanted to share her story of a trip to a dole office back in January. It struck a chord with a lot of people – being shared over 20,000 times on Facebook.

5/12/2012 Budget Day Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Dear Joan,

We are apparently out of a recession – things are looking up, they say. But today, after working consistently from about the age of 15, until now, 34, I sat in a dole office in Dublin and cried to a complete stranger through a glass partition.

He told me I was not entitled to a red cent. I had applied for social welfare at the end of 2014, after being let go from my job. When I went in to apply for benefit I was told that they are working off of 2012 – I was self employed from 2008 to 2012 – so therefore I would need to be means tested, I could not automatically get my stamps/credits – I was a company employee in 2013 and 2014.

I was honest with them, and said that I lived with my boyfriend who was currently self-employed. We both submitted a myriad of paperwork – tax clearance certs dating back to 2010, bank account statements, credit union statements, company accounts dating back to 2012. You name it, I handed it over. During my time as a self-employed person, I was a sole trader and earned a very average wage, between 28-40K over the years. Nothing to be opening offshore accounts for. My partner, again self-employed, makes closer to 50K, a good wage, but again, nothing to get too excited about – we are no Donald Trump, and my partner is self-employed because he has to be, not because he wants to be.

After all the paperwork was looked at, we were told we were over the threshold, he earned too much. Two people, with a Dublin mortgage, bills, small debts, living costs etc; he earned too much, and I could not get Jobseekers’ Benefit. I accepted this and went on my way to looking for more jobs.

woman Shutterstock Shutterstock

When the New Year rolled over, and things became very tight, I went back into the dole office today to see if now – as they would be working of 2013 – I could draw down my stamps. I sat in the public area for nearly an hour, and as I sat there I overheard story after story, one person after another come in making a new claims, following up current claims or just updating address – who, from what I could hear, have been on Jobseekers’ Benefit forever, and I can only presume that some have never worked a day in their lives.

I heard a young girl say her carers allowance had stopped as her granny went into a nursing home so can she now get her dole – ‘before I got the carers allowance, I was on jobseekers’. So she went from Jobseekers’, to Carers Allowance, and now back to Jobseekers’? She couldn’t have been more that 20, and it all seemed to be kosher with the guy behind the glass, he didn’t even ask her if she was actively looking for work – something I had to prove (happily) when I filed the myriad of paperwork in October.

Next up, a foreign lady explained her own situation, which seemed to be fine, but went on to ask if her friend, working in Ireland but who’s child lived abroad, could get child benefit, ‘I heard she can’, the lady said. The man sounded a little hesitant on the matter, but sent the lady off on her merry way with guidelines for her friend. Friend is here, said baby is not.

Then it was my turn. At this point my anger had turned into tears. I told myself, ‘If he says you can’t get anything DO NOT cry’! I explained that I knew we had been refused in the past – due to my partners HUGE paycheque and off shore accounts! – but now, as we were in a new year, maybe my stamps for 2013 would be OK, and being almost three months out of work – I know that is not a lot for many people – it was taking its toll on us financially.

He looked into my files, said I ‘might’ be able to get income off my credits and went off to check it out. I have to say he was super nice and helpful, but the answer was still no. I didn’t work up enough stamps in 2013 – I was self-employed for the first half of that year – and the tears started to flow. I couldn’t contain it. I asked him how, when I had been working for so long, could this be? I said ‘I know self-employed tax is a different tax bracket, and we don’t get the dole, but surely seven months of being in PRSI company employment in 2013 and almost a year in 2014 would entitle me to something? Plus, I still paid my taxes when I was self-employed! I have more than paid it into the system. And I only need it for about a month, I have two job prospects for February onward?’

He looked at me and didn’t really know what to say. I said that I had heard the stories in the dole office, and that I know I have paid more into the system than half the people surrounding me, he said ‘I know, I know you have’. He asked if I had kids, I said no. I don’t think he could take my tears much longer so off he went to another colleague to see if there was anyway to work this. I heard her say no, my partner earns too much. When he came back I told him how the threshold for self-employed people is a joke – I think, if you earn just over something like €300 a week as a self-employed person, you basically earn too much! Who put that figure in place?

He then said two things, trying to make the situation better, but it didn’t work – ‘If we could put your credits for 2013 and 2014 together, you have worked enough (therefore in theory, I have worked enough), but we can’t, we work off 2013 only. But next year, if you’re unemployed, you will get the money’. Oh yay! I really can’t wait to be unemployed next year so I can get the money that I paid into the system. ‘Goals for 2016; lose the job you hope to get this year.’ The second, and more annoying, comment was, ‘If you had kids, we could give you something’. Right, let me head off and have a child that I can’t afford while I am waiting to get a job, and whichever comes first – fingers crossed the baby! – then bam, I’m in luck and out of the red.

