27 January 2014 Shopping
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Kenneth Williams uncover treachery in high places Priceless.
Drain looks okay tip shopping Co op, no boxes no Thermabloc
Scrabbletoday Marywinsbut gets under 400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.
Gordon Tack, who has died aged 90, was a radio operator with SOE and was parachuted into enemy-occupied territory in France in 1944, and Burma and Malaya the following year.
On the night of July 8 1944, Tack was dropped into Brittany. Accompanying him in Jedburgh Team Giles were Captain Bernard Knox, an American of British origin, and Captain Paul Grall, a Frenchman.
Wearing uniforms and operating alongside SAS and other Jedburgh teams, their mission was to coordinate resistance. They landed near Briec where they were welcomed by a group of excited young Frenchmen, each of whom they had to embrace in turn.
They loaded their containers on to a truck; the vehicle gave them an anxious time for it made as much noise as a Sherman tank. With captured German rifles sticking out of the windows, they drove along back roads to a rendezvous with the Maquis, who were camped in a wood. The last part of the journey was made in daylight and they discovered later that 300 German paratroops had arrived in a nearby village soon after they had passed through and were searching all the farms in the area.
They distributed the weapons, trained the Maquis in their use, identified new drop-zones for further supplies and organised reception committees. Shortly after their arrival, they were visited by a senior officer in the FFI (French Forces of the Interior). A man to whom he had given a lift in his car was unmasked as a Gestapo agent and summarily shot.
Early in August, they received orders to begin harassing attacks on the German 2nd Parachute Division which was moving eastwards from Douarnenez. A large-scale ambush forced the Division to abandon the roads and strike out across the fields. Many German prisoners were taken. Under interrogation, they admitted to atrocities and refused to explain why they had French money and identity cards on them. Many were shot. Team Giles had no facilities for holding prisoners and was unable to intervene.
Tack had a vital role in encoding, deciphering and transmitting messages. This had to be done at high speed to avoid detection and capture by the Germans. A less expert operator would have put at risk the whole enterprise, and the hunt for Tack and his comrades was relentless. Sleeping in barns and haystacks, they were up at first light and moved almost every day to elude the dragnet, undertaking long, forced marches.
Tack’s stepfather, George, a Leading Seaman on the armed merchant ship Rajputana, had been killed when the vessel was sunk by U-108 in April 1941, west of Reykjavik. Gordon was convinced that there was substance in reports at the time that the German submarine had surfaced after the sinking and machine-gunned the survivors in the lifeboats.
A French chateau near Châteauneuf was being used for “rest and recreation” by submarine crews from Brest and their French girlfriends. One night Tack, moving stealthily through the woods, got to within 200 yards of the chateau and was able to guide three RAF bombers on to the target with devastating accuracy. The attack went some way to assuaging his anger at his stepfather’s death.
In September, when they were overrun by the advancing Allied forces, they moved to Quimper and returned to Dartmouth by minesweeper. Tack was awarded a Military Medal.
Gordon Hugh Tack was born on November 21 1923 at Valletta, Malta, where his father was serving in the Royal Navy. The family returned to England shortly after he was born but his parents split up and when his mother married George Tack, young Gordon took his stepfather’s name.
He went to school in Plymouth but left aged 15 to become a boilermaker’s apprentice at Devonport dockyard. In 1941 he joined the RAF to train as a pilot but transferred to the Army the following year.
After returning from France, Tack volunteered for service with Force 136, the cover name for SOE’s operations in south-east Asia. Jungle training in Ceylon included instructions on cooking and serving curried lizard.
In March 1945 he and two comrades in Team Pig were dropped into the Pyu area of Burma to organise resistance groups. One night, as they moved across the country, they were betrayed by the driver of their bullock cart and surrounded by soldiers of the Indian National Army, which was under Japanese command.
After failing to negotiate their release, they shot their way out, killing or wounding five of their captors. Tack became separated from the others. He hid by day and moved only by night, using a compass, subsisting on water from the paddy fields, watching out for snakes and listening for the warning rustle of long columns of ants.
After six days he was found by a village headman and reunited with his comrades. When his group was overrun by the advancing 5th Indian Infantry Division, he hitched a ride with an American pilot to Chittagong and then went by ferry to Calcutta.
In July he was dropped into Selangor, Malaya. After the Japanese surrender, his team arranged for air drops of food and medical supplies for civilian internees at Bahau, Negeri Sembilan.
When SOE was disbanded, Tack was posted to the 25th Dragoons and was in India during the violence that followed Partition. In 1947 he returned to England and signed up for a 22-year engagement as a regular soldier. He was posted to the 3rd Caribiniers (Prince of Wales’s Dragoon Guards) in Germany and later served as regimental sergeant major with the Cheshire Yeomanry.
After retiring from the Army in 1969 as a WO1, he was a magistrate’s court official until 1974 and then worked on the security branch of British Rail until 1982.
Settled in Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire, his hobbies included DIY, reading and music. For many years, he was a boxing judge.
Gordon Tack married, in 1947, Monica Bridgid Schlesinger. She predeceased him and he is survived by their three sons and a daughter.
Gordon Tack, born November 21 1923, died December 24 2013
Mental ill health seems to be something most people don’t want to talk about, and it was a relief to read not only Nathan Filer’s words but also those of his friend (Where did mental health care go so wrong? 25 January). However it is not only in adult mental health services that the cuts are hurting. I work in a community NHS mental health team for children, young people and their families. The children and young people we work with starve themselves, cut themselves, hear voices, become so anxious they cannot get to school, so troubled they cannot learn or make friends, are so unhappy they want – and try – to kill themselves.
Some of them have parents who will support them. But some don’t want their families involved in their care. And sometimes families just don’t have the resources to provide a secure base for their children. Back in the day, social services were able to step into the breach, but structural change and cuts have led to an increase of the threshold by which families can get a service. Non-statutory agencies plugged the gap for a while, but cuts are biting and services such as counselling centres for young people are closing all over the country. If mental health services are the Cinderella of NHS health care, those for children and young people are even further behind in the queue.
Lewes, East Sussex
• Nathan Filer has highlighted the problems facing mental health care. Bed and staff shortages mean people can’t get the help they need. The routine use of antipsychotics as a chemical restraint and discrimination against those who experience mental health issues is a real worry. But mental health nurses have a responsibility to be holders of hope. We need to recognise positive changes and, as we say to those we care for, things will get better.
Who would have thought, even 10 years ago, that as a student mental health nurse I would have the opportunity to be inspired by people like Rachel Waddingham of the Hearing Voices Network and Ron Coleman of Working to Recovery, watch plays performed by users of mental health services, or engage in enlightened debates about the use of medication and observations. This is an exciting time for mental health care, and I truly believe things can get better. If one in four of us experience mental health issues, then we all have a responsibility to push for change. Too many people still don’t get the care they deserve. However, instead of complaining and despairing about the future, let us recognise excellent practice, like Hearing Voices, and use it to inspire us all to fight for better for everyone.
