Author Archive


January 28, 2014

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.
Tanya Smart
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.
Matilde Rahtz

• 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.
Ken Harper

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.
Neil Schofield

• 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.
Jeremy Beecham
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.
Selma Montford
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)?
Gordon Mott

•  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.
Alan Healey
Milson, Shropshire

• 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.
Peter Freeman

• 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.
Ron Brewer
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?
Gary Carpenter
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.
Deb Steele
Beeston, Nottingham

• 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.
Annette Lawson



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.
Davina Cooper
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.
Sylvia Rose
Totnes, Devon

• 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.
Tony Judge
Twickenham, Middlesex





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.
Jane Evans



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.

Tony Cheney

Ipswich, Suffolk

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.

Charles Foster

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.

Ivor Morgan



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.

Margaret Bloomer

London W1


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.

Tom Jeanes

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.

Pete Dorey



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.

Neil Roskilly

Chief Execu







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.

Tim Moorey

London, EC1

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.

Joseph Connolly

London NW3

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.

Derek Taylor

London NW11

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.

Philip Roe

St Albans, Herts


We have neglected our children in favour of the elderly. It is time to redress the balance

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



The stethoscope may provide doctors with gravitas but does not, perhaps, tell them as much as patients imagine

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


Look East, young man! No wonder Edinburgh’s nine-mile tramline is still all at sea

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.

Peter McKay

London W4


The royalties paid to composers do not reflect the time and talent that went in to creating their works

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?

Margaret Wilson

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.

Lesley Elphick
Slough, Berkshire


SIR – As business leaders, we are concerned to see Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, and the Labour Party calling for higher taxes on businesses and business people.

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.

John Ayton
Chairman, Bremont
Karren Brady
Vice Chairman, West Ham United
Richard Caring
Sir Ian Cheshire
Chief Executive, Kingfisher
Neil Clifford,
Chief Executive, Kurt Geiger
Andrew Coppel
Chief Executive, De Vere Group
Peter Cullum
Executive Chairman, Towergate
Philip Dilley
Chairman, London First
Rupert Gavin
CEO, Odeon UK
Michael Gutman
Chief Executive, Westfield Group
Anya Hindmarch
Founder, Anya Hindmarch
Brent Hoberman
Executive Chairman, mydeco
Luke Johnson
Chairman, Risk Capital
Mike Lynch
Chairman, Invoke Capital; Founder, Autonomy
Alistair McGeorge
Chairman, New Look
Charlie Mullins
Founder and CEO, Pimlico Plumbers
Tim Oliver
Founder and Chairman, Hampden
Sir Stuart Rose
Chairman, Ocado
Rob Templeman
Chairman, British Retail Consortium, Gala Coral and the RAC
Michael Tobin
Chief Executive, Telecity
Ted Tuppen
Founder, Enterprise Inns
Joseph Wan
CEO, Harvey Nichols
Paul Walsh
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.

Chris Lenton
Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Sea defences

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
Kessingland, Suffolk

Doctors’ records

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.

Martin Davies
Leigh Woods, Somerset

Travelling circus

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)

Zulu extra

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.

Victor Launert
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?

Guy Hollamby
London W9

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.

David Lawson
Director of Music
Monmouth School

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?

Phil Hunwick
Darwen, Lancashire

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
London SW18


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
Dunblane, Perthshire

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.

Kevin Platt
Walsall, Staffordshire



Irish Times:

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,


Ballyroan Road,


Dublin 16.



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,



Co Cork.

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,



Scoil an Chroí Ró Naofa Íosa,



Dublin 15.

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,


Richmond Court,


Co Cork.



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,


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,


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,


Amiens Street,

Dublin 2.

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,


Salisbury Avenue,



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,


Dunmore East,

Co Waterford.

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,


Park Lodge,

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,


Main Street,

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.




Irish Independent:


* 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.

Also in this section

Letters: Increased GP workload will hurt patients

Justice blind in one eye

The more things in this country change . . .

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.




* 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.



* 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.




* 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.




* 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!





January 27, 2014

27 January 2014 Drained

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. A Wren offices inspects the wardroom and it just will not do, Pertwee offers to refurbish, at a price!

Drain still unblocked but will have to get it fixed permanently and ring Yorkshire Water Monday no boxes no Thermabloc

Scrabbletoday Marywins but gets under 400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.



Sir Nicholas Browne, who has died aged 66, made his mark as a diplomat in the difficult arena of Iran, where he served twice as chargé d’affaires, then as Ambassador (from 1999 to 2002); he was also the author of a highly influential internal report investigating why Britain had failed to anticipate the fall of the Shah in 1979.

When the Shah was toppled by supporters of the 77-year-old Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in January 1979, Western governments were taken by surprise, and the then Foreign Secretary, David Owen, commissioned a Foreign and Commonwealth Office report on British policy towards Iran in the years leading up to the revolution. How, he wanted to know, had Britain failed to predict the event; and might a different policy have saved the regime?

The task was given to the then 33-year-old Nicholas Browne, who had served in the Tehran embassy for four years in the early 1970s and was now on loan to the Cabinet Office. He spent the next year preparing his 90-page report, which was labelled “secret and confidential” and only released 30 years later.

Browne did not pull his punches as he described the “failure” of the British embassy in Tehran: “The conclusion that the embassy drew from their analysis [of the Shah’s position] consistently proved to be too optimistic.” It had “overstated the personal popularity of the Shah… knew too little about the activities of Khomeini’s followers… saw no need to report on the financial activities of leading Iranians… [and] failed to foresee that the pace of events would become so fast”.

He also singled out for criticism Sir Anthony Parsons, Ambassador to Iran from 1974 to 1979, saying that he had been woefully uninformed: he did not know that the Shah was terminally ill with cancer, and had not sufficiently pursued contacts with opposition groups (in particular, supporters of Khomeini). Consequently he had “underestimated the attractions of [Khomeini’s] simple and consistent message that the Shah must be overthrown”. Parsons later accepted that he had been at fault.

It is possible that the embassy had been inhibited by Britain’s reputation for interference in Iranian affairs — a reputation which Browne acknowledged in his report. It dated back to at least 1953, when Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh was overthrown in a coup in which many Iranians suspected the American and British intelligence services of having been involved.

In the course of his work Browne trawled through thousands of diplomatic cables, and concluded that British policy in Iran had been anything but sophisticated — according to one diplomat who read the report: “More often than not, the sense you get is that it was the Shah who was running rings round the British, not the other way round.”

More to the point, however, was Browne’s suggestion that British policy in the 1970s had been driven by economic problems which encouraged export sales – particularly arms – to the Iranians. So anxious was London to court the Shah that diplomats showed him the draft of a ministerial answer in the House of Commons on torture in Iran “in case he should object to it”.

It was, Browne said, only four months before the Shah fell and fled into exile that Parsons spoke to him frankly about the political dangers he faced. Browne observed: “By then, most of the damage had been done.”

His report has proved highly influential, and has been studied by a generation of diplomats posted to the Middle East. They are now expected to extend their contacts beyond the elites to include both the wider society and opposition movements, and to be aware of the dangers in allowing potential arms exports to drive policy at the expense of crucial political judgments.

Browne’s experience of Iran had begun with his posting as Third Secretary in Tehran from 1971 to 1974. He would return there in 1989, nearly a decade after submitting his report. His arrival, however, coincided with the furore over Salman’s Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses (1988), which provoked angry protests across the Islamic world. Ayatollah Khomeini was quoted as offering a $1 million reward to anyone who killed Rushdie — the reward to be tripled if the killer was Iranian — and in February 1989 thousands of demonstrators gathered to throw stones at the British Embassy.

Browne was in place for only five weeks before Tehran broke off diplomatic relations, and ties between the two countries were restored only in October the following year, by which time Browne was beginning a four-year posting as Counsellor (Press and Public Affairs) in Washington, and head of British Information Services in New York.

Relations between Britain and Iran improved after the election in 1997 of the reformist President Mohammad Khatami; and when Labour came to power under Tony Blair, his Foreign Secretary Robin Cook embarked on a policy of “constructive engagement” with countries such as Iran and Libya.

Browne was appointed chargé d’affaires in Tehran in 1997, after a spell as head of the Middle East Department in London. By now steeped in the history and culture of Iran, he formed a good relationship with Khatami, who once remarked that Browne spoke Persian “like a nightingale”. Two years later, following the New York agreement between Robin Cook and the Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi which resolved the Salman Rushdie issue, diplomatic relations were upgraded and Browne became Ambassador.

He trod a difficult path with characteristic aplomb, in 2000 having to deal with Iranian accusations that Britain was harbouring an anti-regime terrorist group, while for their part the British raised concerns about Iran’s human rights record and its uncompromising attitude to Israel.

There were also complaints by the Iranians about what they saw as unflattering comments in the British press about Ayatollah Khomeini — comments for which Browne expressed his regret.

But there were also areas of progress: Iran agreed to disavow the fatwa against Salman Rushdie; the foreign minister, Kamal Kharazi, visited Britain; and the two countries signed an agreement on limiting drug trafficking. After 9/11 Browne was instrumental in forging a serious dialogue with Iran over Afghanistan, the high point of Western/Iranian cooperation.

Browne’s exit from Tehran after four years, however, saw a revival of old tensions. His chosen successor, David (now Sir David) Reddaway, was rejected by the Iranians, who claimed that he was a “spy”. The Foreign Office refused to budge, and there was a stand-off of several months before London appointed Sir Richard Dalton, formerly Ambassador in Libya.

By now Browne was suffering from the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. He spent a year as Senior Director (Civil) at the Royal College of Defence Studies, and ended his career as Ambassador to Denmark (2003–06).

He was appointed CMG in 1999 and KBE in 2002.

One of four boys, Nicholas Walker Browne was born at West Malling, Kent, on December 17 1947; his father was an Army officer and worked for the Intelligence services.

From Cheltenham College, Nicholas won an open scholarship to University College, Oxford, where he read History and captained the college rugby team — despite being 6ft 2in tall, he proved a deft hooker, able to get the ball back from seemingly impossible positions. He joined the Foreign Office immediately after graduating.

Throughout his career Browne was noted for the succinctness of his dispatches. He was also popular with his colleagues, who relished his keen wit, sense of humour and love of parties.

Among his other postings, he served as First Secretary and Head of Chancery in Salisbury (now Harare) in 1980–81, and, from 1984 to 1989, as First Secretary (Environment) at the British embassy to the EU in Brussels.

Nicholas Browne married, in 1969, Diana Aldwinckle, whom he met when they were fellow undergraduates at Oxford and with whom he had two sons and two daughters; one of his sons, Jeremy Browne, is Lib Dem MP for Taunton Deane and served as a junior minister in the FCO under William Hague.

Sir Nicholas Browne, born December 17 1947, died January 13 2014



Your editorial (Federation bitter, 20 January) rightly describes the findings of the independent review of the Police Federation as “devastating”. However, it underestimates just how radical – and necessary – the recommended reforms are.

You ask if using the service of former Home Office permanent secretary David Normington was “ineptitude or proof that the federation was willing to change”. We knew when we asked Normington to carry out the review that he would deliver an in-depth report and would not be frightened to come up with radical solutions. That is what is needed if we are to deliver root-and-branch change across the organisation, however uncomfortable that may be. We have a responsibility to our members and the public to take up the reform challenge.

We are at a turning point in our history. Instead of operating as 47 separate organisations, we need to act as one. Our structure, which has barely changed since 1919, must be comprehensively reformed. Our operations must be professionalised, with a proper executive team and finance director, and strengthened financial accountability. And we must once more embody the highest standards and greatest of integrity. This is what the public rightly expect of the police.

The decisions we make moving forward are our opportunity to start to build a federation of the future, a federation that we can all be justly proud of, that has clear purpose and direction, is accountable and transparent.

Far from being a “top-down reform”, these proposals will be democratically debated by our membership. But my message as chairman is clear: the status quo is not an option. The federation either reforms, or faces abolition.
Steve Williams
Chairman, Police Federation of England and Wales



Simon Jenkins’ scepticism is very welcome when exposing the follies of big business and government (The truth is that we are all living on Benefits Street, 22 January). However, when scepticism becomes the dominant ethos of government in the form of public choice theory it is less welcome. This theory states that public servants are only in it for themselves and the only way to put this selfishness to good purpose is to harness it to the profit motive through the market. Good service is guaranteed because the service users are now customers and if they don’t get good service, they will go elsewhere and jobs will be lost. Everybody knows that the NHS puts patients last and consultants don’t do operations on Friday afternoons because they want at early start to the weekend.

This unhealthy scepticism has given rise to a crisis of indecision in government, which has in part given rise to the debt crisis. If civil servants can’t be trusted, it’s best to have as few of them as possible or call in for-profit concerns to advise on policy-making. Before even a rail has been laid, HS2 has cost £250m in consultancy fees (Report, 26 November 2013). This philosophy has led to the destruction of the tax revenue services (too many expensive self-serving bureaucrats) to such an extent that the UK is following Greece into a situation whereincreasingly large numbers of individuals and business corporations are ceasing to pay taxes, adding to the public debt crisis.

May I suggest a little more high-mindedness in public service might be needed to resolve our current problems.
Derrick Joad

•  It’s a bit rich for Iain Duncan Smith to blame Labour for high income inequality when the rise in inequality from its lowest-ever level in 1976 was kickstarted by the Conservative’s tax cuts for the rich under Margaret Thatcher, and is being sharply exacerbated by current government policies (Benefits Street reveals ‘ghetto reality’, says Duncan Smith, 23 January). Between 1979 and 2009 the UK Gini index of inequality has risen from 26 to 40, climbing towards that of the US, on 44 (Sweden’s is 25).

To me, Benefits Street shows disadvantaged people struggling in adverse circumstances. Our situation in life is indeed partly a product of genes, upbringing, and personal choice and effort, but is largely shaped by influences not of our making, such as parental, social and economic circumstances. This is why social mobility lessens as inequality increases. Cutting Sure Start, youth centres and libraries doesn’t help, does it?

Politicians should look at the bigger picture and take decisions that will ensure the best long-term outcomes for our country, not try to fool us and score cheap political points.
Michael Miller

• Jack Monroe is right about MPs and lords receiving substantial benefits (It’s time to focus on the real Benefits Street, 22 January). Last week I addressed a meeting in the House of Lords attended by a number of MPs and Lords. I spoke about a project in Easterhouse, Glasgow and they were interested, sympathetic and supportive. But none took up my call to live in a deprived area. This is the only way to understand the real benefits residents. For instance, parents who deny themselves food to ensure that their children do not go hungry, who rarely buy clothes for themselves so that their children can be dressed well for school, who never go on holiday so that their youngsters can pay the cost of going to the camp run by our project. In short, the opposite of what is portrayed on TV.
Bob Holman

• Like Deborah Orr (Benefits Street has caused controversy, but let’s hope it has a worthwhile legacy, 25 January), I watched Benefits Street as a result of the media controversy and I have come to similar but more critical conclusions.

I wish that Orr had been more analytical: to give an example, she comments on one of the men on the street finding but not keeping a job. This cried out for questioning. Who set up him up for a “job” in which he would inevitably fail? (Charitable fund-raising in that area with his lack of skills defies belief!) The result is that he will be even more demoralised, and those who already believe that he is part of a benefit-dependent culture will have their beliefs reinforced.
Dr DJ Rowe
Newcastle upon Tyne

• I have sympathy with almost all of the points Simon Jenkins makes. But what would the British economy and British society look like if the so-called “benefits” he identifies were not in place? Cue for a follow-up article?
Professor Roy Lowe


Discussing Miranda Carter’s article (Racist, but important, Review, 25 January) with friends who are both proudly British and acknowledge their Indian, Pakistani and African origins, we were all struck by the same thought. The ignorance of Britain’s colonial past and related literature lies to a great extent with the poor teaching of history and geography in our schools.

As a black Briton, I know my parents were born in a colony. I was raised on stories of how my relatives volunteered to fight in the second world war, choosing to fight for their colonial oppressor who, they believed, offered them more freedom than German domination. It was this fight for freedom that directly led to a turbocharging of the decolonisation movement across Asia and Africa.

I know my Asante ancestors were involved in the slave trade that began with the Arabs and included the Portuguese, Dutch, Danish and British. A trade that financed the Georgian beauty of Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow. A trade ended in the Atlantic by Britain.

To understand who we are as 21st-century Britons of all colours and why the Commonwealth matters, a thorough understanding of the broad sweep of our history – from colonialism to the Commonwealth – would be a good start.

The wider ignorance discussed in Miranda Carter’s article reflects mainstream education’s failure to teach the truths told to black and brown children by aged relatives. And, yes, that would involve reading imperial literature and placing it in its proper context.
John Armah

• A pity that Miranda Carter’s piece on empire adventure stories did not find space to mention Joseph Conrad as partial corrective.
Andrew Hornung
Church Enstone, Oxfordshire


Your sports supplement on 24 January showed welcome signs that you take women’s sport seriously (Sean Ingle; Tennis; Women’s Ashes; Alpine skiing). However, you did not even publish the result of the previous day’s women’s World Indoor Bowls championship. An 18-year-old from Suffolk wins a world title and is totally ignored! Do you not think some readers might be interested in keeping up with the wider world of sport, rather than endless articles about what football’s Premier League managers have said about their rivals’ clubs? Send somebody to Stowmarket high school to interview world champion Katherine Rednall and give her the credit she is due.
Tim Vick
Woodbridge, Suffolk

• Not only does your review of Blurred Lines (24 January) not name a single actor in the all-woman cast, no one in the photo is named either. Given that the play is about gender equality and the review mentions how rare it is to see an all-female cast in our male-dominated theatre, for goodness sake give the women some credit!
Trudie Goodwin

• Surely the reason tenants might be reluctant to occupy the Shard (Report, 25 January) in these post-World Trade Centre years might be explained in cliches such as “sitting duck” and “accident waiting to happen”.
Ian Anderson


• Ahhh … Shardenfreude …
Sue Lamble





The tone of your editorial (24 January) about Michael Gove’s education reforms brought me to tears. I’m retiring (a few months early) in July and can’t wait to get out. I shall miss the students and the daily immersion in my subject – English – but I shan’t miss the constant barrage of criticism which has brought morale to an all-time low.

Your criticism that we have accepted or promoted mediocrity cannot go unchallenged. Results have not “risen” because of Gove’s reforms, but because teachers in many schools are driven, by leaders fearful of Ofsted, to aiding pupils beyond what would once have been acceptable.

School leaders can’t afford to let their figures drop, so students are coached, pushed and tutored to a ridiculous extent, with teachers working far harder than the students to achieve results.

One consequence has been many young people who are unable and unwilling to work for themselves, because they’ve never learned the skills or the need – they can’t be allowed to achieve what their own efforts would see them achieve. And yes, I do know of schools where teachers cheat too – again, with coercion or complicity from leaders.

The school at which I work became an academy simply because of money. And the majority of schools which converted did so  for the same reason: budgets would be cut if they stayed with the local education authority.

And where did much of this money go? To lawyers who set up the new contracts, and on rebranding and marketing. In addition, staggering sums (tens of thousands of pounds) were spent entering students as many times as possible for exams, to get grades up.

But you can’t blame the teachers for this – it has been driven by league tables and by school leaders desperate to push up grades. It has never been driven by a desire to do better for children.

Your editorial lauds the EBacc – but at what cost has this been achieved? Other subjects have been marginalised because they don’t “count”.

Many newly qualified teachers are swallowed up by schools that are driving to become “outstanding” and are driven mercilessly to achieve this aim. Then they leave, burned out and demoralised.

I love my students and I love my subject. My results are good. Many of my students choose to study the subject at A-level because, I’m told, I’ve inspired them to do so.

I’m a good teacher. And I’m going because I’ve had enough of the exhaustion and the morale bashing.

On the day after my students finished a 2,000-word essay comparing the whole of Romeo and Juliet with 16 (quality) poems thematically linked with it, Gove was on TV telling the country that children would “no longer” be able to leave school without being able to write at length and without studying a whole Shakespeare play.

I’m sad and bitter and feeling very fortunate  that I’ll be going this summer. Please, don’t lament teachers’ low morale in an editorial that contributes to it.

Lorna Gale

Knowle, Solihull, West Midlands

It seems you have given Michael Gove an A grade for his EBacc exam scheme, when he has made some elementary mistakes in  his history.

The baccalaureat was brought in by the French under Napoleon as a school-leaving exam to fit young people for higher education, life and work in a democratic society. It has always included philosophy, maths and science and now extends to take in technology and vocational subjects such as business studies and agriculture.

It is most unlikely that the French government or other European or international Bacc users  will accept Gove’s version  as equivalent to their  own or as a key to their higher education.

So your leader writer should revise their eulogy thus: “Well done, Michael, you have shown promise. But you should now aim higher for the next two years and rename your EBacc as a PreBacc – and also include philosophy and the performing arts.”

George Low

Hampton Hill, London


Headline statistics reveal very little of the true picture in our schools.

The desire to bring up compassionate young adults who are capable of thinking and who have a sense of perspective has been sacrificed. In its place are a testing game, near-constant change for minimal benefit, rampant careerism, and damaging levels of insecurity and pressure. This has been true for years, but is more so than ever under Michael Gove.

State education remains primarily a political football, rather than a vehicle for public good. Experienced teachers are increasingly seen as an irrelevance and children are being brought up to see passing exams as the sole purpose of school.

These long-term cultural failures will prove far more significant than Gove’s claimed success.

Chris Sloggett

Teacher, London N6

Congratulations to the vice chancellor

I am pleased to see that  the vice chancellor of Sheffield University has secured himself a good salary increase (“£105,000 pay rise for leading university boss”, 25 January) to bring his pay up to  nearly treble that paid to the Prime Minister.

I’m sure students at the university are pleased their tuition fees are being put to such good use and will not in any way resent paying back their £27,000 debts, plus interest, over the next 30 years, or the Coalition’s help in his achieving such a package. An excellent result for all concerned.

Paul Ives

Sanderstead, Croydon

Extended families could be our future

Hamish McRae (22 January) writes that inequality is changing. In developing countries, the employed are getting less poor. In developed countries, the employed are getting more poor. He also raises the probability that technology will eliminate more middle-management jobs, particularly in the West. He wonders if there can be a natural conclusion to these developments.

In Britain, a sensible solution could be that we give up the expectation of every generation owning an individual property. We probably need to revert to living in supportive, three-generation family groups, where each individual has a role in maintaining the family unit. Unfunded pension costs, child care, care of the elderly and irregular employment can better be managed in extended family groups.

Martin London

Henllan, Denbighshire

Hunger for food, not democracy

The best help that the EU can give to Ukraine is to say that it is not welcome, since few of the rebels believe  in democracy.

Rioting and armed revolt are attempts by force to gain food and the luxuries that other people have. I suggest that anti-government feelings in Libya, Egypt and Syria are more due to dear food caused by the great growths in population than to a wish for democracy.

D Williamson

Seaton, Cumbria

church must speak out against barbarism As a matter of urgency, the Most Reverend Justin Welby and other Christian leaders in the UK must speak out against the worsening holocaust  against gay people in Nigeria. Silence is the voice of complicity, and complicity with such barbarism will discredit  the church forever.

Dr Daniel Emlyn-Jones


Worst combination of greed and red tape

We are living in worryingly ingenious times. Example: I have just paid £50 to a large profit-making corporation, subcontracted by the local council, for them to issue me with a certificate, in order for them to collect my non-clinical refuse.

They know that my clinical waste is disposed of by another (non-commercial) agency. Because I am a GP, I am posed certain questions to certify my good citizenship and thus guarantee public safety: I must answer that I will not put such things as used dressings, sharp surgical instruments, excised body parts, unwanted organs, bodily fluids or dead babies in the general waste.

They will not collect my waste without their (my) certificate, which I can only purchase from them. They do not check the accuracy of my answers. This is a brilliant conflation of venal, opportunistic, corporate capitalism and leaden, vacuous, officious bureaucracy: it exemplifies much that is most specious, profligate and foolish in our commercially injected welfare services.

Whatever happened to medical office effluent before such corporate safeguards were there to protect us, and certificates issued to “prove” it?

Dr David Zigmond

London N8

Hail, King Alex of Scotland

Alex Salmond’s outrage that anyone should dare ask him to provide details of how he personally spends taxpayers’ money indicates his new self-image. In his own mind, perhaps he has become, with the thistle and the deep-fried Mars bar, a Scottish icon, and, like his “auld ally” Louis XIV, truly believes: “L’Ecosse, c’est moi.”

Dr John Cameron

St Andrews, Fife






The House at second reading must instruct the Select Committee to hear petitions which seek to challenge the principle of the Bill

Sir, The Supreme Court judges who ruled this week that the hybrid Bill process for approving HS2 is an adequate way of assessing and debating Europe’s biggest infrastructure project are supreme optimists.

The public inquiry into building a fifth terminal at Heathrow lasted four and a half years. This drew criticism, but the eventual decision was accepted by all sides because the process was seen to be fair. There were hundreds of issues considered by a truly independent, non-political panel and all were thoroughly examined. Not a stone was left unturned.

The HS2 project is far larger than Terminal 5. Its proposed construction raises thousands of minor and major issues, ranging from diverting paths for children going to school to potentially distrupting part of London’s water supply; from fast trains killing birds and other wildlife to the demolition of listed buildings.

There is no way a group of MPs on a Select Committee can hope to properly examine all the issues. The pressure on time will ensure that many contentious aspects will be simply ignored.

With all three chief political parties currently supporting HS2, let’s not pretend that the Hybrid Bill process is going to be independent or thorough. It will get the job done, but it will leave thousands dissatisfied and frustrated.

Peter Brown

High Wycombe, Bucks

Sir, The Government has repeatedly said that HS2 is needed in the national interest. The only defensible way to put that claim to the test is for the House at second reading to instruct the Select Committee to hear petitions which seek to challenge the principle of the Bill, notwithstanding its hybrid character. See Lord Reed’s speech in the recent Supreme Court High Speed 2 Action Alliance case [2014]UKSC3 at paragraph 58.

The unconvincing procedural distinctions between a private and hybrid Bill cannot justify the immunity from challenge to its principle which a hybrid Bill traditionally enjoys. In particular, the fact that the Bill will have been considered at second reading does not remotely replicate the kind of scrutiny to which a private Bill is subjected in committee.

Select committees are expected to, and in my experience invariably do, act judicially. In effect, a full-blown court case takes place. If the HS2 Bill’s principle is not examined in detail, the business case for the Bill, its environmental consequences and the existence of possibly better alternatives will all (scandalously) be, to the extent that consideration of these matters may threaten its principle, outside the committee’s remit. Given the importance and huge cost of the project it may be anticipated that if the Bill is railroaded into law in such circumstances, opponents will be legitimately aggrieved and even supporters anxious that justice had not been done. If on the other hand the Government’s case for the Bill prevails before the Select Committee, despite permitted challenges to the its principle, no one will have any legitimate ground of complaint when it passes into law.

George Laurence, QC

London WC2


‘We still lack a universally agreed framework avoiding the undesirable endemic shortcomings now tainting abortion’

Sir, Peter Franklin’s views are useful (Opinion, Jan 20), but his reference to the Abortion Act is insufficient. From its operations over some 50 years we can learn much about possible legislation for assisted suicide (AS), if not that of the infirm — which will surely follow, thereby avoiding Lord Falconer’s narrow legalistic proposals, which inadequately address the medical subtleties.

Abortion practice has taught us that social trends change over time; that medical and pharmaceutical advances threaten legal provision and that there is serious disquiet about its abuse and easy manipulability. True, any law is what we get, but are Falconer’s provisions adequate, given the wilful behaviour that inevitably attempts to bypass what is legislated?

Legalising assisted deaths requires formal surveillance, overseen by legally informed persons with direct access to DPP and police, avoiding posthumous interrogation; employing expert clinicians to review cases — thereby possibly changing subjects’ minds, especially where depression exists; and permitting statistical analysis. All this should be completed up front, excluding the vagaries of Falconer’s two doctors and definitions of “terminal within six months”. If current AS law is changed, there will be no deterrence, whistle-blowing or reassurance for likely victims.

We still lack a universally agreed framework avoiding the undesirable endemic shortcomings now tainting abortion. Mere legal change, still lacking majority acceptance and stringent oversight, is unacceptable. I am not necessarily against AS, but let us not sleep-walk ourselves into something that fails to accommodate our desires, aims, and instincts.

Michael N. Marsh, FRCP

Wolfson College, Oxford


It seems there have been many blind law professors — this reader writes to nominate his tutor at Balliol

Sir, May I put in a word for Sir Theodore Tylor, my blind law tutor at Balliol from 1946 to 1948, who was a close friend of Professor Rupert Cross (letters, Jan 24 and 25). A single man, Theo said that Rupert was lucky to be married, because his wife could read the latest law reports to him in bed.

Adrian Hamilton, QC

London W14


Recent suggestions for paid-for education would result in the Victorian stigma of the ‘charity child’ returning to our schools

Sir, Anthony Seldon (letter, Jan 24) is proposing social engineering on a massive scale, which would leave countless parents dissatisfied while leaving the very well off free to use the independent sector. Worse, the drafting of the less advantaged into “successful” schools would more or less restore the “charity child” stigma so often the theme of Victorian fiction.

Richard Merwood




On Holocaust Day we should all take time to reflect on the slaughter of a people whose only ‘crime’ was the fact of their birth

Sir, Jenni Frazer’s article (Faith, Jan 25) about the Torah scrolls saved from destruction is moving. My synagogue, Radlett & Bushey Reform in Hertfordshire, has one. A colleague and I took it a while back to the town from which it came — Ceske Budejovice in the Czech Republic.

The town council decided to mount an exhibition to honour the memory of the Jews of the town taken away by the Nazis, and our scroll formed a centrepiece. At a short public service of remembrance, passers-by stopped to ask questions and some, reading our list of families taken away to all but certain death, recognised grimfacedly names of some who had been neighbours. The town was eager to acknowledge the loss of its Jewish citizens. Today, Holocaust Memorial Day, is an apposite time for us all to do the same by remembering the slaughter of a people whose “crime” was to be born into the wrong religion or tribe.

Barry Hyman

Bushey Heath, Herts




SIR – Further to the complaints about the dumbing down of Radio 3, an even more disastrous process has taken place in the case of Radio 2.

Once a haven of light music, popular classics, operetta, military and brass bands, and often featuring works by composers such as Eric Coates, Ernest Tomlinson, Ronald Binge and the peerless Robert Farnon, it has been dismantled by recent controllers and replaced by a much brassier product, with phone-ins and chat, where brash presenters are more important that their programmes.

Once much-loved, it is now a no-go area for the more mature listener.

Tony Phillips
Creigiau, Glamorgan

SIR – As well as Bach’s Toccata in D minor and Widor’s Toccata (Letters, January 19), Classic FM plays two other organ pieces: the third movement of Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 and the second movement from Handel’s 13th Organ Concerto. I wish John Suchet and his colleagues would play more of the vast repertoire of the “King of Instruments”.

Perhaps if all lovers of organ music were to make their views known to the bosses at Classic FM, we might manage to hear a greater variety.

Guy Slatter
Liskeard, Cornwall

SIR – It seems to me that several times a week, when I happen to be within earshot of Classic FM, Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” is being played.

I emailed Classic FM some time ago for an explanation but did not receive a reply. With such a huge choice of music available, why does it happen? Yes, it’s a nice piece of music, but so what?

Peter McPherson
Merriott, Somerset


SIR – The news that the Serious Fraud Office has been given additional funding by the Treasury to pursue its investigation into bribery allegations against Rolls-Royce raises a number of interesting points about how companies and governments should cooperate to combat corruption.

The dearth of corporate prosecutions since the UK Bribery Act came into force in 2011 and the SFO’s request to the Treasury suggest that the SFO is insufficiently resourced to deal with the complexity of international corruption.

Considering the huge amounts that are presumably lost to the Treasury through fraud, or that could be recovered through successful prosecutions, it would make sense to review the level of funding for this important government department.

At the same time, the SFO needs to do its bit to stimulate an environment which brings it cases, rather than having to go out and discover them. One way to do this is to encourage companies to self-report voluntarily. It may sound counterintuitive, but a co-operative relationship between the public prosecutor and the business world could encourage companies to come forward when they suspect wrongdoing by their employees or distributors.

Such a relationship could include policies such as leniency in recognition of “adequate procedures” or reduced penalties in exchange for cooperation with the authorities.

Brook Horowitz
Co-ordinator of the B20 Task Force on Transparency and Anti-corruption, 2013
London W1

Moving Archers

SIR – I was deeply moved by Peggy Woolley’s poignant farewell to her husband, Jack, in The Archers.

Peggy’s quiet dignity and courage in coping with Jack’s Alzheimer’s contrasted with the antics of some of the show’s younger, dysfunctional characters.

Peter Myers
Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire

Inflexible pews

SIR – The worshippers at All Saints Church, Evesham, (report, January 19) are not alone in resisting the modernisers who want to replace the pews with comfortable seating. At All Saints Church, Marazion, we are faced with a similar problem.

Quite apart from the cost, we are a Grade II-listed Victorian Church. We do not want a “flexible multifunction space”!

Trevor Reid
Marazion, Cornwall

EU negotiation should be for Britain to exit

SIR – Alec Ellis is right that a large Ukip vote in May could lead to sensible negotiation. However, this could never halt the EU juggernaut.

For the euro to survive, the eurozone nations have no option but to federate; that is the purpose for which the currency was invented. Then, as George Osborne, the Chancellor, admits, a eurozone bloc vote under qualified majority voting would pose a huge threat to Britain, and in particular to the City of London.

However, no amount of “sensible negotiation” would solve the problems inherent in two-tier membership, so its sole aim should be to agree mutually acceptable terms for a British exit: free trade as a member of Efta, but without the political control.

Roger Smith
Meppershall, Bedfordshire

SIR – If the Government took the action described in the letter from 95 Conservative MPs,it could mean that a referendum on remaining in the EU would no longer be necessary.

Legislation needs to be passed to restrict the application of EU laws to Britain until each law has been approved by Parliament.

Soon Commissioner Viviane Reding will be claiming that picking and choosing which legislation becomes British law is, in her words, “non-negotiable”. Then let Brussels try to expel Britain from the EU. It may succeed, saving us from having to run a referendum.

N J Mustoe
Thurleigh, Bedfordshire

SIR – As Foreign Secretary, William Hague must demand that Britons have votes of equal value to other EU member nations in the forthcoming European elections.

Why should the British electorate be allocated 73 members, when the 15 smallest countries, with a combined population of two million less than Britain, are allocated 173 members?

John Riddington
Broadstone, Dorset

Renewable targets

SIR – It is good news that the legally binding renewable energy targets are to be ditched by the European Commission. The 10 years it has taken to come to this momentous decision highlights the dreadful inefficiency of the EU structure.

It was obvious from the start that subsidies would cost billions, funds that would inevitably be diverted from being spent on efficient companies’ products.

B J Colby
Portishead, Somerset

SIR – Extremely high wind speeds are not necessarily needed for a wind turbine to be economic.

Sites with slower wind speeds can still produce significant power, and can be economically advantageous in other ways – they tend to be cheaper and easier to develop. In addition, turbines can be produced which are best designed for low wind conditions to maximise power.

There is a huge amount of wind power potential in England.In all cases, developers only get paid for the power they produce, and the downward trajectory of onshore wind subsidy levels shows they are careful to choose economically efficient sites.

Jennifer Webber
Director of External Affairs, RenewableUK
London SW1

Lib Dem principles

SIR – The saga of the Right Honourable Lord Rennard, against whom allegations of sexual harassment are deemed “broadly credible” without meeting the standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt, bestows little credit on the Liberal Democrats’ apparatus.

Perhaps just as discreditable is his vaunted success in improving the Lib Dems’ election results through by tailoring their message differently to different constituencies, heedless of self-contradiction and regardless of principle. This is consistent with their leader’s cynical willingness to work with either of the main parties as long as his party can continue to wield the balance of power.

Dugald Barr
London W8

House price illusion

SIR – You report that “house price rises in the South East are dragging up values across the country, acting as an engine of wealth”. But this is only an illusion of wealth.

How could a return to rampant property inflation, where in order to buy a house people must borrow money which doesn’t exist, and which they can ill afford to repay, possibly help us out of the mess that we are in?

Mike Bussell
East Chinnock, Somerset

Fenced-off Lakes

SIR – I was disconcerted to read of Ed Vaizey declaring that the Lake District should join Stonehenge as a World Heritage Site.

Does this mean it will be fenced off, with a visitor site five miles away, with pictures of the site instead of the real thing?

John Sutherland
Uxbridge, Middlesex


SIR – I was interested to read the letters on the demise of good manners.

I taught both of my daughters to say please and thank you. But when my eldest worked in a council nursery she was told not to encourage the children to say please and thank you because it was very “middle-class”. Now she works in a private school where children and staff are expected to use these words.

I worked as a hospital secretary for 20 years and always held doors open for people, male or female, young or old, as they did for me, especially when we were carrying equipment, patients’ notes, or just a cup of coffee. Class, gender or age didn’t come into it.

Mary Hogg
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

SIR – I worked as a supervisor for the North Wales probation service at a youth hostel with two young offenders. At the end of each day I would thank the hostel warden for his hospitality and the refreshments he had provided. The offenders heard me repeat the same message each day.

On the final day of the programme I heard the two men thank the warden. That was the best reward I could have had. It is never too late to learn good manners.

John Chamberlain
Bangor, Caernarfonshire

SIR – So many things in our society seem to have been discarded – dressing smartly (why do so many people look so scruffy these days?) letter writing, speaking clearly, table manners and, above all, a sense of morality.

Monica Smith
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

SIR – At school in the Sixties, if you were seen eating in the street in school uniform even after the end of the school day, this was reported and you were spoken to the next day.

The same applied if you were not wearing school uniform correctly: top button done up and tie in place as well as the hideous beret positioned appropriately. It wasn’t worth breaking the rules.

Ginny Hudson
Swanmore, Hampshire

SIR – We went on a Rhine cruise in 2012 and the crew were mostly Bulgarian. They were charming, efficient, spoke better English and had better manners than many English people.

Roger Fairclough
South Nutfield, Surrey

SIR – My own particular bugbear concerns the many people who no longer cover their mouths when yawning. A gaping chasm is not an attractive feature by any standards.

David Stevens
Christchurch, Dorset

SIR – I am always surprised by the number of people who cough and sneeze on buses and trains, and spread their germs in other public places.

The coughers and sneezers also attend church, where they infect all and sundry, especially when shaking hands with others as a “sign of peace”.

Ron Kirby
Dorchester, Dorset

SIR – I take my dog for a walk every day on the local heath and say “Good morning” to all the people I meet.

They all reply, but the conventional response is gradually being superseded by the greeting “Hi”. All is not lost, but it’s not the same.

Colin Jarrett
Ipswich, Suffolk

SIR – When a new colleague joined our company in 1952, his employer observed that he did not wear a hat, and posed the question, “And what do you take off when you meet a lady of your acquaintance in the street?”

Simon Edsor
London SW1

SIR – Good manners are all very well but recently it came as a shock when I was offered a seat on the tube for the first time and realised I must look much older than I thought.

My husband’s moment of truth came at a dinner party when the host’s son addressed him as “Sir” – it quite spoilt his evening!

Gillian S S Lambert
Tadworth, Surrey



Irish Times:


Sir, – The Junior Cycle Student Award is being introduced from next year (Education, January 21st), but does it really address the education system’s problems? In our schools we prepare students for exams when we should be preparing them for life. We are taught only what is necessary to achieve a good grade and nothing else.

I am a fifth year student and many of my teachers are passionate about their subjects, however the rigid structure of the Leaving Cert prevents them from transferring their enthusiasm to their pupils. Learning should be an enjoyable, enriching experience, not the daily drain that students endure today.

The education system in Finland is a prime example of what Ireland could do to change. Children do not begin education until the age of seven and there are no standardised tests until the age of 16. Teachers are picked from the top 10 per cent of graduates and it is a requirement that they possess a master’s degree in education. The implementation of the system has had proven results, with Finnish children coming at the top or very close to the top in the core subjects in international rankings.

I realise fully how fortunate we are in this country to even have the chance to attend school. However, I find it troubling that young, intelligent people in my year are frustrated and impatient for the next two years of their lives to be completed so they can escape their daily hell.

The JCSA may help change this for the junior cycle in the future, but it makes no difference to the outdated senior cycle. We should not be content with a flawed system. We are given a great opportunity to be in second-level education so why don’t we perfect the experience? – Yours, etc,


Orlagh Wood,


Sir, – With the reopening of the embassy to the Holy See, John F Jordan (January 23rd) asks whether harsh decisions in relation to health and welfare will also be reversed.

In order to provide excellent health, social protection, education and other services we are working to fix what was our broken economy. This can’t be done at the click of a finger. The Irish people have borne considerable hardship, as alluded to by Mr Jordan. In implementing difficult measures the Coalition has tried to distribute the burden evenly. And I believe when our economy does fully recover, which it will, that the dividends have to be distributed fairly also.

On that front, we are delivering on our promises to the public. We said we would focus on job creation – 58,000 jobs were created last year; we committed to the restoration of our economic sovereignty – we exited the bailout in December; and said that we would grow our economy and reduce our deficit. Our economy is growing again slowly but steadily and our deficit, while still too high, is far more manageable than the horrendous deficit we inherited.

Continued progress in these core economic areas will provide the bedrock on which our public services will be based. That is why we are so focused on getting these basics right. We are working to reform and run more efficiently our health service, the social welfare system and other public services that Mr Jordan refers to.

In time, as our economy improves and more jobs are created, we will be able to increase investment in these services in a sustainable manner. While it is a scandal that we were ever in this situation to begin with, I firmly believe our strategy for recovery is working and that we are making very encouraging progress towards economic recovery. – Yours, etc,


Chairman of Fine Gael

Parliamentary Party,

Leinster House,


Sir, – In response to Bill Reidy’s call for more performance-management for teachers (Change One Thing, Education, January 21st), it is important to emphasise that teachers are already subject to multiple levels of accountability. Second-level schools are subject to four different methods of inspection and teachers are also subject to the Teaching Council’s code of professional conduct.

Mr Reidy quotes OECD research from 2008 on teacher appraisals in his opening paragraph. A more recent finding from the same body’s Government At A Glance report last year shows that out of 34 countries surveyed, Ireland enjoys the highest level of public satisfaction with the education system and schools with a ranking of 82 per cent compared to the OECD average of 66 per cent.

December’s Pisa comparisons also endorse the high levels of quality in the Irish education system despite deep and damaging cuts in teacher numbers and attacks on programmes that help the most vulnerable students.

These international findings are echoed by the recent Chief Inspector’s Report which shows that 87 per cent of parents are happy with the teaching standards in second-level schools. In addition, Irish teachers engage in both formal and countless informal meetings with parents. Furthermore, there is a time honoured tradition of collegial accountability in the profession which also ensures that teachers work to the very highest standards. – Yours, etc,




Teachers’ Union of Ireland,


Sir, – I wish to thank you for your “Stories of the Rising” supplement (January 17th). It was wonderful to get an insight into the ordinary participants and their contribution to the independence struggle.

I was particularly impressed by the image of the captured prisoners in Stafford Prison. Looking at their faces and reading about them reminded me of one of the only references to the regular volunteers.

It was during a radio interview about the volunteers some time ago on RTÉ, when Roddy Doyle referred to the “smelly cyclists who cycled into town all the way from Kimmage with a gun under their great coat in the month of April, can you imagine the smell off them”.

Well I’m glad the archives of the Bureau of Military History gives us the opportunity to learn more about the “smelly cyclists”. – Yours, etc,



Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Sir, – Stephen Collins (Heritage, January 17th) writes that famous revolutionary and statesman Frank Aiken was in receipt of the top rate military service pension of £350 a year on top of his ministerial and TD’s salary. But it is important to note, as the recent releases show, that Aiken originally applied for his pension in 1936 only to withdraw his application in 1942. Although his service record in the evolutionary period warranted the top rate of pension, he did not reapply until 1955 – after Fianna Fáil had lost power to the second Inter-party government. – Yours, etc,


Liverpool Hope University,


Frank Aiken: Nationalist

and Internationalist (IAP,


Hope park,




Sir, – According to Mary Mitchell-O’Connor “It has . . . been proven that more time spent by young children on physical activity has a positive impact on weight” (Opinion, January 20th). One can only hope this startling revelation was not gleaned from another expensive consultant’s report – although, in a country where Anglo Irish Bank’s auditors are now working for Nama (Fintan O’Toole, Opinion, January 21st), anything seems possible! – Yours, etc,


Claude Road,



Sir, – A simple corporate governance test for any board: chairman to board, “Would we be happy to see this decision on the front page of The Irish Times?”. – Yours, etc,


Belgrave Road,

Dublin 6.



Sir, – I share Kevin Myers’s concern about the commonly accepted estimate of 49,000 Irish casualties in the first World War (January 20th).

The real problem with this statistic is that includes only military deaths and excludes civilian deaths.

It is perhaps no coincidence that civilian deaths of past and current wars are not included in these kinds of “memorial rolls”. We do not have “a tomb of the unknown baby”. There are no parades, no monuments, no online projects to commemorate the innocent victims of wars.

Who profits? Perhaps the only “memorial roll” truly worthy of the war dead is the one that we write in our hearts that simply says: “No more war . . . Neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for all the kingdoms of the world” . – Yours, etc,


(A Quaker),


Sir, – Una Mullally (Opinion, January 20th) states without any equivocation: “Teachings of the Catholic Church on homosexuality are homophobic”.

In my dictionary the definition of “homophobic” is a “hatred or fear of homosexuals”. Is this the level of opinion and analysis now being offered on this topic? Has Ms Mullally read any literature giving the Catholic point of view? I would recommend the 2003 publication by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith entitled, “Unions between homosexual persons”. Some of the headings are as follows:

Position on the problems of homosexual unions.

Arguments from reason against legal recognition of homosexual unions:

From the order of right reason; from the biological and anthropological order; from the social order, from the legal order.

The new American bible in its introduction to St Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth points out that the city was a melting pot full of devotees of various pagan cults and marked by a measure of moral depravity not unusual in a great seaport. Therefore the following admonition should come as no surprise: “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practising homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor 6.9).

Later in the same letter, St Paul offers “a still more excellent way” or following the Christian gospel: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoings but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. (1 Cor 13.4-7).

It is Catholic teaching that men and women with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Teachings of the Catholic Church are homophobic, according to Una Mullally? Properly understood and put into practice I hope not. – Yours, etc,


Auburn Road,

Dún Laoghaire,


Sir, – Una Mullally (Opinion, January 20th) states without any equivocation: “Teachings of the Catholic Church on homosexuality are homophobic”.