I am not writing this letter for anyone to feel sorry for me. Believe me, I am well aware that individuals, couples and families are in much more difficult circumstances than I am. I have a partner, and though divided by two his income is not huge, it’s an income and I won’t go hungry. And, I don’t have kids… I can’t afford them. So I am in an OK place. The reason I am writing this is to highlight, yet again, how flawed the welfare system is in Ireland. I have worked hard all my life, from a very young age. I took the initiative – and had the balls, I might add – to start my own business in a time when SMEs and sole traders were encouraged to take the plunge (they keep this country ticking over regarding employment, by the way) and now, when things are not looking so rosy for me, for only a few months while I get my company back up and running and take the same risks again, I am afforded nothing from this government for my hard work and tax money.

I am entitled to nothing. The men and women who sit at home by choice all day, every day, and have never contributed to the system are entitled to more than me. The young people who have children they cannot afford are entitled to everything, but the couple who have decided to be responsible and wait until they can provide everything their child needs can’t get a red cent because it’s just them, no babies involved.

And that was it. I asked, ‘what do I do now’ and he said there was nothing I could do. So I just say a few prayers that the jobs come through, and if they don’t, who knows what will happen, and who even cares? I left that office embarrassed, angry, degraded, and a shadow of the educated, confident woman I am meant to be.

I will come out of this dark time, I am an entrepreneurial person and pretty resourceful when I need to be. But one thing I know for sure, if that day of success ever comes for me in my own company, I will use every trick in the book to make dame sure I pay you, Enda and Joan, as little as is humanly possible – any good accountants out there? – because, clearly, being honest and working hard does not pay off in the hard times.

Thanks a lot. Happy New Year.

From: Safia
To: The Ray D’Arcy Show

unnamed-3-22-310x415 RTÉ Press Office RTÉ Press Office

Context: Safia felt compelled to talk about her family, and two loving dads, ahead of the marriage referendum.

“One of the things that upsets me and makes me very angry is hearing people talk about how my family isn’t ‘ideal’.

“(My dads) are strict but only because they want the best for me. But most importantly, they really, really love me. So how can someone say that my family isn’t ideal?

“Some people say that two women raising a child might be okay but not two men. This confuses me. What does it matter, if it’s a man and a women, two men or two women? As long as they love their kids, look after them and support them; as long as their kids are properly cared for, what’s the difference?

“People may also ask ‘If you were raised by two gay men, would you not be gay too?’ But isn’t that a silly question? I mean after all, plenty of so called ‘normal’ families have gay children, just because I was raised by two gay men, doesn’t mean I would automatically be gay.

“I get very, very angry when I hear people say things that mean they think there is something wrong with being gay. It’s not right. And some people seem to think that LGBT people have fewer rights than straight people.

“But here is a question I would like to ask everyone who is against marriage equality: How exactly would it affect you? How does letting gay people get married and be happy affect your life in any way? You want people to be denied their right to marry the person they love, but how would their getting married affect you?

“My Dads flew to America to get married four years ago. They have been together for sixteen years and have only gotten married very recently. The very fact that my parents had to fly all the way to America to get married is wrong.

“The fact that they were not allowed to get married in their own home, with all their family and friends just upsets to me.

“My school friends often ask me what it’s like to have gay parents. Most of them are in awe of my dads and even if they have not formally met, they think that my parents are the coolest people ever.

“I have yet to meet a homophobic teenager or child.”

From: Taylor Swift
To: Apple

Context: The popstar wasn’t happy with the company’s decision to not pay musicians any royalties for a three-month free trial period on its music streaming site (they sorted it out soon after the letter went viral). Note: There are some American spellings in this.

taylor PA PA

To Apple, Love Taylor

I write this to explain why I’ll be holding back my album, 1989, from the new streaming service, Apple Music. I feel this deserves an explanation because Apple has been and will continue to be one of my best partners in selling music and creating ways for me to connect with my fans. I respect the company and the truly ingenious minds that have created a legacy based on innovation and pushing the right boundaries.

I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.

This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field…but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child.

These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call.I realize that Apple is working towards a goal of paid streaming. I think that is beautiful progress. We know how astronomically successful Apple has been and we know that this incredible company has the money to pay artists, writers and producers for the 3 month trial period… even if it is free for the fans trying it out.

Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing. I say this with love, reverence, and admiration for everything else Apple has done. I hope that soon I can join them in the progression towards a streaming model that seems fair to those who create this music. I think this could be the platform that gets it right.

But I say to Apple with all due respect, it’s not too late to change this policy and change the minds of those in the music industry who will be deeply and gravely affected by this. We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.