• The clue as to why successive governments have closed 50% of mental health in-patient beds in the past 10 years lies in Filer’s own description of the care packages provided – essentially: food, lodging, respite from a chaotic lifestyle and some drugs and therapy. Patients got a temporary “lift” but sustained health improvement often eluded them. More focused community-based healthcare packages, such as early intervention in psychosis, are more effective and less costly than an in-patient stay. The NHS, despite resource pressure, remains a world-class entity in the development of new forms of home-based treatments, and resistance to change – often among NHS clinicians – is one of its major challenges.
As a former member of the Brighton Green party, I’m concerned that the proposed council tax referendum (Letters, 23 January) is being praised as an exercise in democracy and a stand against austerity. It’s neither. It buys into a model of plebiscitary decision-making that the government established with the explicit aim of undermining local democracy. The £2.75m the tax increase will raise – at an estimated cost of up to £500k – will only cover a 10th of the amount cut by Westminster. Council leader Jason Kitcat himself argued in the local press not long ago that a referendum would be a mistake. This is not about austerity, but a deeply divided local Green party’s last throw of the dice to avoid electoral oblivion in 2015.
• It is tempting to support councils which opt for a referendum on increasing council tax above a government-specified threshold, but such an approach has its dangers. Governments are held to account at elections: this government did not seek approval for increasing VAT, which affected household budgets more than council tax increases. Councils which increase council tax below the government’s threshold are accused by Eric Pickles of being “democracy dodgers”, with the distinct possibility that he might lower the threshold! The real democracy dodgers are those who, like the government, undermine the legitimacy of democratically elected local councils whose policies should be judged at the ballot box in local government elections.
Labour, House of Lords
• Simon Jenkins blames Brighton and Hove city council for the West Pier “left to rot in the sea” (Comment, 24 January), but the West Pier does not belong to the council, it belongs to the penniless West Pier Trust. Jenkins describes the remains of the pier as an eyesore, but some of us love it as a giant bird cage, a dramatic piece of sculpture in the sea.
Hon secretary, The Brighton Society
Is there a prospect of Paxman J interviewing Paxman G about the role of British embassies across the world in promoting the cause of British business with particular regard to where such businesses retail products that put the lives of children, women and men at risk all unbeknownst to those endorsing them (How government enlisted UK soldiers – and our man in Mexico – to help sell fake bomb detectors? 27 January)?
• It’s time the Guardian moved to an evidence-based letters page. All those claiming January crocuses, first cuckoos or other spurious natural phenomena should be required to submit photographs with that day’s paper in the background to demonstrate authenticity. In the meantime, I’ve just seen a rare Shropshire kangaroo, not usually seen until April, bouncing round my garden.
• Your correspondent (Letters, 24 January) rightly identifies Judith Hart on the Labour benches in 1976. But she was not then minister for overseas development, having been dropped the previous year after campaigning for a no vote in the European referendum. She was reappointed in February 1977, becoming a rare example of someone taking the same ministerial post three times.
• So an “exceptional number of national celebrations” were responsible for the increased amount of drink (Whitehall quadruples order for champagne, 25 January). If the demand went up four-fold from 2012 to 2013 because of events such as “the Queen’s diamond jubilee and the Olympics”, which I seem to remember happened in 2012, then perhaps all this drink has got the government’s hospitality wing even more befuddled by the figures than I am.
Old Buckenham, Norfolk
• ”Not only does your review of Blurred Lines not name a single actor in the all-woman cast” (Letters, 27 January). Irrespective of gender, the Guardian calls all thespians actors. Why do you still refer to female waiters as waitresses?
West Kirby, Wirral
Great to read Decca Aitkenhead’s interview with Laura Bates (25 January). Dispiriting, as a so-called “third wave feminist”, to recognise the familiarity of experiences of harassment of what could be my granddaughter’s generation, but heartening to know that there is a worldwide resurgence of awareness that this is unacceptable. Then I see the interview with Mike Tyson (Sport, 25 January), in which is a reference to Tyson’s “distressing problems with women” (your words). These problems presumably include Tyson’s violence towards his first wife, Robin Givens, and his conviction in 1992 for the rape of Desiree Washington neither of which are mentioned in the text. Hard to believe that in the current climate of male media personalities being prosecuted on the grounds of historic sexual abuse, whatever the category of that abuse, the Guardian is still happy to publish four pages of hagiography about a convicted rapist in what is essentially a litany of his victimhood and free publicity for his new book.
• I am fully supportive of this “fourth wave” of younger women who are using social media to such brilliant effect. Yet I would have to be subsumed, I suppose, in the class of “veteran feminists” who “brandish manifestos” around as if this were a pathetic and inconsequential way to effect change. There are two rules in feminism, as I know it, that perhaps should be learned. First, do not denigrate the efforts or undermine the challenges faced by any woman. Anywhere. Ever. Second, we are genuinely “all in this together” because women, while we do not share class, colour, location in the world and so forth, do share the experience of political and cultural inequality and, also, continuing misogyny. Political change still needs political action.
Patrick Diamond’s claim that Labour needs to wise up to what the electorate “really” wants (Strategist warns Miliband not to believe voters are moving to the left, 25 January) repeats the depressing character of Labour party politics, which consistently rejects imagining and debating what a better society might be like. Instead it sticks with the pragmatic ambition of mirroring what pollsters say voters want. No doubt, a middle-of-the road Labour government is better than a Tory one. But watching a party scramble to stick bits of policy together that they think will appeal to voters is embarrassing. It’s uninspiring, lacks coherence and real impact.
Creating profound and ambitious political visions doesn’t need to involve a paternalistic party telling people what’s good for them. It can involve collective debate engaging large numbers of people inside the party and out; it can ask critical questions about economic growth and competition, about the role of the market and state, about supporting creativity, minority cultures and internationalism. The constant fear of not getting elected nationally creates damaging political passivity. The 1980s, often characterised as a time when Labour was “out in the wilderness”, was an era when the party was hugely vibrant, politically active and influential, shaping local politics, and facilitating alliances for change. If the Labour party wants new forms of unity and participation, it would do well to look at the times when its achievement was through local rather than national politics – a local politics far less parochial and nationalist than what we see today.
Professor of law and political theory, University of Kent
• Patrick Diamond is so pathologically fearful of the left that he is obliged to deny what is plainly obvious: namely that Ed Miliband‘s determination to constrain predatory corporate power is very popular with the public. Indeed, whether it’s blocking excessive energy price rises, Leveson-ing the Murdoch press, tackling soaring rents by a major housebuilding programme, breaking up failed banks, pushing through a living wage, and redressing obscene inequality, the public want lots more of it. Significantly, rail fares have now risen so much, 80% of the public want the railways brought back into public ownership.