In my dictionary the definition of “homophobic” is a “hatred or fear of homosexuals”. Is this the level of opinion and analysis now being offered on this topic? Has Ms Mullally read any literature giving the Catholic point of view? I would recommend the 2003 publication by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith entitled, “Unions between homosexual persons”. Some of the headings are as follows:

Position on the problems of homosexual unions.

Arguments from reason against legal recognition of homosexual unions:

From the order of right reason; from the biological and anthropological order; from the social order, from the legal order.

The new American bible in its introduction to St Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth points out that the city was a melting pot full of devotees of various pagan cults and marked by a measure of moral depravity not unusual in a great seaport. Therefore the following admonition should come as no surprise: “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practising homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor 6.9).

Later in the same letter, St Paul offers “a still more excellent way” or following the Christian gospel: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoings but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. (1 Cor 13.4-7).

It is Catholic teaching that men and women with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Teachings of the Catholic Church are homophobic, according to Una Mullally? Properly understood and put into practice I hope not. – Yours, etc,


Auburn Road,


Sir, – I am working on a photo book about the women of the Irish revolution, in an attempt to acknowledge many of the lesser-known female participants who were involved in the 1913-23 events. 

I hope to include women from throughout the country who had a direct role to play, whether fighting, carrying out intelligence work, first-aid, or transporting arms; and also mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, girlfriends, or fiancées of men who were active, as these women suffered just as much if they had been fighting themselves. Theirs is a story that needs to be told.

I would be most grateful if readers who have such stories and photographs of female relatives would contact me.  Full credit for use of the photographs would be acknowledged and copyright of the photographs would rest with the owner. I do not need original photographs: scans of images (email to would be great. – Yours, etc,


C/o Mercier Press,

Unit 3b, Oak House,

Bessboro Road,



Sir, – William Reville (Science, January 16th) criticises materialism as excluding, without evidence, the possibility of the supernatural. The problem with this is that “the supernatural” taken as a phenomenon is a nonsense. If the supernatural has effects on the material world, then it matters and is subject to material observation and investigation. If it has no effect on the material world and is not subject to material observation and investigation, then it is not a phenomenon, but an idea, a figment of the imagination.

Figments of the imagination are nonetheless important. They have social, emotional, aesthetic and intellectual benefits, which Prof Reville clearly enjoys (and more power to him). If we are to properly understand the role of religion it is as shared mental imagery, that affects how we feel about the world and how we behave, and not as a description of reality. – Yours, etc,


Dept of Sociology,

University of Limerick,

Castletroy, Co Limerick.

Sir, – One isn’t commonly in like mind with Prof William Reville in terms of what makes us tick, in particular in a moral setting; however, an exception to the rule is his recent observation along the lines that philosophy is failing us as vis-a-vis a meaningful interface with science (Science, January 16th).

Might he, therefore, use his not insignificant position, in the order of things, to espouse the introduction of philosophy into the schools’ curriculum at the earliest opportunity? Among the merits of this enlightened position for our young citizens, is, first, an awareness that they are not born in sin, they are inherently good; second, that an inquiring and questioning mind, especially in formative years, will stand them in good stead. – Yours, etc,


Chemin des deux Chapelles,

Magagnosc de Grasse,




Sir, – I for one will be very pleased if I never again see “I for one . . .” on your Letters page. – Yours, etc,


Whitethorn Road,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – We can do without hearing or reading “in terms of” (regarding), “impact” (effect), “impact on” (affect), “untruth” (lie), “lengthy” (long), and most annoying of all “coalition” instead of “government”, unless its composition is relevant. – Yours, etc,


Foxborough Downs,

Lucan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – When greeted with the phrase “Pleased to meet you”, my grandfather, a clergyman and a scholar, used to respond by saying “Glad to have you know me.” – Yours, etc,


Avondale Square,

Dunboyne, Co Meath.




Irish Independent:




January 26, 2014

26 January 2014 Drain

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Apertwee is taking Johnson out on the town on Johnson’s money. Priceless.

Drain man comes unblocked but will have to get it fixed permanently and ring Yorkshire Water Monday no boxes no Thermabloc

Scrabbletoday Iwinbut gets under 400, Perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.



Brian Dowling, who has died aged 87, was a monocled roisterer and journalist who worked alongside Picture Post photographer Bert Hardy.

While Hardy captured many evocative images of 1950s Britain, Dowling chose the subjects, arranged poses and researched locations. And it was Dowling who, with his eye for pretty girls, arranged Hardy’s celebrated “Blackpool Belles” photograph. Later Dowling became a publicist with the Rank Organisation and a pioneering public relations man in the City, known as much for his wry conviviality as for any strict devotion to commerce.

Frank Brian Dowling was born on June 14 1926 at Bromley, Kent. His father, also Frank, was an originator of newspaper cartoon strips who edited the monthly humour magazine Lilliput and later had a brief stint running Picture Post.

Dowling the younger, who had started teaching himself Greek at the age of nine, was educated at Tonbridge and won a scholarship to Christ’s College, Cambridge. He joined the RAF as a Cambridge cadet pilot in 1944, showing aptitude for flying his Tiger Moth upside down.

Being held in place only by a couple of shoulder straps lent “an added frisson to inverted formation flying”. Posted to a camp in Torquay, the cadets befriended Devonian girls, or as Dowling put it, “there was evidence that the groundsheet, a bulky item in the kit we had to carry, had its uses”.

At the end of war in Europe, Dowling remustered to personnel selection and found himself at Sallufa in Egypt’s Suez Canal Zone. It was there that, for the only time in his RAF career, he scented a whiff of cordite – on a crocodile shoot during which he and his unit expended hundreds of rounds. Not one crocodile was punctured.

Dowling returned to university, but was rusticated from Christ’s for declaiming Aeschylus from the clock tower at two in the morning. He had achieved a First in Classics in the initial part of his Tripos but left Cambridge with a Third in Moral Sciences. There were, he declared, “only two degrees worth having – an effortless First and an effortless Third, and I got ’em both”.

His first job, acquired through nepotism, was as a staff reporter on Picture Post, the mass circulation photojournalism magazine which employed writers such as MacDonald Hastings, Fyfe Robertson and JB Priestley. Office minnow Dowling was assigned to animal stories. When a baby elephant visited the library of the Royal Geographical Society, Dowling’s headline and caption ran: “Dumbo meets the Fellows – a day one elephant will never forget”. His superiors were rather impressed.

The first duty of a Picture Post writer was to support his photographer, and Dowling became the “blunt nib” of Bert Hardy. The camera maestro warmed to his raffish young colleague, and the two covered the port harvest in the Douro, ship launches in Liverpool, the night scenes of Paris’s red-light area Pigalle, and the streets around Piccadilly in fogbound London. That essay caught an essence of post-war London and won Hardy the Encyclopaedia Britannica prize in 1953. Dowling’s substantial contribution to the project went unheralded.

Dowling left Fleet Street in 1957 to write a television documentary series, The Way We Live, for a subsidiary of the Rank Organisation. His arrival coincided with an assertion, from Rank’s domineering chairman John Davis, that television was the enemy and that documentaries were a waste of money. This did not stop Rank two years later buying a stake in Southern Television and starting a documentary series called Look at Life.

Dowling’s sardonic manner niggled Davis, as did his habit of always wearing a carnation buttonhole (a habit Davis liked to consider his own). Dowling’s sartorial flair – occasional tweeds, brass-buttoned waistcoats, a pipe and even a monocle – made the cigar-chewing Davis twitch with irritation. Dowling found an ally in Theo Cowan, Rank’s chief publicist and creator of the Rank charm school. Cowan gave Dowling a job in publicity, where among other things he organised Pinewood Studios’ 25th birthday party. He became a drinking buddy of Rank stars such as Dirk Bogarde, Donald Sinden, Peter Finch and Stanley Baker — but Cowan, perhaps advisedly, kept Dowling away from Rank’s starlets.

Within two years Dowling was head of Rank’s public and press relations. But there were no tall poppies in the Rank Group’s London headquarters – Davis would hack them down before they could become a threat. By 1963 the chairman was sending Dowling memos typed in capital letters to express his extreme disagreement on certain matters. At a monthly meeting of executives, Davis barked: “The trouble with you, Dowling, is you’re too much of a gentleman.” He followed this the next day by remarking: “Your time is short.”

When Davis complained about Dowling smoking his “infernal” pipe at a divisional board meeting, his target responded by attending the next such meeting with a lit Monte Cristo No 5 – the very type of Havana that Davis smoked. Aware that his Rank career was near its demise, Dowling resigned. Davis was enraged: he liked to sack people.

Dowling set up on his own, becoming one of the first City corporate relations consultants. His clients included Kleinwort Benson (which he advised for 30 years), Scandinavian Bank and the Banque Nationale de Paris. Friends were never convinced that he was a capitalist. Dowling was certainly appalled (yet fascinated) when, standing at the bar of the Garrick club one evening in 1969, he fell into conversation with Judge Melford Stevenson. Dowling inquired: “Had a good day?” Stevenson, who had just sentenced the Kray brothers, took a drag on his gin and mixed and replied: “I’ll say so. Those bastards only spoke two words of truth in the whole trial. One was that their defending counsel was a slob. The other was that I was totally biased against them.”

Dowling never wore a wristwatch and never drove a car, though for some years after leaving the RAF he continued to fly Tiger Moths as a reservist. He wore a black or brown Coke hat to town and a Panama in benign weather. In middle age he turned from croquet to real tennis, playing at Lord’s with his Savile club friend Sir Ralph Richardson. His preferred breakfast tipple, after a night on the toot, was a half bottle of champagne.

On a trip to Australia he once spent the morning flying over Sydney harbour in a Tiger Moth, took an afternoon sail in a Hobart racer and spent the evening watching The Marriage of Figaro at the Opera House – all, he was happy to say, at clients’ expense. Though his career had been closely linked with advertising, he grew to hate its consumerist ethos, to the point that he refused to watch commercial television. Well into his 80s, while riding on his tricycle, he was run over by a bus. His words of fury at the bus driver were said to have left some of the female passengers in a state of advanced shock.

Dowling served on the council of Counsel and Care for the Elderly for more than 30 years, also acting as the charity’s deputy chairman and chairman.

He married his wife Eileen, a former searchlight operator in the London Blitz, in 1951. She predeceased him, and he is survived by their three children.

Brian Dowling, born June 14 1926, died December 31 2013






Will Hutton is right to identify economic inequality as the cause of so many societal ills (“We are scared to face the real issue – it’s all about inequality“, Comment). Our sluggish, low-pay economy, high levels of poverty, the housing crisis, our obesity epidemic and welfare bill are all driven by the UK’s extraordinary levels of inequality. More importantly, he is also right that this is an issue that needs to be addressed publicly.

Politicians on all sides have looked at the problems of low wages at the bottom and excessive pay at the top, but few have been prepared to tie the two together. This reluctance to talk honestly and openly about inequality helps no one. Voters of all persuasions are increasingly concerned at the huge gap between the rich and the rest. In fact, the last British Social Attitudes survey found over 80% felt the income gap was too large and nearly seven in 10 believed it was the role of government to reduce income differences between the rich and poor.

Duncan Exley

The Equality Trust

London SE1

Will Hutton makes some valid points in his analysis of inequality but fails to provide any solution other than suggesting that politicians must rebuild the institutions they have so carelessly trashed. To confront inequality head on, we need to reform a tax system that punishes effort and enterprise but rewards unproductive speculation and unearned income. We need to ease the crippling burden of taxes on wages, purchases and buildings and instead collect the unimproved site value of land. At the very least, this reform would encourage the development of vacant and underused sites for the thousands of new houses urgently required to provide a basic human need. Collecting land location value would also be a fair way to redistribute wealth and start to redress inequality.

Michael J Hawes



How does any government start to put growing inequality into reverse? One answer is to reverse the decisions in the 1980s to deregulate lending, abolish rent controls and allow the free flow of cash in and out of the UK. The result is a chaotic housing market sucking billions of personal income away from the shops, building and maintaining infrastructure and from investment in companies that create jobs. International speculation in UK land and homes is forcing house prices and rents upwards. Meanwhile, landlords, who treated housing benefit like a cash cow for decades, continue to profit from a housing market in short supply while the poorest tenants are punished with three caps on the housing benefit.

High rents, now unpaid by housing benefit, are enforced against the tenants’ incomes, which were entirely available for food, utilities, transport and clothes up to April 2013; since then, council tax, plus court and bailiff costs has begun to wreak havoc in the tenants’ lives. Reversing inequality requires statutory minimum incomes in work and unemployment, after rent and council tax have been paid, to be enough to ensure a healthy life, and to diminish the billions paid by taxpayers to the NHS to treat poverty-related physical and mental ill health, and to the schools to cope with poverty-related educational underachievement.

The Reverend Paul Nicolson

Taxpayers Against Poverty

London N17

Labour at least needs to accept the implications of Will Hutton’s article, spelling out so clearly the economic damage of the diabolical rush to extreme inequality. For a long time, the moral and social implications have been pretty obvious, underlined in 2009 by the publication of Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s The Spirit Level . That was opposed by many including Kristian Niemietz of the Institute of Economic Affairs, who speculated: “The next big battle for a free society will be fought against the new anti-wealth egalitarianism.”

David Charles-Edwards




The article “Mariana Popa was killed working as a prostitute. Are the police to blame?“, News) is a turning point in getting senior officers such as Chris Armitt to admit that criminalisation puts women at risk: “It would be good to allow a small group of women to work together, otherwise… they are working away from other human support.” It has taken 40 years of campaigning to get this truth out. From the trial of Peter Sutcliffe, who murdered 13 women, many of them sex workers, to the Ipswich murders in 2006, we have complained that the police hound rather than protect sex workers.

Ms Popa was Romanian. The 2012 police raids in Mayfair targeted Thai and Romanian women, the swoops in Harrow Roma brothels. The Soho raids last December, under the guise of freeing trafficking victims, dragged handcuffed eastern European mothers in their underwear on to the streets.

Is it surprising, then, if violent men target a woman such as Mariana Popa? Yes, the police are to blame. And so are feminist politicians, who lead calls for further criminalisation. Having refused to listen to sex workers, will they listen to Chris Armitt?

Niki Adams

English Collective of Prostitutes

London NW5

My report, Shadow City, found that police received £500m to tackle trafficking prior to the Olympics. They found no more trafficking cases than the year before – four – but did raid a huge number of brothels. This meant sex workers were displaced and became more vulnerable to violence. The laws on prostitution need to change. Until they do, we need to change dramatically how we police sex workers.

Andrew Boff

Conservative Londonwide Assembly member, leader of GLA Conservatives

London SE1

Don’t ruin another London gem

The threat of “development” to the Cork Street area of London’s West End is cultural vandalism (“Art galleries forced out of historic London home“, News). The proposed plans will probably go a long way to ruining the character of an area that attracts tourists to galleries that show a wide range of artworks. Many tenants will be forced to move by high rents and it will lose much of the atmosphere that made it attractive in the first place.

Shirley Hughes

London W11

Have a little grace, Mr Kureishi

Hanif Kureishi states in Robert McCrum’s fascinating article about him that after the publication of The Buddha of Suburbia he was “a little overwhelmed at the number of cheques that turned up at my council flat” (“Every 10 years you become someone else“, New Review). Hanif was not in a council flat but a flat provided for him by the W14 Housing Co-operative (of which I was then chairman) on the grounds that he was near broke and close to eviction. Now it’s my turn to be “overwhelmed” to read he was knee-deep in cheques at the time. The W14 Co-operative in those days had its own drama group, which encouraged him to put on one of his earliest plays, The King and Me, about Elvis Presley and the experiences of accompanying me while I canvassed for the Labour party on the Fulham council estates. One man I remember told us to stay at the door as his dog was trained to go for “coolies”. It must certainly have inspired his later film London Kills Me. It would be nice if for once in his many press interviews Hanif acknowledged the help he obtained from the Co-op in that crucial period of his career.

Colin Lovelace (Dr)



Frightening face of fracking

In the excellent article by Paul Stevens (“Fracking has conquered America. Here’s why it can’t happen in Britain“, In Focus), the answer to “Is it bad for the environment?” uses the words “providing the process is well regulated”. There are no regulations in place that deal with the fracking part of the total process. The new Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil has no staff with any engineering expertise.

All the indications are that the government has no intention of dealing with these issues. Lancashire county council, the planning authority for fracking, has to find savings of £300m. Council tax from fracking is estimated at £1.7m. Policing costs for Salford already exceed £300,000. Fracking has been done once in the UK – at Preese Hall in Fylde. The returned water has between 1.4 and nine times the level of radioactivity permitted. There are processes for removing this radioactivity. Such treatment is likely to be costly.

Mike Turner


Lytham St Annes

Give us a fair cop

You note the extreme rarity on screen of strong female characters such as Saga Noren driving fast cars (“The car’s the star in Nordic noir as fans elevate The Bridge‘s Porsche to cult status“, News). Equally innovative is the mix of serial-killer suspense and humour, although Noren does not mean to bemuse her conventionally less direct colleagues. With most humour, on and off screen, still performed by men, we await a confident female cop who does irony and jokes.

Joseph Palley




Up until, say, the age of 10, if we were going anywhere special, my father would part my hair for me, in a small ritual that gave me pleasure. He would take the comb, wetted with water by my mother, who would flick it first to dry it a little, the drops making a tiny spatter on the terracotta tiles of the kitchen floor. He would stand above me, so much bigger than I was then, and comb my hair, scraping it across the scalp to either side of my head, so that I could feel the points of the comb, but not hard enough to hurt. The sensation, and his brief concentration on me, always gave me an intense physical pleasure.

My favourite part was a ritual within the ritual. “Is my parting straight?” I would ask. “It’s as crooked as a dog’s hind leg,” my father would say, scraping a straighter line – always the mathematician – across the left side of my scalp from back to front. I would get a tiny Mexican wave of goose pimples. Then my father would say, “Bah!” in dismissal of further effort, put the comb down and sometimes walk away, the steel segs on his heels clicking on the tiled floor.

My mother’s notation on the back of this snapshot, taken half a century ago, tells me the scene is at Sleights, on the Yorkshire coast. We would be on an outing from Whitby, perennial favourite for our summer holiday.

I wear a child’s parody of a man’s suit, short trousers reaching almost to the bony cups of my knees, the tweedy jacket with its lumpy leather buttons like miniature conkers. Like one of the Bash Street Kids, my socks rumple down towards my sandals, while at the other end, my outstretched left arm rests along the top bar of the gate, as I wear NHS Milky Bar Kid glasses and a serious expression. My hair is pasted flat as polish, and I remember now the pleasure of the familiar ritual with my father.

I look pleasingly ridiculous, a child clothed and coiffed from a different era, but the pleasure of that ritual haunts me like a tiny, friendly ghost, and I wish I had the magic to conjure it into being.

Michael A Young









Women’s body clocks set off the alarm bells in men

CAMILLA CAVENDISH misses the male perspective completely in her article “Women’s body clocks are ticking but it’s men who dare not check the time” (Comment, last week). Most men would tell you — if they dared — that it’s much less a case of their not wanting to “take responsibility” and “shoulder more of the parenting” than of not wanting to see their sex lives go up the Swanee, possibly for years to come, after child No 1.

Sadly or otherwise, most men’s libidos remain the same when they become fathers. Also overlooked is the fact that many men are wary about having children because they see other men faring badly in the family courts.
Nic Penrake, London

Arrested development
Cavendish’s article resonated with me. I am 32 this year, have a successful career, own a flat and have a busy social life. People are shocked when I say I would love to settle down and start a family — but it’s what we were put on the planet to do. My career gives me a focus in the absence of having a man in my life but I’m certainly not a power-hungry businesswoman.

I recently had to finish a six-month relationship with a 35-year-old man because he refused to grow up. We were great together, and I thought I’d found Mr Right, but he didn’t want to settle down. I gave him an ultimatum and he chose to run. Men are holding us back from being able to have babies.
Name withheld, London E3

Absent fathers
Could it be that men are reluctant to become fathers because they know that if the relationship finishes they’ll probably end up estranged from their children, considering the family courts’ tendency to give custody to mothers on a more or less automatic basis? Or that an unmarried father has no parental rights unless the child’s (unmarried) mother includes him on the birth certificate, which she isn’t obliged to do?

Any man entering fatherhood today runs the risk of having his children taken from him by a system that still encourages women to see children as their personal property, and men as little more than sperm banks and cash dispensers.

Perhaps if the law encouraged women to see parenthood as entering into a long-term, equal partnership, more men would  take part.
Paul Stephens, Bath

Apron strings attached
I don’t think it is surprising that men are as selfish as women in wanting their own agenda. Today it is hard enough to get men out of their mothers’ grasp, with those aged between 30 and 40 still living at home, getting their laundry done and their food provided while hardly ever doing the washing-up. How can modern women compete with all those things?
Ian Tinn, Slough, Berkshire

Celebrities not to blame for our lack of faith in politics

DAVID BLUNKETT is rather shrill in the article “Celebrity cynics ‘put young off politics’” (News, last week). There are deeper reasons why people of all ages abandon politics: the adversarial nature of exchanges in Westminster; the proliferation of (unelected) special advisers who shamelessly spin to party advantage; MPs’ expenses and pensions perks; and the fact that our political masters rarely use state education or public services.
Andrew Cobb, Bath

Vote of no confidence
Blunkett is typical of the out-of-touch and arrogant thinking of our political class. He may blame a fall in numbers among young voters on the cynical views of the likes of Russell Brand and Will Self, but he needs to lay the blame a little nearer to home.
Steve Whyley, York

Self unaware
So the self-publicists Brand and Self are putting young people off politics? Really?As the parent of two — both of voting age — I can tell you that they view Brand as an unfunny poseur and they don’t know who Self is. The lacklustre efforts of political parties to engage young people is to blame. Accusing “celebrities” insults the intelligence of young people.
Gerald Hope, Glasgow

State schools reap rewards of middle-class pupils

ANTHONY SELDON has overlooked one important fact in recommending that middle-class parents above a certain income should pay for state schooling (“Head wants £20,000 state school fees”, News, last week). It is to a large extent the presence of middle- class children in state schools and the involvement of their parents that has driven up standards in some areas.

A better way to raise funds for state education and to tackle the stalling social mobility is to impose a hefty tax on private schools. The money raised could be used to train and employ more teachers and to bring down class sizes in state schools.
Marianna Wells, Twickenham, London

Tax returns
Seldon believes that wealthier parents should pay for their children to attend some state schools. I have good news for him. The UK has an apparatus in place that forces the better-off to pay more for education, irrespective of where their children are educated, and that also allows the poorest families to pay nothing. It’s called income tax.
David Solomon, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Human life before wildlife

WHAT option is open to food producers other than intensification when the majority of the population has been screaming for cheap food (“Goodbye birds. Goodbye butterflies. Hello . . . farmageddon”, Focus, last week)? If animals and crops were reared and grown traditionally there would not be enough food for the growing population and it would be too expensive. It is sad that butterflies and bees have declined in numbers but it is human beings versus wildlife.
Doreen Kettlewell, Bicester, Oxfordshire

Hedge fund
Isabel Oakeshott cannot have visited East Yorkshire. In the past 15 years many miles of hedges and thousands of trees have been planted. In fact, planning permission is needed to remove a hedge. My farm has many hedges, some new but mostly old. A Royal Society for the Protection of Birds survey identified more than 50 avian species. As for intensive farming, small-scale is not viable unless for a niche market. Food at a low cost is all that matters to most people.
Fred Henley, Seaton Ross, East Yorkshire

Food for thought on sugar and diets

READERS might be forgiven for thinking sugar had replaced the saturated fat/ cholesterol duo as the greatest threat to health since the Black Death (“Sugar watchdog works for Coca-Cola”, News, last week). The lack of consensus in the scientific community contributes to public confusion over what constitutes a healthy diet.

What sugar does, especially in large amounts, is to predispose body organs to store rather than to burn fat. The effects of sugar on fat storage are mediated in part by stimulation of insulin release from the pancreas and partly by conversion of sugar into a chemical within body cells that prevents the entry of fat into mitochondria, those parts of the cell responsible for removal of fat by oxidation to produce energy. These mechanisms reinforce each other to enhance fat storage.

The extent to which these processes occur may be attenuated by slow intake of dietary calories. The leisurely consumption of meals is partly a cultural issue and may partly explain the beneficial effects of a so-called Mediterranean diet.

As AA Gill pointed out in his article “My 10 rules for surviving the hungry games”, (News Review, January 12), maybe the relationship between diet and health concerns not so much what you eat but how you eat it.
Geoffrey Gibbons, Emeritus Professor of Human Metabolism, University of Oxford

Unhealthy option
Atticus reports (last week) that “drastic measures” are being adopted in relation to the size of MPs and peers, with sugary snacks being removed from vending machines. It seems these are to be replaced with dried fruits (up to 75% sugars), nuts (up to 75% fats), seeds (up to 50% fats) and fruit juices (up to 18% sugars). Is this more political fudge?
Charles Quekett, Clynderwen, Pembrokeshire


NHS expansion
Dr David Carruthers writes that he and his colleagues in the NHS have noticed the increasing waistlines of patients (“Growing fat on culture of instant gratification”, Letters, January 12). What I have found more noticeable is the obesity of many nurses. Peter Wareham, Coventry

Israel and beyond
Ari Shavit’s article on the state of Israel (“Young, sexy and encircled by threat”, News Review, last week) featured a picture of two young Israeli women. It is worth reflecting that the same faces can be found in Lebanon and across the Arab world. Young, highly educated people who have the same aspirations, love the same food and music and want the same positive future as the Israelis described. Sadly for both Israel and its neighbours the future is being defined by a mixture of religious zeal, failed revolutions and the old and unattractive politicians who have dominated the region.
Anthony Dell, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Thatcher in brief
Tanya Gold accuses Meryl Streep of being susceptible to professional dishonesty for her screen portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady as “nice” and says that “possibly her only redeeming feature was her reluctance to be liked” (“The truth gets trampled in Hollywood’s red carpet stampede”, Speakeasy, January 12). I briefed the prime minister during the Falklands War on a number of occasions. In spite of all the pressures on her she probed anything that appeared flaky, and was calm and courteous, always thanking and encouraging people of whatever rank for their efforts.
David Brice, Retired Commodore, Royal Navy

Legacy of abuse 
I read with pain and regret your compassionate article “20 private schools face ruinous child sex abuse claims” (News, January 12). My now deceased husband was abused by his choirmaster/Cub Scout leader for many years and at the time was not believed, even by his devout mother. This wonderful man was a good father and gentle, kind and loving husband. He suffered for almost 79 years.
Elise Page, Billingshurst, West Sussex

Corrections and clarifications

Our article “How I Made It: Jonathan Short, founder of ECO plastics” (Business, December 15) stated incorrectly that the company ECO Plastics made a profit of £7m in 2012. ECO Plastics made a loss that year. We apologise for the mistake.


Anita Baker, singer, 56; Ellen DeGeneres, comedian, 56; Scott Glenn, actor, 73; Kim Hughes, cricketer, 60; Joan Leslie, actress, 89; Jose Mourinho, football manager, 51; Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of Nato, 61; Andrew Ridgeley, singer, 51; David Strathairn, actor, 65; Eddie Van Halen, musician, 59


1871 Rugby Football Union founded; 1885 Charles Gordon, governor-general of Sudan, killed by rebels in Khartoum; 1908 Britain’s first Scout troop registers, in Glasgow; 1950 India becomes a republic; 1982 UK unemployment tops 3m for first time since 1930s; 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, India, kills 20,000




SIR – Joseph Mallord William Turner is another artist whose paintings can be dated by forensic astronomy techniques, as a number of them include the Sun, Moon and other heavenly bodies, most notably his Moonlight, a Study at Millbank.

In that painting he included Jupiter as well as the full moon. This has enabled me to determine that it was painted at 8.35pm GMT on August 19 1796, from a point nearly opposite to the present Battersea Power Station.

Mark Edwards
Binley Woods, Warwickshire


SIR – We need to be told why the Church Commissioners have decided to move the Bishop of Bath and Wells to an alternative house outside Wells at considerable expense.

How many of the Church Commissioners know Wells and, if they do, how did they come to this extraordinary, and perverse, decision which has no obvious merit?

The Bishop’s Palace, with surrounding gardens and moat, are a unique part of our national heritage, and should never become, collectively, an ancient monument.

Can this most unfortunate decision be reversed before it is too late?

Lt Col Richard Jackson
Sherborne, Dorset

Apostrophe Street

SIR – Cambridge City Council’s decision to abolish apostrophes on street signs is disingenuous and unnecessary. Contrary to its claims, there is no Whitehall diktat demanding the abolition of the English apostrophe.

The National Land and Property Gazetteer, overseen by local government, does not force councils to remove them either. Councils can continue to use apostrophes and punctuation as part of the official street name.

Numerous Acts of Parliament have required the consent of local people before a street name could be changed. For example, extant legislation from 1907 clearly states that councils cannot change a formal street name without the consent of two thirds of the street’s ratepayers.

If an apostrophe is good enough for Her Majesty’s Government, so should it be for Cambridge City Council.

I would encourage residents to defend their traditional street names.

Eric Pickles MP (Con)
Secretary of State for Communities
London SW1

Cooked crime figures

SIR – Crime, in the areas measured, is clearly falling. Most police forces now produce accurate crime figures. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has been chasing this for the past three years, and forces are inspected in great detail to ensure their figures are accurate. The situation is now very much better.

What I find somewhat ironic is that the senior retired police officers who are now saying the public cannot trust the figures are the very police officers who were in charge when some forces, including theirs, were not providing accurate figures.

Anthony Stansfeld

Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley

Kidlington, Oxfordshire

Cocktails for cows

SIR – Some years ago I typed a research paper on mastitis in cows. The spell checker decided a better option would be martinis.

Lynne Rogers

Woodley, Berkshire

SIR – My mother is hard of hearing, and usually has the television subtitles activated. On New Year’s Eve, the BBC was explaining that Big Ben was the name of the bell housed in St Stephen’s tower.

It had recently, in honour of the Queen’s Jubilee, the subtitles said, been renamed Elizabeth Taylor. So Big Ben, more correctly called Elizabeth Taylor, they said, would chime in the New Year.

Greg Morris
London SE4

American way of death

SIR – The execution of Edgar Tamayo in Texas (, January 23) took place despite calls for delay, from both John Kerry, the American secretary of state, and the Mexican government, because of potential irregularities at the time of his arrest. The world has witnessed yet another inhumane execution to which we would not subject even our pets.

Earlier in the week, you reported that “pharmaceutical companies which oppose the death penalty have stopped producing the necessary chemicals for lethal injections, making it increasingly hard to source the required drugs”.

With the drugs that he was given, Edgar Tamayo took 18 minutes to die; Dennis McGuire in Ohio last week took 26 minutes and was gasping and snorting as he died.

These acts are a crime against humanity and amount to torture. The governors of both Texas and Ohio should be indicted and sent for trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Lt Col Richard King-Evans
Hambye, Manche, France

Naming Zara’s baby

SIR – I thought Mia was a combination of Mi from Mike and the final a from Zara.

Felicity Thomson
Symington, Ayrshire

Smoother socks

SIR – With regard to the query about seamless socks, my advice would be to wear ordinary socks inside out; this is sensible advice we give for preventing foot ulcers in diabetics.

Dr David Evans
Oakford, Ceredigion

Frozen light

SIR – Anthony J Burnet asks why freezers don’t have lights. My Electrolux chest freezer has a light; the freezer part of my fridge freezer does not. I have no explanation.

R J Russell
Denver, Norfolk

SIR – Our freezer has a light that comes on when the door is opened. However, its usefulness is questionable because when the freezer is fully loaded, the light only illuminates items at the front of the unit, leaving everything else in darkness.

Bill Hollowell
Orton, Cambridgeshire

Inaccuracies in the film ‘Zulu’ keep on coming

SIR – Perhaps the soldier who had the most successful post-Zulu War career was Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne. But his portrayal in Zulu by Nigel Green was unrealistic.

The real Frank Bourne, known as “The Kid”, was born in 1854, enlisted in 1872, and was promoted to colour sergeant after just six years. Rorke’s Drift was his first action. Therefore, he would not have been entitled to wear the Abyssinian medal or the African General Service medal as worn by Nigel Green in the film. Neither was Bourne a tall man: he was only 5ft 6in.

He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions at Rorke’s Drift, was commissioned in 1890 and retired to the Reserve in 1907. Bourne volunteered for service in 1914, and in 1918 was awarded the OBE and granted the rank of honorary lieutenant colonel.

All those awarded the Victoria Cross deserved them. The defence of Rorke’s Drift may have been a cul-de-sac in the Zulu War, but the bravery shown must be considered separately from the illegality of the Zulu War itself.

I have always felt that, had Zulu portrayed the characters as they actually were, it would have been a better film.

Dr John Black

SIR – Will Heaven lists Zulu’s inaccuracies. At the time of the battle, the regiment was still English (the 2nd Warwickshires). Two years later the regiment, which was based in Brecon, became Welsh. Half of the company in the battle was English, largely from Birmingham and the West Country. The regimental song was not Men of Harlech but The Warwickshire Lad.

Ian Dodd
Craven Arms, Shropshire

SIR – Last year I was told my medical data would be sharedthroughout the NHS unless I opted out. Concerned about the data’s accuracy, I asked to see a copy, even digitally.

The reply was that I should make an official request on a WMG form (whatever that is). If my request was accepted, and if I paid £10, I could call into the surgery to inspect the data. Any copies would be charged at 50p a page up to a maximum of £50.

I decided it was easier to opt out.

John Curran

SIR – The Government’s Troubled Families programme (established in 2012, after the 2011 summer riots) can also use NHS patient data.

“Troubled families are those that have problems and cause problems to the community around them, putting high costs on the public sector,” it says. This is a highly politicised and contentious definition, ill-defined and not fixed.

The Troubled Families programme means that information about patients is not only shared across the health and care system – other departments within local authorities and their external partners are also participants.

Further, each local authority works with the Troubled Families team, based in the Department for Communities and Local Government, and other government departments (to have access, for example, to benefit records).

There is an urgent need, therefore, for more clarity on the information-sharing arrangements for the Troubled Families programme.

Dr Alex May

SIR – I recently had a semi-emergency in which no fewer than six different NHS operatives all had to ask exactly the same questions about my history (ambulance crew, A&E reception staff, on-duty doctor, ward sister, and on transfer to another hospital). This was because they had no access to my records or could not locate my notes.

So the more there are joined-up NHS patient records, the more efficient patient care will become.

Lyndon Yorke
Booker Common, Buckinghamshire

SIR – As a long-term patient of St Thomas’s and Guy’s hospitals, I was invited last week to sign up to their scheme to allow access for research purposes to the various bits and pieces they have removed from me over the years.

However, I was disappointed to learn that the scheme would not allow their collaborating with other hospitals where I have been a patient, such as the Royal Marsden. Likewise, Guy’s could not have access to any material of mine stored at the Royal Marsden.

John Reber
Farnborough, Kent




Irish Times:

Irish Independent:


Madam – Whether one agrees with her views or actions, I think Margaretta D’Arcy deserves credit for having the courage to go to jail for a cause she believes in. There aren’t too many people who would consciously choose prison over freedom. Her situation reminds me of a scene in the film Airplane, where all sorts of suspicious looking characters, including some carrying machine-guns and grenades, are allowed to board a plane by the security men, who then proceed to wrestle an unarmed frail elderly lady to the floor to “frisk” her.

Also in this section

The more things in this country change . . .

We fund the salaries, so we have a right to know

Greatest crime is the betrayal of trust

The analogy is all the more apt given the cause Margaretta was espousing.

Responding to a Dail question on her jailing, Justice Minister Alan Shatter declared, “Nobody is above the rule of law.”

If Margaretta had been well in with the elite wheelers and dealers who wrecked the country and laid waste to our economy she’d have been far less likely to spend even an hour behind bars.

No prison food for the jokers who know how to play the legal system to evade justice or for those who came perilously close to wiping Ireland Inc off the face of the Earth.

It will be a long time before you see any of those high- fliers doing time.

But Margaretta had to be jailed. God Almighty, sure society needs to be protected from a 79-year-old woman who suffers from cancer and Parkinson’s when she breaks the law. Life as we know it might come to an end in Ireland; crumble to dust, if rebellious pensioners were not reined in. Thus it was that Margaretta had to face the full rigour of the law and pay her debt to society.

‘Justice is blind’ goes the old adage, and everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. Methinks she might be only blind in one eye.

John Fitzgerald,

Callan, Co Kilkenny

Tell grumpy gran to throw a party

Madam – Re: your recent prize-winning letter about the woman of 80 who says she is in hell, I’d like to ask that woman, does she ever look at the television, at the pictures in war-torn countries of very elderly men and women, carrying all their worldly goods in a little bit of cloth, heading God knows where and to what. To think that a woman has a husband and seven children and numerous grandchildren and she has to pass days without speaking to anyone is ludicrous. To say that they don’t speak to her is nonsense. How else do they have access to her money? It has never been a better time to be 80 in Ireland. I know, because I am also 80, as are all my friends. There are so many groups to join and activities to share, but this woman sounds very grumpy and spoilt.

Tell her to have a party. Invite all her family. Tell her to put a smile on her face and a peg on her tongue, and they will all have a great day.

Name and address with Editor


Madam – My mother is in her 70s now and is a self-obsessed, manipulative bully, who over the years has wreaked emotional and psychological havoc on her family. Her “children” (now in our 40s) have decided to go down the route of ‘no contact’ to protect ourselves and our families from her evil.

It both annoys and upsets me to hear people say “but she’s your mother…”.I would give anything to have a close, loving relationship with my mother. Having tried and tried, I know now that this will never happen. She will never change, so I am the one who must make changes in my life to protect myself.

So to you whose life is sheer hell at 80 I say, “you made your bed, now lie on it”.

Name and address with Editor



Madam – What a sad letter from the lady of 80 who is not in touch with her family. I am sure the country is full of lonely neglected people. Maybe this woman and people like her can be adopted by others. Nursing homes which cost over €1,000 a week are full of elders that could be in their own homes. My father died in 1971. Everyone minded the old and the young then. Not anymore. Kids are in creches, elders are in homes, I am waiting for the backlash.

Name and address with Editor


Madam – I was really saddened by the old lady whose letter featured here on January 12.

I am a 38-year-old woman, married with two little girls.

I was blessed enough to have fantastic grandparents, especially two grandmothers whom I adored and really miss.

I have no relationship with my parents but my mother-in-law and father-in-law are special, loving people in my life.

Mad as this might sound, I really miss my grandmothers and have often longed for a sort of “adopted” grandmother! I have often thought of contacting ALONE to inquire about visiting someone but as often happens with the best intentions, I never followed through.

Name and address with Editor


Madam – I am a 66-year-old, retired teacher. Months ago I volunteered for three different organisations, which I shall not name. I have not heard from two of them.

The third wrote to me recently to say they had no position to offer. I had applied for an admin post advertised at the time in their organisation. There was no mention of it, strangely, as if it had not existed. Long delays in dealing with volunteering opportunities seem to be the rule, for some reason. The unemployed and retired must wonder what is one to do to feel useful.

I understand there are issues such as garda vetting (it seems to take forever), but there must be a better way to utilise members of society who want to contribute. Old age need not mean useless.

Michael Power,

Castleknock, Dublin 15

Joe Citizen’s view ignored

Madam – Gene Kerrigan’s insightful article (Sunday Independent, January 12, 2014) explains how our politicians have developed a soothing public language of deception that is concealing what he calls a rotten system.

The article clearly explains why we no longer have what we traditionally called ‘political parties’ that work for the good of the people.

Instead of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Labour Party they have all become the ‘party of big business’ with a perpetual veto over public policy and the wishes of the average citizen.

The purpose of government in Ireland and across the global western world is to keep wealthy people happy – to create the optimum conditions for them to make maximum profits when times are good and mop up their debts when the economy goes pear-shaped.

The great seduction for the public is the eternal hope that when the economy is working well there will be a trickle-down effect for everyone.

What we fail to realise is that economic growth, austerity, abject poverty and large-scale unemployment are all currently working hand in glove together across Europe and the globe. There will be no trickle-down effect. Irish people are beginning to discover that the will of the people is the last thing on the minds of this Government as well as on the last government.

This begs the question: who do you think you are fooling? It may be some of the Irish people some of the time, but it will no longer be all the people all the time.

Geraldine Mooney Simmie,

Faculty of Education and Health Sciences,

University of Limerick


Madam – Gene Kerrigan’s article, ‘Elites making a killing at expense of State’ (Sunday Independent, January 19, 2014), is one of the best ever printed in the Sunday Independent and a good reminder of why the paper keeps its appeal.

More, please.

Christian Morris,

Howth, Dublin 13


Madam – I do agree that we need a more informed debate on suicide but John Masterson’s article in last week’s paper on the subject won’t help, in my opinion.

He expressed the view that suicide was not so prevalent in the past and that our current more “compassionate” attitude has an unexpected side-effect – making suicide more acceptable. He also seemed to think that Donal Walsh had part of the answer.

In the past many suicides were covered up both by the family and the State, due to the horrific stigma that came with it. So we don’t know the true figures from the past.

It’s possible that there is a little truth to what he says about they removal of the sin and crime element causing an increase but he’s not seriously suggesting we go back to those days, is he? Is it better that people are living in terrible pain rather than being dead? Isn’t that the point Marie Fleming was trying to make? Serious mental illness can be every bit as bad as a serious, painful, life-threatening physical illness. The big difference is the pain can’t be seen.

We are far from having a compassionate attitude to people who are suicidal. The widespread approval of the comments made by Donal Walsh about “these people who choose to take their own life” displays a lack of real understanding towards suicidal people. He seemed to think that suicidal people chose suicide even though there is effective help available. I am not blaming Donal Walsh. He was expressing the anger and lack of understanding of many people.

Ninety per cent of people who commit suicide are mentally ill. The current view that people commit suicide because of common problems like bullying or financial issues isn’t true. Many mentally ill people have trouble seeking help because they feel it’s a weakness. Yet most do seek help when their situation becomes distressing.

Telling off the mentally ill or making suicide a crime or a sin isn’t going to help.

Mary McDonnell,

Youghal, Co Cork


Madam – According to Sean Cassidy in ‘Disagreeing with Donal on suicide,’ (Letters, Sunday Independent, January 19, 2014) “there was an inference that those who battle depression and succumb to suicide do so out of choice,” in Donal Walsh’s message.

I have re-read Donal Walsh’s letter which initially brought him to national prominence and it is obvious from that letter he is speaking primarily about young people who take their lives. To quote: “yet still I hear of young people committing suicide and I’m sorry but it makes me feel nothing but anger. I feel angry that these people chose to take their lives, to ruin their families and to leave behind a mess that no one can clean up”. On re-watching the Saturday Night Show the same message comes across.

Donal Walsh spoke of an anger he felt. This was not meant in any way as a judgment on someone who takes their own life.

He was simply verbalising a feeling. I myself experience anger when I hear of people taking their lives. Despite this anger, I have the utmost empathy for people who take this tragic step.

Donal did use the word “chose” but he also stated: “I have nothing against people with mental illness.”

It’s unfortunate that Mr Cassidy feels as he does about Donal Walsh’s message but Donal started a conversation on this topic and has brought it much-needed attention. In fact it could be argued that he was the catalyst for other people speaking out. A conversation that was started by a boy dying way before his time enables Mr Cassidy and others to bring attention to this area.

Thomas Roddy,



Madam – I wish to let Padraig Cribben, Chief of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, (Letters, Sunday Independent January 19, 2014) know the main reason why young people are not going to the pubs anymore.

May I say a big percentage of our young are responsible people and avail of the cheap drink for sale in supermarkets and go straight to the nightclubs. There is a reason for everything. They feel they are not getting value in the pubs and are probably right. Take down your prices, Mr Cribben and young people might start going to the pub again.

Even for myself I also feel the value is not there anymore. Value is everything today.

Christy Martin,

Mullingar, Co Westmeath


Madam – I felt in praise of Shane Ross and his wonderful work on the Public Accounts Committee, I had to compare him to an old cartoon character I used to watch as a child: “Shane Ross is Top Cat, the indisputable leader of the gang. He can trap all the rats on the board of CRC,

and send shivers down the spines of several more. He’s the boss, he’s the pip, He’s the championship, He’s the most tip top… Top Cat.”

Colette Lavelle,

Westport,Co Mayo


Madam – I don’t get it, I just don’t get it. Your correspondent, Carol Hunt, quotes a so-called gay priest as saying: “I live in constant fear of being found out or being outed.”

Now, if he’s a priest he has taken vows of chastity and celibacy. If he is faithful to his vows then he is not engaging in any form of sexual activity, so what is there to find out?

Thomas Martin,

Clondalkin, Dublin 22


Madam – Recent letters about Lyric FM complain about the amount of talking in many of the programmes.

I agree, and the problem is getting worse. The main culprits, I would suggest, are Gaybo and Lorcan Murray, with the former mixing inane comments, delivered in an inane voice, with a few interesting items and some good jazz.

We enjoy Lorcan to an extent, but not the tedious emails and texts from listeners who appear to believe that we care about what they are doing (sipping cold wine as the husband mows the lawns on his ride-on mower) while they listen. Not all is bad however – presenters such as Liz Nolan and Niall Carroll, to mention but two, are always worth listening to.

Phil Baker,

Celbridge, Co Kildare


Madam – Thank you, Julia Molony, for your article commending ‘The Wezz’, (Sunday Independent, January 12, 2014). I am so sick of the bad press this place seems to attract. A number of my nieces and nephews have frequented ‘The Wezz’ over the years and loved it. It’s a rite of passage for teenagers this side of the city, as are similar venues all over the country. My sisters and brothers have dropped their kids off there and waited for them outside and have never seen anything suspect.

In fact, they have always found the security spot on. My brother-in-law one night decided to get petrol in the garage across the road and texted his daughter to meet him there. One of the bouncers insisted on accompanying her until she was safely in her father’s car. Two of my nieces attend ‘Back to Wezz’ every year and love meeting up with old friends.

If the girls are dangling their underwear there like bracelets, which I highly doubt – no one I know has ever actually seen such a spectacle – then they’re doing it all over the country.

The teenagers in Wezz are no different to their counterparts nationwide. I have nieces and nephews in Dublin and in Cork and they are all the exact same – lovely, caring, conscientious young people.

Frances Browner,

Greystones, Co Wicklow

Irish Independent


To the Tip again

January 25, 2014

24 January 2014 Tip again
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. A customs office has come aboard, will he find any smuggle? Priceless.
Go to the Tip, Co op, Post Office no boxes no Thermabloc
Scrabble today Mary wins  but gets under 400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.