From: Taoiseach Enda Kenny
To: Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras

enda Tsipras and Kenny PA PA

Context: Back in June the Taoiseach wanted Greece to “return to negotiations as quickly as possible” as uncertainty surrounded the country’s future in the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union.

From: Gerry Ryan
To: Ian Dempsey

Context: This one wasn’t sent in 2015, but Dempsey shared the note sent by the late Ryan as the former began his professional radio career in 1980.

It read:

“Dear Ian,

“Just a little note to wish you good luck with the old prog. this morning, only one thing to remember, you can’t say bollox on the radio! Good luck, Gerry Ryan, Radio 2. (sic)”

download (1) Gerry Ryan

From: Mark Zuckerberg
To: Facebook

fb Facebook Facebook

Context: In July Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg penned a beautiful post about his wife Priscilla’s pregnancy following three miscarriages.

The post read (again, there are some American spellings here):

Priscilla and I have some exciting news: we’re expecting a baby girl!

This will be a new chapter in our lives. We’ve already been so fortunate for the opportunity to touch people’s lives around the world — Cilla as a doctor and educator, and me through this community and philanthropy. Now we’ll focus on making the world a better place for our child and the next generation.We want to share one experience to start. We’ve been trying to have a child for a couple of years and have had three miscarriages along the way.

You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience. Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you — as if you’re defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own.In today’s open and connected world, discussing these issues doesn’t distance us; it brings us together.

It creates understanding and tolerance, and it gives us hope.When we started talking to our friends, we realized how frequently this happened — that many people we knew had similar issues and that nearly all had healthy children after all.We hope that sharing our experience will give more people the same hope we felt and will help more people feel comfortable sharing their stories as well.

Our good news is that our pregnancy is now far enough along that the risk of loss is very low and we are very hopeful. Cilla and our child are both healthy, I’m extremely excited to meet her and our dog Beast has no idea what’s coming.

In our ultrasound, she even gave me a thumbs up “like” with her hand, so I’m already convinced she takes after me.
We’re looking forward to welcoming her into the world and sharing more soon when she’s ready to come out and meet everyone!

From: A daughter
To: Her late mother

Context: The below story was one of a number of experiences of loss sent in by readers as part of our Last Rites series.

Dear Mammy,

I was extremely lucky in life to have been gifted the most loving, caring and devoted mother imaginable. You truly were my greatest hero. The selflessness with which you went about motherhood was admittedly only appreciated retrospectively since when we were growing up, myself and my brother often indulged in disgruntled mumblings about you being overprotective and fussing too much. Thankfully, when we reached adulthood, it became clear that your life included countless unspoken sacrifices designed to improve our lives, sometimes at the expense of your own and your perceived obsession with protecting us was borne out of your all encompassing love for us. These realisations enhanced our relationships and galvanised the love and respect we had for you, our mother.

We were so close, you and me. We discussed all of our worldly troubles and were each other’s ‘go to gal’ in good times and bad. We created so many beautiful memories together and for these, I am eternally thankful.

And so I find myself, a few months on from that horrible day, grieving for you while simultaneously ambling through my current status as apprentice mother. I am full of wonderings. I wonder whether I would be a different kind of mother if you were still here to guide me. All the time, I wonder whether I’m doing anything right. I wonder what you would think about the various mothering decisions that I make and even though I am so privileged to have had your loving influence in my life for the years that I did, I wonder whether one of these days, the enormity of the void left by your departure will be enough to paralyse me into a state of malfunction.

My greatest concern, however, is whether I can possibly keep your memory alive for my little boy. He will never know the warmth of your hug, the assurance of your smile or the comfort of your words. I feel that the love you would have showered upon him is utterly irreplaceable and while he is constantly surrounded by love, my heart breaks for both you and him and for all the lost opportunities.

I don’t want you to become simply a face in a frame since you were so much more than that but I worry that as time moves on, I may begin losing the battle to keep your memory alive in the mind of a child who will have no recollection of his grandmother except for the stories I promise to tell him and the memories I hope I am strong enough to share.

I wish it didn’t have to be like this, but it does. I wish you could sing my little boy to sleep and bring stories alive like only you could, but you can’t. I wish you could chase him through the fields and scoop him up in your arms, but you can’t. I am as helpless to these facts as I was to curing your illness and easing your suffering but as you so often assured me, ‘We can only do our best’.

I promise to do my best to fill him with the love you taught me to feel and nurture him with the same motherly warmth you surrounded me in. In this way, though your picture may fade, the light of your love will carry on.

With Love Always,
Your Daughter, xx

Are there any others you think should be included? Let us know in the comments.

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