Diamond and co urge Labour to “unite a broad spectrum of constituencies and classes”. Don’t they see that that is exactly what Miliband is doing, since the “squeezed middle” now embraces almost everyone except the richest 10th? The real problem is that they themselves were perceived not as representing a broad spectrum but rather abandoning their natural supporters in favour of a tiny clique of wealth and corporate power. Another round of that would be the death of Labour. Of the five million votes Labour lost between 1997 and 2010, nearly half were semi-skilled and unskilled workers who felt Labour didn’t represent them any more. They will not vote Labour again unless they are given good reason to do so, and that is exactly what Miliband is trying to provide.
Of course, trying to win middle-class votes in the south is very important – so long as it’s not at the expense of the party’s core integrity and identity. But nearly half the population still see themselves as working-class (even if that has almost disappeared from the Westminster lexicon), and it’s Miliband’s insight to see very clearly that one class cannot be won over at the expense of the other, but both are needed and indispensable.
Michael Meacher MP
Labour, Oldham West and Royton
• It is presumably possible that Ed Miliband’s stated desire to remodel capitalism comes from a desire to serve not his party’s best interests but those of the general populace. It would be unfortunate then if this paper, in repeatedly evaluating his and other politicians’ policies in terms of re-electability rather than rightness, serves to undermine the very values it purports to promote.
• The sense of entitlement shared by some of the offspring of New Labour ministers in seeking to become MPs is in marked contrast to those of previous generations (Report, 25 January). Only one of the children of old Labour cabinet ministers in government from 1945-79 sought a political career, with Harold Wilson’s children becoming a maths professor and an engine driver – arguably more useful contributors to society than most in the Westminster bubble.
Jonathan Jones found it hard to believe that the artist Martin Creed was “once such a nobody” that when he sent Nicolas Serota a piece of paper, crumpled into a ball, his secretary “sent it back flattened out” (Lights, love and loss – the artist whose gift grabs the audience, 25 January). I hope the Tate director’s secretary got recognition for this conceptual statement. Isn’t it harder to believe that, if Creed repeated this now, it would be put on display and, presumably, insured for large sums of money? I love ideas, but there is such a fine line between conceptual art and taking the piss, or should that be “Taking the piss! Taking the piss! Taking the piss! …”
However, your front-page photograph of Grayson Perry receiving his CBE (Nice frocks, 25 January) made me smile for the whole weekend: a skilled artist with insight, integrity and wit. What a shame there was no accompanying article on his contribution to the public understanding of art.
The Labour Party is the only political party that could implement Owen Jones’s inspiring “Agenda for Hope” (27 January), so we desperately need Labour to get elected in 2015.
But the trouble with Miliband and his glum frontbenchers is that they have no vision of what a rebuilt Britain could be like after the destructive Tory policies have ceased. They need to get a grip, to come up with detailed and comprehensive plans that will revitalise Britain, re-hearten their supporters and grab the imagination of the electorate. Not trivial ideas like breaking up the banks, or removing the deficit in five years, or a temporary tax of 50p, but plans to sweep away the worst of the Tories’ assault on the working class and to start to construct a fairer society.
After the collapse of the fantasies of Brown and the bankers in 2008, the Tories grabbed the chance to demolish the welfare state, privatise the NHS, sell off the national utilities, and reduce taxes on the wealthy. And to be as mean and nasty with the poor, the disabled, the unemployed, the sick and the elderly as only the Nasty Party knows how.
Labour would gain wholehearted support from all decent Britons if a Labour government was committed to rolling back the worst excesses of Tory policies. More positively, a commitment to have hundreds of thousands of new homes built at affordable prices would persuade many young people who feel that they have no reason to vote, to do so.
Owen Jones’ compelling rhetoric is simply that. For those who wish for a society where the state is involved in the lives of as few as possible, the Agenda for Hope is regulation-and-control socialism dressed up in “let’s all be nice to each other” verbosity.
“Democratic public ownership” and “allow all unions access to workplaces” would see professional activism led by the sort of profoundly undemocratic unions that purport to represent the very people Owen Jones wishes to save; the agenda would be hard-left and Owen Jones must know that.
You don’t free the poor by imprisoning them in social housing and fostering a mentality that when you’re better off by your own enterprise and ambition the state will then take half your income to pursue nirvana.
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
Lost in the big city
So “huge numbers of young adults move to London and never return home” (“UK regions hit by brain drain”, 27 January).
I have just started reading a novel by Ivan Turgenev written in 1859. One of its themes concerns talented young people who leave home and head for Europe’s capital cities. They end up feeling “superfluous” and lost, without a grounded place in the world.
There is every chance that Turgenev’s books will become a popular read for the lost souls who travel on the Tube.
Westminster war on the oldest profession
Well said, Howard Jacobson (25 January). With the planned redevelopment of Walker’s Court being given the green light by Westminster, yet another slice of Soho’s history and culture is to be bulldozed, despite much local opposition – as if the Luftwaffe and Crossrail haven’t done enough between them already.
Soho Estates, Westminster and, with the recent police raids on sex workers’ premises, the powers that be, appear to be waging war on the oldest profession (also a local “core industry”). This will merely serve to drive activity elsewhere or underground, which can be very dangerous for sex workers.
Of course, the police must act to stamp out trafficking, pimping and other illegal nasties, but the oldest profession is legal and there will always be demand for the services of “artistes”, no matter what the law says. How much more Disneyfication and Starbucking can our precious and unique neighbourhood stand?
I have lived in and loved Soho for almost 30 years and it breaks my heart when I think of what has been lost already. Soho Estates maintain that they are not trying to sanitise Soho, but that is exactly what they are doing.
Saudi Arabia shuns Syria extremists
The false claims made in the article “Now it’s Middle Eastern regimes fighting al-Qa’ida” (6 January) about the Kingdom financing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are of the utmost seriousness. The Embassy refutes such implications and finds them an inaccurate and misleading account of the situation.
We would assume our attitude towards violent extremism is clear. In the light of the article, however, we would like to take this opportunity to again clarify our position and the imprecision of this accusation.
Saudi Arabia continues to show its support for the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Opposition. Global hesitation to do the same, we believe, is acting as a large barrier in movement towards peace. It is only too easy to assign blame for indecisiveness and hesitation in the support of the Syrian Opposition to fear of indirectly enabling the involvement of al-Qaeda within Syria.
In reality, it is this lack of international involvement that is paving the way for terrorist-affiliated networks to breed within Syria. Saudi Arabia has unremittingly emphasised that provision of support to forces of moderation is the most effective manner in which to stunt the growth of forces of extremism within Syria.
The Kingdom continues through the Friends of Syria group to urge the international community to be more courageous in displaying their support for the coalition and the Free Syrian Army, who are in desperate need of international assistance.
Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud
Ambassador, Embassy of Saudi Arabia, London W1
Costs of flooding in Somerset
R Horsington Graham’s letter on the Somerset flooding (14 January) only describes part of the problem. Since 2000, there have been seven flood events on the river Tone, three in the past two years. The Environment Agency has a policy to flood an area of some 15 square miles in times of heavy rainfall and pump the water into the river at a later date.
A number of us from our village did a cost-benefit analysis on the impact of this water and the cost to the taxpayer of the resultant pumping. Regardless of the damage done to businesses and private individuals, it quickly became apparent that the Environment Agency was wasting several million on pumping when dredging was cheaper for the taxpayer and far more beneficial for the local people.
When we pointed this out to the Government, they asked the Environment Agency to try to placate us. The EA didn’t dispute our figures; they couldn’t since we based the calculations on their costs, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
North Curry, Somerset
Fetishists who run down the NHS
Vivienne Rendall praises the NHS service in Northumberland, and then adds that if standards were as high in the rest of the country, “there would be none of this constant carping at the NHS” (letter, 23 January).
I suspect that however good the NHS was, there would still be relentless “carping”, because Conservatives have a vested interest in denigrating it, so that they can then “justify” handing it, piece by piece, over to their private-sector chums.
Of course the NHS is far from perfect, but much of the endless denigration is politically motivated, and emanates primarily from free-market fetishists in the Conservative Party who are ideologically opposed to the public sector, and look for any excuse or example to criticise it.
Few private schools want to be academies
You report Lord Adonis’s assertion that up to 100 independent schools are poised to join the state sector (23 January). However, this was a throw-away comment at the Social Market Foundation and reflects the noble Lord’s political aspirations rather than any sense of reality.
Of the 15 private schools that have used the 2010 Act to convert to a free school or academy, most were struggling for numbers and a few used the opportunity to return to their direct-grant roots. All are now finding that the constraints of the state education sector, notably in funding, are eroding any sense of independence, with larger class sizes and reduction in extra-curricular activities among the many consequences.
Lord Adonis is quite wrong in suggesting that independent schools are queuing up to join the state sector, and the few exploring such a route only see it as a last resort.
The anonymity of the crossword setter, perplexed puzzlers and memories of the Times’ first national competition
Sir, May I wish a happy retirement to Richard Browne, your out-going crossword editor, and a warm welcome to the new incumbent, Richard Rogan (“Who sets the Times Crosswords? Actually, the name is in the clue”, Jan 27).
You report that your new crossword editor has no intention of removing the puzzle’s cloak of anonymity and “can think of a number of reasons why it should stay anonymous”.
The preference of solvers could be one reason to think differently, so why not ask them?
Before writing How to Master The Times Crossword (HarperCollins), I undertook a lot of research and found almost unanimous solver preference for a policy change, if only out of fairness to the admired Times setters. Richard Rogan evidently recognises this by giving names in the same article to those who created his favourite clues, some of which are from The Times.
Sir, With your report you have a vintage black-and-white picture of a bowler-hatted gentleman absorbed by the Times crossword, which is folded on to his knee — would that this were still possible.
May I lodge an impassioned plea on behalf of all the Times crossword solvers I know to reposition the puzzle horizontally on the back page? As it is now — vertically on the inside back page — apart from the nuisance of having to cover up the contorted face of some or other sweaty sportsman, it is impossible to write in the answers unless one is sitting at a desk.
If for some reason it must remain in its present position, then may I suggest that the clues are in the superior position to the grid? Then it just might be possible to solve the puzzle when it is folded on to one’s knee.
Sir, There were 2,000 entries for the first Times National Crossword competition in 1970. I sold the idea to the Crossword Editor, Edmund Akenhead, on behalf of Grand Metropolitan Hotels, where the final took place at the old Europa Hotel in Grosvenor Square.
Three crosswords had to be completed correctly to get into the final. When the crosswords had been marked there were still far more qualified finalists than the 300 envisaged. So one more crossword was created, and one clue got the numbers down to the desired level. It was “The insect in Jeremiah’s book” (6). A lot of contestants ploughed through the book of Jeremiah without success. The answer is “Amenta” because Jeremiah also wrote the book of Lamentations. About 50 contestants got all 350 questions in the final correct. The fastest correct completion was six and a half minutes.
Sir, If the compiler of crossword 25,691 (Jan 23; solution Jan 24) had turned his grid by 90 degrees so the down answers became the across ones it would have been obvious that they were “Royal Worcester”, “liberal studies”, “macaroni cheese”, “heavy hydrogen”, “district court”, “market research”, “venture capital” and “reception class”. I suspect that few solvers noticed that the answers were linked in this way. Certainly I didn’t until I checked the solution.
St Albans, Herts
Sir, For the past 20 years the main focus of health and social care policy has been on meeting the needs of an ageing population. Policies such as free TV licenses, bus passes and winter fuel allowances have made a welcome difference to many people.
In comparison, policies to support children and young people have been relatively piecemeal. The recent Chief Medical Officer’s report, focusing on child health, and the governmental support for the Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum are welcome, as is the support for young people not in education or training and the attention given to early years.
However, the UK still has one of the worst child mortality rates in Western Europe with up to 2,000 excess deaths a year; the number of children who are obese or who have mental health problems is growing; and the effects of economic problems fall particularly heavily on younger people. For the first time since the Victorian age it is predicted that living standards for children will be worse than for their parents.
This is not about children and young people versus the elderly, and no one disputes that people deserve to grow old in dignity. We simply want to see equal focus given to the younger generation and we are calling on political parties to present a more coherent view to the electorate on what they would do to make the whole of the UK the best country in the world to begin life, as well as to end it. Because when you get it right for children and young people you’re also getting it right for tomorrow’s adults.
Dr Hilary Cass, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health; Puja Dubari, Barnardo’s; Lily Caprani Children’s Society; Sally Russell, Netmums; Pamela Barnes, MBE, Action for Sick Children; Srabani Sen, British Association for Adoption and Fostering; Simon Blake, OBE, Brook; Melian Mansfield, Early Childhood Forum; Dr Cheryll Adams, Institute of Health Visiting; Francine Bates, The Lullaby Trust; Christopher Head, Meningitis Research Foundation; Marie Peacock, Mothers At Home Matter; Hilary Emery, National Children’s Bureau; Belinda Phipps, National Childbirth Trust; Jane Sharp, Rays of Sunshine; Richard Piper, Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Charity; Siobhan Dunn, Teenage Cancer Trust; Barbara Gelb, Together for Short Lives; Neal Long, Sands; Rosalind Godson, Unite/Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association; Dave Munday; Unite/Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association; George Hosking, WAVE Trust; Sarah Brennan, Young Minds
Sir, It is not surprising that the stethoscope may soon be obsolete (report, Jan 24). Even in my time as a medical student in the late 1940s they were refered to as “guessing tubes”.