Avril James, who has died aged 86, was a leading London fashion model in the 1950s, working for many of the famous haute couture designers of the post-war era, including Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell; she once earned a tabloid headline as “The girl who said No to Dior”.
Unlike most models of the day, Avril Humphries (as she was then) was a provincial working-class girl who had hauled herself out of the drudgery of a typing pool by sheer perseverance, dreaming of a career on the catwalk and bombarding London fashion houses with letters pleading for work.
She was 5ft 9in tall, slim but not skinny, with pale skin, green eyes and a 34-24-34 figure. This proved to be an ideal look, and though she had no experience, she was seized on by “Mr Michael” (the Irish designer Michael Donellan) of Lachasse in Mayfair. He styled Avril with short hair and big doe eyes, and passed on the essential tips of the modelling trade, one of which was: “Shoulders back and ‘fanny forward’” — a modelling term, she explained. “You have to makes clothes follow a line properly.” Soon she was one of the best-known faces in British fashion.
The daughter of a London fireman, Avril Humphries was born on January 7 1927 in Kilburn, north-west London, but when she was 12 the family moved to the village of Roxton in Bedfordshire.
Leaving the village school at 14, she did war work on the land with the local women, cutting sugar beet with a machete, and a year later moved to Bedford, eight miles away, to work as a shop assistant selling ribbons. At 16 she took a job in the booking office at Sandy railway station and, when she was 17, applied to join the Wrens – only to be told that she was already doing important war work.
After the war she worked in the typing pool at British Rail headquarters opposite Marylebone station, from where she wrote to Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell asking for work. A firm in Grosvenor Square gave her a trial, but her big chance came when Lachasse in Mayfair advertised for a “house model”.
She modelled for the Queen Mother, Princess Elizabeth (as she then was), and an unsmiling Princess Margaret (“don’t talk — keep five feet away” was the instruction), who chose a white fox fur (“it did not suit her, I thought”) . The film star Zsa Zsa Gabor struggled to squeeze into a tailored suit that Avril had modelled for her, dismissing her with a filthy look.
When Donellan opened his own salon, Michael of Carlos Place, in 1952, Avril James went with him, by then being generally recognised as “his muse”. But at the age of 27 she decided to go freelance, modelling also for John Cavanagh and London Dior. At a show for Elizabeth Taylor, a diamond-draped Avril wore a dress of sparkling blue silk with a long train and an ostrich plume in her hair.
Avril Humphries often modelled for Dior in London and Dublin, and after one big show was asked to work for the fashion house in Paris. Although honoured, she was unable to go because of prior commitments. When the papers got hold of the story, her photograph appeared in one tabloid under the headline: “The girl who said ‘No’ to Dior”.
In her early 40s, she gave up modelling and took a job at G Ricordi and Co, an Italian company with an office in Chesham, which owned the copyright to the works of Verdi, Puccini, Bellini and other composers.
She eventually became assistant to the head of the firm, David Halliday, and remained for 22 years. One of her abiding memories was of visiting Ricordi’s underground vaults in Milan, touching Verdi’s death mask and handling Puccini’s autographed score of La Bohème on which, in the final passage when Mimi is dying, the composer had drawn a human skull and in the margin written the single word “tranquillo” (peace).
She retired in 1995. Reflecting on her time as a haute couture model, she remembered how she would make the best of any garment. Skinny modern models, she said, made her cringe — “bones everywhere”.
Having batted away many invitations from men, Avril Humphries married, in 1954, Anthony James, a chemist whom she supported through her modelling while he studied for his PhD. They divorced in 1984. Their son and daughter survive her.
Avril James, born January 7 1927, died December 3 2013


So, “Facebook could die out” (Report, 23 January). Many of us might welcome this but it’s unlikely. Two engineers, John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler, predict this on the basis of declining searches for “Facebook” in Google and link this to a disease model of how innovations spread. For Facebook, a key question relates to “network advantage” – the attractions of the service given that so many others use it. Facebook has a lot going for it here. The disease model can be questioned; it’s been popular ever since the father of research on word of mouth, Gabriel Tarde, wrote of “contagion sociale” in the 19th century. More recently, Malcolm Gladwell (in The Tipping Point) related shifts in fashion to epidemics. This inadequate account covers the way in which one convert conscripts new buyers (passes on the disease) but doesn’t deal with the way in which conversation begets more conversation among existing users and thus increases conscription. I do not think social scientists have made great progress in this field but, if engineers want to help us, they need a better model than disease.
Robert East
Kingston Business School

I’m delighted to know that David Cameron enjoyed our film (Shortcuts, G2, 21 January). However, I was surprised that Stuart Heritage completely missed the most likely reason. He lists a great many funny bits leading to the film’s climax, but he omits the penultimate revelation that Fiona’s father, the king (John Cleese), has been living in denial of his true identity – namely, that of a frog (turned prince). It is, in fact, the king’s fear of being exposed that has set in motion all the difficulties of the major characters. The cathartic moment, in which the king realises he’s OK and lovable just as he is, was wonderful for the film-makers to discover, and has been wonderful for worldwide audiences ever since (and the king doesn’t die… he merely “croaks”). Perhaps, like most of us, Mr Cameron just wishes he could be loved like that – warts and all?
By the way, I was equally surprised (and saddened) that in your “details” page regarding the film, you don’t mention any screenwriters. I would expect that an organisation so largely composed of journalists might more greatly value the contributions of fellow scribes.
David N Weiss
A Shrek 2 co-writer, Los Angeles

Jonathan Jones (A pastiche that begged to be misunderstood, G2, 22 January) mentions Allen Jones’s 1960s sculptures of women in leather bondage gear upended to represent chairs. He says that “Jones’s art … reflects the attitudes of the time”. No. It reflects the attitudes of some men at the time. Plenty of female artists were making different kinds of art then. Plenty of women thought Jones’s art dramatised deep anxiety about female power.
Michele Roberts
• Has Sir Nicholas invented the Serota, the triple mixed metaphor? “It marks a new chapter for Tate but is also a great springboard from which other things will grow” (Report, 21 January).
David Bernstein
• Jeremy Hunt’s reorganisation of care for hospital patients (Report, 23 January) – aimed at having a named consultant with an overview of the whole case, accountable for the entire in-patient care and someone who makes sure there is a proper handover to a specific GP on discharge – is just what we had when I qualified as a doctor in 1971.
Dr John Doherty
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
• Your article (The beautiful delusion, 24 January) has one big error. As any real United fan knows, the Premier League was won a few days earlier, May Day Monday, without kicking a ball, when their only possible challengers, Aston Villa, lost to Oldham. Alex Ferguson was not watching the game. He was playing golf and was on the 18th green when a man came over and said “Excuse me, Mr Ferguson. You are the champions.”
Michael Adams (A fan since 1945)
Woolston, Cheshire
• Keith Graham (Letters, 24 January) would appear to have had an encounter with the ghost of Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman.
Tom Locke
Burntisland, Fife
• With apologies to Roy Arnold (Letters, 22 January) I am delighted to report seeing a single yellow crocus in my, east-facing, front garden this lunchtime.
Rob Parrish
Starcross, Devon

You do my heart good, Seumas Milne (70 years of foreign troops? We should close the bases, 23 January). Someone has noticed they are still here, and so are we who live beyond the fences. The people of East Anglia have grown used to their neighbours, living amiably enough with them and tolerating the inconveniences that pervade daily life. The great majority of East Anglians claim to understand the need for the presence of the visiting forces, a view that perhaps fails to take into account the major changes the world has seen. The myth persists that the local economies depend on the bases despite the fact that this has not been the case for many a long year.
Very occasionally the temperature is raised, an example being in the aftermath of the Libyan bombings in 1986. The bombers that took part in that raid flew from Lakenheath, which as well as being a USAF base is an English village. The village quite reasonably felt reprisals were likely and reacted vociferously. The Americans retreated; it is now rare to find them involved in community activities. All shops in three towns and all the villages traded in both UK and US currencies. This has now stopped. The forces rely entirely on their own resources for all goods and services. Little America (or Instant Sunshine as it is known to US forces) is as distant from the locals as the US mainland. But they are digging in. Housing outside the base has been abandoned in favour of new homes safe inside. From where I stand, just this side of the border, I see no sign of a retreat.
So many people, including my late husband, Cyril, and the legendary John Bugg, spent many years trying to show how futile this presence had become. I suppose we must believe that the weapons have gone, and that RAF (one lone squadron leader) Lakenheath is now a training facility. This must be a very expensive way to fund training and the noise is not abated. I have a dream for that vast space: what a perfect place for a wind farm and a new incinerator. Now, that would benefit the local economy and allow us to listen to the Archers.
Pam Brown
Lakenheath, Suffolk
• The freeing of brownfield land on this scale and with good communications and utility services should be the catalyst for at least six new towns, with some of the social housing our people need so much. One assumes that the MoD still owns these areas – that they have not been sold to foreign owners and leased back – so development should be for the public good in many ways. So what are we waiting for? The idea could be sold to the US as a cash saving for them and might even appeal to the Republicans.
Andrew Carmichael
• Seumas Milne mentions the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement, which facilitates the co-operation on which the UK’s nuclear weapons programme depends and was last renewed for 10 years in 2004. Co-operation is not merely one-way: the US military outsources work to the UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment, currently operated by a consortium of Serco, Jacobs Engineering and Lockheed Martin, the latter two being US companies. There is a strong legal argument that the MDA breaches the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which prohibits exchanges of nuclear weapons technology between states. It would be interesting to know what plans the government have to debate, announce or even celebrate the renewal of the MDA this year.
Patrick Keiller
• Seumas Milne’s well-reasoned piece raises the issue of the sovereign base areas on Cyprus. All his arguments apply with equal force to this remnant of British imperialism in the Mediterranean. The precise role of the SBAs has long been public knowledge and the fact that they are largely concerned with gathering signals intelligence can no longer justify their retention in the 21st century, particularly in the light of recent revelations about the mass eavesdropping activities of the NSA and GCHQ. It is surely time for a public debate that could lead to their closure, a prospect that would have wide support in Cyprus.
John Berry
Bridgwater, Somerset
• There also needs to be a hard look at the Nato, that is US, nuclear armed bases across Europe, which are also part of the US global military empire. There are five nuclear armed bases in non-nuclear countries: Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. The host countries, in times of conflict, can take control of the nuclear armed planes; their pilots are trained to do this. Further, the states, including the UK, are tied into Nato’s nuclear policies which still, unbelievably, include the first use of nuclear weapons. So, effectively, not only the UK but the whole of Europe is part of the US offensive posture. As if there was not enough killing power stationed in Europe, the US is developing new, faster aircraft which could be configured for Europe – part of the Pentagon’s prompt global strike programme.
Maybe getting rid of Nato bases is “political science fiction”, as Seumas says in the Ecuadorian context. But to achieve any moves towards a more stable world, there should be questions asked in the UK and Europe on Nato: its domination by the Pentagon, its global reach and its dangerous nuclear policies.
Rae Street
Littleborough, Lancashire
• The total subservience of the UK to the US is reflected in the confidential cost-sharing agreement, signed in the 70s, that applies to all US bases and provides a multi-million pound subsidy. The bases are run as dollar economies with goods flown in that are free of customs and excise duty and VAT. US armed forces personnel pay no UK income tax, a privilege that extends to US employees of private contractors, some on six-figure salaries. There would be a concerted campaign to keep the bases open on the grounds that they generate jobs in their local areas, but the evidence is that alternative uses subsequent to base closures provide a broader range of skilled manufacturing and service jobs that more than compensates.
Steve Schofield

One of the bastions of democracy – the right to protest – weakened (Chief constables to ask May to approve use of water cannon, 23 January). Police state grows. But there is much to protest: Commons approves gagging orders to restrict charities and unions; still 7% unemployed; government wobbly on renewable energy but keen on fracking; 10,000 US military in bases masquerading as British air bases; extreme poverty needing food banks; bedroom tax; NHS being slowly privatised; schools bedevilled by aberrant Secretary of State and bullying chief inspector; little curb on greedy CEOs and bankers; signs of negative campaigning and dirty tricks by Tories at next election; racism in some police forces over stop and search. Guardian letters are too mild a protest. It is street marches (hopefully non-violent) that catch the media and, if strong enough, could inhibit the policies of a government dominated by the rich and obsessed with free-market forces that make the rich richer and the poor poorer.
Professor Michael Bassey
Newark, Nottinghamshire
• The Acpo briefing paper for water cannon confirms two things: first, that water cannon would be useless in situations like the riots; second, that if the police do get hold of this weapon it is likely to be used against large political protests. Both are strong arguments against buying them.
The mayor has promised water cannon would only be deployed in limited circumstances, but it will be an operational matter for the Met police to decide whether to use them. But this is an indiscriminate weapon that risks injuring innocent protesters and bystanders, and ratcheting up tense situations rather than containing them. People in this country have a legal right to protest and should be able to do so without the fear that such weaponry could be used against them. The mayor must drop this idea and focus on policing by consent.
Jenny Jones
Green party group, London Assembly


I am astonished at your ecstatic response to the school league tables and Michael Gove’s “reforms” (editorial, 24 January). Surely you are aware of the cost of these results?
Borderline English and maths pupils are targeted and subjected to intensive tutoring to obtain the desired C grade, often withdrawn from other subjects. Weaker candidates pursue easier options to achieve the desired 5 “C” grades. It is known for these subjects to be taught by teachers’ assistants in small groups.
In your bog-standard comprehensive the C grade is the focus for everyone, regardless of ability. The real meaning of education is lost. There is no time for it.
Carole Lewis, Solihull, West Midlands
It is unfortunate that in your editorial you placed such a strong emphasis on comparing the improvement in the number of students who achieved the English Baccalaureate in 2013 as against 2012.
It was not until September 2010 that the current Secretary of State introduced, as a measure of a school’s success, the notion of the English Baccalaureate. He did this with little or no prior warning and at a point when curriculum planning, staffing decisions and option choices for the 2012 examination cohort had already been made. Indeed, the 2012 GCSE cohort had already started their courses.
It is therefore no surprise that more students achieved the English Baccalaureate in 2013. For the 2013 GCSE examination cohort schools knew this was one of the minister’s chosen measures and they had the time to adjust their curriculum, option choices and staffing structures to reflect this. As a result more students, totally unsurprisingly, achieved this new measure.
Pete Crockett , Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire
Your editorial praising Michael Gove left me highly bemused. I notice nothing in my daughter’s school of his work.
However, could recent success be due to the long hard work of the last Labour government on “education, education, education”? The pupils who took GCSEs in 2013 were born in 1997 and started school in 2001, two Labour landslide years. Concentration on early years, literacy and class sizes may now be paying off.
The fantastic equipment I see in my daughter’s school and investment in school buildings all came from the Labour government. My own school career coincided with Thatcher’s reign, during which my schools were never refurbished.
Success must be welcomed, but your analysis is unfortunately shallow. The reasons may be more complex.
James Dawson, London N11
Before your adulation of Michael Gove reaches ridiculous heights, there are some serious concerns, not the least of which is his profligacy with public money.
In 2011 he announced with due modesty his “Troops for Teachers” scheme. After much probing by me, and nefarious evasive tactics by the DfE, I have at last managed to find out the true cost of this venture. In all 135 service personnel are in training to become teachers at an expense of some £10m, an average of £75,000 per trainee.
In addition, a Wolverhampton free school with 20 pupils – yes, that’s right, 20 – is in line for a £1.6m extension.
Doubtless Mr Gove would label me as a “Marxist enemy of promise” but there are real concerns that ordinary schools are losing out in his ideological crusade for the few and damn the rest.
Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh,  Essex
After Rennard, bring in some rules
Of course any woman with any gumption, when faced with sexual harassment, can cope by bringing a “shoe heel smartly down on a male foot” (letter, 22 January). But why should a woman need to?
The Lib Dem lords have much better things to argue about than sexual behaviour. However a short search through the annals of political history will show that sexual behaviour has led to more political scandals and downfalls than any more useful behaviour.
So hasn’t the time come for all politicians of all parties to co-operate in developing a code of behaviour, backed by a punitive system that does not tolerate any abuse of positions of power?
April Beynon , Mumbles, Swansea
I was delighted to read my cousin Andrew Sturgis’ letter (24 January). It demonstrates that the pros and cons of the Rennard saga are not necessarily a generational problem, as some people think. Andrew is 96.
I hope he will get his grandson, Danny Alexander, to persuade his Cabinet colleagues to “get round a table” and heed his grandad’s sound, solid sense.
Robin Grey QC, London EC4
Steve Richards (22 January) seems to think that an “outdated” attitude on Chris Rennard’s part is, to some extent, the reason for his downfall. Is this an outdated attitude to women or is it to sexual harassment in the workplace?
He writes as if Chris Rennard is in his late eighties and came through the Second World War, and is now a confused old man, but he is 53 years old, plenty young enough to have learned during the 1980s and 90s that you don’t treat women in the workplace as fantasy fodder.
Lin Hawkins, Ashcott, Somerset
Contrived furore over girl abortions
Your report “The lost girls: Illegal abortion widely used by some UK ethnic groups to avoid daughters” (15 January) purports to show a higher male to female sex ratio in some ethnic groups in the UK.
However it is an assumption that this results from illegal abortion, as the census figures do not address abortion statistics. In my 25 years of medical practice in Tower Hamlets, where latterly 50 per cent of births were to women from Bangladesh and about 10 per cent from India, I only had one request for a termination of pregnancy on grounds of foetal gender. The woman was white and did not want a boy.
It is perverse to say that there is a debate about whether a woman should be given the results of a test on her own body. GMC guidance emphasises the importance of full communication with patients. The whole furore is a contrived situation by those who disapprove of abortion in general.
We accept that globally there is a problem, but the way to tackle this is to improve the status of women in society, not restrict women’s access to abortion or test results.
Wendy Savage, London N1
There is a bigger picture behind the controversy over abortion of female foetuses. Why, apart from rare cases of serious inherited illness affecting only one sex, should anyone want or need to know the sex of their unborn child?
When I was pregnant some years ago, there seemed to be no need to know the sex of the baby inside me. The unborn infant knew perfectly well who and what it was. Why should I intrude?
I wonder why we are so eager to know the sex? Is it our desire for knowledge and control in life, our unwillingness to accept uncertainties? Knowing the baby’s sex before birth means that we are constructing a gendered image of who the baby will be: at the extreme, future England footballer versus pretty little girl to buy clothes for.
Knowing the baby’s sex means you know what colour to paint the nursery – but isn’t the whole blue/pink thing a bit weird and stereotyped?
Shayne Mitchell, Cambridge
Plenty of sources for omega-3
It seems ridiculous to genetically engineer plants in order to produce omega-3 oil (report, 24 January) when plants already exist that produce it naturally.
Flax, or linseed, contains high levels of omega-3, as does rapeseed oil, hemp, walnuts and a range of other edible plants. People like me who eat a plant-based diet manage to obtain enough of this important nutrient from these sources, so why the need to grow potentially dangerous GM crops or, for that matter, eat fish which suffer and die in huge numbers?
Ben Martin, Maidstone, Kent
Poor timing by the chancellor
For many years I ran a small export-oriented knitwear manufacturing business. During this time, we saw bank base rate rise to 18 per cent and the exchange rate to $2.30 to the pound. But we survived.
As I near retirement and look to generate an income from my hard-earned savings, we are told the economy will grind to a halt if base rates rise above 0.5 per cent. Am I missing something?
Sue Holder, Aberaeron, Ceredigion
Economic crisis? Blame Canada
Canada has banned Marmite, Irn Bru and Penguin biscuits from sale.  Yet in Britain, the Bank of England is run by a Canadian and our National Lottery’s profits go to fund Canadian teachers’ pensions. Perhaps we could have our revenge by banning maple syrup?
Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Middlesex


Successful MP mothers should explain how they have surmounted the difficulties involved when they are working many miles from home
Sir, I don’t know why four female Conservative MPs are leaving at the next election but if I was one of their constituents who had voted for them, I would feel sorely short changed (“Situations Vacant”, leader, Jan 22).
I attended the Women to Win meetings in 2005 to elect more Conservative women to Parliament and would love to have had the opportunity to be considered, but I stood aside for more experienced women. Lorraine Fullbrook MP was one of the motivational speakers, and it saddens me that with the other three female MPs, she is quitting at the next election.
I regret that I didn’t put myself forward and had I been elected would have felt honour bound to serve my constituents until or whenever they voted me out. I would not have walked away.
It does a disservice to women who may consider applying in the future by questioning their staying power and it plays into the hands of some selection committees which still believe men are a safer bet.
Susan Joyson
Sir, The steady loss of good women MPs is not surprising. Because men can have both children and a full-time career it is now accepted that women too can have children and a career. But this equation disregards the children, who fall into a vacuum between their parents’ careers.
The only solution is to provide a mother substitute, either a grandmother or a first-class nanny. Otherwise the children will suffer. Prospective parents must face this situation; if not, the children they voluntarily bring into the world will be neglected.
Perhaps successful MP mothers would explain how they have surmounted the difficulties involved when they are working many miles from their own homes.
Celia Batersby
Sir, Regarding Lucy Fisher’s report (“Cameron to lose another female MP”, Jan 21), I would simply like to express my approval of David Cameron’s statement that there are “not nearly enough” female Tory MPs.
Being a female 15-year-old with a particular interest in politics and supporting the Conservative Party, certainly puts me in a minority in my age group. I believe there are not enough young people (especially women) interested in politics. The government should do more to make politics more appealing and understandable to younger generations.
The Conservative Party has only 49 women out of a total of 303 MPs — which is only 16 per cent. This is a shocking statistic. Although I don’t believe that any direct gender discrimination still exists, I think women should not be put off pursuing careers in politics because of the traditional view that it is a “man’s game”.
Alice Wright
Oakham, Rutland

There are qualifications and qualifications, and some are favoured more than others in an ever more competitive job market
Sir, Rosemary Bennett’s article on “men still living with parents” (Jan 22) falls just short of highlighting the main reason to why my demographic struggles in the job market: bachelors’ degrees. Those with “postgraduate qualifications” are seen as clever and more qualified than graduates with bachelors, obviously, and are, thus, more employable; “internships” focus on a vocational job or specific skills for a job and so are more employable.
I was one of the last in the bracket of Blair’s approach to education, being 18 in 2008. I am sure he was worried about the waning job market 10-15 years down the line and shoved us all into a university.
Why should I put more money into a postgrad to become employable? I need a job to fund it.
Stephen Percival

Healthy women going into hospital with or without their partners need to be listened to and supported in how they want their baby to be born
Sir, Many women who choose to give birth at home do so because they wish to avoid the over-medicalisation of childbirth common in our NHS hospitals today where obstetrics is still a male-dominated profession.
The headline of your report (Jan 23) — “Home births are ethical equivalent of driving without seatbelts” — reeks of scaremongering, and the article itself reveals that research into the safety or otherwise of home births is in fact inconclusive.
While the comments by Elizabeth Duff, from the NCT, in the same report are correct, Professor Savulescu and Dr de Crespigny are also right to suggest that childbirth in hospital should be more “appealing”.
There needs to be more flexibility in the medical approach to childbirth in hospitals; healthy labouring women going into hospital with or without their partners need to be listened to and supported in how they want their baby to be born. This will require a considerable injection of cash from the government for more midwives.
Our first grandchild was born at home with two midwives in attendance throughout and without any medical intervention or drugs in a very safe relaxed and loving atmosphere. Our daughter is now pregnant again and she and her husband are being well supported by their midwifery team in planning a second home birth.
Rachel Adams

Muntjac deer are not native to the UK. They breed at all times and eat English bluebells, as well as being dangerous to dogs
Sir, Muntjac (letter, Jan 23) are the only deer species that eat our native English bluebells, which are difficult to protect. Muntjac breed at all times and are not a native species. Despite their small size they are dangerous to dogs, and I have known them rip open a dog’s underside. They are wary, and if you see one there are probably many more about. They do, however, make good eating and are best trapped in fox wires and then shot. I realise that will offend some people but I believe that we need to keep a balance so that one species does not overcome another, flora or fauna.
Julian Pilcher
Steventon, Hants
Sir, If the Independent Panel on Forestry’s recommendation to plant more trees is to succeed, the culling of muntjac and other deer is a
matter that cannot be ignored (letter Jan 23).
The effect of grazing by deer on the understory of existing trees also damages habitat vital to birds such as warblers, and the Environmental Audit Committee has recently undertaken an inquiry into preventing the spread of invasive alien species.
Some measures, ie, culling, may be unpalatable to some, but if we wish to plant more trees and prevent damage to other wildlife, some tough choices lie ahead.
Rob Yorke
Abergavenny, Monmouthsire

The high-pitched song of the goldcrest gets harder to hear as one gets older — although goldfinches and blackbirds are still audible
Sir, John Brehcist is lucky to have heard a goldcrest singing (letter, Jan 23) — its high-pitched song is hard to detect as one gets older. Last year I found that although I could see the tiny bird singing I couldn’t hear its song, which has a frequency of 7KHz and above.
Checking my hearing with an online hearing test I was alarmed to find that I couldn’t even hear 1KHz, before observing that the speakers were not switched on. However, I have heard blackbirds, song thrushes, coal tits and goldfinches this week.
Kay Bagon
Radlett, Herts

SIR – Hugh Bebb suffers when the seams of his socks “saw away” at his feet. He can have the most comfortable socks in the world if he knits them himself. All he needs are 100 grams of wool and a set of four double-ended needles.
Using an auto heel and kitchener stitch for the toe graft will make smooth and warm winter socks.
Silky smooth bamboo yarn will make delightful summer socks.
Elisabeth Jordan
Gretton, Northamptonshire
SIR – Never mind seamless socks, how about larger socks for ladies? Men can choose their sock size, but we get just one size, which is hopeless if you take larger than a size 7 shoe.
Pat Tricker
Knutsford, Cheshire

SIR – Over the past several years, whenever my GP has said that I needed to see a specialist, I have not immediately been given an appointment. Instead, at some stage several weeks down the line, I have received a phone call informing me that a clinic appointment has been “arranged” on the following day. I had the choice of attending at that time or losing the appointment.
I presume that an enormous tranche of well-paid managers is required to produce the waiting-time figures.
David Stapleton
SIR – My father recently had to cancel and rebook a hospital appointment.
Instead of sending him a single letter confirming the cancellation and new date, he received from the NHS two identical letters confirming cancellation, and two identical letters confirming the date of the new appointment. All four letters were sent separately, using first class post.
The same thing happened to my mother last week.
Debbie Stewart
Upminster, Essex
SIR – We often hear about rights, but what about responsibilities?
Patients, have a responsibility to the surgeries, clinics, hospitals and all associated medical and admin staff to attend their appointments.
Failure to attend should be added to records and used when looking at priorities for future bookings.
Mark Sorge
Bransgore, Hampshire
Scandinavian lorries
SIR – The EU is currently looking at legislation, part of which will formalise an existing agreement between some Scandinavian countries to operate “mega trucks” between their borders, as they have done for years. These kinds of trucks may be suitable for Sweden and Finland’s roads, but they are not for ours. That is why the Government has absolutely no intention of allowing HGVs of these lengths on Britain’s roads.
Stephen Hammond
Transport Minister
London SW1
Supermarket cartel
SIR – My local supermarket proudly proclaims that it compares its prices with other traders in the area. This doesn’t help me if they all put their prices up by the same amount. I thought price fixing was illegal in this country.
Tony Rogers
Reading, Berkshire.
Taboo text
SIR – Many years ago I submitted a report about a local dignitary who, in protest against the unauthorised addition of fluoride to the local water supply, “turned off her taps and opened a borehole in her garden”.
A possible libel action was avoided when I corrected the spell-checked version, which had given her garden a brothel.
Robert Vincent
Wildhern, Hampshire
Icy cold light of day
SIR – Could someone please explain to me why, unlike fridges, freezers are never fitted with a light that comes on when the door is opened?
Anthony J Burnet
East Saltoun, East Lothian
Save AS-level exams
SIR – Cambridge has, for the second time, spoken out against plans to decouple the AS-level and A-level. This is unprecedented lobbying by one of our most eminent universities and a move we wholeheartedly support.
The AS-level in its current form has done more for social mobility than the linear A-level ever did. It gives young people from all backgrounds a vital staging post on their way to A-level and it is abundantly clear that universities value it as an indication of recent and future academic achievement.
Removal of the AS will disadvantage young people, particularly as it will happen simultaneously with challenging reforms to GCSE. Those students affected will be under the pressure of uncertainty for up to four years. There will also be confusion among universities, employers and parents.
We call on the Government to reconsider its plans to remove the AS from the A-level qualification. At the very least we must delay and reconfigure changes in order to minimise confusion and potential disaster for thousands of young people.
Alice Phillips
President, Girls’ Schools Association
Ian Bauckham
President, Association of School & College Leaders
Dr Tim Hands
Chairman, the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference
Embracing aliens
SIR – If you are a non-native grey squirrel, threatening red squirrels, broadleaved woodland and songbirds, and you get injured, Natural England will issue a licence for your release. If you are a cat driving the native Scottish wildcat to extinction, you are likely to be taken in.
A ruddy duck, looking to mate with a white-headed duck, will be hunted to extinction at a cost of £2,400 per bird. Are our priorities wrong?
Nick Forde
Trustee, SongBird Survival
London SW4
Street wise
SIR – Cambridge councillors want to remove punctuation from street names. Sandwich in Kent has a street called No Name Street. I live near a street in the Royal Arsenal called No. 1 Street. Without the full stop after No., the meaning of the name would be changed.
Robert Walters
London SE18
The irrepressibly backwards-running dog judge
SIR – Tom Raper (1816-1893) and his brother George were early cricketers and reputed to be two of the fastest runners in the country. George was so good that he was heavily handicapped in a foot race against Alfred Mynn, the 20-stone England cricketer, which the latter only just won.
Tom’s youngest son, my grandfather James, clocked up 10.2 seconds in the 100 yards, running for Darlington Harriers. Tom’s eldest son, also called George, was Britain’s greatest dog judge in Victorian times, and an inveterate sporting gambler who took wagers wherever he went.
As recorded in an obituary in Our Dogs magazine in 1919, at the end of big dog shows he would issue an open challenge: “One of his take downs is to race backwards, and many a dog man has lost his wager by taking on Irrepressible George, as he is often designated, they of course running the race forwards.”
Geoff Milburn
Glossop, Derbyshire
SIR – When retreating it is wise to keep an eye on your opponent. Running backwards helps enormously, especially in rugby, football and hockey. It was a crucial part of our training regime, increasing dexterity of foot, balance and awareness.
Alex Smith
Orford, Suffolk
SIR – Try running backwards for 30 seconds, taking note of how your body moves; then run forwards, keeping the same style. This drill demonstrates perfectly the basis of the pose method of running, designed to maximise efficiency and minimise injury.
I was taught it 15 years ago and still do the drills. I have had no injuries from running, apart from stiffness, even when I ran the London marathon. I still enjoy weekly pose training in my running group, and I am 70.
Mary Sutherland
London SE23

SIR – Once again an industry chief executive, this time from BAE Systems, recommends that Britain should stay in the EU. This time, it was not a threat to shut down operations, like that issued by the chief executive of Ford CEO recently, but merely a desire to “maintain stability”. That is not perhaps a phrase that one would associate with the present EU.
It seems that the arguments put forward by those against Britain leaving the EU (who include the three main party leaders) are just as speculative as the doom that was once forecast by similar captains of industry if Britain failed to join EMU.
David Taylor
Lymington, Hampshire
SIR – Ford warned it would reassess its presence in Britain if the country left the European Union. This highlights the crucial relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom.
It is imperative that we retain our access to the single market if we are to secure Britain’s economic future. George Osborne, the Chancellor, is right to call for reform of the EU – preserving an institution in aspic is never the best way to ensure it remains relevant – but the EU remains Britain’s largest market.
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In a CBI survey, 80 per cent of British businesses said leaving the EU would harm them: we must heed Ford’s warning.
Mark Boleat
Policy Chairman, City of London Corporation
London EC2
SIR – Ford left Southampton for Turkey aided and abetted by EU cash.
Ford is selling more cars in Britain because our economy is stronger than the eurozone’s. Most car manufacturers in Britain are exporting more cars outside the eurozone, and therefore would not want to leave Britain, in which they have invested heavily in plant and employees.
A British exit would mean a free trade agreement under World Trade Organisation rules, which could be set up in days. Europe trades more with us – we have had a trade deficit since joining the EEC in 1974. Neither Germany nor France would wish to impose trade sanctions on the export of their cars to Britain.
Janice Atkinson
UK Independence Party candidate, European elections
Chislehurst, Kent
SIR – Notwithstanding Britain’s membership of the EU, Ford has been pulling out of Britain for many years.
During the Seventies, Ford employed vastly more people in Britain than today. It assembled many thousands of cars, vans and trucks. Now it assembles none. All its vehicles sold in Britain today are imported.
Against that background the statement by the chief executive of Ford of Europe that Britain’s membership (or exit) of the EU will influence the size of Ford’s presence here is unconvincing.
Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex

Irish Times:

Sir, – I was shocked to hear the Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan say 10,000 fixed charge penalty points are terminated every year and this helped build a positive relationship with the public (Breaking News, January 23rd).
Surely he is missing the point? I lived in London in the 1990s and one day received a £50 on-the-spot fine and three points on my licence for what I thought was a relatively minor traffic offence. There were no discussions or excuses accepted and I paid the fine. However, I learned my lesson and I never offended again. This zero tolerance approach seems to work, with fatalities on UK roads being far fewer than in Ireland.
And isn’t that the point? It’s not just about building positive relationships, it’s about saving lives. Letting us off offences means only one thing – that we will repeat the offence because we know “someone” who will sort it out.
When gardaí issue penalty points they are doing their job and trying to stop the current carnage on our roads. Whingeing and asking them to undo their work is disrespectful, unacceptable and a crime in itself.
The biggest favour the gardaí can do for those who request their penalty points to be quashed is to say No. It’s especially hard to do knowing that at any point their decision could be undermined and overturned. The message Commissioner Callinan should drive through his organisation is: no exceptions! – Yours, etc,
Kincora Park,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
Sir, – It might be relevant to note a few facts regarding the allegations of corrupt cancellation of motoring offences.
1. Certain members of the Garda are entitled to cancel certain offences for due cause. 2. Only the officer receiving an allegedly corrupt payment and the person making the payment can be certain corruption took place. 3. While any one Garda officer might suspect a few offences were cancelled without proper reason, he/she can only be arguing from “the particular to the general” that widespread cancellation is happening and that the cancellations are corrupt. 4. There are established facts of motoring offences brought by the Garda before the courts which are effectively being dismissed by the courts and without even the due imposition of penalty points on the culprit’s licence. To me, this is a far greater scandal than some unproven allegations which are causing Shane Ross to become incoherent with indignation. – Yours, etc,
Albert College Lawn,
Dublin 9.
Sir, – What was “disgusting” at the meeting of the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday afternoon last was Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan’s attitude to and remarks about whistleblowers – the arrogance was terrifying and one hopes he will, indeed, “consider [his] position”. – Yours, etc,
Old Blackrock Road,

A chara, – Fintan Lane (January 23rd) suggests we should ask the”‘US war machine” to remove itself from Shannon Airport as an obvious solution to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s complaint that the State expended more than €17.3 million in security costs at Shannon between 2004 and 2013 because of opposition to US military presence at the airport.
€17.3 million is not the only cost to the State that has been incurred by the US military presence in Shannon. Figures from the Department of Transport in 2011 revealed €25 million had been paid over the previous 10 years to the Irish Aviation Authority to cover the costs of foreign military aircraft in Irish airspace.
The reason military flights are exempt from charges was explained by security analyst Tom Clonan ( “€10,000 per day for US military overflights has not really registered on the taxpayers’ radar”, June 25th, 2005). Ireland has a reciprocal arrangement with the US and some other countries to exempt military aircraft from charges for communication and navigation services. However, as Mr Clonan noted, “We do not enjoy much by way of reciprocity as the government jet is Ireland’s only military aircraft to enter foreign airspace”.
Austria is a neutral state and, like Ireland, a member of Nato’s Partnership for Peace. Unlike Ireland, Austria does not exempt foreign military aircraft passing through its airspace from air traffic control charges.
By so generously facilitating the use of Shannon Airport to US military aircraft, Irish taxpayers have been, effectively, subsidising the so-called “war on terror”.
People who, like Margaretta D’Arcy, have been bravely protesting at Shannon against the military use of the airport, deserve all our support. – Is mise,
Treasurer, Irish Campaign
for Nuclear Disarmament,
PO Box 6327, Dublin 6.

Sir, – I have the utmost respect for John Waters, but on this occasion (Opinion, January 24th) I disagree with him. Yes, we have, as a nation, handed over an awful lot of sovereignty to others, but we still have meaningful political choices to make, and it matters whom we elect to government.
Should the TDs and senators of the Reform Alliance form an actual political party, then I would warmly welcome this. Not because I expect radical policies from them – Irish politics, since the foundation of the State, has largely been middle of the road – but because they have given me reason to trust that, if elected, they will keep their election promises. – Yours, etc,
Lismore, Co Waterford.
Sir, – Does anyone see the irony in the fact that Reform Alliance came into existence as a result of their opposition to reform? – Yours, etc,
Rochestown Avenue,
Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The members of One Step Forward (a Limerick-based support group for the parents of children with cerebral palsy) welcome the resignations the CEO and board of directors of the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) last month. In recent years parents of children with special needs have been repeatedly told that funding for essential equipment, including wheelchairs, adapted buggies and other mobility aids, is not available due to HSE funding cuts. Many children with special needs have to wait for up to 12 or 18 months to receive essential equipment.
At the same time, over the past year, the respite care grant has been cut; medical card applications on behalf of children with special needs have been delayed (and very often denied) and now, in recent weeks, we learn that funds raised in good faith to support the work of CRC, and to help fulfil the equipment needs of our children were, in effect, taken to pay top-ups on the already excessive salaries of senior executives of the organisation.
Despite this, the Public Accounts Committee has not made any attempt to recoup the funds which were used for top-up pensions to those concerned. According to some reports a figure in the millions has been siphoned off to pay top-ups to the salaries of CRC executives. The Public Accounts Committee knows who received these top-ups and should recoup the funds as soon as possible. As parents of the intended beneficiaries of this funding, we request that those involved return these funds without delay. – Yours, etc,
On behalf of One Step
Forward members,
Sir, – As a female candidate for Fine Gael in the upcoming local elections, I recognise the importance of addressing the gender balance in politics (“Shortage of women candidates for elections”, January 24th).
Groups such as Women for Politics have been instrumental in highlighting the barriers often encountered when entering political life. Simple measures that will make it easier for women to balance work and family commitments are crucial to changing the political culture in a country where just 15 per cent of Ireland’s TDs are women – a figure that has changed just 1 per cent in the past 20 years.
I hope the debate over equality in politics and also in the workplace will continue in your publication, the Dáil and elsewhere – and help foster an atmosphere where more women candidates seek the opportunity to stand for election in the future. Most important, however, is that voters have a selection of strong, capable candidates – no matter their gender.
The article stated that Fine Gael does not yet have any female candidates in several Dublin wards, including Stillorgan and Rathfarnham. This is not correct. I am standing for Fine Gael in the Stillorgan ward of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, while Fine Gael is also running female candidates in Dundrum (ex-INO President Madeline Spiers), in Glencullen (Aileen Eglinton) and Rathfarnham (Anne-Marie Dermody). – Yours, etc,
Stillorgan Ward
Female Candidate

Sir, – Whether Frank Flannery billed the Rehab charity in 2011 and 2012 using a company that was dissolved in January 2009 is beside the point (Home News, January 23rd). Surely the issue that should be addressed is the propriety of a board director appointed to a non-remunerative position having a beneficial interest in the charity’s business. – Yours, etc,
Thomastown, Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – The dead hand of inactivity, which is frequently adopted by public servants unable to make a decision. – Yours, etc,
Deerpark Road,
Castleknock, Dublin 15.
Sir, – Glass half full or half empty? (Preview of This Weekend Irish Times, January 24th). – Yours, etc,
Sycamore Avenue,
Kingswood Heights,
Dublin 24.
Sir, – The grammatically incorrect use of the word “presently”. . .
“Presently” describes something will happen shortly eg “he will be along presently” whereas it is habitually used incorrectly as in “talks are ongoing presently” to describe something which is happening currently or at present.
“Rant over!” which come to think of it is another PWCLW. – Yours, etc,
Howth, Dublin 13.

Sir, – Credit and commiserations to Hilary Wakeman for lexical research on limited resources (January 23rd), but I’m afraid I must vent my habitually annoying floccinaucinihilipilificatiousness. I trust the editorial word mint will not find my logomachistic coinage semantically counterfeit. – Yours, etc,
Castleview Estate,

Sir, – Eamonn McCann (Opinion, January 23d) in his exploration of the nebulous status of the Vatican/Holy See, neglected to mention another oddity. Why doesn’t the Vatican (or is it the Holy See), a sovereign state, represented at the United Nations, have a football team?
After all, other European micro-states – Liechtenstein, the Faroe Islands, Andorra, and San Marino (like the Vatican City, also surrounded by Italian territory) – have international football teams. Sure, it only has a population of circa 800 from which to select a team, and the “granny rule” might prove to be a problem (or would it?), but that could be offset by its network of clergy worldwide and judicious use of FIFA’s residency rules. And we know that it has had some good players in the past; Pope John Paul II was known to have been handy between the sticks. His successor, Benedict XVI is a Bayern Munich supporter, and the current pope, Francis, like all Argentinians, is football mad.
Apparently the Vatican is one of seven sovereign states who are not full FIFA members. Another is Monaco, against whom the Vatican fielded a team twice, in 2001 and 2011, losing both. But were they “internationals”? – Yours, etc,
Editor, History Ireland,
Palmerston Place, Dublin 7.