Dr Ronald Brown
Sir, I was surprised to read (Jan 27) about “the nine-mile tramline running from the airport westwards to the city centre” of Edinburgh. Unless I’m mistaken, Edinburgh lies to the east of the airport. So a tram line heading west, ending in Edinburgh, would have to circumnavigate the world. Perhaps that’s why it’s taking so long to complete.
Sir, As the 82-year-old widow of the composer Thomas Wilson, CBE, I was surprised to see that the amount payable on the sale of a CD (costing £13.24 on Amazon) devoted to six of the chamber works of my husband, resulted in a payment from the MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) to me of 26 pence. The total playing time is 77 minutes. This music took a lot of time and thought to write. It is about time that the remuneration of composers was known to the public – and perhaps the organisations that were set up to protect the interests of composers could do more?
Thomas Wilson Trust, Glasgow
SIR – While I support Patrick Rump and his initiative for the rehabilitation of injured dancers, there are many existing physiotherapists striving to treat dancers appropriately and keep up to date with the latest advances in dance medicine.
As a member of the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a senior physiotherapist and someone who has taken a ballet class most weeks for 45 years, I do, however, agree that “ballet has been taught… like a sacred mystery… shut off from medical analysis” and that “a comprehensive review” is, in some areas, long overdue.
Another problem is the belief among too many dancers that if they report an injury, they will be withdrawn from an important exam or passed over for a part they desperately want.
We think that these higher taxes will have the effect of discouraging business investment in Britain. This is a backwards step which would put the economic recovery at risk and would very quickly lead to the loss of jobs in Britain.
Vice Chairman, West Ham United
Sir Ian Cheshire
Chief Executive, Kingfisher
Chief Executive, Kurt Geiger
Chief Executive, De Vere Group
Executive Chairman, Towergate
Chairman, London First
CEO, Odeon UK
Chief Executive, Westfield Group
Founder, Anya Hindmarch
Executive Chairman, mydeco
Chairman, Risk Capital
Chairman, Invoke Capital; Founder, Autonomy
Chairman, New Look
Founder and CEO, Pimlico Plumbers
Founder and Chairman, Hampden
Sir Stuart Rose
Chairman, British Retail Consortium, Gala Coral and the RAC
Chief Executive, Telecity
Founder, Enterprise Inns
CEO, Harvey Nichols
Sir Hossein Yassaie
Chief Executive, Imagination Technologies
SIR – Ed Balls’ pledge to reintroduce a 50 per cent top rate of tax suggests that he has learnt nothing from recent tax revenue returns, the consequences of progressive taxation and the experiences of previous governments when the higher rates were 60 and 80 per cent. As a former Harvard Kennedy Scholar (Economics) his analysis beggars belief.
The Labour Party seems unable to comprehend that government expenditure is too high. Labour seems convinced that this is popular. It isn’t.
People want more money in their pockets, less government, less interference in their lives and a government they can afford.
SIR – The chief executive of the Environment Agency states that he is deciding whether to repair or abandon sea defences breached by the tidal surge in Suffolk and Norfolk.
This issue is too important to local communities to be decided by a non-governmental body. The 2010 Flood and Water Management Act was rushed through Parliament without proper scrutiny in the last few days before the general election. Section 38 of this gives powers to the Environment Agency actually to create either flooding or coastal erosion where it believes these are justified.
The Government should review this Act. It is clearly inappropriate for unelected civil servants to be deciding whether to abandon large areas of the land to the sea.
Dr Martin Parsons
SIR – A recent audit in my paediatric clinic showed that the medical records were missing in one third of consultations, sometimes including the referral letter to explain why I had been asked to see the child. In another third, the medical records were incomplete, with previous letters and summaries missing.
My complaints to managers fell on deaf ears, since they were not the ones who had any accountability to parents.
Dr Charles Essex
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
Sealing the deal
SIR – Many years ago, in the days of shorthand typists (Letters, January 25) I was acting as solicitor for clients on the sale of their house. A few days before the date fixed for completion, I received a letter from the purchasers’ solicitors stating that their clients were ready to copulate.
Leigh Woods, Somerset
SIR – The campaign for a Single Seat for the European Parliament is led by a cross-party steering group of 24 senior MEPs which I co-chair. It aims to give MEPs the right to choose when and where we work.
Single Seat was launched three years ago and includes the former One Seat campaign, which gathered 1.27 million signatures for a single seat in Brussels.
Since its launch, the campaign has overseen a series of votes on budgetary and organisational dossiers calling for an end to the “travelling circus”. MEPs have voted by as much as 78 per cent – a supermajority – for EU governments to address the issue. The truth is that all EU member states have signed up to continuing to spend £150 million every year keeping MEPs meeting in two places.
What is needed is an alternative use for the complex of buildings in Strasbourg. Single Seat has proposed that some other EU bodies, or a European university, be transferred there so that the parliament can focus its work in Brussels.
According to its own economists, Strasbourg benefits to the tune of 20 million euros each year from the parliament’s presence, whereas the post-war Council of Europe, its parliamentary assembly and the European Court of Human Rights yield some 177 million euros, as they are permanently based in the city. Sadly, although the Coalition agreement pledges to press for a single seat in Brussels, so far nothing has been done.
Edward McMillan-Scott MEP (Lib Dem)
SIR – Will Heaven refers to the “700 Zulus hired as extras” in the film Zulu but does not mention that King Cetshwayo is played by his great-grandson, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, former Chief Minister of KwaZulu and founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party. I always took his participation in the film to be a tribute to his ancestor and to the respect each side felt for the fighting qualities of the other.
Matlock Bath, Derbyshire
A light snack
SIR – Why do fridges have lights but freezers do not? Might it be because fridges are more likely to be visited in the middle of the night?
Cathedral choirs should be funded by the state
SIR – Ivan Hewett rightly describes our cathedral choirs as a fabulous cultural treasure and arguably the greatest cultural achievement of these isles. Sadly, Wales has allowed one such treasure to disappear in the past few weeks, with the demise of the choir at Llandaff Cathedral in its traditional form, following on the heels of the choir at Ripon. Lincoln is now in trouble too.
How much longer will the choirs at Wakefield and Bradford last, once their cathedral status is questioned on the departure of their bishops next year? The problem is not recruitment but money, as these choirs receive no state funding.
Our cathedral choirs should be recognised by the state as mirrors of 1,000 years of our glorious musical history, and funded accordingly, in the same way as our orchestras and opera houses.
Director of Music
SIR – When it comes to cathedral choirs, I am a traditionalist, having been a member of an all-male cathedral choir for 40 years.
To prevent girls from singing in cathedrals, however, would be unjust. Girls’ choirs are fine; the problem lies in mixing the voices. But, as Ivan Hewett points out, as soon as girls arrive in a choir, the boys tend to leave. If we drive boys out of cathedral choirs, where will the tenors and basses of the future come from?
SIR – Cathedral music may no longer be in crisis, but it is certainly an endangered species, and girls’ choirs and new music are essential for its survival.
The traditionalists may not like either of these things, but without them the future of cathedral music would be bleak indeed.
Professor Peter Toyne
Chairman, Friends of Cathedral Music
SIR – The Government is blindly arrogant when it boasts that Britain still has the fourth largest defence budget in the world (report, January 17).
Comparison of our defence spending against that of emerging nations is grossly misleading. Their cost base (people and manufacturing) tends to be much lower than ours and they save a fortune by foregoing the exorbitantly expensive capability of our Armed Forces to deploy worldwide. They also have the luxury of copying Western military technology (rather than spending billions developing their own from scratch).
The institutional failings of Britain’s defence procurement ensure that the taxpayer pays two to three times what it should for military kit, and the ensuing programme delays mean that vast swathes of our defence budget are blown on keeping equipment in service well past its best.
Our greedy and inefficient defence industry has too much influence on what equipment the Government buys.
A big proportion of Britain’s defence spending is unnecessarily consumed by Trident. There are much cheaper solutions to Britain’s deterrent needs.
Finally, erratic government policy, typified by the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, ensures that the MoD wastes billions writing off perfectly good equipment. The scrapping of Nimrod, Ark Royal, the Type 22 Frigates and the Harriers will yield tiny savings compared to the original cost of the equipment.
Dr Mark Campbell-Roddis
SIR – There is already insufficient training time for recruits. This will only get shorter as pressure increases and major exercises will continue to be cancelled.
Twenty thousand regular soldiers are being made redundant, to be replaced by 30,000 unreliable and expensive reservists. At typical reserve mobilisation rates, to deploy 30,000 we would actually need to recruit around 50,000; and if it was possible to train people to be “fully effective soldiers” over a few weekends then there would be no need for a regular Army – and, as was predictable, recruitment of reserves is failing miserably.
We have yet to discuss the impact on morale, recruitment, unit cohesion and hence operational effectiveness to punch above our weight. The Government’s decisions have made Britain militarily insignificant. We must expect less geo-political influence as a consequence. How long before we lose our permanent seat at the UN Security Council?
Capt Jeremy Tozer (retd)
Sonning Common, Oxfordshire
SIR – Readers bemoan the reduction in our Armed Forces. But at least now we will not be able to take part in dubious actions such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s time to be a bit more insular.
Sir, – Last Thursday evening, I had to rush a relative of mine, who had been an internal patient there a few days previously, back to Mount Carmel Hospital. Once there, a young doctor and nurse ministered successfully to my relative for two hours and we were able to leave at midnight, to make further contact on Monday morning, January 27th. On phoning the hospital on Monday we were informed that my relative could no longer be treated there.
I understand that this appalling state of affairs has come about because Nama, owned by the taxpayer; one of the wealthiest property owners in Europe and one of the most cash rich bodies in Ireland, has withdrawn its financial support to Mount Carmel. Yet this same wealthy quango has no qualms about giving financial support to bankrupt hotels and golf clubs.
Where has the ideal of building a caring, cherishing nation gone? It is with our 1916 dead, in the grave. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The concerted attack on religious education, of which Ruairí Quinn’s comments are the latest example (Home News, January 27th), is not surprising in view of the endless revelations of the inherent dishonesty, corruption and general lack of integrity throughout the elite of the country.
In the circumstances, the better response must surely be to increase religious education in schools with particular attention to the ten commandments. Perhaps mandatory Leaving Cert in religion for office-holders would be preferable to one in Irish? – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Teachers in schools under religious patronage (Church of Ireland, Muslim, Catholic, etc) now have a dilemma. Teachers are contractually bound by their patron, who is their employer, to teach religion. The Minister for Education and Skills is their paymaster, and he says they should stop teaching religion in schools. If the Minister is serious about his suggestion, then the State must take full responsibility for education in all schools and fund them adequately. In the meantime, teachers will continue to serve God and mammon! – Is mise,
SEÁN Ó DÍOMASAIGH,
Scoil an Chroí Ró Naofa Íosa,
A chara, – Regardless of whose feathers he ruffled, Ruairí Quinn was sensible to suggest that basic literacy and numeracy would be improved in primary schools by devoting less time to religion and more to maths and reading.
Buried deep in an ESRI report of January 2012, The Primary Classroom, is a table which analyses the proportions of time spent on different subject areas in our primary schools. It is troubling to note that when more classroom time is spent on religious education, the two subjects which suffer the most are maths and English.
It seems that our primary school educators have traded the three Rs for four. – Is mise,
De Courcy Square,
Glasnevin, Dublin 9.
Sir, – I share the Association of Catholic Priests’ dismay at Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn’s latest outburst (Home News, January 27th). At the start of Catholic Schools Week, Mr Quinn promotes anarchy by suggesting that primary school teachers go against principals and boards of management and curtail the amount of time given to religious education.
Amazingly Mr Quinn refuses to examine the reality of Roman Catholic education in Northern Ireland (or in Britain) where, in research studies, Roman Catholic schools are shown to provide better results than socially and economically comparable secular schools even though Roman Catholic schools there devote a similar amount of curriculum time to sacramental preparation as Roman Catholic schools in the Republic do.
Interestingly although Mr Quinn continues to imply a relationship between Irish national school learners’ under-performance in maths and English and amount of time spent on sacramental preparation, he provides no evidence to support his claim.
If time is really an issue, then the obvious answer is to extend the school day or extend the school year in line with schools in Northern Ireland. – Yours, etc,
Beaufort, Co Kerry.
Sir, – Gerry Brouder (January 24th) may be interested to know that we can already save on costs associated with pylons, as the competition to design more elegant pylons has already been run.
The competition was organised by the Royal Institute of British Architects on behalf of the British Department of Energy & Climate Change and UK National Grid in 2011.The six shortlisted designs (selected from more than 250 entries) were included in a public exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum that year, to coincide with the London Design Festival. Most importantly, one of those six designs was submitted by ESB International & Roughan O’Donovan and UK-based architecture practice Knight Architects. So, job done. No need for The Irish Times to run a competition. All we need is for someone to build them. – Yours, etc,
Dundalk, Co Louth.
Sir, – Your Science Page (January 23rd) presented just some of the major scientific advances that are possible when astronomers have access to the largest telescopes on Earth, and particularly those operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). However, Ireland is notable by its absence from the 15 member states that constitute this organisation. At a time when ESO is preparing to deal with one of the greatest technical challenges ever faced by astronomers – to construct the most powerful optical telescope ever built (with a mirror size approximately 1/7th the size of the pitch in the Aviva stadium) – Ireland’s absence from ESO deals the double blow of denying its astronomers the use of the best observatory on the planet, while also preventing Irish businesses from bidding for the ESO industrial contracts that will result from the construction of this new facility.