A chara, – I refer to Martyn Turner’s cartoon “The Seven Wages of Man-agement” (Opinion January 17th) and OECD figures quoted by Noel Mc Bride (Letters, January 17th) which put average pay in Ireland at just over €50,000 a year, an average arrived at from a wide range of pay.
While differences in pay reflect different responsibilities at work, there is less justification for such wide differences in pensions. Increased life expectancy is also changing the ratio between years at work and years in retirement, to the detriment of the public purse. To paraphrase De Valera’s “No man is worth more than a thousand a year”, if public pensions were capped at €1,000 a week, it would equal average pay in Ireland, not bad for no work responsibilities at all. – Is mise,
An Pháirc Thiar,

A chara, – As I entered the doorway going to Mass last Sunday I was accosted by two people pushing Fine Gael election literature for the May elections. Talk about Christmas ads in September.
I beg politicians and their supporters of all parties, and of none, please refrain from all forms of canvassing until at least May 1st, and I beg all forms of media to refrain from reporting any such canvassing until the same date.
Am I alone in thinking that canvassing inside the church doors in January for elections not due until May, is a bit much? – Is mise,
Kill Abbey,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:
* In the grand tradition of our republican ideals as a nation the scandal of “top-ups” is currently being vented and, as ever, there is more heat than light. The sense of being shocked and horrified that is being voiced in the media and in the public sphere in general will be, I am afraid, subject to Mary Harney’s shrewd encomium that “the people have short memories”.
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Greatest crime is the betrayal of trust
CRC pay scandal endemic of way country is run
The same shock and horror was expressed at the publication of the many reports dealing with child abuse scandals, and mental reservations, and the consequences for the role of the church in the public sector were negligible.
There was shock and horror that we had to bail out the banks and the bondholders; but we were told that now that we own the banks things would be different and there would be caps on salaries and bonuses. As we have seen, the cap has been thrown to the wind, while the banks remain bullish and conveniently forget how badly they managed their own debt.
The shock and awe that we all felt at the bailout, the bank crash, the economic downturn and the austerity Budgets and the general lack of accountability brought about the “democratic revolution” whereby a new broom would sweep clean. And the result was . . . austerity Budgets and a general lack of accountability because things had to remain the same and the rhetoric of our democratic revolutionaries was contextualised in the phrase “that’s what you tend to do in elections”.
So, here we are again, as shock and horror is expressed at the top-ups of charity, hospital and HSE bosses, not to mention the €50m spent on consultants by Irish Water, and the refusal of the CEO of Rehab to reveal her salary. My guess is that when she does so, we will be – yes, you guessed it – shocked and horrified.
So in the spirit of cooling down the heat, dispensing with shock and horror, and perhaps injecting some light, can I make a suggestion for the future?
Any institution that is in receipt of state funding should have a salary cap by law. The joke that people should collect for charity to pay top-ups for inefficient CEOs and board members is no longer funny.
Any monies received, from whatever source, above this cap should be taxed at 95pc. This would apply across the board to all semi-private agencies, universities, charities, semi-state bodies, and semi-nationalised banks – any system in receipt of public money. Any agency that did not like this could just stop taking state money in any form.
I can already hear the squeals of outrage and would respond with the following: if it is unconstitutional let it be tested in the courts; and if found to be unconstitutional, let it be put to a referendum and make it constitutional.
This would ensure that the shock and horror response would be replaced by a sense of social and civic responsibility; it would also ensure that perhaps, just perhaps, the tiny seeds of a real democratic revolution would begin to emerge.
* What a wonderfully thought-provoking and sad ending to ‘Amber’. I admit to being critical of some of the quality of the drama over the first three nights, but the extremely clever ending, which has the whole nation talking, made up for any negative criticisms one might have.
It really brought home the reality to us all, how devastating it would be, if a loved one went missing forever with no closure.
Congratulations to all involved.
* As a Connacht supporter and season ticket holder I take serious issue with George Hook’s article that Connacht now deserve to have the plug pulled.
I was in Hendon last Saturday and it was not pretty, but to get to Dublin and read this made my blood boil.
Ireland has won two Grand Slams, 10 Triple Crowns, and never reached the last eight in the World Cup. Maybe we are giving all the money to the wrong team.
We are a small enclave and I say the only country with historical and identifiable regions so it’s disband all or none.
* I spoke with a retired, eminent solicitor a number of weeks ago regarding another despicable attack on an elderly person in our community. His reply really made me think. He said there was no surer sign of failure of a government than when people are afraid in their own homes.
The five-second news blitz and useless politicians offering condemnation will pass until the next atrocity.
Criminals with scores of previous convictions are released time and time again.
The system in our country is protecting the criminal, not the victims.
This is the view of 99pc of the decent law-abiding population. As usual the public are miles ahead of the politicians.
With elections coming up, why can’t someone have the guts to stand on a platform of zero tolerance towards thuggish behaviour.
There should be mandatory sentencing with five years for a first offence, 10 years for a second, and 20 for a third with no remission.
New York mayor Rudy Giuliani turned one of the most violent cities in America around with a zero tolerance policy.
We need a new party to crush the cowards and put them where they belong – behind bars for a very long time.
* Was Bono’s attendance at the World Economic Forum in Davos done on a pro-bono basis?
* Kay Noonan writes, (Letters, January 22) that there must be another world after this life?
The only part of us that lives after death is our genes which we pass on to the next generation. We humans reproduce exactly like our four-legged cousins, the ones that we kill and hang up in butchers’ shops and eat for Sunday lunch.
There was life on earth billions of years before man stood up on his hind legs, and who then went on to invent God, or gods.
God exists not in heaven but in the mind of man; the near-death experience that some have is nothing more than a chemical reaction in the brain.
And those who claim to predict the future are hoaxers who make lots of money from the gullibility of the unwary, of which there are so many.
Millions of people have been persuaded by hoaxers with fertile minds that a conspiracy existed in relation to the JFK shooting but to this day not one of those smart people has been able to produce one scrap of evidence to back their case.
And they’ve been flogging this particular dead horse now for more than 50 years.
I’m not at all surprised that religion has such a strong hold on the masses. They need to believe. There’s a craving to believe, even to believe the unbelievable.
Irish Independent


January 24, 2014

24 January 2014 Tip
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. A spy has been planted on Troutbridge to see if any of the crew are suitable to join Intelligence Priceless.
Go to the Tip, M&S, Post Office no boxes no Thermabloc
Scrabble today no-one wins  game collapses ha;f way thrpugh  Perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Halet Çambel, who has died aged 97, was an Olympic fencer and the first Muslim woman to compete in the Games; while she failed to take home a medal from the Berlin Olympics in 1936 she won international acclaim by refusing to meet Hitler. Post-war, she became a renowned archaeologist.
The 20-year-old Halet Çambel represented Turkey in the women’s individual foil event. She already held reservations about attending the Nazi-run Games, and an introduction to the Führer was a compromise too far. “Our assigned German official asked us to meet Hitler. We actually would not have come to Germany at all if it were down to us, as we did not approve of Hitler’s regime,” she recalled late in life. “We firmly rejected her offer.”
Halet Çambel was born on August 27 1916 in Berlin, the granddaughter of Ibrahim Hakki Pasha, the Ottoman Ambassador to Germany. Her father, Hasan Cemil Çambel, was the embassy’s military attaché and a close associate of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic.
As she grew up in Berlin with her three siblings, her parents became concerned by her frailty (she suffered with typhoid and hepatitis). “They always looked at me as if my days were numbered,” she remembered. “They would dress me up in layers of jumpers and woolly socks. As I was not happy with this, without my family knowing, I removed these heavy clothes at school and decided to increase my strength. And I also began to exercise. The German books I read contained stories about knights. I was very impressed by them, this is why I took up fencing.”
In the mid-1920s the family resettled in Istanbul, where, prior to the founding of the Republic, Halet Çambel was “shocked by the black shrouded women who came and visited us at home”. Part of Ataturk’s legacy was to expand the rights and possibilities of women. Participation in sport contributed to this emancipation.
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18 Aug 2013
She acknowledged the amateurism of her country’s Olympic bid. “We did not prepare,” she said. “Everybody would train in their own spare time.” After an unhelpful spell with a Hungarian coach in Budapest, she arrived in Berlin. She was present when a furious Hitler stormed out of the Olympic Stadium after America’s black athlete Jesse Owens won the 100m sprint.
On her return from the Games she met Nail Çakırhan, a Communist poet and later a celebrated architect. As her family were unimpressed by Çakırhan’s Marxist beliefs, the couple wed in secret. She went on to read Archaeology (along with the Hittite, Assyrian, and Hebrew languages) at the Sorbonne in Paris before gaining a doctorate at the University of Istanbul in 1940. In the immediate wake of the Second World War she studied with the German professor Helmuth Bossert, and in 1947 assisted on his excavation of the 8th-century Hittite fortress city of Karatepe in the Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey.
Karatepe was to be her life’s work: for more than five decades she spent six months each year at the site. It was there that she helped to develop a greater understanding of Hittite hieroglyphics, the indigenous logographic script native to central Anatolia, and build ties between Turkish academics and the German archaeological community (Çambel was to become a member of the German Archaeology Institute).
A good-looking woman, she maintained a no-nonsense approach on her pioneering digs in south-east Anatolia. “Halet was always respected by the farmers,” said the Danish-German ethnologist Ulla Johansen. “She wore practical trousers and simple, high-buttoned blouses, completely covering her upper arms and a man’s cap on her short cut hair.”
In 1960 Halet Çambel became professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at Istanbul University, where she later founded a chair dedicated to the field. In 2004 she received the Prince Claus Award, the Dutch prize in recognition of a progressive approach to culture .
Her husband died in October 2008.
Halet Çambel, born August 27 1916, died January 12 2014


Conor Ryan neither addresses the fundamental unfairness in the status quo nor shows that the teaching in private schools is better than that in the state sector (Letters, 21 January).
First, he ignores the evidence that the disproportionate success of privately educated children in obtaining both university places and a foot on the ladder of prestigious careers is due to universities not being very good at assessing potential – slightly changing the make-up of the group who “benefit” from this situation would not give us more equality of opportunity. Second, and in common with Anthony Seldon, he concerns himself only with the most able children in the state sector. Even if it were the case that there is a small supply of superior education available, why should that resource go to these children rather than others, particularly since there is no explanation of how the children left behind would benefit? Third, he fails to state how he would bring about fairer access to oversubscribed state schools: this could be achieved very simply by determining admission to them through a lottery.
Anyone who sets foot in state schools regularly knows that inspirational and heroic work is happening in them every day. It is not state schools which are the obstacle to equality of opportunity, but the lack of political will to remove the unfair advantages enjoyed by the children of the privileged.
Jane Duffield-Bish
• It was disappointing to read such negative views about the links between independent and state schools (What can the independent sector teach the state sector?, 20 January). I attended recently an inspiring conference organised by the Department for Education and the Sutton Trust for state and independent school leaders to celebrate the impact on pupils’ learning made by so many of our cross sector partnerships. The examples of effective co-operation between our two education sectors are legion; take just three from around the country. The Southwark Schools Learning Partnership, the Dorchester Area Schools Partnership and the City of York Independent State Schools Partnership bring together each year hundreds of pupils and teachers. In schools across the UK we share everything from the study of languages, mathematics and science to the experience of community music, playing sport and the organising of joint school trips. Such opportunities open up young minds and dissolve differences of wealth and background.
John Harris would have been wiser if he had considered what independent and maintained schools can teach each other; investigating that challenge is proving to be fascinating, often humbling and, not least, great fun.
Julian Thould
Head, King Edward VI School, Southampton
• In this area, the local authority recently closed a successful comprehensive school because of concern about falling secondary school rolls. This week, two local independent day schools have each announced an application for free school status with active encouragement from the New Schools Network. The latest, announcing its move from “fee to free” makes much of widening accessibility but says 96% of current parents would keep their children at the school. It seems this may be less about opening access, as advocated by the Sutton Trust, and more about propping up a struggling business model. It would be interesting to hear from Mr Gove and the New Schools Network how much this local example is reflected in applications for free school status from other parts of the country.
John Murphy
Crosby, Merseyside

The shocking accounts of torture and killings this week are depressingly similar to earlier reports compiled by Amnesty International (Evidence of killings in Syria could be ‘tip of the iceberg’, 22 January). Overall, a grim picture is emerging of the Syrian security forces – and their proxies – committing crimes against humanity on a staggering scale. There is little doubt that various forces opposed to the Damascus government have also kidnapped, tortured and killed detainees on their own side.
The Geneva II talks must prioritise the alleviation of grievous suffering among Syria’s civilians, but they must not ignore the mounting evidence of systematic crimes. It should be made clear to all parties that there will be no “immunity from prosecution” at some later date. Syria’s human rights abusers must be put on notice that they will be held to account for their terrible crimes.
Kristyan Benedict
Syria campaign manager, Amnesty International

It is good news indicators are starting to show improvement in the economy (Report, 23 January), though it’s difficult to see which of the current government policies is driving this. Am I the only one reminded that, for hundreds of years, doctors prescribed bleeding as a treatment for many diseases and were also quick to accept responsibility for recoveries?
Michael Baron
• The Cambridge City Foodbank has launched a pilot scheme to put up to £60 on the fuel cards of people sent to us through the CAB. The scheme is funded by local pensioners who donate winter fuel allowances which they feel they can live without. We are fortunate in that the city has probably more than the average number of well-off pensioners but the idea could be applied elsewhere.
Evvy Edwards
Cambridge City Foodbank
• The apparently mystery women (Letters, 21 January) on the Labour benches of 1976 is, of course, the very smart Judith Hart, minister for overseas development. Now, what did I have for breakfast… ?
Stephen Rafferty
Buckland Brewer, Devon
• I wonder what Emma Dally’s grandfather would have made of the Irish policeman I met just outside Wicklow when my bicycle had punctured (Letters, 21 January). “Are you in hardship there?” he enquired. “And do you have the necessary implements?”
Keith Graham
• They escape from the Benedictines only to end up with the Dominicans (Runaway school pupils found at hotel, 21 January).
Tom Scanlon
Little Neston, Wirral
• For some of us, our back gardens keep us sane (Letters, 23 January); it is the news about Syria, banking, poverty and child abuse that numbs our minds.
Jen Fitton
Oban, Argyll
• Surely brief letters are as welcome as the news that a female bullfinch is picking at blackthorn buds in Oxen Wood (Country diary, 23 January).
John Bailey
St Albans, Hertfordshire

24 January is is the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, a day when lawyers in Britain should take a moment to consider some of the dangerous environments fellow advocates are working in across the world. This is the third year this international day of awareness has been organised so that we can reflect on the physical threats and persecution colleagues face. This year the spotlight will shine on Colombia, a country where 1,440 incidents have been recorded of lawyers being threatened, injured or otherwise put at risk. Most alarming is that 400 lawyers have been killed since 1991 for the legitimate work they carry out.
On 24 January, as a representative for the Law Society and its support for endangered lawyers, I will be discussing the perilous situations Colombian lawyers work under with Rommel Durán Castellanos, a human rights and environmental rights lawyer and lecturer. Only last month he was shot at while working with vulnerable clients in the Pitalito region of south-east Colombia.
The risks are all too familiar to Rommel, who since 2007 has been defending marginalised communities and victims of human rights abuses and conducting grassroots training workshops on human rights and protection mechanisms. In particular, he represents victims of extrajudicial executions in the north-east of Colombia and other regions of the country, and victims of crimes such as enforced disappearance, torture and killings, perpetrated by state agents and paramilitary groups. For his efforts he has been subjected to a campaign of threats, attacks and stigma. Rommel’s experiences can put into sharp relief the cases most lawyers are presented with.
The Day of the Endangered Lawyer does not stand to present a point of comparison but rather to spur the international legal community into a refreshed state of awareness and action.
Professor Sara Chandler
Chair of the Law Society Human Rights Committee

The problem with the battle against climate change is not that “extremists” in the UK oppose fracking, or even that the government supports it (‘Far-left extremists’ accused of harming global warming fight, 21 January). The problem is that global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
As Caroline Lucas MP points out in your report, “up to 80% of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground if we are to have any hope of avoiding dangerous levels of climate change.” But the reality is that they are not going to do so. The world’s governments talk about cutting emissions, but in fact they continue to seek economic growth at all costs.
We have to accept that the battle to cut greenhouse gas emissions by enough to prevent runaway climate change has been lost. Therefore, the strategy now has to be to deal with the emissions by investing in carbon scrubbing, geoengineering and reforestation. This could be funded by the tens of billions of pounds per year that would be raised if the major nations, including the UK, could agree on a financial transactions tax. Otherwise, we face disaster.
Richard Mountford
Tonbridge, Kent
• Lord Deben’s plea for a rational debate on tackling climate change isn’t particularly helped by his labelling of opponents of fracking as extremists and “close to Trotskyism”. Following hard on the heels of David Cameron calling opponents irrational and “religious in their opposition”, it seems that there is an orchestrated campaign to pillory anyone who questions the desperate push to expand fracking.
The climate change case against greater long-term use of gas is simple. The Committee on Climate Change has set a target for the average emissions from electricity generation to be 50 grammes of CO2 per kilowatt hour by 2030. Gas (from whatever source) produces nearly 10 times that amount.
The government and Lord Deben could also listen to those it normally trusts. BP reports that shale gas expansion will not stop a major rise in greenhouse gas emissions and Brewin Dolphin says shale gas will not reduce gas prices (Report, 16 January). So why is the government so obsessed about promoting fracking while simultaneously blocking the setting of a binding EU-wide renewables target which would provide a clear focus for decarbonisation? Is it too much to ask for a grown-up debate, without the brickbats?
John Rigby
• The appointment of Lord Deben, fracking champion, as chair of the Committee on Climate Change is one in a long line of cynical appointments to ensure that action is given low priority. Climate change sceptic Peter Lilley, vice-chair of an oil and gas company, was appointed in October 2012 to the select committee, following the appointment of Owen Paterson, another climate sceptic, as environment secretary, and John Hayes, who opposes wind farms, as energy minister. Richard Benyon and Lord de Mauley, neither with impressive environmental credentials, to the Department for the Environment. And there are more.
This lengthening line of such appointments points up Cameron’s lie that his is “the greenest government ever”.
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey
• Your article (Big Six energy provider RWE halves investment in renewables, 17 January) paints a distorted picture of investment in the UK. While individual companies may make commercial decisions to reduce their involvement, other companies are lining up to take their place, competing for contracts and helping to renew our energy infrastructure.
Since 2010 we have seen record levels of investment: £31bn from private sector companies in UK renewable projects – the most resilient such market in Europe. Over the same period we have nearly doubled the amount of electricity generated from that source. Our Energy Act provides the certainty and political commitment that investors need, which is why Ernst & Young ranks the UK as the fourth best place in the world to invest in renewable energy – and the first for offshore wind.
Edward Davey
Secretary of state for energy and climate change
• According to BP (Report, 16 January), the expected rise in greenhouse gases over the next two decades will put “hopes of curtailing dangerous climate change beyond reach”, despite any move from coal to gas. There are two dangers: a temperature rise this century sufficient to ensure widespread crop failures and famine; and ocean acidification so severe as to disrupt the whole marine food chain.
So, what can we do to avoid such catastrophes? There is a growing realisation among scientists that the only way is to lower the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in a report recently leaked to Reuters and the New York Times, recognises the possible necessity of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) on a very large scale, tantamount to geoengineering. Fortunately, nature has provided excellent means to do this, using trees, plants and algae. Forests can be managed such that the carbon in the wood is not returned to the atmosphere. Plants can be heated pyrolytically to produce “biochar”, a special type of charcoal suitable for soil improvement. And photosynthesising algae can absorb carbon dioxide, purify water and become part of an aquatic food chain. Thus, while we reduce greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere we can be growing more food.
This is a win-win situation. Yet the government has done nothing to promote CDR. The debate over shale gas pales into insignificance.
John Nissen
• Did John Gummer really say “All of us who are environmentalists … who are sensible” or are you having a laugh?
Marion Worth
Newport, Gwent


As Syrian diplomats squabble in Geneva this week, those trapped inside Syria and at the borders are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance and protection.
In the refugee settlements I visited last week in the Middle East, a largely hidden and seemingly unrelenting cycle of violence has taken hold. In the camps in Lebanon and Jordan, scores of women and girls are beaten and humiliated as a direct result of the stress and despair of displacement.
Teenage girls there are vulnerable to sexual harassment and, in an attempt to protect them, they can be pushed into marriage, often to much older men, consigning them to the extreme risks posed by pregnancy in bodies so young. As one doctor asked me, how can it ever be OK for a 13-year-old to miscarry, and then to fall pregnant again?
They cannot wait any longer for the political settlement needed to end the unacceptable, shocking cycle of violence that has gripped their homeland. For the sake of all Syrians we hope talking in Geneva brings relief, if not peace.
Leigh Daynes, Executive Director, Doctors of the World UK, London E14
Outside Liverpool Street station in London is a statue reminding us of the Kindertransport scheme which rescued thousands of mainly Jewish children from Nazi-occupied areas of Europe on the eve of the Second World War.
Ten thousand were resettled in the UK. Surely something like that could be arranged for the most needy of the Syrian refugee children, especially those who have been orphaned. The people want to help.
Elizabeth Morley, Aberystwyth
Behind the fall in unemployment
When hearing Mssrs Cameron, Osborne et al trumpeting a record fall in the unemployment rate to 7.1 per cent, let’s remember there are still 2.3 million unemployed, struggling to make ends meet, even on the official figures.
And, lest we forget, many so-called “employed” are in fact under-employed, being trapped in zero-hour jobs or self-employed with a very small, erratic income. And, of course, some people, so discouraged, appear in no official figures at all.
Mind you, there are the lucky few who are unemployed, with no need to work, having got something for nothing – no, I don’t mean those on benefits, but those who have benefited from inherited wealth.
Peter Cave, London W1
So we have just seen the second biggest drop in unemployment on record. I blame all these EU immigrants, coming here and taking our jobs and … Oh, hang on a minute …
Francis Kirkham, Crediton, Devon
Rennard: time to make peace
Chris Rennard should realise that what to him may have been a gesture of friendship could have been deeply unpleasant to the recipient. He should not allow his intransigence to damage the future of the party he has done so much to build.
Representatives of the parties concerned should get round a table with a neutral mediator to thrash out an acceptable form of words with which Chris could apologise without prejudicing his position in any possible (but unlikely) legal proceedings.
Andrew Sturgis, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey
Dear Lord Rennard,
As a fellow liberal, and fellow bloke in his mid-50s, I would like to offer another view to help staunch the hurtful and misleading bile that has been flooding on to our newspaper pages recently.
We all have our way of expressing understanding and comradeship. Yours is allegedly of the more tactile variety. No doubt you make no distinction between old and young, male and female, attractive and plain; there will therefore no doubt be a number of older women and male colleagues able to vouch for your tendency to place a compassionate hand on the leg, or run a caring hand up the back from time to time.
Any unpleasant rumours that you are a philandering and lecherous slimeball would then be scotched once and for all.
David Scott, Horsham, West Sussex
Having worked in mixed offices for many years, starting in the Sixties, I know that some men don’t know how to behave.
One man in particular was a real pest until I elbowed him sharply in the ribs after he’d crept up behind me and flipped my bra strap. How was I to know he was nursing two broken ribs following a car accident? He never did it again to me or anyone else.
Sue Thomas, Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria
Children in a toxic world
It really shouldn’t come as any surprise that young people’s lives and mental health are being substantially compromised because of the demands of modern life (“Mental health risk to children trapped in ‘toxic climate’ of dieting, pornography and school stress”, 20 January).
Sue Palmer and I composed two open press letters on this issue back in 2006 and 2007, signed by several hundred expert authorities from across the globe. But still, after all our campaigning, articles and books – still, hardly anything has changed. This is an appalling indictment of the toxic world that we adults are creating for our children. Effort must be focused upon those areas where we can make a difference.
Most notably, if the will is there, governments have the ability to rein back the noxious “audit and accountability culture” that has engulfed our schools since the 1990s, in which we are examining and testing our children to death – and in some tragic cases, quite literally.
Parents also need to view themselves as the proactive creators of modern culture, and not its hapless victims, especially in relation to the rampant technologisation of human communication, which should have absolutely no place in early and middle childhood.
The Save Childhood movement and its “Too Much Too Soon” campaign are just two examples of emerging cultural initiatives which are challenging these trends, and which all concerned citizens can throw their weight behind, if we’re really serious about genuine grassroots change on this vital question.
Dr Richard House, Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies, University of Winchester
What’s so special about dolphins?
I read your piece on the 200 dolphins trapped in a bay to be killed by Japanese hunters (21 January) and agree that this is a shocking practice. But why do we mostly focus on the cute and the dramatic, such as dolphin culls and racehorse injury, when far worse and much more routine suffering is commonplace in many areas of our consumer society?
For example industrial-scale fishing decimates stocks and nets all kinds of species besides the target fish, with those animals sometimes spending hours (or days) in nets before they finally die.
Next there is the rubbish and the toxins that our throw-away, industrialised society emits to the sea, with us now discovering that microscopic, indestructible particles of plastic have spread throughout the whole of the oceans.
And then the rearing of animals to supply us with cheap meat normally involves them spending their short lives tethered in cubicles, being given feed from dubious sources (such as rainforests felled to allow industrial cattle-feed production) and being filled with antibiotics to ensure that they survive in this inhumane and unhealthy environment.
So, yes, the treatment of these dolphins is brutal but spare a thought for the life of that cow or that pig next time you head for the discounted meat department in your supermarket.
Alan Mitcham, Cologne, Germany
They are still watching you
I can sympathise with Bob Gilmurray’s desire (letter, 21 January) to have the occasional day free from the prying eyes and ears of various national spying agencies. However he is sadly mistaken in his belief that by simply switching off his phone he can avoid their glare.
Most modern mobile phones continue to relay signals to the telecom providers allowing the spy agencies to detect the location of the phone even when the device is turned off. One way to avoid this unwanted intrusion is to remove the battery and sim when travelling, or better still bin the phone altogether.
Cían Carlin, London N8
Enter Lloyd-Pack, stage left
Way back in 1986 we saw Roger Lloyd-Pack (Obituary, 17 January) as Mandelstam, with Jack Shepherd as Gumilyov, in Dusty Hughes’ Futurists. As good an example of TV stars doing serious and challenging theatre work as you could wish to see.
But we were overjoyed to find that the tickets we’d bought for the National’s Cottesloe theatre were categorised “unrestricted left”. Sounds like something Roger would have appreciated.
Mary Pimm and Nik Wood, London E9


‘Where it is difficult for the mentally and physically healthy to find work, it is nigh on impossible for the long-term mentally ill’
Sir, It was revealing to read Caitlin Moran on Benefits Street and then Dr Mark Porter on bias over mental health (Times2, Jan 21). I am a retired GP with a lower middle-class upbringing but my wife comes from a working-class background tainted by mental issues affecting her mother. She overcame this to become a teacher. We lived in north Nottinghamshire, where I worked for 30 years. I witnessed the effects on the area and people caused by pit closures and industrial decline.
There are many people living on benefits in the area and the causes are complex, but having the rug pulled out from under working communities means they have to find a new identity as non-working ones. This is compounded by mental health issues, resulting from being unable to find work, and poor physical health, partly as a result of previous employment.
Where it is difficult for the mentally and physically healthy to find work, it is nigh on impossible for the long-term mentally ill. One of my sons has a long-term mental illness and finds this so. He comes from a relatively advantaged background but has been pulled down by his illness.
I welcome Caitlin Moran’s and Mark Porter’s articles and commend Nick Clegg’s proposals in this area. I would wish that certain journalists and politicians would be humble enough to acknowledge that most of them really have no idea how the other half lives.
Derek Hughes
Kibworth, Leics
Sir, Over the past 40 years the UK has led the way in the development of specialist mental health services for older people. Mental illness affects about 10 per cent of older people and we are concerned that the UK is beginning to dismantle these services and move the care of older people with mental illness into “ageless” (or age-inclusive or age-blind) services, where an 18-year-old and 80-year-old may be treated in the same service. A recent survey found that around 10 per cent of respondents had already undergone significant merger into ageless adult services and a similar number reported this was imminent.
The reasons for this change are unclear — it may simply be an attempt to save money — but there is no evidence to support the move to age inclusive mental health services. In fact a recent survey showed ageless services are detrimental to patient care.
Old-age mental health services are not just about managing dementia — around 40 per cent of patients in older adults services have illnesses other than dementia (such as depression, schizophrenia or anxiety). We therefore believe that specialism of old-age psychiatry — with a specifically trained, skilled workforce for older people with mental illness — should be the vehicle for the provision of age-appropriate non-discriminatory services to all our older population.
We call upon health providers in the UK to halt to the development of “ageless” mental health services, and ensure old-age services are protected.
Dr James Warner, Royal College of Psychiatrists; Dr Nori Graham, Alzheimer’s Disease International; Professor Carlos Augusto de Mendonça Lima, European Association of Psychiatry ; Professor Henry Brodaty, International Psychogeriatric Association; Professor Gabriela Stoppe, Chair of the Section of Old Age Psychiatry of the World Psychiatric Association, Switzerland; Professor Luis Agüera-Ortiz, President of the Spanish Association of Psychogeriatrics, Spain; Professor Dame Sue Bailey, President, Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK; Professor R.C. Baldwin, Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist & Honorary Professor of Psychiatry, UK; Professor Yoram Barak, Director of Abarbanel Mental Health Centre, Israel; Professor Vincent Camus, Past president, Section of Old Age Psychiatry, World Psychiatric Association, France; Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, UK; Dr Jane Casey, Bi-national Chair, Faculty of Psychiatry of Old Age Psychiatry, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Australia; Professor Helen Chiu, President, Hong Kong Psychogeriatric Association, Hong Kong; Professor Edmond Chiu, University of Melbourne, Australia; Professor Knut Engedal, University of Oslo, Norway; Professor Lia Fernandes MD, PhD, APG Past President, Portugal; Professor Horacio Firmino, President of European Association of Geriatric Psychiatry, Portugal; Professor Vinod Gangolli, Dean of Academics, Masina Hospital, Byculla, Mumbai, India; Dr George Grossberg, Past-President, American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, Past-President, International Psychogeriatric Association, US; Lars Gustafson, Professor Emeritus, Department of Geriatric Psychiatry, Clinical Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden; Professor Dr Hans Gutzmann, President of The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gerontopsychiatrie und –Psychotherapie (DGGPP), Germany; Dr Cécile Hanon, Chair of the Committee of Education European Psychiatric Association, France; Professor Reinhard Heun, Professor of Psychiatry, UK; Professor Ralf Ihl, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Duesseldorf, Germany; Professor Aleksandra Milićević Kalašić, Co-Chair Old Age Psychiatry Section, World Psychiatric Association, Serbia; Professsor Paul Knight, President, British Geriatric Society, London, UK; Professor Vladimirs Kuznecovs, Head of LPA Geriatric Section, Latvia; Professor Jerzey Leszek, Founder President of Polish Geriatric Psychiatry Association, Poland; Professor Gabriel Ivbijaro, President Elect World Federation for Mental Health, UK; Dr Manuel Martin-Carrasco, Coordinator, Working Group on Dementia, Spanish Society of Psychiatry, Spain; Professor Antonio Palha; Past President of Portuguese Society of Psychiatry and Mental Health, Portugal; Dr Carmelle Peisah, University of New South Wales, Australia; Dr Felix CV Potocnik, Head of Special Interest Group in Old Age Psychiatry, South African Society of Psychiatrists, South Africa; Dr Joel Sadavoy, Founding President of the Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry, Canada; Dr Duarte dos Santos Falcao, President, Portuguese Gerontopsychoiatry Association, Portugal; Dr Nicoleta Tataru, President of Romanian Association of Geriatric Psychiatry, Romania; Marco Trabucchi, President, Associazione Italiana di Psicogeriatria, Italy; Professor Catalina Tudose, President of Romanian Alzheimer’s Society, Romania; Professor Franz Verrey , Maastricht University Medical Center, The Netherlands; Professor Armin von Gunten, Vice-President, Swiss Society for Old-Age Psychiatry, Switzerland

Sir, Andrew Dow (letter, Jan 21) says that Richard L. Edgeworth invented carriage springs in 1768. He did have letters about carriage improvements published as early as 1764, when he was 20, but his essay on springs was not published by the Royal Irish Academy until 1788.
We should also be thankful for Obadiah Elliot’s 1804 patent for mounting carriages on to elliptical springs fixed to the axle. Back in Judge Jeffreys’ time, carriages were suspended on leather braces attached to extensions of the curved frame timbers under the bodies. The resulting motion would probably have aggravated gout even more than the iron-shod wheels on potholes.
Patrick F. Wallace
Director Emeritus, National Museum of Ireland, Dublin

‘The proposal is to shorten the period for the dioceses to respond from six months to just over three months, not cut it out altogether’
Sir, The legislation to enable women to become bishops in the Church of England will need to be approved by a majority of the 44 diocesan synods before proceeding to final approval stage in the General Synod. Your report (Jan 18) says that “Synod members are to be asked to vote for a move that would cut out [diocesan] approval”, but the proposal is to shorten the period for the dioceses to respond from six months to just over three months, not cut it out altogether. My concern is that such a truncated period would make proper consideration of the revised proposals difficult, if not impossible.
David Lamming
Boxford, Suffolk

Keeping the many war graves in tip-top condition is a huge job and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission should be applauded
Sir, The Commonwealth War Graves (CWG) cemetery at Brookwood is not neglected (letter, Jan 21). It is cared for in the same way as all CWG cemeteries worldwide. The cemetery on the other side of the road that runs through the centre is a disgrace but not the military one. I have visited many CWG sites in France and Belgium, and they are places of beauty. Keeping them in good condition is a huge job, and the CWG should be commended.
Brian Dugan
Hazlemere, Bucks
Sir, My cousin, a Hurricane pilot, was shot down in France in May 1940, and it took me 68 years to find his grave. It was in a village, Chuffilly-Roche, in the Ardennes. As he crashed near by, the village refused to have him moved to a large CWG cemetery. Within days of our visit the Commission had cleaned “la tombe”. The Mayor said, “He fought for us.”
J. M. Carder
Sqn Ldr (ret’d)
Anstruther, Fife

Sir, Your military types (letters, Jan 18-23) got off lightly — their titles may have been mangled but their gender was unaffected.
Aged 12 and arriving for a piano examination I was greeted with “Oh, I was expecting a girl!”
Nicholas Eleanor
Oulston, N Yorks
Sir, Those Service chaps are lucky. When I was a patient in a military hospital, the name above my bed was not mine. I was known as “W/O”, (ie, wife of) and then my husband’s rank and name.
Sue Rigg
W/O Wg Cdr (Ret’d)
Porlock, Somerset
Sir, In the 1950s and 1960s my parents used to let caravans in Great Yarmouth in the summer and my father advertised in newspapers in the North of England. He frequently received letters addressed to:
Mr S. A. E. Please, Seaside Caravans.
Marilyn Healy
Sir, When I was a primary school teacher with a responsibility for environmental studies I received a letter addressed to “The Teacher with Responsibility for Saving the Planet”.
Elizabeth Simms
Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria
Sir, Further to “The academic who wants to autocorrect our sense of humour” (Jan 22), if I am not careful with predictive text, my signature comes out as Alien Template.
Aline Templeton


SIR – Much more funding is needed to support museums and galleries across Britain, but we should recognise the important role already being played by some of the larger institutions in support of the smaller. The British Museum, Tate, V&A and the National Gallery no longer see themselves as carers solely of their own collections. Frequent loans of works of art and the sharing of curatorial expertise are now commonplace, and some spectacular exhibition initiatives are spreading the cultural wealth to all quarters of Britain.
Artist Rooms, for example – a sequence of touring exhibitions drawing on the important collection of post-war and contemporary art part-gifted by Anthony d’Offay to the Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland – is now in its sixth year, so far having reached 2.4 million visitors in more than 60 museums outside the national capitals. The launch last week of Jeremy Deller’s English Magic exhibition at the William Morris Gallery (pictured) is the start of the first-ever national tour of a show originally commissioned by the British Council for the Venice Biennale.
Stephen Deuchar
Director, Art Fund
London SW7
SIR – We need a reappraisal of the funding available to support medium and small museums; the flight from local authority control to trust status merely moved the funding problem from A to B.
My trust, which opened the Museum of Carpet in 2012, the only museum devoted to the carpet trade in England, faces a black hole in 2015, and we are not alone.
Charles E Talbot
Chairman, Carpet Museum Trust
Kidderminster, Worcestershire

SIR – You report not only that patients are not receiving drugs that have been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), but also that many of those patients have not been informed that they should have received them.
The first duty of a doctor is to give his true opinion on diagnosis and the best treatment, taking into account the features of the individual patient. If he is constrained in giving that opinion by pressures or bans on the prescription he advocates, then he is surely negligent, unless he informs the patient of his true opinion and explains why he is unable to prescribe.
Patients do not necessarily trust the NHS. Where a doctor is prevented from giving the correct treatment by his trust, he should be required to inform a body remote from both the trust and the patient.
This principle should apply not only to drugs, but also to other treatments approved by Nice (such as surgical procedures). All that is needed is an edict from the Department of Health, and NHS trusts would soon fall into line or suffer the financial effects of being sued. This would be expensive, but at least it would be moral.
John Weston Underwood FRCS
Tregoose, Cornwall

Motorway drinking
SIR – The decision to let Wetherspoon’s sell alcohol at motorway service stations is insane. After drinking too much at a pub, you can walk home or take a taxi; you have no such choice on a motorway, where you have no choice of driving slowly either.
Drinkers won’t drink “responsibly”, especially if young and macho. When tired from driving, alcohol is a great solace and temptation. This decision will open the floodgates for other motorway outlets to secure this lucrative trade.
Wendy Buonaventura
Roosevelt no racist
SIR – Tim Stanley writes that Theodore Roosevelt was a racist. But, famously, he was the first president to invite a black man, Booker T Washington, to dine alone with him and his young family at the White House, at huge political risk – hardly the actions of a racist in 1904.
William J Mitchell
London SW11
Watery extremes
SIR – While many parts of the South East remain under floodwater, I have just had a water meter compulsorily fitted under the Government’s water shortage measures.
Lovat Timbrell
Brighton, East Sussex
A happy electorate
SIR – Dave is looking after the toffs and the bankers, Ed is looking after the middle class, and George is looking after the low-paid. Eureka!
If we elect a Tory/Labour Coalition, we will all be better off.
John Trott
Penperlleni, Monmouthshire
Dangerous driving
SIR – Yesterday I narrowly missed a pothole in a speed bump. Is this a first?
Peter Scott
New Milton, Hampshire
Impact of migrants
SIR – It is heartening to see any politician being brave enough to speak out against the political anti-migrant consensus. There are legitimate debates to be had about the social impact of migrants, but the overall debate is distorted in Britain.
The public overestimates the number of migrants (at up to a third of the population, rather than the reality of 13 per cent), ignores the advantages they bring (cheaper products, smaller deficit and national debt, delicious food), and overestimates their costs (they don’t cause unemployment and cut wages only very slightly).
Ben Southwood
Head of Macroeconomic Policy
Adam Smith Institute
London SW1
Running away in style
SIR – I was mightily relieved to hear that the two Stonyhurst runaways had been found safely. I ran away from Stonyhurst 40 years ago, and still feel uneasy at the raw terror my parents must have suffered in the two hours before I arrived at their front door.
These recent escapees seem to have rather more panache than I could summon. They paid for their journey by credit card, whereas mine was financed by cashing in my £5 Christmas savings. They flew to the Dominican Republic, whereas I took a train to Northampton.
David Hargreaves
London SW1
Shampoo-free house
SIR – My husband has not used shampoo or any products on his full head of hair for 15 years. Apart from on my visits to the hairdresser every six weeks, neither have I. We both have normal, naturally clean and manageable hair and less clutter in the bathroom.
Jenny O’Donnell
Penwortham, Lancashire
Ferocious socks
SIR – Now that manufacturers have perfected the production of seamless shorts – witness the shudder-inducing Lycra garments worn by cyclists everywhere – could they please turn their attention to designing seamless socks? Mine saw away at my feet ferociously.
Hugh Bebb
Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex
Archaeological value of ancient woodland
SIR – Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, has proposed to “offset” the loss of ancient woodland to development by planting more trees elsewhere. The Woodland Trust rightly highlights the unique ecosystems and rare species found in such rich woodland habitats which, once lost, can never be replaced.
As archaeologists, we are concerned about the potential loss to our heritage should such proposals be entertained. Ancient woodlands, dating back to well before the use of deep ploughing, are not only an important indicator of past land use and economies, but also preserve a wealth of archaeological remains lying undisturbed beneath their protective cover.
Such immensely valuable environmental and educational resources should not be squandered in the manner suggested by the Environment Secretary.
Jo Caruth
Secretary, Rescue: The British Archaeological Trust

SIR – Joan Bakewell says that it was “just what men did in my day” in relation to the Lord Rennard scandal. That may have been the case in the world of television, where celebrities accused of inappropriate behaviour with women were employed. It was not how men behaved in productive, responsible and well-managed industries.
I was a manager for 50 years, in both the public and private sectors; only once did I come across improper behaviour. The perpetrator was reported and dismissed under prevailing employment rules.
Brian J Singleton
Baslow, Derbyshire
SIR – Joan Bakewell suggests that women of my generation, who were working in the Sixties, were tolerant of groping because it was “just what men did”. That is not true.
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If ever a man fondled me in the workplace, I would protest loudly to his face. I found such behaviour lacking in respect, demeaning and stressful. My friends and I knew which men were gropers, and we avoided them.
Sue Davies
Farnham, Hampshire
SIR – I agreed with every word that Joan Bakewell wrote until she invited us to think about reversing the roles of men and women: how a man would react if a woman forced her attentions on him and touched him inappropriately. I fear he would return the touching with interest.
Andrew Papworth
Billericay, Essex
SIR – Whatever the rights and wrongs regarding Lord Rennard’s case, as men and women are equal members of society, surely all men should ensure that their conduct does not cause distress to women.
They should take care to do nothing that could be interpreted as invasion of a woman’s personal space.
Valerie Crews
Beckenham, Kent
SIR – Dan Hodges (Comment, January 22) makes an excellent case for concluding that the Lib Dems are not a credible political organisation. Irrespective of the details of the Lord Rennard case, the endless fence-sitting by the party, and total absence of decisive action by Nick Clegg, all point to dithering on a grand scale. While this may be viewed as part and parcel of the democratic process, to many it just seems incompetent.
Frankie Heywood
Brentwood, Essex
SIR – Nick Clegg has failed to show leadership over the recent crisis. David Cameron does not display a better example with his excuses over welfare issues, immigration and Europe.
Compare this with Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader. There is no confusion over what he stands for. Like it or not, he shows leadership, and many respond well to this.
Philip Congdon
La Bastide d’Engras, Gard, France

Irish Times:

Sir, – Good to see that Eamon Gilmore has parsed Evangelii Gaudium with a gimlet eye and concluded that Pope Francis’s challenge to global capitalism means that even a modest embassy to the Holy See will now make a miraculously economic return.
I trust that on his next visit to Freetown to upgrade the Irish Aid office to embassy status, Mr Gilmore will remember to pack at least five dozen copies of Francis’s Exhortation for the enlightenment of all Sierra Leone’s government ministers. Time, after all, for Ireland to pick on a country her own size and with similar inequities. – Yours, etc,
Wightman Road,
London, England.
Sir, – Perhaps your correspondent, A Jones, (January 22nd) has a point when arguing for the establishment of embassies on the grounds of fairness in other holy cities. However, diplomatic relations between Ireland and the Vatican have surely a pre-eminent claim, as it is almost 400 years (1618) since Luke Wadding OFM, of Waterford, arrived in Rome via Lisbon and Madrid and represented the Irish cause so well in Rome that he was considered by many to be Ireland’s first ambassador to the Holy See. No doubt, Eamon Gilmore was acutely aware of the proximity of this centenary when he took the enlightened decision to re-open the Vatican embassy. – Yours, etc,
Leinster Park,
Maynooth, Co Kildare.
Sir, – Water is a good beverage when taken in the right spirit. Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan is a must for the vacant post in the reopened Vatican embassy because he has almost performed the miracle of “walking” on water and those of us who drink it. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It appears that the Government has moved quickly to create a new role for the outspoken Fr Tony Flannery by deciding to reopen the Irish Embassy to the Vatican. You report that the new embassy will be staffed by one diplomat and will be based in a “modest” office. Fr Flannery, who is already well versed in the ways of the Vatican, is clearly suitably qualified for the job. – Yours, etc,
Luttrellstown Road,

Sir, – PD Doyle’s letter (January 21st) on the case of Margaretta D’Arcy in general comprises fair comment. The sole lapse is a gratuitous swipe at “her peacenik and artistic pals”. Why the ad hominem allusion?
Your correspondent moreover may erroneously envisage no further published letters from Ms D’Arcy herself. The latter leads from the front.
A final reflection. Winston Churchill pointed to courage as the first of human qualities because it guarantees all the others. – Yours, etc,
St Patrick’s Road, Dublin 9.
Sir, – I am dismayed by the jailing of cancer sufferer Margaretta D’Arcy, but further dismayed by the response by the artistic community. It must be remembered that she was jailed not because she is an artist, and therefore her being one is unimportant to the issue at hand. But this response strikes a deeper note. It smacks of tribalism and an implicit message that artists have special rights. And it is these same two ideas – tribalism and a special right – that must be present in the minds of those who carry out human rights abuse, many having passed through Shannon Airport on their way to Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo Bay. – Yours, etc,
Synge Street, Dublin 8.
Sir, – My admiration for Margaretta D’Arcy for putting principle first and for Sabina Higgins for putting friendship first. – Yours, etc,
Balbriggan, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The incarceration of Margaretta D’Arcy is a further stain on Ireland’s shameful abandonment of our neutrality. While US war planes transit through Shannon to commit war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, they remain uninspected and facilitated by the Irish State. Meanwhile a 79-year-old peace activist is imprisoned for protesting this. I have stood on the roundabout at Shannon airport many Sundays with Ms D’Arcy and others demonstrating against the use of a supposed civilian airport to wage war, and while we are surrounded by gardaí there, the US military is allowed to act with impunity. Indeed it is astonishing that Margaretta D’Arcy’s actions are deemed illegal while wheelbarrows of evidence of human rights violations linked to aircraft at Shannon Airport and provided to the Garda by Shannonwatch have been ignored. – Yours, etc,
Dooradoyle Park,
Sir, – I respectfully have to disagree with Michael Anderson (January 23rd). I think the President should visit people in prison, including people who are not his friends. That would be to act “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will towards any man” or, as he adds, woman. It would also embody the ethos of the by-implication Christian God that he asks in his oath of office to “direct and sustain” him. – Yours, etc,
Inchicore Terrace North,
Dublin 8.
Sir, – I am very concerned with aspects of the Public Accounts Committee inquiry relating to the CRC. The inquiry is, supposedly, independent to produce a fair and reliable (as to the truth) outcome, its procedures and the conduct of its members must reflect those aims. PAC’s job is to conduct the investigation in a quasi-judicial manner.
Yet, and alarmingly, PAC’s members are being interviewed on a daily basis by journalists and are widely quoted on TV and in newspapers. They freely express both personal and committee views, concerns and conclusions, generally laced with allegations of wrong doing against individuals called to appear before them, and long before their investigations are complete.
Is it any wonder that the notion of our TDs and Senators being capable of conducting an independent and fair inquiry has been rubbished by the courts (the Abbeylara case), and, more tellingly, by the public (the unsuccessful referendum). – Yours, etc,
Co Kildare.

Sir, – The announcement that the Government is going ahead with the long overdue appointment of a regulator of charities is to be welcomed. It will be interesting to see if the position will be openly advertised, or, as in the case of the recent appointment of a new Ombudsman, will recruitment be via “expressions of interest”. – Yours, etc,
Vernon Rise,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.

Sir, – In response to Robert Manson (January 22nd), the moment Tony Blair told Dr Ian Paisley that he was converting to Romanism, Blair was no longer his brother and so Dr Paisley was not out of order to refer to him as “fool”. – Yours, etc,
Cois Carraig,
Clarina Village,
Co Limerick.

Sir, – It dismays me that our shepherds have been so silent for the many years when the sins of greed and corruption have been so obvious and prevalent in our society and country.  Greed and corruption have brought about misery and suffering for great numbers of people.  Oh for Jeremiah or Isaiah to cry out and speak for the God of justice! Thank God for Pope Francis. – Yours, etc,
Sacred Heart Residence,
Sybil Hill Road,
Dublin 5.

Sir, – Garry Hynes has interesting points to make about the Arts Council’s funding of theatre in Ireland (Arts & Ideas, January 23rd). However, her specific comments on our National Theatre under the stewardship of Fiach Mac Conghail seem curiously lacking in internal logic. On the one hand, he is complimented for having brought a “measure of financial stability” to the theatre, during a period of severe cutbacks in State funding. She then goes on to criticise the effective closing of the Peacock stage and the absence of any regular national tours or performances at international venues and festivals. She also suggests that an artistic director should be appointed, in tandem with the current executive-producer position held by Mac Conghail. Meeting her criticisms would self-obviously cost a lot more money. I’m at a loss (and presumably so would be the Abbey). – Yours, etc,
Green Road,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Regarding Una Mullally’s suggestion to setup a “homophobia watchdog”, (Opinion, January 20th) it would be interesting to know if she perhaps envisages a panel of self-appointed moral guardians who will be tasked with asking public figures questions along the lines of “Are you now, or have you ever been an opponent of same-sex marriage?”. – Yours, etc,
Beechwood Road,
Dublin 6.

Sir, – I was moved and saddened by Helga Faiers’s letter (January 20th). The church of the past has a lot to answer for. It was a time when relations between the churches were at an all-time low. Resulting from the legacy of the reformation, the churches had gone their antagonistic and separate ways.
Now, however, when inter-church relations are warmer the practices around mixed marriage are much more positive. First, the question of the baptism of any children to a mixed marriage is much more nuanced. The rights and preferences of each party must be taken into account in the context of the overall good of the marriage.
Second, it is not uncommon for the minister for the non-Catholic party to be the sole officiator in his/her church with the full blessing of the Catholic authorities.
We have come a long way since the bad old days, circa 1953. – Yours, etc,
The Presbytery,
Valleymount, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I was intrigued by the Revenue Commissioners’ benign attitude towards those holding Vodafone shares (Business, January 21st). However, one can only sympathise with the former Eircom shareholders and wish them all the best.
Contrast this with the tremendous life-changing losses suffered by many pensioners. On the advice of the great and the good, including all governments, young adults were advised to be prudent and invest in pensions to provide for their own self-sufficiency.
Many pensioners have suffered the loss of at least two-thirds of their expected retirement nest egg. In many cases this has amounted to a small mortgage. However, these unfortunates are still taxed to the hilt on the paltry remains of their expected pensions and they have no time left to recover.
This type of attitude is hardly an encouragement to the younger generation to invest in pensions in order to be self-sufficient and look forward to a retirement without relying on the State.
Government and the pension industry need to start talking to each other and arrive at some sort of agreement that provides a little more security for investors in pensions. – Yours, etc,
Upper Outrath, Kilkenny.

Sir, – Barbara Ennis, principal of the all-girls (and fee-paying) Alexandra College, advocates single sex education (Education, January 21st).
Part of her justification for this segregation is her view that Irish-produced television dramas, such as Love/Hate, do not include strong female characters and we “have to look beyond our own screens to Scandinavia and New Zealand” to see women who are represented as equal to men.
Perhaps the fact that schools in Scandinavia (and perhaps New Zealand too) tend to be co-educational (and non-fee paying) is a help in this regard? – Yours, etc,
Palmerston Road,

Sir, – Surely there is a simple solution to the current controversy over pylons? Let us redesign them to make them less intrusive in the countryside. Surely it is not beyond the imagination of our engineers, architects and industrial designers to come up with a more elegant solution. We would still have the cables but it is the pylons which are ugly. Perhaps The Irish Times should run a competition? – Yours, etc,
Oakley Park,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I cannot believe that when talking in the Dáil about his engineer acquaintance, Enda Kenny recognised that “travel and subsistence” in the public service is de facto an income. (Miriam Lord, January 22nd). It is not even meant to cover one’s living costs as in “all found”. If diligently set by the management and an honest return is made by the claimant then no profit or loss should occur. I’m afraid that Mr Kenny just touched on another little irregularity built into our public service. Another little “perk”. – Yours, etc,
Beach Drive, Dublin 4.

Sir, – You are in a queue. Your call will be answered shortly. – Yours, etc,
Priest’s Road,
Tramore, Co Waterford.
Sir, – Will we get a receipt? Will we f**k.
A lot done more to do. – Yours, etc,
Pine Valley Grove, Dublin 16.
Sir, – I nominate “From the get-go”. – Yours, etc,
Circular Road,
Ennis, Co Clare
Sir, – Another infuriating phrase is “Your loved ones” applied to family. It seems to suggest only your family are to be “loved”. Sometimes this is clearly not the case.
Also “You know”, used frequently during interviews. – Yours, etc,
Westport, Co Mayo.
Sir, – Now that we know what phrases we should avoid, perhaps language will be “restored to its former glory”? – Yours, etc,
Beechfield Haven,
Shankill, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Callers to radio talk shows: “As I was telling your researcher . . .” – Yours, etc,
Burgage Manor,
Blessington, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – In fairness, in the changing economic landscape it is very difficult to step up to the plate, put all the ducks in a row, read from the same hymnsheet and build a bridge to get over. – Yours, etc,
Hampton Cove,
Balbriggan, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I do feel this particular correspondence has gone on quite long enough. “You know yourself”. – Yours, etc,
Merville Road,

Sir, – May I suggest Barney Curley (“Bookies take hit in ‘weapons grade coup’ on race track” World News, January 23rd) to run the Rehab Lottery Company? – Yours, etc,
Mill Street,
Westport, Co Mayo.

Irish Independent:

* I sometimes wonder how it was that I was born, raised and educated in Ireland, yet have acquired a completely different mentality, in all issues of ethics and transparency, to those people all across the public service to whom we pander by facilitating their denial over the fact that the public has the right to know every single detail about their salaries, their pensions, their expenses and all the finer financial points of their organisations’ accounts, be it a government department, a quango, a hospital or a charity.
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These organisations wouldn’t exist without the funding they receive from the Irish public and should be answerable to them.
It simply beggars belief that nearly three years after the democratic ‘revolution’ Enda Kenny and his government keep talking about, he can maintain a straight face and claim to be ‘shocked’ at recent revelations.
Can it really be true that he still hasn’t asked his officials to get a breakdown of the salary, expenses and pensions of every single charity, hospital, semi-state and quango? Every time a further revelation is made is he going to claim to be shocked?
But the real elephant in the room is that the ethos which the head of Rehab uses to justify her refusal to reveal her full remuneration stems from the top down, where the President and Taoiseach themselves refuse to verify the expenses they claim.
* A supposedly modern country surely adheres to the concept of the ‘free market’, where those invisible scales set a price the market can bear.
However, when that delicate balance is interfered with by those with vested interests who have the ear of the relevant ministers, we have distortion.
We now find that that overburdened ass, the tax serf, has been subsidising various other lotteries which supposedly lost out to the National Lottery.
In addition, at Rehab the State pumped in €126m between 2010 and 2012 but the CEO refuses to divulge the salary and expenses she receives.
We permit private companies to toll our roads, then make up the difference if they fail to hit the mother lode of gold. Similarly, Irish Water is guaranteed a gold flow in order to cover profits and bonuses.
Hopefully, Madam Merkel at head office and our supreme Dail in the Bundestag will call in the merchants and tell them to stop acting the clown and try and adhere to even the basics of what a free market actually entails.
* I’m thinking of setting up a new political party for the forthcoming European and local elections. It will be called GAP (Grab All Party).
We’re going to guarantee all bondholders, property developers, exorbitant bank debts, pensions, bonuses, top-ups and consultant fees.
We’re going to build a wind turbine outside Leinster House to catch that blast of wind and hot air that emanates from that national treasure.
Please wish us well in our new venture (mind the gap).
* Although I agree with Ian Doherty on a number of points he makes pertaining to the First Lady of Ireland visiting an activist friend in Limerick jail, I feel his black and white argument avoids the uncomfortable grey matter in the middle.
I think we need to ask ourselves what do we believe in? I don’t have to agree with Ms D’Arcy’s activity to respect her willingness to go to prison for her beliefs.
The recent history of Ireland has seen large chunks of public money being given to the already wealthy and the Irish people are left feeling helpless and powerless in the face of this abomination.
Where we once had empathy and an inherent knowledge of right and wrong, we now have legal documents and contracts. Is it any wonder so many people in the country are suffering with mental problems?
* My letter, ‘Charities in witch-hunt’ (Irish Independent, January 20), has been heavily criticised in your letters section, largely due to my use of the term ‘respectable wage’ when discussing the salaries demanded by those in the non-profit sector.
My use of the term ‘respectable’, was, in my opinion, justified, when one considers that there are over 25,000 individuals in Ireland currently earning over €2,000 per week, most of whom, I imagine, are doing work of much less societal benefit then the CEOs of non-profit organisations.
I was by no means saying that all salaries in the non-profit sector are justified. But to attract the best and brightest to an industry that is in desperate need of innovation, a monetary incentive must by offered.
* Politics has always been subject to being trapped in a time-warp of power and money first and people and fairness last.
If we assume that before money was invented bartering was the human form of trade. it’s quite clear that some must have had more sheep and cattle than others, with which to influence the local political druid.
Thus if we fast track 6,000 years to present-day politics, what has changed? Nothing. Politicians pretend to be the voice of the people, especially at elections.
And the sheeple continue to give away more of their rights, as they continue to be treated like cattle fodder, by voting for the same genetic, political druids that have been in place ever since the dawn of man.
* Why do people who are already reasonably well paid also expect a bonus as a further reward? One would expect that any person doing any job would perform it to the best of their ability – this way lies job satisfaction and a degree of happiness.
However, international research has shown that when the focus of the worker is centred on the reward – which tends to happen if a bonus is on offer – rather than on the work itself, then the quality of the work actually deteriorates.
Not only that, but short-term goals come to be preferred while the greater good of the business suffers. Witness the recent bank debacles.
It is then with some dismay that I learned of recent proposals by the Government to introduce bonuses to civil servants, teachers and nurses.
Those already doing their best cannot improve, but their work may suffer if their focus shifts to the reward rather than the work, while less dedicated ones will certainly disimprove as they become even more disgruntled.
* Eamon Gilmore tells us that reopening the Irish embassy to the Vatican is in “response to the new papacy”.
This unmistakably implies that the closing of the embassy only a couple of years ago had somehow to do with the “old papacy”, with a perceived character of the church under that leadership.
But that is precisely what was – with pathetically obvious disingenuousness – persistently denied by Mr Gilmore and others as a motive for closing the embassy at the time, when supposed economic considerations were substituted for the true motivation.
Irish Independent

Astrid and Michael

January 23, 2014

23 January 2014 Astrid and Michael
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Captain Povey has to test a new navigation system on Troutbridge. Priceless.
Go and see Astrid and Michael, Peter Rice finished the windows. Clear half of attic no Thermabloc no boxes
Scrabble today Mary wins   and gets  over   400,  Perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Tom Rosenthal, who has died aged 78, was one of the most eminent publishers of his generation, successively directing the fortunes of Secker & Warburg, William Heinemann and André Deutsch.
He was also an art historian, broadcaster, bibliophile, opera buff, literary critic, and all-round cultural connoisseur. Moreover, he looked the part, his cigars, red shirts, yellow polka dot bow-ties, imperious beard and high brow (in both senses of the term) giving him an unmistakable profile on the intellectual scene.
Although his final years were dogged by ill health, Rosenthal was active to the end. In 1997 he founded the Bridgewater Press with his friend Rick Gekoski, the rare book dealer; it published limited editions by authors such as William Boyd and Ian McEwan. And in his seventieth year he gained a PhD on the strength of his books about Jack Yeats, Sidney Nolan, Paula Rego and Josef Albers. These works were based on personal knowledge as well as scholarship. When a Kokoschka expert on the Cambridge examination board asked him the source of a quotation, he replied: “The artist.”
Thomas Gabriel Rosenthal was born in London on July 16 1935. His parents, Erwin and Elisabeth Rosenthal (née Marx), were refugees from Nazi Germany. They first settled in Manchester, but Tom and his sister Miriam (who went on to an award-winning career as an editor of children’s books) spent their adolescence in Cambridge, where his father became a Fellow of Pembroke College and a Reader in Oriental Studies – he spent 30 years completing his edition of Averroes’ commentary on Plato’s Republic.
Tom attended the Perse School, where he excelled at English and drama. He was early bitten by the collecting bug, accumulating a hoard of matchbox labels and bicycling from Cambridge to London to attend meetings of the Phillumenists’ Society. During his National Service he gained a commission in the Royal Artillery. The Army helped to make him, as he sardonically put it, “a sort of crypto-Englishman who can pass for white, but at heart, deep down, I have always known myself to be nothing other than a German-Jewish intellectual.”
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Rosenthal had won an Exhibition to Pembroke College, where he read History and English. But he devoted much of his time to the theatre, touring with the Pembroke Players and becoming secretary to the Cambridge Amateur Dramatic Club. After university, in 1959, he joined Thames & Hudson.
This firm had been founded by Walter Neurath, who created the template for finely designed, well-printed and colourful art books that is taken for granted today. Doing everything from selling to commissioning, Rosenthal quickly mastered the technical, commercial and editorial processes. His most signal achievement was to carry out complicated negotiations with Trinity College, Dublin, which resulted in the publication of a beautiful and affordable edition of The Book of Kells.
In 1961 Rosenthal became chairman of the Society of Young Publishers. He wrote readers’ guides to art history and modern American fiction. He did much occasional journalism, notably as art critic of The Listener from 1963 to 1966. He contributed to the BBC Third Programme, conducting a particularly revealing interview with LS Lowry, whose work he championed in the face of metropolitan condescension.
He also bought one of Lowry’s paintings, soon becoming, he confessed, “a pathological, wholly insane collector of books and pictures whose house is more like a museum than a family home”. In 1971, seeking further scope for his energies and ambitions, he moved to Secker & Warburg as managing director.
Booming in his Soho office, expansive over Garrick lunches, hospitable at home in Primrose Hill, Rosenthal acted as impresario to a glittering array of authors. Many were new recruits, most became friends: Malcolm Bradbury, David Lodge, Tom Sharpe, Melvyn Bragg, John Banville, David Cairns, Nicholas Mosley, Saul Bellow, Carlos Fuentes, Günter Grass, JM Coetzee, Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino.
There were major coups, such as the publication of a one-volume edition of The Lisle Letters, a unique tapestry of Tudor England. There were dramatic moments as Rosenthal personally auctioned the paperback rights of Piers Paul Read’s Alive, or fended off Sonia Orwell’s demand for the pulping of all 20,000 copies of Bernard Crick’s biography of her late husband. And there were stimulating initiatives: with advice from Anthony Thwaite, Rosenthal began a new poetry list, launching the career of, among others, James Fenton.
In 1980 Rosenthal’s success at Secker was rewarded by promotion to the chairmanship of the Heinemann publishing group, of which it was a part. This was an unhappy translation since he was saddled with onerous corporate responsibilities and, as he came to realise, the whole concept of big business was inimical to him. He resigned in 1984 and teamed up with another small publisher, André Deutsch. However, Deutsch evidently wanted to retain a degree of control after selling out to Rosenthal in 1987 and they parted on unfriendly terms.
Rosenthal faced overwhelming difficulties. The firm was undercapitalised, it lacked a paperback arm, and trading conditions were adverse. He did score some triumphs, weaning Gore Vidal away from Heinemann and publishing Penelope Lively’s Booker Prize-winning novel Moon Tiger. And Private Eye paid a backhanded tribute to his standing in the publishing world by making him a character in its strip cartoon “Snipcock and Tweed”. In 1998, however, he had to sell the business.
For more than a decade Rosenthal endured what his doctor called “multiple morbidities”. With his fondness for black humour, he liked the phrase, replying to inquiries about his health with (at first) “Mustn’t grumble” and (latterly) “Don’t ask”. He continued to indulge his passions to the last, enjoying meals, watching cricket, attending operas, reading books. A month before his death, in a moving ceremony, he donated his 2,000 art books to Pembroke College library.
He is survived by his wife, Ann Warnford-Davis (née Shire), a distinguished literary agent, and his two sons, Adam, a surgeon specialising in gynaecological oncology, and Daniel, author of the 50th-anniversary history of the National Theatre.
Tom Rosenthal, born July 16 1935, died January 3 2014


The shooting of Cambodian garment factory workers on strike over low wages (Retailers tackle Cambodian PM over shootings, 21 January) is yet another example of the impact that making our clothes can have on people far away. It’s right that clothing brands call for an investigation. But there are many problems linked to the making of our everyday products, from unfair pay and dangerous working conditions to environmental destruction. To help prevent these, a range of solutions is needed.
A first step is greater transparency about the impacts companies have. It’s disappointing, therefore, that the UK government is trying to water down proposed new EU rules requiring all large companies to report on these impacts. The fact that only 6% of large EU companies report annually on these issues shows the voluntary approach isn’t working. The government says it is committed to greater corporate transparency. Vince Cable has the opportunity to show this by supporting strong EU regulation to ensure all large companies – both listed and unlisted – are required to report on their full supply chains, in compliance with the UN guiding principles on business and human rights.
Peter Frankental Economic relations programme director, Amnesty International
Neil Thorns Director of advocacy, Cafod
Kitty Ari Acting director of policy and advocacy, Christian Aid
Marilyn Croser Coordinator, Core Coalition
Andy Atkins Executive director, Friends of the Earth
Philippa Bonella Head of communications and education, SCIAF
Catherine Howarth CEO, Share Action
Nicola Smith Head, economic and social affairs department, TUC
Trevor Hutchings Director, UK and EU advocacy, WWF-UK
• At first I was cheered to read that “dozens of the world’s biggest clothing brands … have demanded Cambodia’s PM explain the use of ‘deadly force’ against striking miners” and that they’re demanding thorough investigation. Great, they wanted the workers’ pay increased and their conditions improved too, I thought. Alas not, it turned out; all they were worried about was industrial unrest damaging their confidence in Cambodia as a “stable sourcing location” with cheap labour costs. No change there then.
Robert Sanderson
Managing director, Nottingham Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall

The decision of Brighton council to hold a referendum on whether to increase council tax to pay for essential services is a bold commitment to democracy and equality (Report, 17 January). Everyone is feeling squeezed as a result of the Tories’ draconian cuts to local government and public services, but a political contest over which party will manage austerity more effectively won’t change the terms of debate. Money raised collectively, spent collectively and targeted where there is the most need is as essential in Brighton as it is across the UK. A “good politics” must also be measured in other ways than just the cost of living – in solidarity to protect public services and in the vibrancy of the public realm, where democratic power trumps consumer power. As belief in politics withers, here is an example of a local council trusting the people to make a big decision. They should be applauded.
Professor Ruth Lister Chair of Compass MC
Neal Lawson Chair, Compass
John Hilary Executive director, War On Want
Professor Richard Sennett LSE
David Arnold Brighton Labour party member and trade unionist
Heather Wakefield Unison
Anthony Barnett Open Democracy
Linda Jack Liberal Left
Indra Adnan Soft Power Network/The Downing Street Network
Dr David McCoy Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and chair of Medact
Lynsey Hanley Journalist
David Walker Author
Stuart White Jesus College, Oxford
Guy Standing Soas
Andrew Simms NEF
Brendan Martin Public World
Professor John Weeks University of London

Warwick Mansell (Report, 21 January) shows how the disappearance of pupils from school rolls affects GCSE performance. Two academy providers cited “turbulence” or “transience” by way of explanation. While it is true that residential movement can reduce a school’s roll, it is often the case that those moving on – recent arrivals from overseas or children in homeless family accommodation, for example – are replaced by others. If such children are not being offered places in schools in key stage four, what’s happening to them?
Dr Janet Dobson
Migration research unit, UCL
• The Lib Dems have voted for the bedroom tax, other welfare cuts, tax cuts for millionaires, tripling of university fees, the badger cull, and privatisation of the NHS. And they believe it’s Lord Rennard who has brought them into disrepute (Report, 22 January)?
Christopher Clayton
Waverton, Cheshire
• Not only is Emer O’Toole’s article (20 January) arguing that women should stop shaving the hair on their legs and under their arms illustrated with a picture of hairless legs, but on the same page there are two photographs of men with shaved faces. What conclusions should we draw from this?
Carolyn Beckingham
Lewes, East Sussex
• Given that the CIES report recognises that the major football leagues are now made up largely of expat players (Report, Sport, 22 January), should the World Cup be revised from a country-based competition to an inter-league competition?
David Lund
Winscombe, Somerset
• Becks teams up with Del Boy (Report, 21 January). I see that the BBC has found the new Trigger.
Chris Maher
Blackwood, Gwent
• Firing the letters editor seems a bit harsh (Letters, 21 January). Might not gardening leave be more appropriate?
Pete Bibby
• Brief letters with their quirky items and occasional chains of absurd responses are a daily delight. Long may they continue.
Terry Vincent
Pierrelatte, France

Your report (Patient records to be sold from NHS database, 20 January) is yet another example of the betrayal by this government of the values of the NHS. Andrew Lansley said there would be “No decision about me without me” when the health and social care bill was going through parliament, yet the leaflet assumes consent for patient records to be uploaded unless one writes to one’s GP to object to this. The government’s record with regard to keeping information confidential is not good and the previous attempt to put all records online so as to improve patient care failed lamentably. It would be much cheaper for patients to ask their GP to email them the relevant information about their history and treatment which could then be downloaded on to a memory stick and kept in one’s wallet, handbag or on a keyring, so the information is available in the case of an emergency admission to hospital.
The leaflet describes the benefits to research and the possibility of planning services better, but the removal of strategic health authorities that used to plan services regionally, and the general administrative chaos and lack of clear lines of responsibility in the new system, cannot be remedied by collecting masses of data from individual GP records. Ramesh Randeep is quite correct in his analysis of the situation, which is all about the “NHS being open for business”.
Wendy Savage
President, Keep Our NHS Public
• Your article had some omissions. No information can be released unless an independent advisory group that advises the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) agrees that the release of it would directly benefit patient care. Once it is established that this is the case, and the example of insurance companies wanting to calculate premiums would clearly not meet this criterion, a contract is signed. Breaking it would mean fines or criminal sanctions from the Information Commissioner’s Office if any identifiable information was either leaked or used by the company. Patients and their carers should know that no data will be made available for the purposes of selling or administering any kind of insurance, as this would break these strict rules. The data will be issued on a cost recovery basis and not “sold”.
Your readers should be reassured to know that the HSCIC board last week agreed that a report detailing who we give data to and the grounds on which it has been released, will be made public on the website every quarter. We are committed to the public understanding what is being done with their information as well as to people realising they have a right to object, if they feel uncomfortable with the process. I hope your article helps encourage an intelligent, grown-up debate about this significant change that could have a tremendous positive impact on both medical research and health service planning.
Kingsley Manning
Chair, HSCIC
• Alice Bell (No debate on this data, 20 January) leaves out the key critical website. The Big Opt Out campaigners have since 1996 fought to protect the confidentiality of medical records against successive governments’ plans to put every NHS patient’s medical record in a central data bank – without either the patients’ knowledge or consent. The highly successful campaign website has both information and advice how not to have one’s medical record automatically included. There are medical matters many might wish to keep confidential, such as mental health, abortion, cancer etc which might affect their employment or insurability. Far from there being no debate, the Big Opt Out, together with strong pressure coming from the medical profession, was successful.
We are told we can opt out but of what of is unclear. The argument our GP, dentist or hospital can share our computerised medical records to improve patient care sounds reasonable. But little is being said about the fact that the central data bank is designed purely as a resource to sell to researchers. It will make no direct contribution to patient care. So patients get nothing in return for the government pretty much appropriating our data.
Nor do we get any say in what kind of research projects are to be given access to our data. We are to be reassured they will have an ethics advisory body but all the legislation specifies is that they must be qualified researchers. Again, although the legislation trumpets the anonymised and pseudo-anonymised data, this reassurance is spoilt by that section in the legislation which says researchers can under certain conditions have access to our personal identities. There is still time to checkout the Big Opt Out site and decide whether you want to stay in or opt out.
Hilary Rose
• Your article highlights the use of our personal medical information for research purposes, with the NHS number as a key “patient identifier” to link different NHS sources to the same patient. Currently, HIV services are almost alone in not always using the NHS number because of the additional confidentiality concerns for a stigmatised condition. But that means people with HIV lose out on the significant benefits for research into how well the NHS across its different services is meeting their needs. HIV clinics need to use the NHS number consistently if we are to identify effectively any areas where NHS treatment and care can be improved. But individuals with HIV should also have a right to opt out of such data collection for research purposes if they are unhappy about it. The right to opt out of such research use of one’s data is not always enshrined in law – it needs to be, urgently.
Yusef Azad
National Aids Trust
• The Department of Health’s glossy leaflet sets great store by the assertion that data will not contain information which will identify patients but, in its concluding paragraphs, it states that patients who do not want information that identifies them to be shared outside their practice should [opt out]. So is it saying that the data be unidentifiable – or not? The DoH will de facto get its way because most people will not be bothered even to read the leaflet. Those who do and decide to opt out will put a further strain on hard-pressed GP practices through the increased bureaucracy involved.
Brian Saperia

I had the luck to have two books published by Tom Rosenthal. He combined the sharpest of editorial eyes and a penetrating critical intelligence with warm encouragement and support. Working with him, I got to know and love an exceptional personality. But, as I discovered, beneath his powerful, confident manner, inside that noble head (like a Spanish grandee of the 17th century) and behind the rich, sonorous voice that his friend Rik Gekoski likened to “the voice God would use if he had sufficient self-confidence”, lay a vulnerable soul.
Though very much a secular Jew, Tom was intensely conscious of his heritage. Once, when we were discussing Saul Bellow’s Herzog, he told me how keenly he, a proud Jewish father himself, felt for Herzog when, compelled to watch from outside, through a window, he sees someone else putting his young daughter to bed. Tom remained acutely sensitive to the slights, and worse, of casual antisemitism: as when a gentile friend innocently wondered why “you people are so keen on cricket”. For once, Tom recalled, he found the elusive esprit de l’escalier: “I suppose it’s because we’re all so desperate to win the approval of you people.”

British scholars are concerned about reports (19 October 2013; 14 January 2014) that contrary to the 1958 Public Records Act the government has retained 1.2m Foreign and Commonwealth Office files, going back to the Crimean war. They are evidently held at the ironically named HMG Communications Centre at Hanslope Park. Efforts to oblige the government to be clear on what files it holds and on plans to release them have not been successful.
While the GCHQ story tells us that the government has wholly unexpected capacities to unearth information about its own citizens, the right of citizens to investigate UK foreign and colonial policy over the last 150 years and more is clearly being denied. Those of us who work on the history of some other countries are used to government obstruction when it comes to researching official papers, but the UK is supposed to be a free society. The writing of full and impartial accounts of the cold war, Britain’s colonial past, and other key subjects depends on access to all the available records.
As fellows of the British Academy, we call upon the foreign secretary to issue a statement about the government’s plans to release these documents to the National Archives, and for a mechanism to be established to include professional historians and archivists in the process of declassification. We have today written to him, offering to meet and discuss this further.
Professor Iain McLean
British Academy vice-president
Professor Sir Adam Roberts
British Academy past president
Professor Maxine Berg
Professor Archie Brown
Professor Peter Clarke
Dr John Darwin
Professor Marianne Elliott
Professor Sir Richard Evans
Professor Cécile Fabre
Professor Rosemary Foot
Professor Roy Foster
Professor Conor Gearty
Professor Robert Gildea
Professor Ruth Harris
Dr Sudhir Hazareesingh
Professor Geoffrey Hosking
Professor Ian Kershaw
Professor Shula Marks
Professor David Marquand
Dr Ross McKibbin
Professor Lyndal Roper
Professor Alan Ryan
Professor Robert Service
Professor Gareth Stedman Jones
Professor Carolyn Steedman
Professor Megan Vaughan
Professor Jeremy Waldron
• So the Foreign Office is yet another institution that no longer can be trusted (Slave trade files among huge cache of illegally held papers, 21 January). We are now told that a vast archive exists that hitherto had not been disclosed, which contains – well, we don’t know, do we? We know it contains papers that date as far back as British involvement in the slave trade and, more recently, on the Kenya Mau Mau emergency. What else might it contain? I have been struggling for years to get information on my father, Uszer Frucht, who was a Jewish communist immigrant and who was deported at the end of the war. I was told a file had been held on him but it had been destroyed. Might his file be in the Hanslope Park archive? Why the culture of secrecy in British officialdom?  Who is being protected? Surely we, as British citizens, have a right to know.
Professor Gaby Weiner
Lewes, East Sussex


Leaving to one side Lord Rennard’s guilt or innocence, in all the opinions aired the fundamental point raised by the Rennard affair seems in danger of being missed.
Yes of course those women alleging his inappropriate conduct could have administered a slap on the wrist or a smartly aimed heel, but why should they have to do this, or even find themselves in this position in the first place?
I worked for many years in a large multi-national and in all that time it was always abundantly clear to all employees that each should be treated with respect, irrespective of race, gender and more recently, of sexual orientation. While this was reinforced by HR policies and a well-developed grievance and disciplinary procedure, it was, and this is the crucial point, embedded in the organisation’s culture. The sort of behaviour alleged would not have been tolerated, and had it occurred would have been dealt with.
The real issue is that respectful behaviour must become similarly embedded in the culture of Parliament and the political parties, so that all those entering either House are placed in no doubt that inappropriate behaviour is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.
Why on earth, in the 21st century, can Parliament not simply follow the example set by large businesses by being absolutely clear on the behaviour expected, and why cannot the political parties adopt and embed the culture and supporting processes found to be so effective by large corporations?
Mark Albrow, Hampton, Middlesex
Barbara Sanders is missing two key points in her critique of the women who complained about Lord Rennard (letter, 22 January).
First, there is the crucial question of power. Chris Rennard was their boss, a person with influence over the careers of the young women concerned. Second, there is no justification for anyone, male or female, to assume that invasion of personal space is acceptable. It isn’t. An assumption that a man may do this to a woman, wittingly or otherwise, without causing offence still is far too widespread.
I expect that few women who have worked for over 40 years in mixed environments have avoided the unwanted pat, “footsie” or over-close thigh, often from people senior to us, usually when we were young and unable to deal directly with the offender. Congratulations are due to those who in a meeting or other formal space have been brave enough to clearly ask the offender to stop, or who have dealt with their boss via a slap or stiletto. A rare breed in my experience; the rest of womanhood has come to rely on good employment practice to deal with their situation.
Sadly, it transpires that the Liberal Democrats have no such practice and their Byzantine constitution has ensured that the Rennard saga is a complete mess.
Paula Jones, London SW20
Hungarian far right not welcome here
I read with dismay that the Hungarian Jobbik party intends to visit England shortly. As a British citizen who lived in Budapest for nearly 10 years, I am appalled to think that this government is going to allow this group to speak in the UK.
Jobbik appeals to Hungary’s poorly educated young nationalists, who have been taught that Hungary has been treated badly by the rest of Europe and that by following Nazi ideals of persecution of minorities it will be able to regain its (perceived) status in the world.
I lived 50 metres from Heroes Square (Budapest’s Trafalgar Square) and was disgusted to see members of Jobbik being allowed to rally in the national square, whilst burning effigies of Jews and chanting anti-semitic filth. The Hungarian police, who have many Jobbik supporters within their ranks, are always present and are very often seen singing along and joining in the rally.
People are housebound during these rallies and gypsies (Roma) dare not be seen on the streets at risk of their lives. I have seen first-hand how the Roma are treated in Hungary and how Jobbik supporters are allowed to desecrate Jewish cemeteries for fun.
In any other EU country Jobbik’s conduct would result in arrest and prosecution. We would be doing a service for the rest of Europe if we banned Jobbik from entering the country, encouraging other decent, right-minded countries to do the same.
Paul Stanford, Devizes, Wiltshire
Storm warning for Nigel Farage
Most of us are aware that the evidence for man-made climate change and the need for world leaders to address the problem with urgency are compelling. Though we cannot yet be certain, this climate change could be largely responsible for the weather patterns that have subjected us in the UK to all the floods, along with the current blistering heat in Australia.
In his column on 20 January Nigel Farage states that he thinks “the floods were caused by the weather and not by gay people, man-made climate change, or an increase in the consumption of hollandaise sauce in Bedfordshire”. It seems worrying that the leader of a political party with surging popularity has not only dismissed man-made climate change as having any influence but also lumped it together with two utter absurdities.
Mark Burrows, Weymouth
Nigel Farage has announced that women who take time off to have babies are worth less than the rest of us. Let us hope that Farage, who has declared his commitment to weeding Ukip of barmy crackpots and real extremists, in the wake of one his followers blaming bad weather on gay marriage and others of his flock demonstrating the ugliest of racist views, will now throw himself out of the party.
Christian Vassie, York
I write concerning the response by Nigel Farage to Owen Jones (20 January). He states that rail privatisation occurred as a result of an EU directive.
This is quite wrong, as I assume the directive referred to is 91/440, which merely required the separation of railway accounts relating to operation and infrastructure. The Conservative government of the time used this as a model for the privatisation of British Rail, but such privatisation was not required by the EU.
If privatisation of railways was required by the EU, why have other countries not privatised their railways?
Chris Hall, Derby
I cannot allow Nigel Farage’s claims to go unchallenged (20 January). I have not gone. I remain a member of UKIP, I spend Sunday mornings on candidate training for the 2015 elections, I continue to put financial resources into the Yorkshire region, and I have persuaded scores of my personal friends who are in regional executive positions within UKIP to remain at their posts regardless of the poor quality of national leadership. The cause is more important than anything else.
I resigned the whip permanently in despair. My first resignation was in February 2013, which I withdrew under pressure from the Yorkshire membership.
All this Mr Farage would know if he ever left the Home Counties or allowed the North of England to be represented on the governing body.
Godfrey Bloom MEP, Wressle, East Riding of Yorkshire
Refugee crisis on Syria’s borders
With my own country of Lebanon on a knife-edge as a side-effect of the war in Syria, I agree with you that “it is always better to be talking than not, however far away a solution may be” (editorial, 22 January).
Agencies like mine are at breaking point dealing with the refugee crisis on our border, despite the generous support of our British colleagues at Cafod. If all Geneva achieves is a recognition by all sides of their obligations to allow safe passage of humanitarian aid, that will be huge progress. We can only pray for more than that.
Father Simon Faddoul, President, Caritas Lebanon, Beirut
Our NHS is in  good health
I’m tired of all the NHS-bashing that’s going on (“NHS staff morale falls to new low ”, 22 January).
I live in Northumberland, and it is, I believe, one of the top five NHS trusts. We are extremely fortunate to live here. Our GPs are caring and hard-working, our hospitals are wonderful, clean, efficient, with competent, caring, cheerful nurses, doctors and surgeons. My husband and I are pensioners, and we are very well taken care of by our GPs at the Haltwhistle Medical Practice.
If the rest of the country came up to the standards we experience there would be none of this constant carping at the NHS.
Vivienne Rendall, Melkridge, Northumberland
Tell me if I’m still alive
Chris Maume tells of people whose obituaries were published when they were alive (“Living dead”, 21 January). In old age the actor A E Matthews used on waking to read the day’s obituaries. If he wasn’t there he’d roll over and go to sleep again.
Robert Davies, London SE3

I write this at my wife’s bedside as she dies of pancreatic cancer. We came into hospital a fortnight ago. She has been under palliative care since then, and unconscious for the past week. Her death is as inevitable as night follows day. No treatment, save pain relief, is being given. She has received no nourishment for 14 days and no water other than drops in the mouth for seven of those. Yet still her body will not shut down. I know my wife would have been horrified at the prospect of dying in this manner. She is receiving exceptional love and care from this, our local NHS hospital, and we are assured that the syringe driver is keeping her pain free. But when you look into her ever-open eyes you see a pleading look. How sure can we be that she is not suffering enormous mental anguish? Not administering nourishment and fluid intravenously is simply euthanasia in slow motion. We love her enormously and will be desperate when she passes, but after this harrowing experience that our children and I are going through, there is for me, no contest; if death is inevitable, then it is only humane to shorten the process. I think we must follow the Belgian and Dutch models. It would be up to doctors, clergy and politicians to find acceptable common ground over the necessary safeguards.
Edward Frewin
Watchet, Somerset
Sir, Peter Franklin’s argument against a change in the law on assisted dying conflates assisted dying (the right to a prescription which the terminally ill, competent person can take to end their life) with voluntary euthanasia (both terminally ill and non-terminal but incurably ill patients’ lives can be directly ended by doctors). The Benelux euthanasia laws are often incorrectly cited as an example of a slippery slope in action. However, both the Belgians and Dutch deliberately and from the beginning created laws with the specific intention of allowing non-terminally ill people to be directly helped to die. This doesn’t confirm the slippery slope, but rather confirms that the law you enact is the law you get. The assisted dying law I propose is similar to the laws working effectively in the US states of Oregon and Washington, where eligibility has never been extended beyond terminal illness, nor has there been pressure for such a change.
It is a feature of this debate that opponents rarely argue against the change in the law actually proposed (for terminally ill, mentally competent adults), but for a law which isn’t proposed. The answer to such concerns is not to turn a blind eye to the suffering of some dying people, but rather to achieve a consensus on a safeguarded law. Those opposed to a change in the law have every right to raise their concerns. But in doing so they also have a responsibility to either explain why some dying people should have to suffer against their wishes at the end of life or alternatively they should set out their own safeguarded law.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton
House of Lords
Sir, It is depressingly defeatist to assert that assisted euthanasia should not be legalised on the grounds that one of the most sophisticated legislatures in the world is incapable of devising a means of ensuring that the necessary safeguards are enforced. It is nothing less than the wilful abnegation of the responsibility to allow the ending of intolerable suffering and it is as cowardly as it is inhumane.
Tony Phillips
Chalfont St Giles, Bucks

Sir, As Derwent May says, not everyone welcomes muntjac deer (Nature Notes, Jan 21). My golden retriever once grabbed an unwary male muntjac.
After a tussle the dog needed 35 stitches to slash wounds inflicted by its tusks and spiky antlers.
M. I. L. Roberts
St Nicholas at Wade, Kent

Sir, Neither Julian Brazier, in his article about Army Reserves (Jan 18), nor former US Secretary of Defence Gates, last week expressing concerns about Britain’s forces, mentioned land-based aircraft. Both make clear the Royal Navy is the UK’s strategic priority; CDS, and General Richards before him, expressed similar views.
Forces’ websites are telling. Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Army pages highlight operational business. The RAF spotlights the Second World War, aircraft displays, sport, much less operations.
This RAF modesty is right. It has 220 combat jets, 650 support aircraft and 36,000 personnel yet, after withdrawal from Afghanistan this year, just four jets, a few other aircraft and 1,000 airmen will be overseas. The bulk of the £7bn-a-year RAF will be home, facing no air threat, our islands safeguarded by Nato in Europe and an expanse of ocean, yet those 220 Typhoon and Tornado jets cost £20bn.
Defence experts here, and across the Atlantic, argue that independent air forces are no longer necessary or affordable. Land-based combat jets have limited roles, flying mostly supporting operations on land and sea. Huge cost and manpower savings would follow transferring essential frontline land-based aircraft to Navy and Army control. The RAF owns 80 per cent of UK military aircraft assets — reorganisation is overdue.
Lester May
(Lieutenant Commander RN ret’d)
London NW1

Sir, Public discontent over MPs can only be heightened by the stark contrast between the disappointingly empty chamber for the vast majority of debates and the overcrowded attendance at the largely irrelevant PMQs. If MPs really think that there is anything to be learnt from PMQs, they are surely mistaken. Indeed, it seems to me that they seem to treat the occasion, not as a serious discussion, but as an entertainment. Therefore, why not treat it as a private matter and stop televising, broadcasting or reporting it?
Richard Warnock
Melton, Suffolk

Sir, I thought that Judge Jeffreys (letters, Jan 20) suffered from “the stone” — kidney or bladder stones. I can testify to the debilitating agonies caused by such stones. If he was suffering from gout as well, one can only wonder at his self-restraint at the Bloody Assizes of 1685.
Andrew McConaghy
Balsall Common, W Midlands
Sir, I was taught that Judge Jeffreys suffered from a pharyngeal pouch, and it was the constant regurgitation of decomposing food that led to his bad temper and severe punishments.
John Hines
Consultant Urological Surgeon
Loughton, Essex

SIR – As a nutritionist, I was irritated to read your report (January 16) about a head teacher banning parents from putting fruit juice in their children’s lunch boxes. Head teachers are exceeding their authority if they seek to impose their own health-promotion hobby horse on parents. Do they have the right to inspect sandwiches to ensure that they are made with wholemeal bread (high in fibre), or to check that fillings do not include cheese (high in saturated fat) or ham (high in salt)?
It is difficult to provide a packed lunch acceptable to a child that does not break some modern dietary taboo. Priorities in health promotion change; it is not long ago that fruit juice would have been considered a healthy choice. Parents should be advised on a reasonable total diet for their children rather than be subject to arbitrary bans imposed on individual foods by head teachers.
Dr Geoffrey P Webb
London E15
SIR – I find it frustrating that nearly every council-run leisure centre I have visited has vending machines packed full of junk food including crisps, chocolate and sugary drinks. It seems ludicrous to have these machines in a place where the Government is encouraging people to take exercise.
Surely the nation’s health is more important than extra cash from lucrative vending machines? Healthy snack bars should be on offer instead.
Grania Maynard
Aldsworth, Gloucestershire

SIR – Boris Johnson is correct – there is no need for new towns when so much of London, and other towns and cities, is available for house building. I am thinking, in particular, of shopping areas where empty properties reflect the economic downturn and the impact of the internet.
In Bromley, the largest of the London boroughs, a long stretch of the high street could be redeveloped to become apartments intended for those trying to get on to the property ladder. Such properties would be within easy walking distance of shops, restaurants, the cinema and theatre and a railway station. Those businesses in that area that are managing to survive could be offered incentives to move into the busier, pedestrianised, part of town.
John Carter
Shortlands, Kent
SIR – While politicians continue to debate Government plans to build two new garden cities, in Scotland we are looking to deliver a new, sustainable co-operative settlement called Owenstown, in South Lanarkshire.
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22 Jan 2014
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22 Jan 2014
Owenstown is not being delivered by property developers intent on making a profit. Instead, all surplus funds will be reinvested in the community. In addition, the initiative does not require any public-sector support and, already, a database of residents and businesses demonstrates a substantial demand from people who wish to live and work in the new settlement.
Bill Nicol
Why pubs close
SIR – Peter Oborne blames Labour’s smoking ban for pub closures. While this may have contributed, it is by no means the main reason. The landlady at my local tells me that, not only does she have to pay more than £1,000 a week in rent, but the pricing structure of the owning chain means she has to charge 50p a pint more than her neighbour for the excellent ale brewed just two miles up the road.
She has ceased stocking these ales as she is regularly blamed for profiteering; her neighbouring owner-occupier’s pub is doing well.
Adrian Waller
Woodsetts, South Yorkshire
Crumbling tradition
SIR – In the small burgh of Darvel in Ayrshire, it was common up until the early Seventies for newlyweds to be given a root of rhubarb as a wedding present. That was before wedding lists were commonplace.
John F Crawford
Lytham, Lancashire
No running joke
SIR – Here, in Lincoln, we have the aptly named Steep Hill. My knees are not as young as they were, and do not enjoy going down steep slopes in the conventional manner. So I walk down the hill backwards. I get some funny looks, but my knees don’t mind.
Derek Wellman
Family dialogue
SIR – As it is not unusual to have very extended families, we have been searching for a term to describe the non-blood, same generation relationship of my grandson to his half-brother’s half-brother. My son has come up with the suggestion of siblink.
Roger Hart
London NW1
German energy
SIR – Bruno Waterfield is right to draw attention to Germany’s disastrous energy policies. These are causing electricity bills to rise, spreading fuel poverty and threatening to cripple German industry. They will not even reduce CO2 emissions. The fossil fuel power stations needed for back-up when wind and solar power are off-line are so inefficient when used intermittently that emissions will keep rising.
We can only watch with dismay as Nick Clegg and David Cameron press on with similar policies here and Ed Miliband, who introduced them, tries to lay the blame for rising prices on the “big six” rather than own up to his own folly.
David Watt
Brentwood, Essex
Protecting patients
SIR – You report that mistakes are made in a fifth of disciplinary cases against doctors. In our recent audit of the General Medical Council’s fitness to practise cases, we found technical errors in 22 of the 100 cases audited, but we did not judge in any of them that the GMC had failed to protect the public. It is not possible to conclude that “thousands of doctors” are unsafe. The GMC does have improvements to make, but this was a positive audit and we are confident that the GMC will make the necessary changes.
Harry Cayton
Chief Executive, Professional Standards Authority
London SW1
Permanent pupils
SIR – Rachel Reeves, the shadow work and pensions secretary, believes all jobseekers who lack basic skills should be forced into training courses.
Will these courses be provided by the educational establishment that failed to teach them basic skills during their 13 years of state education, creating illiteracy rates not seen since the 1870s?
David Paul
St Mary Cray, Kent
Can’t keep watch
SIR – My watch stopped recently, thanks to a flat battery. A replacement battery was twice as expensive as a new – but identical – watch, which included a working battery.
John Sully
Forest Row, East Sussex
Support for women considering an abortion
SIR – It is worrying that our society, which has become so risk-averse in recent years, should consider it unnecessary to have proper checks and protection in place to safeguard women considering abortion.
As a counsellor trained and experienced in dealing with cases of post-abortion stress, I am aware of the risks these women and girls face. I have worked with women who have suffered guilt, nightmares, grief, regret, relationship breakdown or depression. In some cases, they have turned to alcohol, drugs, self-harm or even attempted suicide.
There is a high risk that the decision to terminate has not been freely made by the woman herself, but under pressure from her partner or family. She is likely to be vulnerable and confused, and will benefit hugely from time to discuss her wishes with an impartial professional. The Government has already decided that she can manage perfectly well without counselling, and now it seems that a doctor’s input is also unnecessary.
This decision is one of the few life choices that you can’t change your mind about. Surely those considering it deserve all the support and protection available.
Hazel Sewell
Preston, Lancashire

SIR – The Liberal Democrats have failed to deal with the Lord Rennard allegations in a swift and decisive manner. Sexual harassment occurred frequently in organisations in the past and probably continues today, to a lesser extent.
It is normally dealt with in a manner that does not threaten the credibility of the organisation involved. The fact that the Lib Dems have allowed it to dominate the news is a reflection of the party’s incompetence.
Oliver Pugh
Kinver, Staffordshire
SIR – The attack on Lord Rennard by Nick Clegg and his cohort is nothing to do with what is right and what is wrong. They think that they can get more votes by attacking him than they can by supporting him.
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SIR – This sanctimoniousness on the part of the Lib Dems is distasteful. Nick Clegg prefers to join the witch hunt within his party rather than act honourably.
The correct thing for him to do would be to say that neither the police nor his own appointed QC have found sufficient evidence to take matters further. But I fear he is too weak and too smug for that.
Brian Clarke
London W6
SIR – For an apology to be meaningful, it must be made voluntarily by a person who has acknowledged wrongdoing. It is wrong of Nick Clegg to try to force an apology from Lord Rennard.
Clifford Baxter
Wareham, Dorset
SIR – Who is more disreputable? Someone who refuses to apologise for something he says he didn’t do, or someone who ignores the evidence and caves in to the prejudices of a baying mob?
K J Phair
Felixstowe, Suffolk
SIR – A relatively straightforward procedural change could well prevent the Liberal Democrats embroiling themselves in a similar future fiasco, in which one of their members is found not guilty of allegations against him according to the criminal standard of proof, yet is still expected to offer an apology for his actions.
They should amend their rules so that allegations of misconduct in internal disciplinary hearings are determined according to the less onerous civil standard of proof: ie, based on all the evidence, is the alleged event or behaviour more likely than not to have taken place? This is used in many professional regulatory bodies.
Philip Jewell
Barnstaple, Devon
SIR – Nick Clegg is gathering a huge female vote in standing by his firm principles on the dignity of women and their right to be unmolested at work.
Susan Munday

Irish Times:

Sir, – The news that the Government has decided to reopen the embassy to the Vatican (Home News, January 22nd) gave my heart a lift. Two years ago I was dismayed when it was closed but now applaud the courage to seem to do a U-turn.
It is sensible when one makes a wrong turn to recognise it and go back to re- consider. For those in the public eye, that does take courage and I welcome and encourage more of it . – Yours, etc,
Carrickbrennan Lawn,
Monkstown, Co Dublin.
Sir, – If there’s a job going for one single diplomat to represent us at the reopened Vatican embassy, I would like Marie Collins to be considered for the post. – Yours, etc,
Coleraine Street,
Dublin 7.
Sir, – Now that the Irish embassy to the Holy See is to be reopened, a very suitably qualified candidate for the post would be our former president Mary McAleese, who is currently studying in Rome.
I’m sure the reformist Pope Francis and herself could spend many hours in theological discussion and structural reform in the church over a glass of Chianti in the new austere Irish Ambassador’s residence. – Yours, etc,
The Moorings,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – A Jones (January 22nd) feels we should open embassies in other cities that are holy to religions other than Catholicism, First off the embassy is to the Holy See not the Vatican. The Holy See is the sovereign entity that represents the Catholic Church and is separate from the Vatican City State. Secondly Mecca, Amritsar and Salt Lake City are not separate sovereign entities and are in countries with which we have diplomatic relations. The examples given by A Jones are spurious. – Yours, etc,
Circular Road,
Kilkee, Co Clare.
Sir, – Following reports that the Irish embassy to the Vatican is to be reopened, A Jones asks whether we can expect embassies to be established in other holy cities.
Unlike Mecca, Amritsar and Salt Lake City, the Vatican City is a sovereign state. Ireland has embassies in Riyadh, New Delhi and Washington DC to handle any affairs involving the three holy cities mentioned. – Yours, etc,
Viewmount Park,
Sir, – Charlie Flanagan of Fine Gael tells us that it was always the case that the question of our Vatican embassy stood to be reviewed once we had an economic upturn. Great!
Could he now tell us what other harsh decisions, mainly in health and welfare, taken because of the economic situation, will now be reversed? Pope Francis would certainly rate these as of more urgency in terms of benefiting from any upturn. – Yours, etc,
Flower Grove,
Killiney, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I welcome the Government’s decision to open the Irish embassy in the Vatican again. I am sure it makes sense in terms of having a relationship with an influential state, but one can’t help feeling the Government’s decision was based on advise from spin-doctors regarding what is the most populist decision, given the presence of the respected new pope, Francis. One wonders if deflecting from the political meeting of the Reform Alliance this week was a consideration too. Heaven forbid members of the public would get excited at the thought of a new politic, of open honest dialogue with values at its core. – Yours, etc,
Ballyroan Park,
Templeogue, Dublin 16.
Sir, – I couldn’t help but smile as I read Fiach Kelly’s article (“Gilmore links Pope Francis to Vatican embassy decision”, Home News, January 22nd). It tells us the Government’s very welcome decision to reopen an Irish Embassy to the Vatican was taken because of “the Holy See’s renewed focus on tackling ‘hunger and world poverty’ under Francis”. Are we to read into this that our Tánaiste has been touched by the “Francis effect” or even had a Damascene conversion to the faith? Might we look forward to our Tánaiste regularly visiting some of: the one in five Irish children that go to school or bed hungry; the estimated 5,000 homeless people in Ireland; or the 16 per cent of the Irish population that lives on an income which is less than the official poverty line (of €210 per adult per week).
Can we expect the Tánaiste to seriously address the issues of domestic poverty and hunger? And in the meantime, as a stark reminder of the reality of the society we live in and as a cry for social justice, should we not advance the year on the banner that drapes Dublin’s Liberty Hall (ie “Dublin 1913, Thousands lived in poverty, trapped by low pay and few jobs”) to 2014 and change “lived” to the present tense? – Yours, etc,
The Rise,
Glasnevin, Dublin 9.