Globally, Ireland’s absence from ESO and indeed CERN is at odds with a country that seeks to position itself at the cutting edge of international scientific research. Areas of “blue skies” research – such as astronomy and particle physics, for example – are internationally recognised for their importance not only for what they tell us about the fundamental workings of the universe (eg dark energy, the Higgs boson), and in motivating the young to pursue careers in science and technology, but also for the role they play in driving the most advanced technological innovation.
As the Irish economic recovery continues to gather momentum, it is to be hoped that Ireland will recognise its responsibility to share the burden of scientific research with its international peers, by joining such organisations as CERN and ESO. Whatever about the price of joining, we can ill afford the long term damage of doing otherwise. – Yours, etc,
Prof PAUL CALLANAN, Chair (outgoing) Royal Irish Academy’s Committee for Astronomy and Space Sciences, (& Department of Physics, University College Cork); Prof PETER T GALLAGHER Co-Chair, RIA Committee for Astronomy and Space Sciences (& School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin); & Dr RAY BUTLER Secretary, Astronomical Science Group of Ireland (& School of Physics, NUI, Galway)
Sir, – Sean O Kiersey (January 25th) asks if he is “alone in thinking that canvassing inside the church doors in January for elections not due until May 1st is a bit much?” Surely this begs the question – if canvassing at any time, for any cause, inside the doors of a place of worship “is a bit much”?
Sacred space should be exactly that – not hijacked for the distribution of propaganda for any party. The very parties who argue for a separation of church and State. – Yours, etc,
MARY ROSE McCARTHY,
Sir, – I welcome Noel Whelan’s support for marriage equality for gay women and men (Opinion, January 25th). I also support his view that we should not be afraid to let a conservative position be heard in this discussion.
However, not all language is acceptable in debate. Mr Whelan describes a debate he organised in 1989, as auditor of the Commerce and Economics Society at UCD entitled “That Homosexuality is Perverse and should be Discouraged”. He explains that the title was chosen to be deliberately provocative. He found the debate entertaining. I found it anything but. The atmosphere in UCD, as in Ireland generally, in the late 1980s was not a welcoming one for gay people. Decriminalisation did not occur until 1993.
Mr Whelan may not be aware that I, and other gay people who attended UCD at that time, found the language of such debate deeply threatening. The use of such a title suggests to many that a reasonable question is being posed, and that either answer may be acceptable. Several hundred attended the debate. Several thousand saw the numerous provocative posters. It made UCD an even more difficult place to be for a gay person.
The current debate is being listened to closely by many gay adolescents and young adults who are coming to terms with their sexuality. The language we use is likely to have profound implications for their future emotional and psychological health. We all need to remember this. – Yours, etc,
Dr DES McMAHON,
South Circular Road,
Dublin 8 .
Sir, – Noel Whelan (Opinion, January 25th) as a supporter of the “campaign for marriage equality”, suggests his fellow supporters who stifle debate (by unfairly using the label “homophobe”) do not serve their cause because the Irish people are suspicious of any proposal when they are not given an opportunity to debate it.
The irony of his position, however, is that the very use of the label “campaign for marriage equality” is itself a stifling of the debate. This campaign title at least implies that those who wish to preserve marriage as founded upon union between men and women are in favour of “marriage inequality”. An adult homosexual male or lesbian female enjoy the identical rights of a heterosexual person to marry a person of the opposite sex. While that may be an unwise and often an impossible right for a homosexual male or a lesbian female to exercise, they are not denied the exercise of that right by reason of inequality or discrimination on the part of the State but by their own sexual orientation.
A true debate is stifled by the inaccurate use of language. Whatever views any of us hold, we all must seek to truthfully call things what they are, to label things correctly, especially marriage. Has not every civilisation that has gone before us, which used the label marriage, meant it to refer to unions between men and women? This is truthfully the campaign for the re-definition of marriage. – Yours, etc,
PATRICK TREACY SC,
Stoneyford, Co Kilkenny.
Sir, – If I am correct that the intention of Noel Whelan’s article (Opinion, January 25th) is to communicate to the liberal and LGBT communities not to overuse accusations of homophobia in the marriage equality debate for fear of causing disaffection, then it is a wise suggestion.
These communities could be at risk of closing down the debate and disaffecting voters by assuming that the debate has been won. It hasn’t. However, this is a political analysis.
On another level it is incredibly difficult for the LGBT community to be dispassionate in the face of an opposition that appears to them to be homophobia masquerading as conservativism. The LGBT community has everything on the line in the marriage equality debate.
Minority stress (the concept that minorities become stressed from anti-minority messages in society) has been a key factor linked with having a negative impact on the mental health of LGBT people in a number of LGBT mental health surveys.
If this referendum passes it will be a stake in the vampiric heart of homophobia. At this level, this debate isn’t just about answering a political/ civil rights question, it is about one generation of the LGBT community trying to ensure that the next one doesn’t have to suffer their negative experiences.
While the LGBT community does have to be politically astute, it must be noted they have long suffered the effects of latent and visceral homophobia to understand better than any its appropriate application! – Yours, etc,
(Former Chair, DCU LGBTA
St Laurence’s Road,
A chara, – It is strange so much publicity has been given to An Post’s mistake in issuing a stamp with the wrong image of Capt Jack White, one of the founders of the Citizen Army (Home News, January 25th). No historian seems to have noticed the wrong image on the stamp issued in November 2013 to commemorate the founding of the Irish Volunteers. Instead of using one of the many pictures of the newly-formed Volunteers in 1913/early 1914, An Post chose to use a professionally uniformed group of Redmond’s National Volunteers, based in Waterford, a group who did not come into being until some time after the split in the Volunteer movement in autumn 1914. The group of National Volunteers pictured also had a flag which was particular to that group, which did not exist when the Irish Volunteers were formed.
Perhaps these facts escaped the country’s historians as commemorative stamps are no longer sold at post offices, they can only be purchased at the philatelic shop in the GPO, thus ensuring that a huge section of the population never see these stamps.
Will An Post agree to issue another stamp to commemorate the founding of the Volunteers, as it may do for the founding of the Citizen Army? – Is mise,
A chara, – With regard to Kieran Forde’s letter (January 23rd), the respective son (my father) and daughter of Peadar and Micheal Mc Nulty (Company A, First Battalion of the Dublin Brigade, 1916-1921) are also still alive. Peadar and Micheal are both in the photograph of prisoners captured after the Rising on the balcony of E block in Stafford Prison as featured in your paper (Front page of Stories of the Rising supplement, January 17th).
Fortunately Peadar wrote an account of his experiences which is still in the family’s possession. His accounts are largely factual and while this is invaluable in itself, I share Kieran Forde’s view that the human and personal impact of these sacrifices needs to be recorded. The children of the veterans are uniquely placed to afford us these insights and I wish to add my voice to Mr Forde’s in calling for someone to undertake to record these memories. – Is mise,
UNA Mac NULTY,
Sir, – “Fulsome”, that horrible word, is my suggestion for the chop. Where will its misuse end? The “fulsome Irish breakfast”, the “fulsome stop” or, perhaps, even the “fulsome Monty”? – Yours, etc,
Clarina. Co Limerick.