Sir, – The longest word in the English language, writes Patsy McGarry (In a Word, Time Out, January 20th) is antidisestablishmentarianism, unrivalled. It has 28 letters. But it does not appear in my admittedly ancient Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1955). What does appear is the word that used to delight us as children: floccinaucinihilipilification. It has 29 letters. Dating from 1741, it means the action or habit of estimating as worthless. – Yours, etc,
Schull, Co Cork.

Sir, – Minister for Justice Alan Shatter complained in the Dáil on Tuesday that the State expended more than €17.3 million in security costs at Shannon between 2004 to 2013 because of opposition to the US military presence at the airport.
There is, of course, an obvious solution that would save the State these utterly wasted millions and, simultaneously, would ensure the speedy release of the indomitable Margaretta D’Arcy from Limerick Prison. Ask the US war machine to remove itself from Shannon Airport and restore the facility to civilian use only. – Yours, etc,
Lennox Place,
Portobello, Dublin 8.
Sir, – Whether or not he likes it, President Higgins and his family no longer have the luxury or the freedom to do as they want. With great privilege comes at least some responsibility. Sabina Higgins, as a private citizen, is free to visit whoever she likes in prison. Like Caesar’s wife, as the spouse of the President her choices may need to be more circumspect.
Her husband has sworn to uphold the Constitution and the separation of powers which recognise the independence of the judiciary. Under Article 13.6 of the Constitution he also carries the responsibility of exercising the right to pardon, commute or remit punishments imposed by any court exercising criminal jurisdiction. The President must, like the Chief Justice who swears to do so, exercise the office “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will towards any man” (or woman). It is therefore important that the Office of the President should always be seen to accord the highest of respect to the judicial system and never to knowingly undermine the authority of its judges or the decisions of the courts.
If anyone connected with the President’s household does wish to visit a prisoner he or she should do so with the utmost discretion? One presumes that Ms Higgins did not use the office to effect special facilities or privileges when visiting Limerick prison or use taxpayer funds to book, travel or be accompanied on such a visit. It may be too egalitarian to expect that she was accorded the same level of courtesy and respect that prison officers usually give to those visiting their friends and family in the bleak and terrifying confines of our State prisons. – Yours, etc,
Moyclare Close,
Dublin 13.

Sir, – Ronan McGreevy (Home News, January 18th), quotes from a written copybook account kept by Edward Keogh of his time in the Irish Citizen Army, the 1916 Rising and War of Independence. The copybook has been kept by his son, Liam Keogh for more than 50 years.
I, my sister and two brothers are children of Seán Forde who joined Fianna Éireann in 1912, transferred to the Volunteers in 1914, and fought at the Magazine Fort (Phoenix Park) and in the Church Street Area in 1916. He was active throughout the war of Independence and the Civil War.
My father, like many veterans, did not leave us any written account of his experiences. I have been researching his history, as best I can, for the last number of years. While having received, a number of years ago, from the Department of Defence, a photocopy of his Pension Application which set out for us, for the first time, his involvement in chronological order, the Military Service Collection files released last week by Military Archives are already proving a great source of new information for us. They (along with witness statement files previously released) help us relate and put in perspective the memories and stories we heard.
Ronan McGreevy states that Liam Keogh (95) is one of the last surviving children of Easter Rising veterans. I assume that at 64, I am one of the youngest. The family and folk memories of these few remaining people, who knew the veterans intimately, provide the last opportunity to record a personal and human aspect to their deeds and lives.
Now, as the centenary is upon us, I for one, have a have a much more questioning approach than I had, say, 50 years ago. The files have helped humanise rather than lionise. Now, as I relate the stories and the man to the history, I better appreciate the uncertainties and nightmares suffered and yet, despite what may be my uncertainties, I have greater pride than ever in my father.
While we attend yearly, the Easter Sunday commemorations, the Arbour Hill Mass and the National Day of Commemoration, neither my siblings nor I received an invitation or even a notification of the recent Garden of Remembrance commemoration of the centenary of the founding of the Volunteers.
With the benefit of history and hindsight, only now available with the release of the files, is there anyone out there who might undertake to record the memories? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Fiach Mac Conghail, the Abbey Theatre’s director, and Niall MacMonagle can be proud of their contribution to theatre and writing respectively. But in their complaints (Home News, January 21st & Letters, January 21st) about Fintan O’Toole’s report (Front page & Weekend Review, January 18th) detailing external reservations about the theatre’s performance, they show a sad misunderstanding of a journalist’s job.
Fintan O’Toole is not obliged to, and indeed should not, be expected to wait until the Abbey has prepared its particular spin on the assessors’ opinions. Citizens who book the seats, taxpayers who subvent the Abbey, and indeed Irish Times readers are entitled to such information when it emerges, just as Mr Mac Conghail has a right of reply and comment.
There are still too many people, Government, utilities, charities among them, who don’t like releasing information, except of course on their own terms. – Yours, etc,
Templeville Drive,
Templeogue, Dublin 6W.

Sir, – The Theatre of Memory symposium at the Abbey Theatre has received a warm response from the participants, admired for addressing themes that “should matter to us as a nation” (Niall McMonagle, January 20th) – memory, trauma, imagination, migrations. But what constitutes “us”?
Why were the keynote speakers, to a man, Irish born and bred? How was it that there were no contributions by resident populations not of Irish origin? Central Europeans and Nigerians, for example, have come here from cultures rich in experiment with memory and theatre.
Why did the symposium not offer any international point of view on how theatre might now impact on “us as a nation”? No speaker, of the 32, was a practitioner with experience of managing theatre overseas. Why does the Abbey not invite conflict and welcome the stranger’s gaze? – Yours, etc,
Professor Emeritus,
School of Humanites,

A chara, – Contrary to Joe Conroy’s claim that the European Parliament is of no use and nobody can point to any its achievements (January 20th), the European Parliament is necessary. It adds more democracy to the EU as it is the only elected body of the EU. Along with that, it is jointly responsible with the Council of Ministers for decision-making in the EU. The president of the European Commission cannot be appointed without its approval.
The European Parliament has passed legislation to bring down the price of mobile telephone prices when roaming. It has worked to toughen the rules about selling cigarettes in order to discourage younger people from taking up smoking. More recently, the civil liberties’ committee of the parliament issued a report on American and British electronic surveillance, declaring it illegal and it now wants the EU to better protect its citizens data and privacy. These are only some of the actions of the European Parliament that prove it is beneficial to the citizens of the EU.
The European Parliament elected in May will have even more power. Mr Conroy is correct that the EU “is a multilateral international organisation that plays a very important role in citizens’ lives”. It is often the European Parliament that ensures that the EU plays such a role. – Is mise,
Rue William Turner,
Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s article (Opinion, January 22nd) highlighting the sense of entitlement prevalent in Ireland is apt in the week that our alleged betters meet for their annual global review at Davos.
O’Toole highlights how we allow our elected officials perpetuate a sense of entitlement among the professional and business elite in this country. It seems our political class quickly forgets its mandate and seeks to be validated by a self-appointed elite. This week the global corporate elite invites political leaders to Davos for discussion on the theme “The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business”. Here it will listen while political leaders and celebrities highlight their concerns regarding inequality and look at options to reduce the income gap between rich and poor.
However, rather than our elected leaders outlining to business leaders how society will be organised and wealth distributed, they will wait to hear the wisdom of this unelected group on how they should legislate to minimise impact on the status quo while providing some minimal conciliatory gesture to societal concerns.
The issue that Fintan O’Toole has highlighted is not local, it merely reflects a global culture of deference by elected politicians to the business and professional class. – Yours,etc,
Linden Avenue,

Sir, – “It could be worse”. No, it couldn’t! – Yours, etc,
Boleybeg, Galway.
A chara, – With respect, I didn’t interrupt you. – Is mise,
Dunsany, Co Meath.
A chara, – Cheers. – Yours, etc,
Ascaill Bhaile na Fuinseoige,
Cnoc Liamhna,
Baile Átha Cliath 16.
Sir, – OMG, OMG. – Yours, etc,
Hollywood Drive,
Goatstown, Dublin 14.
Sir, – I am unable to comment at this stage due to possible pending legal action. – Yours, etc,
Newtown Road, Wexford.
Sir, – We seem to have allowed ourselves to lie outright to those around us with statements such as “I’ll be with you in two seconds”. Now, however, it often includes the word “literally”. So although you could still be left waiting for minutes or hours, you are told, “I’ll be with you in two seconds, literally”.
This advance in phrases we live with makes me sick literally! – Yours, etc,
Templerainey Mill,
Co Wicklow.

Irish Independent:

* It is heartbreaking to learn that only €9,000 out of €4m raised by Rehab lottery cards was actually used to help those who need it most.
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CRC pay scandal endemic of way country is run
Letters to the Editor
We deserve much better governance than this
That desperately needed money was diverted from patients is a national shame.
It begs the question: are decency and fair play dead and buried in Irish life?
Those of us lucky enough to be in full health and able to go about our lives independently cannot truly appreciate the personal heroics demanded by people with disabilities in getting through the day.
The spirit and courage demanded to meet the daily struggle to survive cannot be grasped by those of us who take walking, talking, hearing, and seeing for granted.
But there are people who do recognise this unequal battle, they supported Rehab and gave whatever they could afford to help.
This generosity is the dynamic that keeps the wheels of the charity sector turning.
Revelations about the €742,000 CRC payout to Paul Kiely, and now the bombshell from Rehab, totally undermine the trust that is the oxygen of the charity sector.
How could this happen? How could anyone think that siphoning money away from the vulnerable is justified at any level?
This appaling vista has opened up at the heart of the caring community. The collateral damage, or blowback, from this scandal is that the phenomenal people who work at the interface with people who need them are also tainted.
This, of course, is monstrously unjust.
Their compassion and kindness is the glue that keeps the system together, but they have been betrayed as much as the clients of Rehab and the CRC.
If we can not be trusted as a society to take care of the vulnerable, then what hope is there for us?
* If Bono’s daughter pretends her father is a doctor should my daughters pretend I am a pop singer with the answer to all the world’s problems?
* You can’t reform politics without re-examining the values on which you are going to base your work. And politics is compromise, so if you’re going to work with allies you need to agree a reasonable overlap of values to which you all assent. What values would an informed Christian conscience include?
Surely, at the least:
* Ask “how much is enough?” What should be the ratio of CEO salary to the average worker’s (in the public, private and voluntary sectors)?
* Our national well-being would improve with some thoughtful giving – from targeted social welfare through to fulfilling our international aid obligations.
* Guard human dignity. Policy-making should enshrine the best of measures to protect those whose dignity is most at risk.
* Practise authenticity. This may be the value that the public craves the most. They want leaders who lead by example (like Jesus did) – and who can blame them.
Authenticity is first forged in the crucible of private life. It requires personal commitment from a leader and also an understanding of forgiveness.
* It would appear that the people of Ireland have been less than fair or just to those responsible for the progress made during the Celtic-Tiger era. These achievements dramatically improved the socio-economic, social and cultural infrastructure of our country and most political parties supported the positive developments of the Celtic Tiger.
We have failed to acknowledge publicly our indebtedness to those involved and tended to demonise developers and builders as a category. It is time to portray a more balanced assessment of probably the greatest period of development since the foundation of the State.
This is not to deny that aberrations, serious excesses and omissions took place.
Of course, it is right and proper to have mistakes and excesses investigated in a thorough and fair manner.
But the emphasis being reiterated publicly, day in day out, reveals an obsession with the deviant without fair acknowledgement of the positive overall outcome which, in my opinion, greatly outweighs the negative aspects of this period.
Some of the many significant achievements of the Celtic-Tiger period are as follows: the renewal of our housing stock; the building of the major roads and infrastructure; the construction of major sewage and water schemes; the building and expansion of schools, colleges and universities; the construction of factories and office blocks; the improvement of sports facilities and community services. And thanks to social partnership (in part), we achieved nearly 20 years of industrial peace.
* The Government intends to open a ‘scaled down’ diplomatic mission to the Holy See to ‘save money’.
The rationale cited for closure was never terribly convincing, especially after the total failure of diplomacy to produce the collaboration of the Holy See with major state investigations into child sex abuse by hundreds of priests.
We have a new Pope who is acclaimed by the flock and he is busily overhauling Vatican bureaucracy. But what strategic influence could Ireland possibly derive by transferring the role of Ambassador to the Holy See from the personal mandate of the highly experienced and distinguished Secretary-General of the Department of Foreign Affairs to a more junior and less experienced diplomat, expected to operate alone in a system governed through status, rank and rigid boundaries of hierarchy?
* Lest we forget, while being appalled at the pension of ex-CRC boss Paul Kiely, all the bloated pensions paid to young and retired ex-Taoisigh, ex-ministers, ex-TDs and ex-senior servants are paid from taxes. Where did this sense of entitlement start?
* It is disappointing that it has taken the CRC scandal to finally create the political will to appoint a charity regulator. Given the lack of transparency in so many sectors of society, it would be appropriate to appoint a regulator that is fully independent and to ensure that they are chosen through a fair, open and transparent process.
In recent years a €300m annual lottery fund for charities has often been used as a discretionary fund for politicians. An independent regulator can ensure oversight of this important fund and demonstrate that the Government is prepared to walk the talk when it comes to transparency and reform.
Whatever the course of action, a regulator must be appointed with urgency before any further damage is done to the charity sector.
* Charlie Flanagan of Fine Gael tells us that it was always the case that the question of our Vatican Embassy stood to be reviewed once we had an economic up-turn. Could he now tell us what other harsh decisions, mainly in health and welfare and taken because of the economic situation, will now be reversed?
Irish Independent

Liz and Anna

January 22, 2014

22 January 2014 Liz and Anna
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Leslie has to pass a navigation test, but the examiner is an old flame of Mrs Poveys. Priceless.
Liz and Anna come for lunch, not a success, get lots of books, Peter Rice finished the windows.
Scrabble today I wins   and gets  over   400,  Perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.

The Reverend Professor Ernest Nicholson, who has died aged 75, was a leading scholar of the Old Testament and served from 1990 to 2003 as Provost of Oriel College, Oxford.
An Ulsterman by birth, Nicholson made substantial contributions to the study of the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses comprising Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) . One of his main preoccupations was the concept of the “covenant” which he saw as central to the development of what is distinctive in the faith of Israel.
In a major survey, God and His People; Covenant and Theology in the Old Testament (1986), Nicholson concluded that: “on the whole … it is fair to regard ‘covenant’ as a theological theory about God’s relationship with Israel … Thus understood, ‘covenant’ is the central expression of the distinctive faith of Israel as ‘the people of Yahweh’, the children of God by adoption and free decision rather than by nature or necessity.”
His biblical scholarship and his expertise in Latin, Hebrew and Semitic languages brought Nicholson international renown and he travelled all over the world. Yet he was always happy to admit that as a boy he had failed his 11-plus, using the experience to encourage young people that anything could be achieved through hard work and application.
The son of a farmer, Ernest Wilson Nicholson was born into a Protestant family at Portadown, Co Armagh, on September 26 1938. After his disastrous 11-plus , he was educated at the town’s technical school.
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He spent four years there but wanted to enter the Church and eventually mastered enough Latin to move to the grammar school, Portadown College. From there, Nicholson went up to Trinity College, Dublin, where he studied Theology and was greatly influenced by the Hebrew scholar Jacob Weingreen.
Nicholson went on to Glasgow University, where he took a PhD under CJ Mullo Weir. His thesis, on the literary history of the book of Deuteronomy, accepted the widely-held belief that the core of the book could be identified with the “book of the law” which was discovered in the Jerusalem temple in 621 BC and which influenced King Josiah’s reformation of worship in Judah. It was published in revised form (in 1967) as his first book, Deuteronomy and Tradition.
In 1962 Nicholson had returned to Trinity College as a lecturer in Hebrew and Semitics. In 1967 he moved to Cambridge as University Lecturer in Divinity with a fellowship at University (now Wolfson) College. After his ordination in Ely Cathedral in 1969, he became Chaplain, and later Dean, of Pembroke College. In Preaching to the Exiles (1971), he traced the history of the “Deuteronomic” tradition from its beginnings to the Babylonian Exile.
Nicholson moved to Oxford in 1979 to take up the post of Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, with a fellowship at Oriel. As well as serving as college Provost he was Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the university from 1993 to 2003.
As Provost of Oriel, Nicholson was known for his kindliness towards all members of his college, while his concern for student welfare was reflected in his appointment as chairman of a university committee on student health. A dignified man who valued tradition, he was an assiduous fundraiser and it was his idea to produce an official history of the college. The book, a substantial collaborative effort, edited by Jeremy Catto, was published in November last year.
At Cambridge, Nicholson had begun to turn his mind to wider issues concerning the origins of Biblical traditions in such works as Exodus and Sinai in History and Tradition (1973). At Oxford, in addition to God and His People (1986), he published The Pentateuch in the Twentieth Century: The Legacy of Julius Wellhausen (1998).
Ernest Nicholson was a Fellow of the British Academy, which awarded him its Burkitt Medal for Biblical Studies in 2009.
He married, in 1962, Hazel Jackson, who survives him with their three daughters. A son predeceased him.
The Reverend Professor Ernest Nicholson, born September 26 1938, died December 22 2013


I was one of a group of women who gave evidence to the parliamentary select committee considering transferring child benefit from mothers to fathers (Letters, 21 January). As far as I am aware, there was no meaningful number of male trade unionists who had their beady eyes on the money. The proposal to transfer the money from purse to wallet was merely made to streamline and simplify the benefits and tax systems. The consequences of this – that a far smaller proportion of the money would find its way to supporting children – had simply been overlooked. We drew the committee’s attention to this and its members accepted the argument, and we won the day. It was a good victory, but there’s no need to cloud the picture with imaginary male villains.
Ruth Grimsley
• I was working in the private office of the Department of Health and Social Security at the time. David Ennals had just become secretary of state and was on a canal holiday when the leak came to light. He didn’t want to cancel his holiday, but it was a big issue and he wanted to be kept informed. This was in the days before mobile phones, so we had to arrange to call a telephone box alongside the canal at a given time. A man I didn’t know answered the phone. After a little confusion I asked if there was anyone nearby who appeared to be waiting. “Well,” he said, “there’s a man reading the Daily Telegraph.” “That’ll be him,” I said, “can you hand him the phone.” We never did establish what a Labour secretary of state was doing reading the Daily Telegraph.
Alan Healey
Milson, Shropshire

An alternative version to the origins of Babes in the Wood (Country diary, 20 January) comes in the book The Dark River: the Irwell by Cyril Bracegirdle. In this the legend was inspired by an incident which took place at Agecroft Hall in the Irwell Valley in the reign of Edward III. “Pining of grief for the death of her lord in the French wars, Lady Joan de Langley had left her young son in wardship to her late husband’s patron John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. On the morning of the Feast of Ascension, in 1374, the villainous Robert de Holland ‘with many others assembled with him, armed in breastplate and with swords, and bows and arrows, by force took possession of the said lordship of the duke’.” Exactly how the noble duke was occupying himself while this dastardly business was taking place is not recorded. But it appears that the young Langley and his sister escaped to the shelter of the forest which then covered the slopes of the Irwell Valley, where they were cared for by loyal retainers until Lancaster rescued them. Agecroft Hall was shipped lock, stock and barrel to Richmond, Virginia.
Albert Beckett
Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire

We understand from the chancellor’s autumn statement that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills faces additional cuts of £305m over the next two years. Reports suggest the Treasury is seeking to achieve this by abolishing the student opportunity fund, administered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. This fund aims to support the less privileged into university study and the threat of its abolition will fill many with horror. But the flipside is that it appears to be either this or further cuts to the adult budget for further education.
So, for every pound of the HE opportunity fund not cut, a pound will have to be found from money to support adults gaining skills in FE. Put starkly, the country faces a choice between enabling the less privileged to access college or to access university (Education, 21 January). Universities have a loud voice – but what of England’s more than 350 further education colleges? The 157 Group represents 30 of the largest, and our members alone train over 300,000 adults each year and contribute over £16.5bn to the UK economy. Tuition fees for a typical full-time programme in FE are about half what a university would charge, so saving the FE budget could benefit twice as many people. Many FE colleges offer degree-level programmes, so it would be possible for more to achieve to this level if the FE budget were retained. And the focus of FE on the vocational – and on skills – would seem to be more in keeping with our growing economic needs.
As Vince Cable said in 2012: “In our popular culture today, the contestants on Masterchef or Great British Bake Off receive infinitely greater exposure than the teams on University Challenge. We rightly admire craft and skill as much as – if not more than – knowledge.” To invest in skills is to invest in further education. If a stark choice has to be made, then preserving the chance for more to access high-quality vocational education at their local FE college seems to be self-evidently the right choice.
Lynne Sedgmore
Executive director, 157 Group

In your report (18 January) on the possibility of the Church of England appointing a woman bishop by Christmas you say of the main candidates: “Faull is the least controversial candidate. Osborne produced a report friendly to gay clergy 20 years ago that frightened conservatives, and Winkett has been accused of antisemitism after an art installation at her church represented the Israeli separation wall around Bethlehem.”
This unsourced statement about Rev Lucy Winkett is below-the-belt journalism. The Guardian was one of few mainstream news outlets to give the Bethlehem Unwrapped event any coverage, so one would think it would avoid repeating such antisemitic innuendo.
This kind of statement is damaging to the reputation of Lucy Winkett and a slur on the congregation, which is fully supportive of the event that took place at St James’s church over the 12 days of Christmas. It devalues the real antisemitism which is still a phenomenon in post-Holocaust Europe. St James’s has a long-standing and honourable public record of opposition to racism, religious intolerance and injustice in any form, and staunchly defends the right of the state of Israel to exist with secure borders.
Tom Cook
Deputy church warden, St James’s church, Piccadilly
• The Anglican church supported the Bethlehem Unwrapped festival, which was organised and celebrated in response to an appeal from the Holy Land Trust and other Christian and Jewish and Israeli organisations which work for reconciliation. Its purpose was to draw attention to the immense difficulties for all those living either side of the Bethlehem separation wall. The message of the festival and of the replica wall was “build bridges not walls”. Messages on the wall were encouraged and when I attended the last-night concert a part of the wall was ceremoniously transformed into a bridge. It was inspiring and moving,
I understand there was harsh criticism from some Israelis and from Christian Zionists, but that there was much more support from many Jewish visitors and, as would be expected, from organisations such as Israelis Against Demolition and other Palestinian, Israeli and Jewish organisations working for reconciliation.
Leah Hoskin
• The decision by Lucy Winkett and Justin Butcher (creative director of the festival) to hold it at St James’s was an act of remarkable moral courage, for which they should be congratulated, not vilified. The festival was, explicitly, to support the people of Palestine and Israel, as an act of solidarity for a just and sustainable solution for both communities.
Mary Stewart
• So the C of E “can now move on to arguing about gay clergy and the blessing of gay marriage”, topics of little interest to most people, but which are so much easier for synod to get steamed up about than really important issues such as poverty and inequality. Feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, giving a voice to the voiceless – these should be the priorities of those who claim to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. When they are, then perhaps the church will regain some relevance.
Christine Yates
Giggleswick, North Yorkshire

I was delighted to read that the Sutton Trust intended its Open Access proposals to open up access to the top independent schools “to all students” only to have my happiness confounded immediately on the next line on discovering this access was to be “on the basis of ability” (Letters, 21 January). So, not so much an exercise in open access as creaming off the state schools to cement the existing grossly unequal system. Some reform!
Roy Boffy
•  The one principled defence corporate tax-avoiders offered was that it is for companies to minimise their tax bills within the rules and for governments to change the rules if the outcome is unacceptable. It now seems (Tech firms make last-minute bid to halt tax clampdown, 20 January) that they abandoned that minor peak in the moral high ground just as soon as governments responded to their invitation.
Brian Rutherford
Canterbury, Kent
•  The psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, one of the most influential psychoanalysts after Freud, saw that the impulse to steal is connected to the impulse to love, the need to have something felt to be good (Thieves smash urn holding Freud’s ashes, 16 January). Since the thief wanted literally to have psychoanalysis, let him be given it. Of all the groups to provoke, has he not managed to select the one most able to offer him understanding and reparation?
Robert Adès
• Regarding dandelions and snowdrops (Letters, 20 January), les perce-neiges de cette année sont dans nos jardin, en County Durham, aujourd’hui.
Avril Hannon
Mordon, County Durham
•  Four hundred letters a day from the wide, wide world and you choose to give us mind-numbing news from a few back gardens. Who the hell does the choosing? Please fire them.
Roy Arnold
Tenterden, Kent
•  On 20 January, I observed daffodils flowering on the south-facing garden outside St Nicholas of Myra church in Brighton. I also saw a bee inspecting flowers in a window box in a nearby street.
James Birkett

Enough of this “we’re all victims” hand-wringing (Why make such a fuss? Here’s why, Lord Rennard, 21 January). I worked for the Liberal party in the House of Commons from 1976 until 1987, and it may surprise some that neither my female colleagues nor I put up with constant manhandling because we were either too ambitious for political advancement or too stupid to recognise it as sexual harassment. It simply didn’t happen. Of course there was the occasional hand on knee or hug from a male MP or member of staff. If it was unwelcome, it was dealt with firmly at the time and there the matter ended, with no tears and no years of depression or counselling required for either party.
Perhaps it is a generational issue, but I resent being made a victim by Polly Toynbee and those Liberal Democrat activists who seem to have allowed a few embarrassing incidents to blight their lives and the lives of others, and with a few facile generalisations have also managed (perhaps inadvertently) to tarnish the reputations of those women who have had political success.
By screaming “sexual harassment” at the slightest touch, they trivialise the real humiliation and violence suffered by too many women every day. By depicting women as too fragile to deal with the occasional clumsy approach without the intervention of a more powerful male, they undermine our achievements in the workplace and beyond.
Jackie Winter
Address supplied
•  Workplace harassment needs to be handled according to the problem. If a place of work has a sensitive enough policy with trained mediators/counsellors to implement the policy and deal with the issue at a very early stage then the rarely successful “costly employment tribunal cases” Polly Toynbee refers to can be avoided. A method that lets a person know their behaviour is unacceptable is often the first step. The four Lib Dem women would sit in a room, with a friend if necessary, and tell Lord Rennard how they felt when he did what he did. He could also have a friend with him. Being publicly confronted in this way allows him to hear the impact of his behaviour and is a first stage. It is vital to support and empower the “victims” and turn them into “survivors” who can learn how to deal with the problem if it ever happens again.
If the behaviour does not stop, then the matter can be taken further to disciplinary level. Sometimes, several meetings with either side or with both sides is required. With 20-plus years’ experience of dealing with staff (colleagues and managers) and student problems, from teenage cyberbullying to thoughtless management groping, I found that the “perpetrator” rarely uses the words “I’m sorry” but will often respond positively to the question “Can you understand and acknowledge why your behaviour is not acceptable?” A suitable remedy can usually be found but may not be enshrined in policy.
Developing a trustworthy outsider status to encourage people to come forward (even if they only think it is a “trivial” matter), to manage the whole process and support both sides, means people may be able to get back to their work and their lives. Agreement to address harassment and bullying must be verbalised from the top management and “collusion” with one’s fellow managers is not acceptable. Talking to the “perpetrators” about their behaviour sometimes worked. Initially being accused of being a “persecuting witch” by one senior manager was only helpful in that it made me more determined to put the item on the agenda, assist those affected by it and wherever possible reduce the impact on them. At least the perpetrators knew I was “watching” them and sometimes that really was enough to stop the behaviour.
Carole Moss
Former equality manager and head of student services at Bradford College
• I would have more time for the views of Lord Rennard’s “friends” (Rennard threatens legal action after Lib Dem suspension, 21 January) if any of them were female; certainly none have raised their head above the parapet. Is this not just the equivalent of the Conservative Bullingdon Club transferred to the Liberal Democrats?
Maureen Panton
Malvern, Worcestershire
•  ”[T]he portly peer … this physically unprepossessing man”? Had similarly unflattering and irrelevant remarks been made about the physical appearance of a woman, Ms Toynbee would doubtless be incandescent. Surely what’s unacceptable for the goose is also unacceptable for the gander.
Peter Wrigley
Birstall, Yorkshire

Margaret Drabble is half-right (10 January). Advances in science are indeed keeping too many of us alive too long. What is the point of more and more years contemplating our slippers in the residential home?
But we are not helpless in the hands of the doctors. You don’t have to take the pills or sign the form for a surgical intervention, or call the ambulance, or even go to see the doctor in the first place. You can say no. You can make a living will that is legally binding on the medical profession, indicating your wish not to receive certain types of treatment or resuscitation. More control over our own destiny is possible than Drabble allows.
She also underestimates the dangers of legalised euthanasia. Medical professionals are legally obliged to act in “the best interests of the patient”, but families are not. If euthanasia were legal, many vulnerable and suggestible old and sick people would come under pressure from the relatives to take the pill that Drabble recommends. After all, granny is using up her life’s savings in the Home, and we were counting on the old girl’s money, weren’t we? Or we simply want it now, not to wait until she’s gone. So, “You’re not very happy here are you, gran? Why don’t you ask the doctor for that nice little pill?” And so on.
I may want to have more say in when I go, but I don’t want others deciding it for me, neither doctors nor those closest to me.
Martin Down
Witney, UK
• Excellent article by Margaret Drabble. The only point missing is the fact that other countries are once again ahead of the sclerotic UK. Leaving aside the well-known case of Switzerland, all three Benelux countries have legislated to allow, subject to appropriate safeguards, voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide for patients with an incurable illness that is causing them unbearable suffering.
Moreover, three US states (Oregon, Vermont and Washington) have legalised medically assisted suicide. These governments have recognised that the right to self-determination includes the right of the individual to decide the time and manner of his or her death. When will Britain follow their enlightened example and allow the same freedom to its citizens?
Nicholas Argyris
Forres, UK
• My mother-in-law, who lives in the Midlands, is certainly a good example of Ivan Illich’s theory that doctors may do more harm than good. Now in her 97th year, she has refused to see a doctor since she was 50. Not only that, she has taken no medicine, apart from one acetaminophen some years ago (which she quickly judged did more harm than good).
She undoubtedly has good genes and has been fortunate in avoiding the maladies that have afflicted her siblings, but that is not to say that she has not suffered from some others. We believe that she probably has osteoporosis, observing that she is now much shorter than she used to be. She has had various chest ailments that have, presumably, lasted longer that they would have had she taken antibiotics. She fell and, by her own judgment, probably broke some ribs, yet steadfastly refused to see a doctor, claiming that he would not be able to do anything anyway. Her big fear is that someone will take her to a doctor and that he or she will find something wrong with her, a fear that is undoubtedly justified.
In the meantime, she continues to live entirely independently, walking to the shops (with no aid), cleaning her house more thoroughly than most people, doing some gardening and competing the daily crossword without the aid of reading glasses. Long may she stay away from doctors!
Avril Taylor
Dundas, Ontario, Canada
• I heartily concur with most of Margaret Drabble’s comments on attitudes to the elderly and most of these comments apply equally to pensioners in New Zealand. Particularly one can’t help wondering whether those newspaper columnists and others who accuse us of being The Selfish Generation will decline to receive the pensions and bus passes – “the well-earned consolations of age” – when their turn comes. It inevitably will.
Kitty Monk
Auckland, New Zealand
Fracking ruins our home
Suzanne Goldenberg’s article on fracking (10 January) is welcome. Perhaps you will follow it with a semi-covert-ops journalistic safari into the wilds of the all-new American gold rush. Send some roughneck reporter to the bars frequented by the Joes and Josies in the field. How is it on the ground inside the perimeter fence on the driller’s payroll?
Fracking is to the average citizen of any modern civilisation as global opium production is to the junkies of this world. The primates of the Earth may be, well, primitive, but they are healthier animals by far with a much clearer view of the difference between the natural order in all its wondrous, terrible majesty and our relentless, grievous disturbance thereof.
The whaling magnates of yore and the fracking executives, board-members and so on of today are the same as ever: the same sorts who keep us sheep warm and direct-wired into their age-old system of rampant, ever-escalating desecration of the only place any of us has to live.
Jonathan Vanderels
Shaftsbury, Vermont, US
Vestiges of colonialism
It was bizarre to read that those celebrating the reinstatement of the law against same-sex relationships in India claim that such relations are a disease imported from the west, when the law in question (section 377 of the penal code) was imposed by the western colonial rulers of India a century and a half ago (20 December). The same “blame the west” nonsense is being perpetuated by the Ugandan government (3 January) in extending a colonial era law to oppress homosexuals, using the same colonialist rationale (“against the order of nature”).
My Indian and Ugandan homosexual friends are trapped in a dreadful catch-22, where even to speak out against these oppressive laws could render them liable to persecution and violence from the state, and from those who feel empowered by its bigotry. From the safety of living in an ex-colony that decriminalised homosexual relationships 28 years ago, I therefore feel impelled to point out that such laws are from a very bad bygone era of colonialism, when racial discrimination and persecution were also condoned by the state. The sooner they go the way of other discriminatory laws, the better it will be for India, Uganda and all other ex-colonies.
Christine Dann
Port Levy, New Zealand
Do not fire unless you’re sure
In Why the US drone programme is horrifying by Heather Linebaugh (3 January), she writes: “The video provided by a drone is far from clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a clear day.”
There is a simple solution to the problem: if you are not 100% sure whether the target is an armed terrorist, don’t fire. Stationed far away from the combat zone, UAV troops enjoy the luxury of time and energy to study the pictures of their targets for extended periods: they should not push the button unless they are fully satisfied that their targets are armed insurgents and not women and children.
Since the aerial bombardment introduced by the German Zeppelin attack on London in the first world war, civilian casualties have become an inevitable part of modern warfare. Only drones provide an opportunity to avoid such civilian casualties.
UAV troops should be advised only to fire when they are sure about their targets. As they don’t face any danger faced by pilots of bombers, UAV operators can take time to ensure that they are not attacking any civilian targets. In fact, drones can be used effectively against armed groups if proper steps are taken to avert civilian casualties.
Mahmood Elahi
Ottawa, Canada
• Regarding your article In praise of … crystallography (10 January): the real discoverer of DNA was Rosalind Franklin and it was done in the rather primitive x-ray laboratory at King’s College London. I was studying crystallography in King’s geology department and used to visit Rosalind with my samples for analysis, but she wouldn’t let me stay long because of leakage of x-rays. This Englishwoman told me she was working out the structure of this new material sent to her from a New Zealander and an American at Cambridge, but died soon after from radiation poisoning. I think the Guardian should also remember this most important scientist.
Tony Taylor
Manly, NSW, Australia
• I always look forward to Oliver Burkeman’s column, but to hear that laziness is not one’s own fault was music to my ears (3 January). But I would go further: laziness is not a fault at all. We lazy people are the only ones with the time to savour, to contemplate, to ponder over and to reflect upon the hard work of others. For that alone, surely we are worth our own weight in couch potato.
Moreover, think of the resources we are not using up, the environment we are not polluting, the money we are leaving others to make, the competitions we are letting others win. Where would the rest of you be without us?
If Burkeman does set up a campaign for the rights of the lazy, I dare say I would lift a finger to press “like”.
Julie Telford
St Louis, France
• The celebrities whom we admire for their remarkable ability to remain young and fit (10 January) do not tell us about the time and money they spend to hire the best trainers, cosmeticians and surgeons; that such expensive image maintenance is a thankless and endlessly time-consuming pursuit leading to mixed results; and finally, and most discouragingly, that it is subject to relentless public scrutiny and criticism – in short, plain hard work.
Richard Orlando
Westmount, Quebec, Canada


What a Lib Dem own goal! Molehills and mountains, storms and teacups come to mind. My more than 40 years of a career in a mainly male environment taught me that:
a) There always are and always will be unpleasant, arrogant or inadequate men who will “try it on”. (We’re not talking about illegal offences here.)
b) The problem is invariably solved by a slap on the wrist of the offending hand, a shoe heel brought smartly down on the male foot, or a sweetly but loudly voiced, “Please keep your hands to yourself.”
If these delicate women lack self-reliance they should stop whingeing, gather up their smelling salts and retire to their ladies’ boudoirs. If their life skills are so weak then these sensitive flowers have no place in politics or business; they only impede the advance of genuinely capable women. Not to mention the harm they do to their party.
This country has big issues to face. This pantomime is not one of them. Weakness, embarrassment and time-wasting all round, Lib Dems.
Barbara Sanders, London SW20
Either we have the rule of law in this country or we don’t. If we do, then we are going to have to start taking the presumption of innocence a lot more seriously than is currently the case in relation to Lord Rennard.
The overwhelming majority of press comment, including Joan Smith’s comment piece (21 January), has been based on the assumption that the allegations against Lord Rennard are true. I don’t know if they are, but then neither does she. What I do know is that the case was looked into over a long period of time by the Metropolitan Police, who concluded that there was insufficient evidence to proceed, and that that was also the conclusion of the independent inquiry into the matter, carried out by Alistair Webster QC, which put the likelihood of success in court at below 50 per cent. Had the case gone to court it would seem that both the police and the inquiry would expect Lord Rennard to be acquitted.
The only regimes which have allowed suspicion or unproven allegation to be the basis for condemning the accused have been dictatorships and tyrannies. The secrecy and lack of due process which has characterised the Liberal Democrats’ handling of the case may invite uncomfortable comparisons with such oppressive regimes, but I would have hoped that an independently minded newspaper would have had more respect for the rights of the accused.
Sean Lang, Sawston, Cambridgeshire
How to defuse the current emotions threatening the Lib Dems? The matter has been brought into the open and aired publicly. The Lib Dem rules need reviewing and tightening. The women involved seemed to have some catharsis. Lord Reynard remains adamantly opined that he did nothing wrong. Yet he is denied the key report requiring him to apologise. As Lord Carlile, his legal adviser, said, this is contrary to natural justice. Of course this is unfair and unreasonable. He must see what is being said of him.
Maybe it is time for quiet reflection or some long walks alone. The Lib Dem opposition in the Lords has been the only real bulwark to the worst excesses of right-wing Toryism. Allowing this festering boil to further damage the Lib Dems is pointless and dangerous.
Justice has been done as far as it can be; attentions are better focused now on the Tories’ naked politics to win power in 2015 with such cheap point-scoring as a £7 minimum wage while reducing higher rate tax from 50p to 45p – which gives £100,000 earners a mere £3,000 or so for doing nothing.
End of story? I hope so.
Keith W D Jago, Brighton
Thatcher house and Tory values
The revelation that Baroness Thatcher’s home in Chester Square, London, will be placed on the open market (“Yours for £12m”, 18 January) alluded to the claim that the property was owned by an offshore trust registered in the British Virgin Islands, thus avoiding inheritance tax. Surely this is not the same “blessed Margaret” who preached Victorian values, saying that the Victorian era was the era of “selflessness and benefaction”.
How is it that someone who may have deliberately avoided paying money into the state coffers should be rewarded with a title, a pension and a state funeral? No wonder that there are feelings of disaffection and incredulity among many hard-working and hard-taxed sections of the public.
It is about time that the Government made attempts to improve social cohesion by introducing measures to prevent tax avoidance, to complement the measures being taken to lower the benefit budget.
Dr David Bartlett , Ilkley, West Yorkshire
Is anybody surprised to read that Margaret Thatcher’s house in Chester Square “being registered in the British Virgin Islands, was effectively outside the will” and she “may have legally avoided millions in inheritance tax by keeping a chunk of her fortune off-shore”?
It emphasises that “We are all in it together” is no more than a cynical rendering of her saying that “there is no such thing as society”. It remains a grab-what-you-can society and, I suspect, it always will be under the Tories.
Charles Bidwell, Oxford
No scope for today’s working-class heroes
It’s not just “vanishing acting opportunities” that Stephen McGann should be highlighting (“Estate kids like me aren’t getting chances, says actor”, 21 January). Class divisions are ever greater and the odds are stacked against a child becoming successful in any career without the background of privilege.
People with a private education make up the majority of the Commons front benches, clog up the music charts and run corporations. Decades ago, it did seem possible that talent and hard work led to fame and fortune.
Have the working classes lost all aspiration to follow their dreams or is it that the old school tie network is now a necessity for success? We need more working-class heroes.
Angela Elliott, Hundleby, Lincolnshire
Whether compulsory or not, it does make sense for job seekers to have to study basic skills in maths and English if they don’t already have the appropriate certificates. But with no new jobs being created and graduates unable to get work, let no one think that what the Labour spokeswoman is saying will have a positive effect in getting people back into employment.
Tim Mickleburgh, Grimsby
When you really need a lawyer
H Trevor Jones (letter, 13 January) asks why we still need legal aid when we have independent judges and randomly selected juries. There are several reasons.
First, article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires that a person accused of a crime be given access to legal representation.
Second, without legal training a person will not be able to subpoena witnesses, question witnesses, or know which questions or evidence is not admissible. Thus “simply tell their own story truthfully” isn’t enough to ensure that an innocent person will be found innocent, especially when a witness is falsely testifying against them or the police are trying to frame them.
Third, it has been demonstrated in the USA that if people get poor legal representation they are substantially more likely to be imprisoned, even if they’re innocent. After being exonerated they will be eligible for a substantial amount of compensation. Failing to give people proper legal representation has a great financial and human cost.
Thomas Wiggins, Wokingham, Berkshire
Bumps and scrapes of childhood
A very moving letter (21 January) from Stephen Crake in Beijing. Of course there are dangers in allowing children to play in the street or even in the fields and woods. I remember childhood playfellows suffering broken bones and proudly showing off black eyes.
But I am sure they, and I, would have preferred this to being confined to the house all day long. Bring back the skipping ropes, the cookers, even the whips and tops, allow children to climb trees, and let them take some risks.
Bill Fletcher, Cirencester, Gloucestershire
Well-watered garden
If Eric Pickles and the Conservatives are planning to site one of their “garden cities” at Yalding, Kent (news, 20 January) it is likely to contain an extremely big water feature.
Shane Malhotra, Maidstone, Kent
No way off the grid
Seems churlish to rain on Bob Gilmurray’s freedom parade (letter, 21 January) but there is no escape. On his travels he has appeared on probably hundreds of CCTV cameras.
Trevor Beaumont , Huddersfield, West Yorkshire


Sir, This disclosure of abuse in schools is welcome, for boarding schools are very “closed worlds” and children as young as 7 are still being sent into the care of strangers solely because it is “the done thing”. Abusers can find it easy to groom children who are very lonely and vulnerable as they move into the strange life of an institution.
Paedophiles often blame the children. Of course they can be condemned whatever their age, as all abusers have always known the damage they cause. This is why they work in a dark world of secrecy, lies or threats to silence their victims.
Andrew Norfolk (report, Jan 20) is absolutely right in saying that no one can be confident that abuse does not exist today. Two things would help reduce the risk.
Firstly, schools need to be truly open and honest about the nature of abuse instead of repeating that it is a thing of the past and all boarding is now safe. It is not, and some in authority collude in the abuse as they silently let known paedophile teachers move to other schools without telling the police.
Secondly, the government has to take this issue seriously. There is no such thing as “mild paedophilia”. Urgent action is needed to change the law, making it mandatory to report all abuse.
Margaret Laughton
Boarding Concern
Sir, Your report on child abuse raises important issues, and no one involved in education would wish to ignore, still less condone past incidents. However, it does seem spiteful to put on an interactive map schools where teachers were acquitted, or where no case was found to answer. A zealous attitude of “no smoke without fire” risks undermining trust in such reports. Not all those accused of a crime are guilty.
Chris Ramsey
Headmaster, The King’s School
Sir, You imply that schools are to blame if the abuse does not lead to prosecution for many years. I’ve twice taught in schools where such a case occurred. In both the school acted promptly when the abuse came to light. In neither was there enough evidence for prosecution though both tried to have the perpetrator included on the sex offenders list. One attempt failed for want of evidence, though the headmaster took the risk, when later he learned that the man was applying at another school, of warning its head. Schools are natural targets for paedophiles, boarding schools offer more opportunities and victims often can’t speak about the abuse for years. For most of your 130 you list only one offender. In how many of those cases do the victims blame the school?
Tom McIntyre
Frome, Somerset
Sir, All criminal acts within schools are deplorable. Modern communications do indeed render children less vulnerable to such abuse (letter, Jan 21). Far more significantly, however, extensive legal, regulatory and educational safeguards are now required, including rigorous inspection.
The events of the past cannot, alas, be undone. But the concerns and actions of the present will continue to ensure ever safer and more rewarding educational experiences in the UK schools of the future.
Dr Tim Hands
Chairman, Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference

oluntary organisations to speak out, on behalf of millions of supporters, on causes that matter to the British public is at risk.
The Lobbying Bill was intended to restrict the use of “big money” in our politics. Instead it is going to restrict the activities of campaigning and voluntary organisations that have never been a threat to democracy. In fact, organisations like our own play an essential part in public debate — without us, would we have seen civil partnerships, child labour laws or the recent restrictions on smoking?
Peers have done their best to reduce the impact of this misguided legislation by removing the need to count the cost of charity and campaigning groups’ staff as election-related expenditure. Today we need MPs to preserve the changes made in the Upper House. If MPs reverse these changes, it will not only be the voluntary sector that suffers, but public debate and society as a whole.
Rose Caldwell
Concern Worldwide UK
Simon Gillespie
British Heart Foundation
Jana Osborne
National Federation Women’s Institutes
Joan Edwards
The Wildlife Trusts
Sir Barney White-Spunner
Countryside Alliance
Joe Duckworth
League Against Cruel Sports
Mark Goldring
Mark Lister
Andy Atkins
Friends of the Earth