Sir, – “Perfect” as for example used by a receptionist in response to my bank account details given in advance settlement of expensive dental treatment; or a tax payment. Perfect for them, perhaps! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Power outages. Please bring back our blackouts but not at the top of the hour. – Yours, etc,
Carndonagh, Co Donegal.
Sir, – Stand out. Whatever happened to outstanding? – Yours, etc,
Castleknock, Dublin 15.
Sir, – Kieran McHugh (January 25th) bemoans the “grammatically incorrect use” of the word “presently” as synonymous with “now”. According to that singularly authoritative record of the living, breathing English language, the Oxford English Dictionary, both usages he describes are more than acceptable. In fact, the “incorrect” usage dates back to the Middle Ages and is still heard, well, presently.
“Rant over”. – Yours, etc,
Chapelizod, Dublin 20.
Sir, – As I see it. The acceptable face of government. It’s going to take time. In living memory. Has all the hallmarks. I can’t live without (usually make-up or a handbag!). A team-player. The glass ceiling. Am I alone in thinking?. Punching above their weight (Why?) . An ATM machine. Your PIN number. Your call is important to us. – Yours, etc.
Killurin, Co Wexford.
* I attended the Reform Alliance conference in Dublin. However, I was disappointed that the topic of mental health wasn’t even mentioned by any of the speakers during the health discussion debate, in light of what I consider epidemic levels of suicide in this country.
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However, I was given the opportunity to put forward my reform when the discussion was opened up to the floor. I proposed the establishment of a separate ministry with responsibility for mental health and suicide prevention.
I also believe there should be a new body set up, focusing on research into and prevention of suicide. Dealing with the latter, a quick search in Google reveals the plethora of organisations providing help in this area. Leaving aside the obvious duplication of services, how is someone to know which organisation is best suited to help them?
The importance of research into the causes of suicide is vital as this dictates which path a person should follow in order to recover. At the moment, if a person is suicidal they must, to a certain extent, diagnose themselves. For instance, should they contact the Samaritans who offer a listening ear? Or should they contact an organisation like Pieta House which offers counselling sessions, albeit of short-term duration? Or should they contact the psychiatric services with their emphasis on the biomedical model as a means of recovery?
Can you imagine what it must be like for someone in this state of mind?
There is too much disjointed thinking in the area of suicide prevention, and a much more cohesive approach which offers a range of intervention techniques appropriate to the person’s needs with properly funded research would hopefully go some way into alleviating this problem.
SALTHILL, CO GALWAY
* The Labour Party’s apparent desire to separate not only church and State but also church and people took a turn for the ludicrous when Ruairi Quinn stated his desire to remove religion from the primary school curriculum, in favour of more reading and maths-based subjects.
Apart from the fact that the study of religion is by far one of the better ways to improve children’s reading skills, this bleeding-heart notion of maths and reading needing attention at the expense of religion should not be seen as anything more than a thin, politically correct veneer on yet another of Mr Quinn’s blatant displays of anti-theism.
The notion that children should be institutionally made ignorant of world religions, their histories, and their cultural impacts constitutes an act of educational vandalism on a par with Mr Quinn’s gunning for history at Junior Cert/Junior-Certificate-School-Award or whatever-it-is-today, level.
* I recently watched a programme about reformed criminals and their difficulty in securing employment and asking for a second chance in life – and it stirred some emotion in me.
I left school at 16 and by my late 20s had been diagnosed with cancer. As a non-smoker/drinker/drug user, to say this resulted in a bit of turmoil would be an understatement. On leaving hospital, I knew I could not go back to my life as it was. After much soul-searching, I decided I would try to address the biggest mistake of my life – that of leaving school uneducated.
I immersed myself in studying and, two years later, I sat my Leaving Cert. I enrolled in third-level education, completing a Bachelor of Arts degree and then completed a Master of Arts by research. And now, all my hard work has paid off. I work for less than €5 an hour four days a week. I apply to positions associated with what I have studied – to no avail.
Perhaps students, mature and younger, need to look outside the inward social institution that is education and find out if job/career opportunities actually exist once they finish rather than fall for the nonsense of education bosses trying to sell college places to those willing to buy their dream career.
NAME AND ADDRESS WITH EDITOR
PAYING THE PENALTY
* I would like to support fully the position set out in Dr Eugene O’Brien’s letter ‘The more things in this country change. . .’ in your Letters Page on January 25.
Basically he is proposing that organisations which receive public funds will be taxed at 95pc on other income if they exceed salary caps. He states further that if there is a challenge to this on legal grounds, let it be tested in the courts.
On the latter point, it seems that too many people, including the Government, back off if there is even the threat of legal action.
I would extend Dr O’Brien’s position to cover all organisations which have a monopolistic or dominant position protected by the State. Here the incentive would be the reduction of the degree of protection. Dr O’Brien’s letter forms the basis for a real reform where the Government would act – instead of being shocked, horrified, outraged etc at the continual “revelations”. And if the Government does not adopt a policy on these lines fairly smartly after this latest debacle, perhaps other parties or individual TDs of similar persuasion should push for this.
JOHN F JORDAN
KILLINEY, CO DUBLIN
DRAINING PENSION POTS
* We are constantly reminded when we see some of these exorbitant pensions to various members of state boards that it is not possible to reduce them for fear of the legal implications that would ensue.
Yet from January 1, 2014, the transition pension for all 65-year-olds was abolished and they were told that they could apply for jobseekers’ benefit. This changed entitlement criteria and resulted in a reduction in benefit for those who had worked all their lives for a meagre state pension.
This will effectively mean that approximately 14,500 65-year-olds will now be on jobseekers’ benefit provided they meet the criteria.
My point is that, at the stroke of a pen, the Government could change the conditions of eligibility for the majority of contributors with no fear of a challenge from the legal profession. I would also point out that no other political party has even raised this issue. If young people are not more vocal in the erosion of the quality of their lives as they progress to old age, this diminution of their entitlements will not stop.
CLONDALKIN, DUBLIN 22
GILMORE’S HOLY SEESAW
* Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore’s reasons for re-opening the Irish Embassy in the Vatican are as intriguing as the ones for closing it. The move to close the Holy See Embassy, among the Republic’s first and one of its oldest missions, was widely criticised. It came at a time of a perceived low point in Vatican and Irish relationship.
The re-opening decision, however, was put down to the huge emphasis placed on poverty, development and human rights by the newly appointed Pope Francis. I believe Gilmore learned a great deal by simply seeing how Francis multiplied his popularity and increased his followers using and practising his theme of humility and poverty.
The new embassy will be a modest one-diplomat operation, devoid of former grandeur, but it is assured of efficiency and the positive aid focus already promised by Gilmore. All Ireland is happy!
THURLES, CO TIPPERARY