Sir, Shirley Thurston (letter, Jan 20) is correct in that there is a connection between cherry juice and gout, but she could save herself a lot of money. The NHS guidelines on gout point out that taking vitamin C can reduce the risk of gout. I take 1g a day and have not had an attack for 18 months. My GP pooh-poohed the very idea.
Dr Philip Pugh
Chandler’s Ford, Hants

Sir, Your report (Jan 20) that the British are no longer the “happy breed” we once were but are now only “rather happy” and less cheerful than others worldwide. And small wonder; I find it increasingly depressing that so many of our great institutions are lately under critical scrutiny. I am thinking particularly of the BBC, the NHS, the Police Federation, the high street banks, and the House of Lords. When will we once again become “this scepter’d isle” full of cheerful people?
B. Jackson
Harrow, Middx


SIR – I agree with Paul Newton (Letters, January 20) that small shops that make the effort deserve our custom, even if a chain store or the web offers the cheapest option.
When I took my old watch to that rarest of things, a watch-repairers, in central London, the man at his bench opened it up and took a good look with his glass.
After a few deft movements, he closed it and handed it back to me, saying: “It was some dust that was making it go fast.” When I asked how much I owed him, he said: “No charge.” I felt like dropping some money through his letter box after closing time.
After all, if reliable independent traders don’t earn our support, they’ll eventually have to shut up shop.
Fiona Johnson
Mitcham, Surrey

SIR – Jesse Norman, the Conservative MP, rightly raises the importance of funding arts and culture outside London. But the proportion of Arts Council money spent outside London has not been “falling for decades” – rather, the reverse is true.
His own party introduced the National Lottery 20 years ago. This transformed the funding of regional arts, and greatly increased overall investment. Sixty per cent of Lottery funding through the Arts Council has been spent outside London since 1992, but in the last three years that has risen above 70 per cent. The trend is clear.
The Arts Council only accounts for a small part of funding since the bulk is committed directly by the Government to the national museums, or by local authorities around the country. Having said that, this is a necessary debate to have. Arts and cultural organisations outside London face two disadvantages: the historic difficulty of fundraising beyond the capital, and ongoing reductions in local authority arts budgets.
So, although the Arts Council only accounts for an element of arts funding, we will work, with our partners, to help ensure a healthy cultural life for all of England.
Sir Peter Bazalgette
Chairman, Arts Council England
London SW1
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Talk about welfare
SIR – David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, have a brilliant idea to force integration of welfare recipients by abolishing interpreters and foreign language pamphlets in welfare offices. But how will this ever work?
How about introducing a free national educational programme? It could involve English volunteers, who would not need much training. This could blow some fresh air into foreign-speaking communities and encourage residents to become English-speaking Britons.
Dr Christopher Everett
Alton, Hampshire
The ones that got away
SIR – I simply do not have enough old girlfriends to cope with the amount of passwords I now use, so I wonder if I could use the nicknames of those that I wish had been my girlfriends?
That would be more than sufficient.
Robert Miller
Cromer, Norfolk
Reverse running risks
SIR – Reverse running is indeed dangerous (Letters, January 17).
At 15, I was Leicestershire’s county champion runner, and had the chance of winning the junior Victor Ludorum trophy at my school’s sports day. My main competitor was a superb athlete, and, in a silly moment of bravado, I boasted that I could run faster backwards than he could forwards. I set off reverse running so quickly I did not notice the cricket sight screen behind me. I hit this with such force that I spiralled through the slats, and lay stunned, bruised and covered in horrendous splinters. A trip to the hospital ensued, and I missed the sports day.
My rival duly won the trophy.
David Fisher
SIR – As cadets in the Forties, we did backwards running as part of our training programme. It is an excellent exercise, but I had to give it up some time ago.
Christopher Cox
Warnham, West Sussex
Minimum wage rise
SIR – George Osborne’s plans to raise the minimum wage are questionable. I left school with average GCSEs, and got my first job, part-time in a clothes shop, at £2.70 an hour. This proved a strong enough motivation for me to do better. After 15 years my hourly rate stood at £21.55, a 698 per cent increase, at an average of 46 per cent a year. Even then, £2.70 wasn’t much. Overtime was vital and helped me learn skills. Now I find myself interviewing applicants for weekend jobs, but cannot give them the overtime I used to get.
There are two big effects of the national minimum wage on fashion retail. First, since a pound buys fewer hours of work, there are fewer staff to serve customers. This can be partly offset, if managers increase productivity and each employee’s skills. But in retail it’s more about the number of staff available to serve the customers and replenish the missing sizes on the sales floor.
Secondly, there is less encouragement for employees to progress. Take someone who started in October 2008 on £5.73 an hour, who performed well and gained supervisory experience. His performance-linked pay might have risen by 1 or 2 per cent a year, and he might now earn just over the current minimum wage of £6.31. Yet if that person had done no more than the basics, he would still receive the minimum wage now.
With the minimum wage, how can a business employ the number of heads it needs in order to operate? Where is the motivation for employees to progress?
John Rowland
Chorley, Lancashire
Natural shampoo
SIR – It’s not just dogs that possess a self-cleaning ability. When left to its own devices, human hair cleanses itself without the need for shampoo.
Hugh Beynon
Penybanc, Carmarthenshire
Egging them on
SIR – A simple explanation for the lower rate of egg-laying on a Sunday recorded by James Lonsdale’s friends is that their chickens are not released from the henhouse as early that day.
Less light equals fewer eggs. If I need eggs from my brace of magnificent old girls, I have to get up with the lark to give them their breakfast of porridge and sweetcorn.
Nicola Beresford
Marnhull, Dorset
NHS data sharing will exclude the patient
SIR – Last week’s letter from the health foundations omitted the fact that the one key person who is not permitted access to view their own NHS data online is the patient. I have opted out of the Summary Care Record and Connecting Care Record schemes until this somewhat major omission is corrected.
Dave Winter
Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire
SIR – On the face of it, sharing NHS data is a good idea. But if a patient doesn’t want their information to be available to outside organisations they have to opt out at their surgery, thus taking up more GPs’ time with paperwork.
I have no objections to my data being used for research and have in the past given my permission for such use. But I strongly object to my records being available without my consent, and possibly for a fee. Each individual’s NHS number will be visible, meaning they can ultimately be identified. It will not be long before someone outside the NHS works out how to match NHS numbers to individuals.
We still do not have a secure, integrated NHS system whereby records can be accessed by all relevant NHS staff. This should be a priority.
Grizelda Hargreaves
Market Bosworth, Leicestershire
SIR – Sadly, GP records have been hopelessly corrupted due to the reckless stupidity of the last government, not least in allowing all and sundry to add data.
I am a retired GP, but my former practice has identified more than 800 errors entered by Child Health, after discovering children weighing several tons and boys who had apparently had caesarean sections. Unfortunately, most of the bogus information is not so easily found. Furthermore, GPs cannot remove data inserted by others, even when it is clearly false.
Dr P R Outen
Brentwood, Essex

SIR – Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, is concerned that two fifths of teachers drop out of the profession within five years.
I once asked an Ofsted inspector if she thought she might strike terror into the hearts of the teachers she inspected. Her reply: “They have nothing to fear as long as the paperwork is in place.” There was little regard for what makes a good teacher – the ability to enthuse and impart knowledge to pupils, combined with a love of the subject.
Kate Forrester
Great Malvern, Worcestershire
SIR – Our granddaughters both love and respect their teachers. And our daughter, a teacher, recently had her lesson described as “fantastic” by an Ofsted inspector. So the teacher training system is not completely broken. But perhaps it is time for Ofsted to learn how to motivate, instead of generally criticising its workforce.
Related Articles
Funding art in the provinces
21 Jan 2014
William Wade
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
SIR – Nowadays, it is common for children starting school to be unable to speak, understand the simplest of instructions, exercise self-control or manage their own hygiene. Their first years of school are wasted in learning social skills and behavioural norms that should have been acquired at home. Actual applied learning gets pushed out of reach for many children. Even the most dedicated teachers become dispirited when large parts of their days are spent teaching these basic things instead of their subjects. No wonder so many quit to find a more satisfying job.
Schools are always blamed for poor standards. Yet, over a year, school takes up a fairly small percentage of a child’s time. The environment with the most influence on a child’s development is the home.
Cherry Crawford
Hadleigh, Suffolk
SIR – Your leading article raises an important question: why are so many teachers dropping out?
There is a great deal of support for teachers in the first year of training, but it significantly reduces as soon as they qualify. This disparity is undoubtedly a central factor. Our teacher support line is inundated with calls from teachers in the middle of their training who feel they were ill informed about the reality of the classroom. Many feel they lack the support when they need it most.
To retain the best and most promising new teachers, Ofsted must ensure that teachers are supported for the duration of their career.
Julian Stanley
Chief Executive, Teacher Support Network
London N5
SIR – If licensing teachers is a good idea to raise educational standards (report, January 11), why don’t we license MPs, police, civil servants, bankers and so on to raise their sometimes woeful standards?
Brian Farmer
Chelmsford, Essex

Irish Times:

Sir, – What exactly is the public to make of the widespread reporting of the visit of a private citizen to a prisoner in Limerick jail (Home News, January 21st)?
The fact Sabina Higgins is wife of the President does not make her private visit to a friend a matter of public interest or concern. She is not a public office holder.
By reporting this matter so widely, including on the 9pm television news, the media runs the risk of blurring the clear lines between the President and the judiciary.
If this had not been a private visit the public could interpret it as being a commentary on the trial and sentencing of Ms Higgins’s friend.
The media should speedily clarify. – Yours, etc,
Dublin 18.
Sir, – How fitting that Ireland’s first lady, Sabina Higgins, chose to visit Margaretta D’Arcy in a show of solidarity with this wonderful woman of courage, conviction and conscience.
In its latest statistics, Shannon Airport proudly announced an increased 1.4 million passengers transiting last year, but one wonders just how many of them were in fact US soldiers on their way to or from war?
We need to wake up and reclaim Shannon Airport as the civilian airport it claims to be.
Shannon belongs to us, not the US. – Yours, etc,
Co Limerick.
Sir, – I am rather perplexed at the decision of Sabina Higgins to visit jailed protester Margaretta D’Arcy in prison.
What sort of message does this send out – especially given that I have not read of the first lady visiting other prisoners?
While no one likes to see a person of any age in prison, it might be no harm to look at the facts. Ms D’Arcy was convicted before the properly constituted courts of this land for intrusion at Shannon Airport, she received a suspended sentence for so doing, but has refused to enter into a bond giving effect to the suspended sentence. She has therefore, her release in her own hands.
While I am sure there are mechanisms on humanitarian grounds for releasing a person detained, those salient facts must not be lost sight of. We have separation of powers here, and the advocates of such separation are often the first to shout when such an independent body makes a ruling not of their liking and call on politicians to intervene.
The courts here are still thankfully one of our few institutions still untainted, and if we do not respect their decisions and independence, then we have nowhere left to turn. – Yours, etc,
Co Mayo.
Sir, – I do not understand why the President did not accompany his wife on her visit to Margaretta D’Arcy – was he not a supporter of her cause in 2003? Perhaps he was otherwise engaged.
I accept that Ms D’Arcy has broken the law and is therefore entitled to be committed to jail. What I cannot understand is how a woman of 79 years, seriously ill with cancer, can jump an almost endless queue of people who have broken the law and should be in jail – but are not and never will be. – Yours, etc,
Co Monaghan.
Sir, – We in the Irish Workers Group would like to add our voice to those calling for the unconditional release of Margeratta D’Arcy from Limerick prison. This demand will not be easily conceded as it challenges the courts.
We need a mass struggle centred in the trade unions and the USI to win it.
To this end, we must begin a mass struggle of civil disobedience for Ms D’Arcy’s release, and the unconditional dropping of all charges against her.
The Galway Alliance Against War and the local Shannon Watch groups should set the ball rolling. – Yours, etc,
Monivea Road,
Sir, – Margaretta D’Arcy was sentenced by an Irish court to three months in Limerick prison for refusing to renounce in writing her political protest at the administratively condoned use of Shannon Airport for foreign military and extra-judicial operations.
The use of the Irish prison system to extract a written self-denunciation from an elderly artist who has devoted many decades to the promotion of human rights and the practice of principled dissidence, however unpopular the cause or uncomfortable the truth, is a national scandal. Had it been perpetrated in another jurisdiction, it would have been denounced for the grotesque misuse of power that it is. Ireland’s standing in the world has, in the past, been based on the ability to speak the truth on oppression and injustice to more powerful actors.
The State’s treatment of Margaretta D’Arcy suggests that this standing is now just another casualty of war. – Yours, etc,
Ralahine Centre for Utopian
University of Limerick,
Co Limerick.
Sir, – It’s sad to report, but I’m not at all surprised by the jailing of a 79-year-old artist and anti-war activist. In a State that has completely lost its moral core it’s almost inevitable that those who tenaciously pursue their principles and speaks out against the hypocrisy of power will find themselves silenced.
If Ireland is to find its way out of the present morass it will need more citizens like Margaretta D’Arcy, armed like her with a strong moral compass, and not the self-serving crew who currently helm this sorry ship of State. – Yours, etc,
Arbour Hill, Dublin 7.

Sir, – Yesterday (Tuesday), demolition of a building of great significance in the human, medical and architectural history of Ireland commenced.
Ffrench-Mullen House (1944) on Charlemont Street was an offshoot of St Ultan’s, the hospital for children under two years old, the first of its kind in these islands, which was founded by Dr Kathleen Lynn with her lifelong friend and co-worker, Madeleine ffrench-Mullen. Kathleen Lynn, doctor, feminist, revolutionary, public representative and community benefactor, commissioned Michael Scott, now considered the most important Irish architect of the 20th century, to design this small block of flats/apartments and the design, which had survived remarkably intact, was worthy of being highlighted in an episode of Poirot!
Dr Kathleen Lynn, Madeleine ffrench-Mullen, Michael Scott and the extensive group around them deserve celebration and gratitude for their contribution to the human and artistic history of this country. Instead this monument to them is being removed.
It is difficult to understand why we lack European-style city designers who are able to integrate older buildings into their plans rather than demolishing them.
By Thursday one building with something of the Bauhaus, of medical and social innovation and reminders that good things were done in bad times will be gone. – Yours, etc,
Emorville Avenue,
Dublin 8.

Sir, – So Angela Kerins, chief executive of Rehab, doesn’t want to disclose her salary because 60 per cent of its activities are “in the commercial arena” and only 40 per cent of Rehab is funded from public funds and fundraising (John McManus, Business, January 20th). Fine, so let her tell us what 40 per cent of her package is and we’ll work out the rest for ourselves. – Yours, etc,
Herbert Lane,
Dublin 2.

Sir, – Your newspaper reports Rev Ian Paisley’s reaction to news of Tony Blair’s imminent conversion to Catholicism was to call him a “fool” (Front Page, January 20th).
Presumably Rev Paisley has read the Bible. In light of his admonishing of the former British prime minister, he might reflect on the Gospel of Matthew 5:22, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca’, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” – Yours, etc,
Windgates House,

Sir, – Having worked in the Academy system in the UK, I have experienced teacher-assessment first hand. In spite of claims to a holistic or student-centred approach, teachers and students were presented and assessed in terms of results. Consequently the pressure on teachers to attain results led to “pro-active” marking.
I now teach in Ireland and find that the Junior and Leaving Certificates, while cumbersome and costly, do provide transparency, accountability and, above all, equality. Both exams, however, dominate teaching and learning in Irish schools. They restrict more innovative teaching and limit learning outside of curriculums that one can pick and choose from in order to maximise points.
Some of proposed changes are to be welcomed. We need to move to a formative form of assessment that would maintain the virtues of our current system. A formal approach to continual assessment is a positive move. Nevertheless, that teachers would assess their own students would impinge upon the integrity of any such assessment.
That those who seek to implement the Junior Cycle Student Award do not seem to understand the consequences that such an approach to assessment would have is worrying for all concerned. – Is mise,
The Ridgeway,

Sir, – This inaugural symposium at the Abbey Theatre (Home News, January 18th) addressed the role of theatre in evoking memory where it is associated with individual or collective trauma. The context was the upcoming commemorations of the 1914 war, 1916 Rising, etc. From the opening scintillating speech by President Michael D Higgins to a host of outstanding talks and interviews, it was, first to last, a seminal event.
The President was followed by Mannix Flynn, who immediately attacked the self-indulgence of cultural elite prematurely turning the testimonies contained in the Ryan Report into “a night out” . This reality check and a thoughtful presentation by Carl O’Brien on how a new group of people, immigrants, are being traumatised today, hidden away as they are in camps for years as our Kafkaesque judiciary recycles their applications for asylum, brutally closed off any propensity toward sepia-tinted centenary remembrances.
One would hope that The Irish Times will do justice to the event with a proper of series of analyses. Joyce was invoked for his discussion of catharsis in Greek tragedy in Portrait of the Artist, but it is notable that we tend to prefer to concentrate on the pity aspect with its empathy, ignoring its twin, the terror aspect, which also needs to be faced if the cause of trauma is to be fully apprehended and healed. In so doing we militate against gestating another cycle of harm when awakening old, or in rendering recent, trauma. – Yours, etc,
Milesian Avenue,

Sir, – I see from your Stories from the Rising supplement (January 17th) that the patriots of 1916-1923 were just as preoccupied with their pensions as today’s politicians and charity bosses. – Yours, etc,
George’s Street,
Dún Laoghaire,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – I must take exception, in the otherwise excellent coverage in The Irish Times of the release of the Military Service Pension Records, to the claims that a document contained in the Pension Records archive is the “only eyewitness account” of the burial of the leaders of the Easter Rising (Ronan McGreevy, Home News, January 18th).
A letter written in 1932 in which a civil servant received information over a decade earlier from an unidentified sergeant major who claims to have been on duty when the graves were prepared can hardly be classified “an eyewitness account”.
The Letters of 1916 project, on the other hand, does indeed have an eyewitness account, written by an Irish soldier serving in the British army, who was on duty in Arbour Hill when the leaders were executed. He was one of a small number of soldiers assigned to bury the bodies.
The letter, written by Private Herbert Shekleton (originally from Kingscourt) who was serving with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, to his mother on May 5th, 1916 begins: “It seems as if I had a terrible nightmare so terrible & strange things I have been through since I wrote you before Easter”. Private Shekleton met his own untimely death the following year in Arras.
This letter, along with hundreds of others, are available at for transcribing. The project is gathering letters related to Ireland written between November 1915 and October 1916. This wholly new archive, which has been generously funded by the Department of Arts, Culture, and the Gaeltacht and Trinity College Dublin, will change our understanding of this critical period in Irish history through the unmediated voices of the people who lived through it. – Yours, etc,
PhD, Trinity Long Room
Hub, Ass Prof in Digital
School of English,
Trinity College Dublin,
Dublin 2.
Sir, – The publication of the Military Service Pensions Collection is to be welcomed (Home News, January 17th). Perhaps that great mystery of Irish history can now be resolved: who was actually in the GPO in 1916. – Yours, etc,
Delwood Grove,
Dublin 15.

Sir, – In light of reports that the Government is about to re-open the Irish Embassy to the Vatican (Breaking News, January 21st), can we now expect on grounds of fairness to all our new citizens that embassies will be established in other holy cities? Surely our Muslim population can expect the same facilities in Mecca, Sikhs in Amritsar, Latterday Saints in Salt Lake City, etc? The principle is the same. – Yours, etc,
Co Cavan.

Sir, – It is a funny world, with Louise Phelan of PayPal, calling for deeper Government spending cuts in order to pay for tax cuts for higher paid workers (Business + Your Money, January 21st).
Was it not the higher paid executives who brought Ireland to its knees? Now it is the mostly lower paid workers who are paying for their unbridled greed.
The “plutocrats [are] on the attack” (Paul Krugman, Business, January 1st), blaming the lesser paid for higher taxes. The basic question should be asked: do these people deserve to be paid so well? As Krugman writes, we have “the myth of the deserving rich” versus the undeserving lower paid. – Yours, etc,
Hanover Square, Dublin 8.

Sir, – Where on earth did the phrase “happy out” come from? Please, no more.
– Yours, etc,
Howth Road,
Raheny, Dublin 5.
Sir, – If I see, hear or read, once more, the phrase “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys” used to justify the existence of yet another stupid, arrogant, wasteful, incompetent fool, who passes for a public-body CEO, politician or senior civil servant, I will put my fist through the television, radio or newspaper that has spewed it out. – Yours, etc,
Crumlin Road, Dublin 12.
Sir, – “They scored at just the right time”! Is there a wrong time? – Yours, etc,
Howth Road, Dublin 5.
Sir, – I don’t believe the dogs in the street know all that much. – Yours, etc,
Clancys Strand, Limerick.
Sir, – “The real economy.” – Yours, etc,
Mount Argus Court,
Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W.
Sir, – “Is there no end in sight?” “Oh please.” – Yours, etc,
Lucan Road,
Chapelizod, Dublin 20.

Irish Independent:

Like everything else in this country, the people controlling the Central Remedial Clinic were allowed free rein – their salaries tied to the runaway public service pay – without any monitoring or accountability by successive administrations.
Also in this section
Letters to the Editor
We deserve much better governance than this
Cheap drink comes at a cost
After all, these people, with their sense of entitlement, probably thought what’s good enough for their political masters was good enough for them – all feeding at the trough of public funds. No wonder the country is in such a state of shambles.
There is more of the same to come, I feel, but it will take the Public Accounts Committee time to uncover some of the other unsavoury aspects of many organisations.
Vulnerable people have been exploited. Remember what Kieran Mulvey, the head of the Labour Relations Commission, said last year about sheltered workshops where people were on endless training receiving a minimum allowance and the money going who knows where?
Once again no accountability – a word these people do not apparently understand.
The same thing comes up over and over again, yet no lessons are learned. One would think lessons would have been learned after the FAS fiasco; a state body that ran amok with taxpayers’ money.
We have the HSE, still top-heavy with management but short on clinical staff to provide services to people with disabilities. Why is this still happening? Why is it more important to have layers of management than physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists etc?
Power without responsibility and accountability is totally unacceptable, particularly when public money is involved.
How did we get to the point in this country where salaries and pensions of CEOs and managers, paid out of public funds, are deemed more important than the needs of those they purport to represent or provide services for?
* Why are we being preached to about the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC)?
Ever since the revelations that donated money was being used for top-line bonuses at the CRC, there have been many commentators preaching about the good work done by its frontline services.
We also heard of the diminished funds raised at Christmas for the clinic and, as sad as it is for the frontline providers, we don’t need a lecture about the need for donations.
The fact that the services have to do without is not our fault, and potential donators refraining from doing so is perfectly understandable.
If you heard that such payments were being made to high-end officials in a foreign nation we were sending aid to, the country would be in uproar to get the Government to withhold funding. And wouldn’t that be a fair assessment by the Irish people?
We are all aware of the hard work being done by charity providers, but when our money goes to the payment of a CEO we are all entitled to hold on to it and shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about it. When the money goes solely to the frontline, we will all donate to the frontline.
* Irish Independent columnist Ian O’Doherty is adamant that paranormal phenomena don’t exist, that there is no life after death, and that all mediums are either frauds or deluded.
He has written several pieces in which he expresses an intense dislike of religious belief or belief in paranormal activity of any kind.
He is entitled to his opinion. I agree with him, up to a point, about mediums who seek to “prey upon the vulnerable”. I also have no time for those “phone a psychic” services that are so blatantly open to abuse.
But I cannot agree that all mediums are frauds or suffering from delusion, any more than I would state that all accountants, solicitors, doctors and plumbers are chancers or not what they claim to be.
Throughout history there have been outstanding mediums whose credibility was rock solid. People like Leonora Piper, the 19th Century US woman whose abilities were exhaustively tested by scientists and never discredited; the Englishman Leslie Flint, who became one of the “most tested” mediums of all time, allowing himself to be studied in “laboratory-like” conditions and still demonstrated his prowess in communicating with the “other world”.
Near-death experiences are worthy of consideration, too – especially the ones where the patients describe “leaving their bodies” and can describe parts of the hospital they have not seen, or those in which the brain was declared “dead” during the experience.
The universe is a very big place and quantum physics is finding out all sorts of new interesting things about it every day that defy previous notions and theories about what’s really out there. There’s a lot of dark matter in space that we know next to nothing about.
I don’t expect Mr O’Doherty to abandon his position on religion and the paranormal, but he might at least keep his mind open to the possibility that there may be something awaiting us after death besides a hole in the ground.
Isn’t it marvellous? Senior Fine Gael strategists reckon John O’Mahony would make a better candidate for MEP than Jim Higgins.
Fair enough, but wait a minute, isn’t Mr O’Mahony a TD? As recently as 2011 didn’t he ask the voters to give him a five-year contract to represent them in Dail Eireann? So why should they now facilitate him in walking out on that contract just to suit himself or his party?
Obviously, they shouldn’t but, with breathtaking arrogance, Fine Gael mentors assume they would. Why? Because they always have in the past. Enough! Time to call a halt to this game of musical chairs played by political parties with our seats! Time to make it clear that, irrespective of party loyalties, we will not vote for sitting members of the Oireachtas as MEPs or vice versa.
With regard to Daragh Mangan’s letter ‘Charities in witch-hunt’ (Irish Independent, January 20), neither my letter (January 18) nor any letter for that matter in your paper, referred to wages earned by staff working in the charity sector.
These wonderful people should demand and deserve their “respectable wage”. But please don’t tell me that the various CEOs of these charities can justify earning €2,000 a week? A respectable wage? I think not.
Brendan O’Carroll’s account of his mother buying a fridge and later discovering it had to be plugged in (innocent days some of us can indeed remember!) reminded me of the man who brought a chainsaw back to the hardware shop.
His complaint was that it took him half a day to cut down a small tree in his back garden. The counter assistant, in order to check the saw, started it up . . . “My God what’s that dreadful noise?” exclaimed the customer.


January 21, 2014

21 January 2014 Windows


I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Heather has broken off her engagement to Leslie and started one with Pertwee. Priceless.


Peter Rice arrives to put in upstairs windows, order Thermabloc Amelia turns up to pick up cd holders, and Book Green deal the KWh


Scrabbletoday Mary winsand gets over400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.






Chuck Smith, who has died aged 86, was a Christian fundamentalist pastor whose appeal to disillusioned hippies of the Haight Ashbury era fuelled the rise of the “Jesus movement” of the 1970s and inspired the introduction of religious worship into pop culture.


When Smith became pastor of the tiny non-denominational Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, Orange County, California, in 1965, his congregation numbered about 25. Two years later, 400 miles up the coast in San Francisco, tens of thousands of young people descended on the Haight Ashbury district to “turn on, tune in and drop out”.

But, as the 1967 “Summer of Love” gave way to winter, many of the Haight Ashbury hippies hitchhiked south to warmer climes with several groups setting up makeshift communes on the beaches of Orange County. When Smith and his wife Kay toured the area they were shocked by the sight of miserable-looking youths, dishevelled and unwashed, huddling together on the sand or spaced out on drugs.

Not long afterwards, a boyfriend of their daughter’s who had been picking up some of the hitchhikers and preaching a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the means to salvation, began bringing some of his more promising candidates for conversion to the Smiths’ home, where he performed baptisms in a pool in their backyard.

Feeling that they were in danger of becoming a hippie commune, Smith rented a house for the stragglers that became so overcrowded that he soon expanded it into a network of “Jesus houses”, including a hotel where he baptised 65 youths in a fishpond the first two weeks it was open.

Smith recalled the first time some of his new converts turned up at his chapel during a service: “First I heard bells tinkling. Then here came 15 kids, most of them with these tiny strings of bells tied around their ankles… and flowers in their hair. They swayed barefoot up the aisles and sat right down there on the floor in front of the pulpit, even though there were still pew seats to be had. You could almost hear an audible gasp from the rest of the congregation. But they had such love that they captivated everybody’s heart.”

A couple of weeks later, a small group approached Smith and asked if they could play some rock music at one of the services. “Love Song”, as the group became known, played their first concert on a Monday night, missing the Sunday service because one of the guitar players had spent the weekend in jail on charges of marijuana possession. Before long Smith was carrying out mass baptisms — sometimes 500 at a time — in the Pacific Ocean at Pirates Cove in Corona del Mar.

Eventually Calvary Chapel grew into an empire of some 2,000 independent congregations, while Smith’s own chapel, where the flock grew to more than 10,000, became one of the best-attended churches in America.


But Smith’s influence went far wider. In 1971, to promote the bands who played in his church, he founded a company, Maranatha! Music, which went on to play a powerful role in spreading the popularity of “Jesus rock” — also known as “praise and worship” — in mainstream churches more widely. Meanwhile, out of the ranks of hippies, beach bums and druggies whom he converted emerged a cadre of idealistic youths, known disparagingly as “Jesus freaks”, who went on to fill the ranks of the “Jesus movement” of the 1970s and establish what has been called a “new paradigm” of independent mega-churches.


But if Papa Chuck, as he was known to his followers, replaced pipe organs with electric guitars, preached in Hawaiian shirts and jettisoned traditional church symbols and rituals, theologically he was about as far removed from the hippie counterculture ethos as it was possible to be. He preached damnation for the unsaved; the wickedness of homosexuality as “the final affront against God”; and had a habit of finding signs of divine wrath and impending Armageddon in everything from earthquakes to terrorist outrages (the September 11 attacks were, in his view, an indication of God’s displeasure with America’s acceptance of homosexuality and abortion).


In particular he was a powerful exponent of the “Rapture”, the notion that God’s chosen few will be whisked off to His side when He destroys the world to punish it for its sinful ways. When Smith predicted that “the Lord is coming for His church before the end of 1981”, many of his followers congregated on New Year’s Eve expecting to be beamed up out of their pews at any moment. Though New Year’s Day 1982 dawned without incident, Smith remained unperturbed and continued to announce the imminence of the Rapture with cast-iron confidence: “Every year I believe this could be the year. We’re one year closer than we were.”


He had never, he said, known a moment of doubt.


Charles Ward Smith was born in Ventura, California, on June 25 1927, to “Bible quoting Christian” parents. Originally he had wanted to become a doctor, but at the age of 17, at a Christian summer camp, he came to the conclusion that “being a doctor would help people in the here and now, but becoming a pastor could help people in this life and afterward.”


After training at the Bible college of the Foursquare Church, a Pentecostal denomination, Smith served as a Pentecostal pastor in various communities before leaving to set up his own church in the early 1960s and moving to Calvary Chapel in 1965.



In the late 1980s, by which time many of his ex-hippie followers were approaching middle age, Smith decided to reach out to a new generation of young people and in 1990, he co-founded the “Harvest Crusade”, a non-profit ministry which has become an international movement.


If Smith appeared a warm, avuncular figure to his followers, there was not much room in his theology for human frailty. In one of his books he championed “the ideal of a biblical man who is strong and not vacillating or weak” and denounced “the new touchy-feely man”. This approach led to differences with his son Chuck Jr, who was, at one time, seen as his likely successor, but who had developed a more open-minded, questioning approach to faith. In 2006 Smith was instrumental in removing Chuck Jr from ministry in the Calvary Chapel movement, subsequently issuing a memo denouncing tolerance for homosexuality and “the soft peddling of hell as the destiny of those who reject the salvation offered through Jesus Christ”.


Chuck Smith is survived by his wife and by his two sons and two daughters.


Chuck Smith, born June 25 1927, died October 3 2013






My grandfather, Claud Mullins, was a Metropolitan police magistrate during the 30s and 40s. One of his battles was to improve the police use of language in court, which he found ludicrously pompous (In praise of… euphemisms, 20 January). Policemen never took someone anywhere but “conveyed” him; they never watched anyone but “kept observation on him”; they never helped but “rendered assistance”; they never came out from but “emerged”; they never found out but “ascertained”. During the war, with so much bomb damage, gaps in fences were described as “apertures”. One policeman wanted to explain that a motorcycle’s handbrake was not working and said: “No braking power was transmitted.”


I’m not sure how effective my grandfather’s efforts were to make the police use plain English, but the officers in his court were just using language to make their work seem grander than it was, not to conceal the truth.
Emma Dally

•  You reported without comment the euphemistic reference by the chief inspector of constabulary, Tom Winsor, to members of certain Midlands communities as having been “born under other skies” (Report,, 18 January). What, pace John Cooper Clarke, extra-celestial, not like us?
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire

•  I have always admired Pooh-Bah’s explanation of his evidence in the Mikado as “merely corroborative detail intended to give artistic verisimilitude to a bald and unconvincing narrative”. It worked for him.
Nicolas Wadsworth
Broadstone, Dorset

•  It’s unfair to Winston Churchill to include his “terminological inexactitude” in your leader on euphemisms. Parliamentary rules would not allow him to call his opponent a liar.
Roderick White




I am writing in response to an editorial published in your newspaper on the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s death (5 December). The article drew comparisons between Mandela, Nehru, Aung Sang Suu Kyi and me. Such comparisons belying a hegemonic mindset demonstrate a lack of understanding of the reality of those faced with struggling for freedom.

In describing me as “feared and worshipped”, I detect hostility towards those who are forced to rely on their self-belief in their struggle against slavery, massacres and policies of denial. Since I have been imprisoned under conditions of solitary confinement on an island for the last 14 years, it is difficult to see how I can be credibly described as a source of fear for anyone except perhaps my captors.

Such a description belittles the four decades of struggle for freedom of the 40 million Kurds who see me as representing their will and have placed their trust in my efforts to reach a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish question. In that respect, I can say in all modesty that Dear Madiba and I have more parallels than contrasts. He managed to bring an end to the apartheid regime as a leader in whom the South African people had placed their complete faith in his commitment to peace. He has become a shining star for the peoples of Africa. Our historical mission is to ensure the ever brilliance of this star for the peoples of the Middle East.

Negotiation and struggle are both important processes in determining the future of peoples’ movements. It is not those who are feared but rather those who have the confidence of their people that can lead those processes.
Abdullah Öcalan
The prison island of Imrali



John Harris (What can private schools teach the state sector?, 20 January) maintains that a private school education would have little benefit for high-achieving pupils whose parents cannot afford the fees. In fact, our research has shown that those educated at the best independent day schools not only gain disproportionate access to leading universities, including Oxbridge, but also provide the majority of places in the professions, including the law, politics, the City and the civil service.


The Sutton Trust’s Open Access proposals, based on a successful pilot in Liverpool, would open up 100 leading independent day schools to all students on the basis of ability rather than their ability to pay, and in doing so open up the professions. There would be needs-blind admissions, so that those from low-income families pay no fees and those from middle-income families contribute on a sliding scale. Participating schools would receive the same state funding as other neighbouring schools. Unlike Dr Anthony Seldon’s proposals, there would no question of levying charges on parents who choose to remain in the state system. At the same time, we believe fairer admissions to the most academically successful comprehensives and improved outreach at grammar schools are also critical to increasing social mobility.

Until those from low- and middle-income families get the chance to maximise their potential, Britain will remain trapped in a system where power is the preserve of those with privilege.
Conor Ryan
Director of research and communications, The Sutton Trust

•  Anthony Seldon’s proposal that rich parents of children at popular state schools should be charged fees of up to £20,000 would in effect privatise a chunk of state education. The next stage need only be a system of vouchers for parents to “spend” at the remaining schools, and a fully privatised three-tier class-based system will have been achieved. Back to the 50s, with added profit!
Mike Hine
Kingston upon Thames

• So, according to Ofqual, practical work in science is integral to assessing students at GCSE but not at A-level, where they can be assessed in a final exam (Report, 18 January). Meanwhile, in geography, Ofqual is proposing the opposite, bringing back fieldwork assessment at A-level but abandoning such assessment at GCSE. Has Ofqual lost touch with reality?
Dr John Hopkin


The lessons of the Food Standards Agency salt campaign are worth recalling more accurately if effective measures to tackle obesity are to be considered. Jeff Rooker (Letters, 13 January) is correct to say it was voluntary and that industry co-operated, but omits to say why that was the case. The FSA systematically published surveys of salt in processed foods that received widespread media coverage making clear the potential adverse health impacts of too much salt in the diet. This transparency allowed consumers to make their own choices, forcing retailers and manufacturers to respond. They were held to account for verifiable changes in the composition of their foods. Some changed willingly, others reluctantly joined as it had become a competitive issue. At that time the memories of BSE and industry capture were still fresh and the FSA was a genuinely independent regulator that put consumers first and took action based on scientific evidence. In 2010 responsibility for nutrition and labelling was transferred to government departments. In the much-hyped bonfire of the quangos, a policy that consumers should be protected by an agency independent of government and sectoral interests also went up in flames.
Neil Martinson
Director of communications, FSA, 2000-06




My mother, the anti-war activist and writer Margaretta D’Arcy, is serving a three-month sentence in Limerick prison for trying to stop the violation of Irish neutrality by US military planes, which stop over at Shannon airport on the way to and from the war in Afghanistan. She took peaceful direct action to stop crime being committed by lying down on the runway of the airport. Margaretta, the widow of playwright John Arden, is 79 and undergoing treatment for cancer. Imprisoning her for an act of conscience is inhumane. I call upon the Irish government to release her immediately and for the British government to use its influence to secure her release. To keep her spirits up while she remains in prison, I urge readers to send cards c/o Limerick Prison, Mulgrave Street, Limerick, Ireland.
Jake Arden

•  So Total, unable to frack in France, invests £48m, a trivial amount of cash for a fossil fuel giant, in the UK and gets the government to replace its jobs forecast for the industry with one emailed to it by the UK Onshore Operators Group (Report, 18 January)? When the prime minister says the government is “for shale”, it’s hard not to think he means “for sale”. I suppose they all are, but few come so cheaply.
Martin Porter
Glossop, Derbyshire

• If E Shannon (Letters, 20 January) read as far as the obituaries in the same edition, it would have become clear that the answer to the question “where are the snowdrops this year?” is that Alistair McAlpine had collected them.
Roy Kettle

• After three recent appearances (In praise of…, 10 January; Country diary, 17 January; Letters, 17 January) I assume phalaropes will soon be a solution in the cryptic crossword?
Lesley Kant

• In 1986 we saw Roger Lloyd Pack (Obituary, 17 January) as Mandelstam in Dusty Hughes’ Futurists. We were overjoyed to find that our tickets for the National’s Cottesloe theatre were categorised “unrestricted left”. Sounds like something Roger would have appreciated.
Mary Pimm and Nik Wood





Most historians would question the claim that the Habsburgs should not be blamed for causing the first world war (Report, 16 January). In 1914, certainly, each European state including Britain embarked on war to protect its vital interests. It is also true that the Habsburg archduke Franz Ferdinand was usually a peacemaker and, had he lived, would have argued against war with Serbia in July 1914. However, most of the Habsburg elite in Vienna – following Emperor Franz Joseph’s mindset – were determined to crush “the Serbian snake”, and knew this risked provoking war. They took that risk and therefore bear a large portion of blame for events spiralling out of control. The elitism of Austria-Hungary’s rulers and their paranoia about the Balkans has always been a key factor in explaining why the Great War finally occurred.
Mark Cornwall
Professor of modern European history, University of Southampton



We Labour women always knew that we had someone to thank for the leak that child benefit was under threat; we now know it was Malcolm Wicks (Mystery of whistleblower who saved child benefit is solved after 38 years, 20 January). We were told at the time that it was because the union men did not like their women having independent money. The leak resulted in a lobby of parliament by women from all over the UK, many of us active members of the Labour party. I had written ahead to warn my MP, Tony Benn, that I would be coming to parliament to join a major lobby to retain child benefit and ensure it was paid to whoever had the care of children. When Tony came out, he spotted me, placed me by the turnstiles and asked me to confirm which women were part of the lobby to the security. I let them all in!


Subsequently the lobby outside the main chamber filled up with women, all calling their MPs out right in the middle of a three-line whip. Michael Cocks, the chief whip at the time, had his staff running ragged trying to bring MPs back to vote. In the end he had the main ringleaders (me included) into his office in an effort to try to calm things down. We pointed out that we women were not just members of the party to make tea but were major contributors to its working. The message got through to the party and the whole idea was dropped. Thank you, Malcolm, on behalf of all women, then and now.
Cllr Jenny Smith
Southmead Ward Bristol; formerly chair of the Bristol Labour women’s council


•  How we could do with a civil servant of Mr Wicks’s courage right now. It would be strangely appropriate for the long-suppressed Defra report on emergency food provision to be leaked to Frank Field as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on hunger and poverty. Surely then even Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud would not be to continue to deny the links between food bank usage and welfare reform.
Richard Bridge (@richardbridge7)


• Malcolm Wicks may have felt justified in leaking cabinet minutes about child benefit in 1976 (‘I took what I regarded as an ethical decision’, 20 January) but he should have had the courage to identify himself as the leaker, knowing that others would be wrongly suspected. I had been Frank Field’s predecessor as director of Child Poverty Action Group and, at the time of the leak, was a special adviser to the social services secretary David Ennals. Unsurprisingly I was identified in the press (notably the Sun) as a prime suspect and, until now, my name has never been cleared.
Tony Lynes


•  The photograph of the Labour government’s front and backbenches of November 1976 is worth careful examination. First, count the women – just three of more than 50 MPs and ministers. One is Barbara Castle, recently sacked by Jim Callaghan. But who is sitting next to her? Is it a youthful Roy Jenkins or just a Roy Jenkins lookalike? There is only one woman on the frontbench, Shirley Williams. But who is third woman, sitting on the first row of backbenches?


Next, sitting on the frontbench below the gangway is Harold Wilson, accompanied by a very youthful Dennis Skinner. Then comes a gap where normally the leader of the house sits. So where is that great parliamentarian, Michael Foot? This photograph alone was worth the price of the Guardian.
Pete Browning
Kingsclere, Hampshire


•  It is interesting to note in the 1976 picture of parliament who is seated next to whom. I reckon that is Dennis Skinner next to former prime minister Harold Wilson, probably musing over whatever happened to “Old” Labour. John Smith in the second row, and three women; Shirley Williams on the frontbench, Barbara Castle three rows back, and on the second row I’m guessing is Margaret Jay.
Rick Hall


•  Your photo reminds us that, whatever people may have thought of Harold Wilson, he, who won four elections, did not consider himself so grand that he could no longer continue as an MP after resigning as PM.
Mark Knight







I fully agree with Dr Peter Gray (“Give childhood back to children”, 13 January) in his comments about the need and right for children to have their childhood, and his view that many useful life skills are learnt outside the classroom.


He mentions Michael Gove’s desire to see UK educational standards equal China’s. I have two objections to this. First, if standards did improve to such an extent, that would simply push the bar up in the competition for all the top jobs. Secondly, as a Beijing-based teacher myself, I question the means by which such high standards would be achieved.


Many Chinese students are under a lot of pressure to achieve the top grades. A number of students at my school suffer a draconian study regime at the hands of the Tiger Mother and/or the Wolf Father, parents who force their children to study long hours at home and take extra classes to improve their grades, and who won’t accept anything from their children but A-grades and being top of the class.


At least one student has complained that all this extra study hasn’t improved her grades – just left her with no time to herself, something she hates. The same would apply anywhere. If the ability isn’t there (and some people are more able than others), then all the extra study in the world isn’t going to change that.


King Edward VII was an example. His childhood was ruined by such a regime imposed by parents who branded him as lazy and stupid, when he simply just wasn’t a natural scholar. All the extra study sent him off the rails somewhat when he got to university and he didn’t complete his degree, I think, so fat lot of good all that extra study was for him.


The above said, the idyllic childhood that Dr Gray advocates is unlikely to happen, while the media and other parties exaggerate the dangers of playing outside. Traffic is heavier than it used to be, but the other dangers, such as paedophiles, are no greater now than they used to be.


Steven Crake




No wonder our children are suffering from “toxic stress” (report, 20 January). We know that animals in a zoo suffer from “toxic stress” if they are confined to their houses without having the freedom to move around and exercise outside. They are therefore given this opportunity.


Contrast this with our children, the vast majority of whom are kept indoors because on the street outside priority is given to the motor car. This is not the fault of parents but of successive governments, who have ignored the freedom to play out in the street as enjoyed by countless previous generations.


Rob Wheway


Director, Children’s Play Advisory Service, Coventry


A Power grab by global corporations


Oliver Wright and Nigel Morris are quite right that the EU-US trade deal threatens to give global corporations massive power over the laws of this country if it includes, as expected, an investor-state dispute settlement process (“British sovereignty ‘at risk’ from EU-US trade deal”, 14 January).


In fact, it is more correct to think of the deal as a charter for corporate rights, rather than a “free-trade treaty”. It threatens to lock in market principles to public services such as the NHS, begin a “race to the bottom” in terms of health and safety standards, undermine post-financial-crisis economic regulation, and reinforce inequality within Europe.


The deal, a core priority of the Cameron government, is one of several far-reaching “trade” and investment treaties currently being negotiated. Together with the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trade in Services Agreement, they represent the biggest power grab by global corporations for a decade.


Whether you’re interested in public services, health and safety standards, labour rights or simply democracy, there’s more than enough reason to oppose this offensive.


Nick Dearden


Director, World Development Movement,


London SW9


It was good to see The Independent give front-page coverage to negotiations for an EU-US free trade agreement, especially as this highlighted the threat to national sovereignty posed by the investor state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS), currently included in the treaty.


What was not touched on was a further threat to sovereignty from an additional proposal within the agreement. This is for a new Regulatory Co-operation Council that, for the foreseeable future, will give extensive powers to corporations to alter new or prospective parliamentary legislation or judicial rulings where these conflict with their corporate interests.


So while it may or may not be the case, as a Department of Business spokesperson is quoted as saying, that “investment protection provisions do not limit the ability of states to make or repeal any law or regulation”, it seems that the Regulatory Cooperation Council will do just that.


Jan Savage


London E1


Fracking crosses climate threshold


Peter Lilley has stated that those who oppose fracking may be concerned about the burning of fossil fuels, but that they have “failed to make a convincing case” (BBC Radio Five Live, 13 January). Actually it is not the anti-fracking protestors that need to make the case, since this has already been done in the five reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


Furthermore, virtually every government world-wide has accepted that levels of CO2 in the atmosphere must not exceed 450 parts per million (ppm) if we are to avoid runaway climate change. Since it is currently 400 ppm and increasing by 2-3 ppm per annum, we only have 20 years before we exceed the 450 ppm threshold.


So in reality it is Peter Lilley, George Osborne and David Cameron who are required to justify their reckless support for  a technology that will make the UK dependent on fossil fuel extraction for the next 30 years and longer.


Dr Robin Russell-Jones


Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire


Floating islands for everyone


Thank you for taking the time to explore and report about the Seasteading Institute (27 December). However, I’m not clear how you construed that the first settlement was for very rich libertarians.


Purchasing a unit at €5,500 a square metre is not only for “very wealthy” people. That’s lower than the average price for housing in London. Although our founders are from the libertarian persuasion, our movement is much larger than this and our goal is to make seasteading a technology available to anyone who wishes to pursue a new form of governance. We are not all “right-wing” and nor do we want to pay others to do our “dirty work”.


You chose not to write anything about our vision of enriching the poor by creating new spaces that welcomed immigrants where they could start fresh new lives; you didn’t write about how we hope experimenting with new systems of governance will help existing nations choose better policies after witnessing them tested on a seastead; you didn’t write anything about how we want to peacefully create new nations as a solution to the political bottleneck of nearly all established nations. I invite your readers to learn more about our initiative and to read my full response to The Independent’s article at


Randolph Hencken


Executive Director, The Seasteading Institute,  San Francisco


My days of freedom


From time to time I take a mini-break.


I travel by public transport (the avoiding the motorway cameras), paying for my ticket with cash. I keep my mobile phone switched off. I pay for my accommodation, meals,  and all other purchases  with the cash I withdrew from my local cashpoint before setting out.


I return feeling refreshed and also a little triumphant, secure in the knowledge that I have just been to, say, Cornwall and back, and neither GCHQ nor the NSA know a thing about it. It may be a very small victory, but it pleases me. Am I disgraceful to value my personal freedom so?


Bob Gilmurray


Ely,  Cambridgeshire


Mantel backs the Duchess


It was good to read of Hilary Mantel’s forthcoming novel (“Mantel turns to Thatcher for inspiration”, 17 January), but for the finishing paragraph. Hilary Mantel did not “attack” the Duchess of Cambridge in her lecture last year.


She was in fact attacking the perception of the Duchess which has been set up in the tabloid press. She was supportive of the Royal Family – ending her lecture with: “Don’t do to this young woman what you did to Diana.”


Elspeth Allison




Further divine intervention


Outside my window this morning, there was a most beautiful rainbow. God is obviously pleased with the Ukip councillor who spoke out about the connection of the storms and floods to gay marriage.


H N Stanley









Sir, In your response to Lord Ashdown’s warning about the loss of trust in our institutions (leader, Jan 3), you urge politicians to “promise less but deliver more”. If they are to regain the trust of most people, politicians must first regain their respect. A good place to start would be the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions, which is all that most people ever see of Parliament in action. The conduct of nearly everyone involved is simply appalling and this a major factor in people’s — and especially young people’s — disenchantment with our democratic processes.


No school head — and I write as a former secondary headmaster — would permit for a moment such conduct in a mock election. If MPs show scant respect for each other they can hardly be surprised if the electorate has little for them.


Is it too much to ask that the Leader of the Opposition should put genuine questions, that the Prime Minister should actually answer the question asked, that they both refrain from cheap jibes and that all in the chamber refrain from the various puerile noises with which they endeavour to interrupt opposing members?


PMQs is just about the worst advertisement for our democracy and does incalculable damage to the reputation of Parliament. Party leaders, MPs and the Speaker are grossly irresponsible in allowing the sessions to proceed in such a fashion. An appropriate new year resolution for all of them would be to seek to restore the dignity of Parliament, starting with PMQs.


David Terry


Droitwich, Worcs


Sir, Shouting and point-scoring do indeed ensure that what happens in Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons lacks any sense of views being exchanged or questions being fairly put and sensibly answered and smacks of behaviour that would not be tolerated in a primary school during break time (leader, Jan 16). This is because it is patently obvious that the whole raison d’être of the occasion is the automatic loud gladiatorial denigration by each side of anything the other side has to say.


Tony Phillips


Chalfont St Giles, Bucks


Sir, At PMQs it is largely the fault of the BBC that we are subjected to the deafening (and childish) roars of members. The BBC, and indeed all broadcasters of programmes with live audiences, seem to delight in keeping their microphones of audience noise at full pelt while the poor chairmen or speakers find their introductions made totally unintelligible to listeners. There once was a time when someone actually balanced the various microphone outputs so that we could hear what everyone said. Bring back that day.


Jim Mann Taylor


Westbury-on-Severn, Glos


Sir, Question Time in the Commons is not a time for nursery games. Cannot Mr Speaker exert his authority to control this hooliganism?


Ronald Brown




Sir, George Osborne’s suggestion that the time is ripe for an above-inflation increase in the national minimum wage is economically prudent and politically astute (Jan 17). Opponents may claim that employment prospects of the lowest paid will be adversely affected but the independent Institute for Social & Economic Research (ISER) report published in February 2012 found no evidence of significant adverse impacts on pre-recession employment arising from the minimum wage.


The return of strong economic growth and the rapidly improving jobs market supports the timing of the Chancellor’s statement which is one of the most significant Conservative policy reversals of David Cameron’s leadership. The lingering public perception that the party is hostile to the poor is now firmly contradicted by the huge increase in personal allowances focused exclusively on basic rate taxpayers, the freeze in fuel duty and council tax and the belated admission that the party was wrong to oppose the introduction of the minimum wage in the 1990s.


Philip Duly


Haslemere, Surrey


Sir, You assert that people on the minimum wage earn just over £12,000 a year. This is incorrect. The majority of those on this hourly rate are working part-time; many are students. The minimum wage is an ineffective anti-poverty instrument which does little for working families. A significant rise in the rate will, however, close off entry-level jobs for many young people. We already have a million under-25s looking for work — Mr Osborne’s generosity with other people’s money will do little for them.


Professor J. R. Shackleton


University of Buckingham


Sir, You say “there is no better welfare policy than better pay”. Surely the best answer is to align the proposed national minimum wage with the income tax personal allowance. For a 37-hour week at £7 per hour this would amount to a £13,468 annual tax threshold so that no one on the minimum wage pays income tax.


Derek Edwards


Brentwood Essex


Sir, A rise in the minimum wage will in the first instance attract even more migrants from within the EU. As for policing it, this will prove in the longer run to be a mug’s game. Better to acknowledge that a living wage and mass immigration are mutually exclusive. Curtail immigration and the market will automatically raise unskilled wages.


There will, of course, be a transfer of purchasing power from the majority “haves” to the minority “have-nots” as menial jobs that cannot be outsourced abroad become more costly. This is a small price to pay for all who espouse One Nation cohesiveness.


Only a “penny wise and pound foolish” society would import cheap labour with the aim of driving unskilled pay below a living wage. Not being able to control migrants from within the EU is tantamount to importing cheap labour.


Yugo Kovach


Winterborne Houghton, Dorset





The Syrian peace talks need to focus on the plight of children caught up in the conflict

Sir, With the parties in Syria’s conflict meeting in Switzerland tomorrow, we believe the time has come to urgently focus on the plight of children. Children are being targeted in this conflict, in the shelling of residential areas and attacks on schools and hospitals. More than 11,000 Syrian children have already died. More than 4 million children have been forced to flee their homes, including over a million who have fled the country altogether. Many are traumatised, hungry and in urgent need of shelter and protection. Scandalously, aid cannot reach the children who need it the most. Hundreds of thousands of children are trapped in conflict zones and are receiving little or no humanitarian assistance at all.

As the parties to the conflict arrive in Geneva, we urgently call on them not to target children, and to commit to the following three points: do not prevent life-saving aid from reaching children; do not target, or allow military use of, schools or health facilities; and do not use explosive weapons in populated areas.

Every child in Syria who is hurt, or killed, or loses a loved one, represents yet another failure by the international community. We hereby commit to becoming champions for Syria’s children, speaking out for their rights at every opportunity. An entire generation is being lost to violence. All of us bear a responsibility to save these children.

Desmond Tutu; Anthony Lake, Unicef; Antonio Gutteres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs; Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner; Margaret Chan, WHO; Ertharin Cousin, World Food Programme; Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative for the UN Secretary General; Mark Malloch Brown, former UN Deputy Secretary General; Jan Egeland, Norwegian Refugee Council; Louise Arbour, International Crisis Group; David Miliband, International Rescue Committee; Justin Forsyth, Save the Children; Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International; Kevin Jenkins, World Vision International




The boarding school isolation that made it possible for abuse to be perpetrated simply does not exist any more

Sir, One big difference between boarding school life today and in the past is the technology. Nearly every student in a UK boarding school has a smartphone, and all have access to computers. Most children, British or international, keep in daily contact with their parents by phone, Skype or other means. Therefore the closed communities that were yesterday’s boarding schools, within which it was possible for abuse to be perpetrated, simply do not exist any more.

Boarding schools are no longer isolated from the outside world; children and their parents are no longer separated in any meaningful sense. To ignore this factor is to collude in scaremongering.

Caroline Nixon

Chairman, British Association of International School and Colleges



Wales and Scotland have set up high street optometrists as the first port of call for NHS patients with urgent eye problems

Sir, The letter (Jan 17) from Nikhil Kaushik, consultant ophthalmic surgeon, prompts me to point out that Wales and Scotland have successfully set up high street optometrists as the first port of call for NHS patients with urgent eye problems.

Optometrists have the expertise and specialist equipment rarely found in GP surgeries to treat eye complaints safely and effectively. Patients like having a local service offering timely and convenient appointments. And it reduces pressure on A&E and GP surgeries.

In the rest of the UK though there is a postcode lottery. The NHS in England and Northern Ireland and their patients would benefit from a universal service.

Dr Kamlesh Chauhan

The College of Optometrists, London





Until bankers recapture the motive of working in every customer’s best interest, there will be no behaviour change

Sir, Mr Dicken (letter, Jan 20) is right to talk at length of the bonus culture being pernicious and of the behaviour being selfish. Yet a simple and vital element is missing from the argument, and that is of working in every customer’s best interest. Until all work, be it financial services or not, recaptures this motive of doing level best for he who ultimately pays the wage, there will be no turnaround in behaviour — management or individual.

Selfishness takes so many forms that this rudimentary principle can easily be lost in elaborate discussion of the organisational problems.

Keith Robinson

Littlewick Green, Berks

Sirs, The current bonus culture in the financial and banking industries should be converted into a share culture.

Performance rewards would be in the shape of an immediate share allocation or option for future purchase. A minimum period of ownership would introduced to ensure that the share bonuses were in the company’s and customers long-term best interest and not subject to actions for instant and individual employee gratification.

Robert E. Collett

Freshwater, Isle of Wight

Sir, You report (Jan 16) the Governor of the Bank of England as having in one sentence three times used the word “compensation” in the context of bankers’ pay.

If even Mr Carney does not consider as “pay” the money that bankers receive for their work, perhaps we should all have much more sympathy for bankers in their difficult and, obviously, distressing work. Maybe their bonuses should be increased rather than reduced?

Robert Rhodes, QC

London, WC2




What better year than 2014 to address the sad neglect of Commonwealth War Graves in Britain

Sir, On the subject of restoring war graves overseas (letter, Jan 14), we have the same problem at home. At the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Brookwood, Surrey, where thousands of servicemen rest, the grounds are sadly neglected. They deserve better, and what better time could there be than in 2014.

F. Vickers

Woking, Surrey







SIR – I was interested to read the growing problems that the northern Rhubarb Triangle is having.


Rhubarb was first recorded growing in England by the botanist William Coys, in one of his walled gardens at Stubbers, his home in Upminster, Essex.

He grew more than 340 hitherto unknown plants in his walled gardens, all brought to him by Elizabethan explorers of the day, particularly from the newly explored Americas. In 1580, it was not confidently known whether rhubarb was edible and, as we now know, the leaves are poisonous.

Veronica Smith
Stow Maries, Essex

SIR – Before your readers who suffer from any of the ailments — such as gout and constipation — listed by Michael Leapman start adding to the shortage of rhubarb, they should know that it was the peeled roots, not the stalks, that gave the plant its medicinal reputation.

John Goulding
Potters Bar, Hertfordshire

SIR – I would advise Mr Leapman to visit his rhubarb patch before March. I had my buckets in place over pink shoots before I read last week’s article and am not living in the balmiest of locations.

J M Clarkson




of young people I hear saying they are going into teaching because they can’t think what else to do. As the mother of a recently qualified teacher who is passionate about her job and works extremely long hours in order to bring the very best of her efforts to her class, I think it should be made more difficult to become a teacher, not easier. Then we may get the teachers our children deserve and need.


Anne Penney
Fetcham, Surrey


SIR – As a retired headteacher who spent my whole career teaching in the tougher areas of London, I can tell you exactly why teachers leave the profession in large numbers: disruptive pupils and endless paperwork. No teacher should have to tolerate poor behaviour in class and his time should be spent teaching, not doing endless preparation and form filling.


Trevor Lashbrook
Bude, Cornwall


Trivialising abortion



SIR – How can destruction of a foetus be “downgraded to a trivial procedure”? What about the consequences? Each one is a huge decision.


Richard Parkhouse
Llanfairfechan, Caernarfonshire


SIR – I am a practising Christian, and have listened to the arguments for and against abortion. Now, yet another “clarification” is being given by the Department of Health.


No one can believe that this is what David Steel envisaged when he introduced his Bill in 1967. His concerns were for the tragic cases of pregnant women dying at the hands of back-street abortionists.


As a country, we need to demonstrate compassion for those women whose lives do not allow for a baby to be born into it. However, where possible, both the father and mother should be present and agree that their actions have led to this outcome. To ignore the father’s role is wrong.


Geraldine Lee
Aylsham, Norfolk


Full service


SIR – My watch recently stopped working. The digital display correctly showed the time, but the analogue hands would not move, suggesting that I needed more than a new battery, so I went into the town centre to look for possible replacements.


One of the local jewellers had the ideal model, but he would not sell it to me until he had had a good look at my watch to see if he could get it going.


A day later, he telephoned to say that he had not succeeded, as the motor that drives the hands had failed. He had telephoned the manufacturer, which no longer made spares for that model.


I will be returning to his shop to buy the replacement. I could get it cheaper online, but none of the internet providers would have thought of mending my old watch.


Paul Newton
Whitnash, Warwickshire


Day of rest


SIR – A friend has a number of hens and, over a period of two years’ careful monitoring of the number of eggs laid, it has become apparent that far fewer eggs are laid on a Sunday than any other day. Is there a reason for this? Could it have anything to do with the European work time directive?


James Lonsdale
Lostock, Lancashire


Fracking areas


SIR – Because offshore platforms are extremely expensive to construct and install, the offshore oil industry is expert at achieving large outputs from small areas. That expertise is reproducible onshore.


On land, Wytch Farm (for which I was once responsible) accesses an oil and gas field some 30 miles across (measured at the surface) from a wellsite area only some two or three football pitches in area, and it is well hidden in the environment.


Incidentally, one point missing from all the current arguments about who should get what share of the income from shale gas is that there hasn’t been any yet, and the earliest is probably two years away.


Dr Harold Hughes
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey


SIR – Manorial rights do not apply to rights for extraction of gas or oil, including shale gas. Rather, the right to extract petroleum is vested in the Crown.


The Government issues petroleum licences and companies wishing to carry out exploration or production under these licences have to meet a series of stringent regulations and secure landowners’ permission.


Britain has more than 50 years’ experience of successfully regulating the onshore oil and gas industry. We have been clear that shale gas fracking must be done in a safe and environmentally sound way and with the support of communities.


Michael Fallon MP (Con)
Energy Minister
London SW1


Moving on


SIR – In a news story, you report the actor Roger Lloyd-Pack as having died, in his obituary as having died, but in the leading article as having passed away.


In the Deaths column where, arguably, because of its heading neither term is required, it seems that people are increasingly passing away, rather than dying. The relative number of either as published in the Deaths column makes an interesting subject on which to bet.


Norman Hudson
Upper Wardington, Oxfordshire


January jelly


SIR – We usually find frog spawn in our pond on Valentine’s Day. This year it appeared on January 15.


Any earlier sightings?


Glynn Walker
Winsford, Cheshire


De-centralise arts funding to avoid London bias


SIR – Jesse Norman fails to take into account the extent to which the arts funding cuts of recent years have increased the disparity in support between London and the rest of the country. The cuts — and not just in the arts — are a significant aspect of a continuing disempowerment of the regions. Cuts to local authority funding have prompted predictions, such as that made by a 2013 Joseph Rowntree Foundation study, that local councils may cease funding the arts altogether by 2015.


Moreover, further centralisation of the decision-making process is an inevitable result of cutbacks in the administration of core funding.


The result of this is a greater bias towards the most prestigious London-based institutions, which are themselves struggling to maintain standards. In the long term, more real political power needs to be allowed at regional level.


Most immediately, the cuts must be reversed so that local communities have the funds available to make considered decisions about their arts future.


Earl of Clancarty
London SW1


SIR – I can never understand why visitors to Britain are not charged entry to our museums. When we travel abroad, we are certainly charged entry fees to museums.


Ken Sharpe



SIR – The proposal to build a garden city at Yalding in rural Kent is yet another act of supreme folly by this Government, which seems determined to destroy its support in the Home Counties by covering vast swathes of our countryside with wind farms, solar panels and housing.


Building a new town in this area between Maidstone and the Medway towns would not only create a huge conurbation in the heart of the countryside, but would also destroy for ever valuable agricultural and recreational land on London’s doorstep. And that is before we even consider the ludicrous idea by the Mayor of London to build a new hub airport in the Thames estuary, with an associated need for tens of thousands of additional homes to accommodate its employees and their families.

Kent is one of the most overcrowded counties in England, with a population rapidly approaching two million and diminishing green space. It has several motorways, a high-speed rail system, busy ports and nuclear power stations. We in Kent have more than done our bit for the country, and it should now to be the turn of other, less populated and built-up areas in England to make some sacrifices.

Ted Shorter
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – The supposed plan to build a new garden city at Yalding is an intriguing prospect. In the light of recent events, perhaps a marina with houseboats might be more appropriate.

Norman Sherry
East Grinstead, West Sussex

SIR – What a telling juxtaposition of Nick Clegg’s article (Garden cities are the answer to a problem we can’t ignore) and news that English farmland far outperformed gold over the past year. To me there’s an obvious correlation: Government planning policies (especially the National Planning Policy Framework) are directly responsible for demand from developers for land – to build us out of austerity – which seems to have little to do with Government’s alleged commitment to “sustainable development”.

It is also clear that, when push comes to shove, central power trumps local power.

James Derounian
University of Gloucestershire

SIR – There is a housing crisis because the Labour government’s policy of mass immigration, and because being in the European Union apparently means we have no control over our own borders. Net immigration for the year ending in June was 182,000. Assuming that is mainly young people who will have children, the effect on the population total is probably double that figure. Instead of forcing us to take immigrants, the EU should be looking to encourage people to set up businesses in underpopulated areas – like Romania.

Richard Munday
Kenilworth, Warwickshire



Irish Times:






Sir, – A child waiting for a wheelchair is a human rights issue. Tom Clonan describes the impact on his son Eoghan of sitting in a wheelchair that is too small for him (“I defy the board of the CRC to explain its obscene behaviour to my son”, Home News, January 18th). He describes his legs curling back, increasing his risk of leg contractures.


Sitting in a wheelchair that is too small can have major consequences on children’s development, not only impacting on their limbs, but also leaving them at risk of chest infections and pressure ulcers. Being squashed in a wheelchair can affect individuals’ feeling of safety, their mental health, their ability to concentrate and communicate and to actively participate in play, school and employment.


Unfortunately Eoghan’s story is not uncommon. Anne Rynne (Letters, January 18th) writes about her adult son, left lying in bed for a year.


There are approximately 40,000 individuals in the Republic who use wheelchairs and without this essential equipment they cannot survive. A wheelchair enables a person to sit up and be mobile; it is an essential primary need. It becomes part of a person’s skin, their legs, In research I have conducted, one person has described when the wheelchair is not right or when it breaks down as “like cutting my two legs off”.


While wheelchair services in Ireland have grown over the years, they lack regulation and are without specific government policy to ensure timely and appropriate delivery.


I would like to think if anything happened to me, my child, my family or my friends that I could pick up the phone and know I could get a wheelchair without waiting 12 months.


This human rights issue is relevant to the whole of society, and a national review of wheelchair services is called for. – Yours, etc,






Kilrush Road,


Ennis, Co Clare.



Sir, – The issues raised regarding funding relating to travel expenses at CRC do not apply to me (Home News, January 16th).


I am a frontline staff member working for the Central Remedial Clinic. I am passionate about my work and care very much about the rights of children and adults with special needs, so much so that I completed a master’s outside work hours and research to benefit CRC service users with minimal monetary recognition from the CRC.


When requesting some remuneration for travel expenses related to presenting research at an international conference I was informed that due to budgetary constraints there would be no monetary support other than the conference registration fee. I accepted this as I was proud to represent the CRC, which as a day-to-day organisation is a great one, due to excellent frontline staff and the service users that never cease to inspire and amaze me.


  CRC frontline staff, like those in most other public sector organisations experience similar difficulties when it comes to acquiring time and monetary support for expenses related to continuing professional and service development and should therefore not be tarnished with the same brush. – Yours, etc,




Old County Glen,


Crumlin, Dublin 12.


Sir, – Numerous commentators have called on Paul Kiely to repay some, or all, of his €740,000 pension package (Home News, January 18th). These calls are, I believe, misplaced. If money should be repaid then it is the members of the board of the CRC, who authorised the payment, who should make the repayment. This would act as a deterrent to other boards to act in such a cavalier manner with other people’s money. – Yours, etc,






Mooncoin, Co Kilkenny.


Sir, – How come the fundraising departments in the CRC have so much money in their accounts? Why was this money not used to enable their service users have what they need (eg wheelchairs and physiotherapy)? Is this not the reason we donate to charities – to make the life of their service users somewhat more bearable? – Yours, etc,




Frankfort Park,


Dundrum, Dublin 14.


Sir, – Is it ironic that a substantial amount of the questioning and condemning of management’s recent and past behaviour at the Central Remedial Clinic is being done by people in both politics and the media who have themselves secured very generous remuneration packages over the years? – Yours, etc,




West Glasson,


Athlone, Co Westmeath.


Sir, – Your item on the charities controversy (Home News, January 18th) reports the Minister for Health as saying that the Government would use all available options open to it, including corporate enforcement and the Garda and the civil courts to try and get the money (Paul Kiely’s retirement package ) back.


Hopefully they won’t have to resort to such drastic measure to repatriate the €120,000 or so that his colleague the Minister for Finance would have received via the Revenue Commissioners as their cut from the taxable portion of Mr Kiely’s lump-sum. – Yours, etc,




St Peter’s Place,




Co Wicklow.


Sir, – Congratulations to Patrick Freyne for his wonderful report on 24 hours on O’Connell Street (Weekend Review, January 18th). It was enlightening, funny, nostalgic, wise, and ultimately heartbreaking. – Yours, etc,




Wellington Street,





Sir, – I have loved and admired 79-year-old Margaretta D’Arcy for 40 years. I do not plead for mercy for her. The moment she gets out, she will be back on her justifiable protest. The Government has a problem on its hands, (as now, do I, at 69, yet again. In this case, a joyful one.) We pensioners have not gone away , you know. – Yours, etc,




Rugby Road, Dublin 6.


Sir, – I join with my fellow artists in calling for the release, on compassionate grounds, of our colleague, Margaretta D’Arcy, from Limerick prison.


Surely, by refusing to discontinue her anti-war activism, she is doing precisely that which is required of her by the court – undertaking to keep the peace? – Yours, etc,




The Crescent,


Monkstown, Co Dublin.


Sir, – In expressing his acute indignation at the imprisonment of Margaretta D’Arcy (January 18th), Theo Dorgan makes some extraordinary comments.


He notes that “as the decision to imprison Ms. D’Arcy was taken by organs of the State, it is not possible to view her incarceration as other than a political act”.


To my knowledge, the decision to send Ms.D’Arcy to jail was taken by a judge in a republic which operates a classic separation of powers between the political and judicial systems. Despite all of our failings as a State, that separation remains intact.


Mr Dorgan further notes the jailing of elderly people for “offences technical in nature (such as failing to purchase a TV licence)”. Failure to purchase a TV licence is not a technical offence, it is an offence proper.


Ms D’Arcy is free to protest about whatever she wishes to as much as she likes. She may not do so, however, having trespassed on the tarmac of an airport. She was given a reasonable option to avoid prison which she declined. Her peacenik and artistic pals should calm down. The rest of us will at least be spared her letters to The Irish Times for a while.


I wish her well personally. – yours, etc,




Clontarf Road, Dublin 3.



Sir, – What an astonishing photograph gracing Frank Miller’s article on bygone Dublin (Culture, January 17th). “Cyclists waiting for a green light”. . .The past is a different place. – Yours, etc,




Meadow Close,


Churchtown, Dublin 16.






Sir, – Congratulations to both contributors for their evocative deliberations on brain/mind connectivity (Letters, January 15th & 16th). Would it be a fair analogy to say that the brain is hard wired while the mind is wireless? Just a thought? – Yours, etc,




The Demesne,


Killester, Dublin 5.



Sir, – I wish to congratulate your newspaper on its extensive coverage of the Military Service Pensions Collection, which in turn reflects the excellent work undertaken by Comdt Patrick Brennan’s team at the Military Archives over the past eight years to make this wonderful resource available to the public in such an easily accessible format.


The initial refusal of an Army Pension to Margaret Skinnider, an opponent of the Anglo-Irish Treaty (Home News, January 17th), is worthy of contrast with the award of a Military Service Pension to the pro-Treaty Dr Brigid Lyons. While members of Cumann na mBan were not eligible for pensions under the 1924 Military Service Pensions Act, Lyons was deemed to have given service in the Irish Volunteers and also fulfilled the criterion of serving in the Irish Army during the Civil War. A question arose over her eligibility on account of her gender, but the then attorney general, John A Costello, considered the term “person” in the legislation to be covered by the Interpretation Act of 1923 and thus to include women.


Stephen Collins makes an important point about the monetary value of the pensions, though it should be noted that until 1953 pensioners who were in receipt of other remuneration from the State had their pensions reduced proportionate to their other State income, so government ministers were unlikely to receive the full value of the nominal pension awarded. In such cases the motivation for applying was recognition; applications were made initially for Certificates of Military Service, and when these were granted a pension could be applied for.


There was significant political opposition to the inclusion of the Connaught Rangers mutineers in this post-revolutionary compensation process, with a sceptical (and no doubt parsimonious) Ernest Blythe declaring that their “patriotism was an afterthought”. The fact that many of the Connaughts covered by the legislation enlisted voluntarily in the British army after the conscription crisis of April 1918 was reflected in the decision only to award them smaller one-off gratuities rather than pensions. – Is mise,




School of History &




Queen’s University Belfast.


Sir, – Even in the 21st century I find it almost unfathomable that a civil servant in Dublin in the 1930s could come to the view that a woman volunteer who was shot three times by a British soldier while on service in the St Stephen’s Green garrison in 1916 could be refused a pension because he (and it would have been a he) deemed the law only was “applicable to soldiers as generally understood in the masculine sense” (Home News, January 17th).


Margaret Skinnider, who was my aunt, and our family were very close in Dublin. She was very proud of her service in 1916, and later in the Black and Tan war and in the Civil War. I don’t recall her making any mention of the pension refusal. Her indignation would have been immense. I suppose Countess Markievicz was dealt with in a similar fashion. – Yours, etc,




Pacific Highway,




New South Wales,






Sir, – The three-day Theatre of Memory symposium which His Excellency President Michael D Higgins inspired and which he opened at the Abbey Theatre last week was a diverse, provocative, stimulating interrogation of things that matter and should matter to us as a nation. One could not have asked for 32 better contributors, nor for a better-organised and more smoothly-run event.


And yet The Irish Times deliberately attempted to throw a hand grenade in the works with its timed front page and full-page reductionist “rate my theatre” pieces (Main paper & Weekend Review, January 18th).


Every National Theatre strives to be world class and with this in mind it is admirable that the Abbey, in conjunction with the Arts Council, set in motion an evaluation and assessment of its recent productions.


What I object to is the publication of a report, accessed through Freedom of Information, that is clearly not yet signed off on nor yet delivered to the Abbey. This was shoddy opportunism. – Yours, etc,




Prince Arthur Terrace,


Leinster Square, Dublin 6.


Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s report on the Abbey Theatre’s “world-class” standing made sad reading for us in Limerick (Front page & Weekend Review, January 18th). Indignation is rife here over the miserable €7.1 million the Government toss to our internationally-renowned National Theatre. The Abbey’s commissioning of daring modern work by fresh young voices doesn’t come cheap, and we are ready to support the Abbey till our noses bleed.


The Dublin media should get down here to gauge the level of support for our National Theatre. No birthday candle is extinguished without a wish for the Abbey to come down and grace Limerick with one of its exquisite triumphs; the Limerick air at New Year crackled again with fresh resolutions to travel up to the Abbey, if there is anything on.


In short, Limerick wishes the Abbey all the very best for a speedy return to its rightful world standing – no matter the cost. And we live in hope that one day soon, the Abbey will meet its stated aim to “actively engage with” us, and tour a production of a modern Irish play, in Ireland. It can’t be that hard. – Yours, etc,




Ballysimon, Co Limerick.


Religion is not merely a sociological phenomenon which can lend itself to curious study, and reducing any religion to that narrow focus is to disrespect the truth claims of religion. I believe we have every right to be proud of the fact that our Constitution, written in the context of the darkening clouds of totalitarianism which were to engulf Europe in the horror of the second World War and all that it involved recognised religious freedom and the right of a free conscience.


Ireland must have appeared as a beacon of hope to those in Europe caught in destruction of a civilisation which owed its strength to its Christian roots.


The expressed intolerance by various government ministers to the religion of the vast majority is in sharp contrast to the more liberal drafters of the 1937 Constitution. Mr Cox may be surprised that at the Catholic secondary school that I attended in the 1950s there was a large minority, about 10 per cent, in final year who were Buddhists from Asia studying for Matriculation.


Time and space was made available to them for their religious practices and we were encouraged to respect their loyalty to their religion. That was an example (which was common) of religious tolerance. – Yours, etc,




Ballintlea North,




Co Clare.




Sir, – “We are where we are”, going forward of course. – Yours, etc,




Rutledge Terrace,


Dublin 8.


Sir, – Listen. – Yours, etc,




Millmount Avenue,




Co Westmeath.


A chara, – A phrase trotted out on the news on every conceivable occasion by the “authorities” after an event with serious consequences: “Lessons will be learnt”. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were. – Is mise,




Sutton in the Isle,








Sir, – “Swing by” ; unless, improbably, chariots are involved. – Yours, etc,




Carrickbrennan Road,




Co Dublin.


Sir, – After nearly two weeks of contributions for the above perhaps it’s nearly time for “end game”. – Yours, etc,












Irish Independent:



State should not be let off hook for charities


Also in this section


We deserve much better governance than this


Cheap drink comes at a cost


Letters: Disagreeing with Donal on suicide


Irish citizens with a disability have for decades been relying on charity to obtain or supplement vital services.


Over time we have created a charity culture where numerous regulated and unregulated charities have emerged to bridge the gap, leaving the State off the hook.


People with a disability are therefore regarded by society as charity cases who rely on the generosity of those around them.


Their families, who are very busy caring for their son or daughter, take to the streets to shake buckets and organise quiz nights and marathons to fundraise.


What a kick in the teeth for the unfortunate families of clients of the Central Remedial Clinic to discover where their very hard-earned fundraising cash has gone.


As a parent of a child with a moderate learning disability who is in the educational system but not receiving state services, I am uncomfortable on many levels with fundraising.


I feel we are missing the bigger picture: should the need for these charities exist?


We are all equal citizens of Ireland entitled to equity and for all our basic needs to be met by the State, regardless of our physical or intellectual disability, in order to live full lives with dignity and without having to rely on charity of any kind.


The State’s money should be spent on frontline staff such as teachers, special needs assistants, care workers and therapists who do great and meaningful work.


We need to change our disabled citizens’ status as charity cases to equal citizens with equal rights.








* Really, nobody should be surprised by the salary revelations emanating from the Central Remedial Clinic and Irish Water controversies.


This sense of entitlement is, of course, a top-down national disease, and is endemic in politics, business, trade unions and some professions.


The unspoken truth is that we have a President, who is a socialist and humanitarian, who feels entitled to a salary of circa a quarter of a million euro per annum plus hugely generous expenses and allowances.


We have two ex-presidents, happy to take pensions of more than €100,000 per annum.


The Taoiseach, who presides over a bankrupt little country, is quite content to be among the highest-paid leaders in the world, as are his colleagues in cabinet who are the envy of their peers in Europe.


We are blessed to have five ex-taoisigh, four of whom are festooned with pensions and perks of around €140,000 each, as well as myriads of ex-politicians and senior civil servants on equally grotesque lifelong pensions, not to mention the CRC-scale golden handouts received on exiting the stage.


This unfounded, innate sense of self-worth and entitlement, we should never forget, is funded by impoverished and ultra-compliant Paddy, who unfortunately has long ago lost his sense of outrage or self-esteem.


What’s happening at the CRC is the tip of the iceberg and we all know that this cancer can only be stamped out by political leadership, courage and example. We were promised as much in 2011.


Sadly, neither of the government parties or Fianna Fail, as permanent self-interested beneficiaries of the party system, have ever shown any inclination to stop the tide and are less likely to do so in the future.


We have, however, a glorious opportunity to declare our disgust at the forthcoming elections.








* News that delegates from the new super-quango Irish Water were sent on a laughing mission to Croke Park for a morale-boosting €6,000 exercise has all the hallmarks of Walter Mitty at his finest.


However, next time just get them to look at us muggins paying for all this malarkey! That will have them in hysterics for free!






* Are there no ethical standards left in this country or have we become an institutionalised nation of greed? Charity chief executives topping up goes beyond belief. People with disabilities are the most vulnerable in our society. It is our moral duty to support and protect these people, especially given our history of past institutions of care. Has this country learned nothing? How many CRC service users suffered cutbacks during this financial abuse?


Irish carers have been providing the Government with free services for years. Put us and our people with disabilities in charge of our own resources within our own communities. We don’t want overpriced institutionalised care. Enough is enough.








* With American politics having The Tea Party, could our Reform Alliance become known as The Cocktail Reception?








* Over the past few months I’ve grown tired of politicians saying that we need to copy the Swedish economic model. Or that the Swiss health system is fantastic and we should replicate it..


I ask, why can’t Irish politicians come up with some of their own original ideas, instead of belatedly following our European neighbours. Surely, we can be the trendsetters.








* I read with incredulity, Daragh Mangan’s self-assured letter (Irish Independent, January 20) in which he supported huge salaries being paid to executives in the employ of charitable organisations.


He seems bewildered that a charity should be “vilified for hiring the most capable staff it can because they demand a respectable wage”.


I am not sure what Mr Mangan’s idea of a “respectable wage” is, but I would wager it is quite different to my notion of what constitutes one.


Nowhere in his letter does he mention the morality of executives receiving large salaries, while at the same time charities, to stay afloat, rely on the goodwill of our citizens, many of whom themselves are struggling financially.








* Language matters. It forms our thoughts and shapes our lives.


The Irish language, because of exclusion from public life, has gone from being the majority language in the early 1800s to being a minority language today. This was the greatest social change in Irish history.


Imagine had England been conquered and its language replaced by Spanish, French or German. Imagine an English population unable to read Shakespeare except in translation and cut off from their own history. Imagine the effect this would have on the psyche, confidence and sense of self of any people.


Our English-only mentality costs us export markets and jobs. The Danes learnt English without abandoning Danish and have a stronger economy than us.


Speaking Irish makes Ireland sound and feel like a regular European country.


It will recover our intellectual and cultural sovereignty and contribute to an inclusive Irish identity beyond colour or creed.






Irish Independent



Still still clearing out

January 20, 2014

20 January 2014 Still still clearing out

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. They have to deliver the Tood Huinter Browns to some remote location ans Leslie has gotten them lost.

Clearing out attic for insulation

Scrabbletoday Mary winsand gets over400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.




Sir Christopher Chataway , who has died aged 82, was the athlete who paced Roger Bannister to the first sub-four minute mile, finishing second himself. He later served in the governments of Harold Macmillan, Lord Home and Edward Heath; was a pioneer of commercial broadcasting; and served as chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority.

Although “built all wrong for running” and fond of a post-race cigar, Chataway was a world-class competitor from the half-mile to the half-marathon, with a fearsome final kick. He broke the world 5,000 metres record; competed in the 1952 and 1956 Olympics; and in 1955 broke the four-minute barrier himself, finishing second to Laszlo Tabori at White City in 3 min 59.8 sec.

A “really fast mile” had been promised when the Amateur Athletics Association met Oxford University at Iffley Road on the blustery afternoon of May 6 1954 as Bannister, a medical student, set out to beat his British record of 4 mins 3.6 sec.

With Chris Brasher, Chataway set a cracking pace, recording 4 mins 7.2 sec. Bannister excelled with laps of 57.5 sec, 60.7, 62.3 and a final 58.9. As he collapsed through the tape, three timekeepers certified the result, then Norris McWhirter took the loud-hailer. Cheers drowned him out as he gave the time as “Three…”. Bannister had shattered Gunder Haegg’s world record by two seconds with a run of 3 mins 59.4.

For Chataway, the bridge from athletics to politics was television. The reader of ITN’s first bulletin on October 11 1955, he was one of a cluster of contemporaries who became household names: Robin Day (with whom he shared ITN’s debut), Ludovic Kennedy and Geoffrey Johnson Smith. Setting up commercial radio as Minister for Posts and Telecommunications, he would spend 12 years with the medium as chairman of LBC.

He was in the vanguard of social reform, co-sponsoring Humphry Berkeley’s Bill to legalise homosexuality and telling for the Ayes in the 1964 vote to end capital punishment. As leader of the Inner London Education Committee, he upset grassroots Tories by letting comprehensive plans for seven boroughs go ahead, before securing a reprieve from the Labour government for 44 grammar schools.

Pro-European and very much a Heath man, Chataway left Parliament in 1974 , moving effortlessly into the boardroom before his appointment by John Major to head the CAA. He remained an athlete at heart, querying Harold Wilson’s creation of a Sports Council, opposing Mrs Thatcher’s efforts to force a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics and chairing the Commonwealth Games Council and UK Athletics. Taking up running again after stopping smoking, he turned in a 5 mins 48 sec mile at the age of 64.

With three friends, Chataway was prime mover of World Refugee Year, which raised £9 million in Britain alone and brought him the 1960 Nansen Medal. He was an early chairman of Oxfam, and went on to chair Action Aid and the Bletchley Park Trust.

Christopher John Chataway was born in Chelsea on January 31 1931, spending his childhood in Sudan, where his father was in the political service. At Sherborne he excelled at rugby, boxing and gymnastics and did not win a race until he was 16. He caught up fast, finishing second in the Public Schools’ championships despite losing a shoe, and in 1950, running for the Army, clipping 2.4 seconds off the Inter-Service mile record to 4 mins 15.6 sec.

Reading PPE at Magdalen College, Oxford, Chataway won a cross-country Blue in his first term. Early in 1952 he cut Bannister’s Oxford mile record to 4 mins 10.2 sec; that July he knocked five seconds off the British all-comers’ two-mile record.

In the 1952 Helsinki Olympics he tripped going for the lead in the 5,000 metres, recovering to finish fifth, 12 seconds behind Emil Zatopek. In his last year at Oxford, in the Varsity match, he cut his best for the mile to 4 mins 8.4 sec, then the third fastest by a Briton. In May 1953 Bannister set his record of 4 mins 3.6 sec, paced by Chataway.

Chataway joined Guinness as a transport executive, but continued to run. Gordon Pirie and Australia’s John Landy had talked of breaking four minutes, but the barrier stood until that day at Iffley Road. At White City in July, two months after he had helped Bannister make athletics history, Chataway and his fellow Briton Fred Green broke Gunder Haegg’s world three-mile record, with a time of 13 mins 32.2 sec.

Then, on October 13, again at White City, Chataway captured the world 5,000 metres record, beating Russia’s Vladimir Kuts in 13 mins 51.6 sec. Although Kuts regained his record 10 days later, the Soviet authorities made Chataway a Master of Sport. The drama of this clash — millions had followed the race on television to see the Briton win in the last few strides — made him the BBC’s first Sporting Personality of the Year, ahead of Bannister. After running his only sub-four minute mile, on July 30 1955 Chataway broke his own world three-mile record by nine seconds.

Before the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Chataway set a personal best for the 880 yards of 1 min 53.3 sec. He should have taken on Kuts and Zatopek in London, but the Russians withdrew after their team-mate Nina Ponomareva was caught allegedly shoplifting hats in Selfridges. Melbourne was a disappointment, Chataway fading in the final stages of the 5,000 metres, and he retired from the track.

Chataway joined ITN two months before ITV went live . He excelled, but wanted to do more reporting — and in 1956 he moved to the BBC as an interviewer with Panorama.

In 1958 he was elected to London County Council, and in 1959, at 28, won Lewisham North from Labour by 4,613 votes. He played himself in slowly at Westminster, supporting the Rev David Sheppard’s refusal to play cricket against South Africa and probing an alleged “colour bar” at a dance hall in Catford. He wrote on athletics for The Sunday Telegraph and continued to broadcast.

Early in 1961 Richard Wood, Minister of Power, made Chataway his PPS, and the following year Macmillan brought him into his government as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Education. His priority was doubling the number of trainee teachers.

Chataway held Lewisham North in 1964 by just 343 votes. In opposition he remained an education spokesman until the incoming Edward Heath moved him to overseas development.

Defeated in the Labour landslide of 1966, he rejoined the BBC, presenting Horizon. But he had to limit his broadcasting when, the following April, he became leader of Ilea’s education committee; his personal assistant was Jeffrey Archer. Seeking another seat, Chataway was defeated for the Reigate nomination in 1968 by Geoffrey Howe . But early in 1969 he was selected for Chichester, which he won in a May by-election, his majority of 26,087 making it the Tories’ safest seat. That October he rejoined the front bench as environment spokesman.

After winning the June 1970 election, Heath made Chataway, not yet 40, Minister for Posts and Telecommunications . He came under immediate pressure from Mary Whitehouse to “clean up” programmes, and from colleagues to stop jamming pirate stations such as Radio Caroline and to legalise commercial radio.

His 1971 White Paper, and subsequent Sound Broadcasting Bill, created an Independent Broadcasting Authority and up to 60 local commercial radio stations, with the BBC limited to its existing 20. He resisted pressure for breakfast television and a fourth channel.

In April 1972 Heath promoted him to the new sub-Cabinet post of Minister for Industrial Development. Chataway spent much time brokering the survival of lame ducks: the collapsed Upper Clyde Shipyards under new ownership, Cammell Laird, Rootes Motors (under Chrysler), BSA and International Computers.

On deciding to leave Parliament in late 1974, Chataway went into merchant banking with Orion, where he was a managing director until 1988, heading mergers and acquisitions. He joined the boards of BET, Fisons, Allied Investments and Macquarie Securities, and later chaired British Telecommunications Systems, United Medical Enterprises (his share options made him £360,000 on privatisation), Kitcat & Allen and Isola 2000.

When bidding opened for a breakfast television franchise in 1980, Chataway chaired the unsuccessful AM Television, backed by Pearson. From 1981 to 1993 he was chairman of LBC, the London news radio station set up under his legislation.

In 1991 Chataway took the chair at the CAA. His greatest challenge was bringing on stream the computerised NERC air traffic control centre near Southampton. He defended BAA’s monopoly control of London’s three main airports, but rebuked the government for allowing British Airways to take over Dan-Air, and accused BA and Virgin of price-fixing, while trying to resolve their public feud over “dirty tricks”.

He was knighted in 1995, and retired the following year .

Christopher Chataway married first, in 1959 (dissolved 1975), Anna Lett, with whom he had two sons and a daughter . He married secondly, in 1976, Carola Walker, with whom he had two sons.

Sir Christopher Chataway, born January 31 1931, died January 19 2014





To be sure banking still needs fixing, but why must that automatically mean grovelling at the altar of competition (Miliband vows bank reform not retribution, 18 January)? Labour faced down the EU competition/state-aid police once before when Gordon Brown, in extremis, forced them to allow the Lloyds/HBOS deal. The same crisis is far from over, so Miliband must be bold enough to do so again, and enable the creation of the bank we actually need – a national, stripped-down, utility, Mittelstand bank, carved from the bones of RBS (which we already own), regionally organised, with cast-iron regulation, pay linked to middling civil service grades, and draconian and easily enforceable penalties for dodgy dealings.

It’s competition that brought the whole thing down: traders competing to do the biggest deal and net the biggest bonus, high-street banks competing to sell us the most worthless products at the biggest profit margins. Simply admitting new entrants to such a dysfunctional “market” on the basis of a mandated minimum market share risks moving from too-big-to-fail to too-small-to-succeed without addressing the problems with the underlying culture of the industry. Just as with buses, trains, utilities and healthcare, we don’t need competition, we just need one bank that does it right.
Root Cartwright
Radlett, Hertfordshire

• The banks have recapitalised using money provided through quantitative easing (QE), which they are sitting on and not lending to small businesses. They also have any savings up to £85,000 guaranteed by the government. We badly need investment in small businesses to provide local jobs for our children and grandchildren. Why not take the QE money from the banks and set up regional banks, funded from this money and operated for the public via our post offices? Any savings in these new banks would be 100% guaranteed by the government, while it would remove the easing and savings guarantee from banks that insist on paying divisive salaries and bonuses.

This should lead to a significant shift of funds into the new banks, while private banks would have to insure or build more capital to offer the same security. No doubt private banks would offer welcome higher rates, but at a higher risk, to keep their savers. The above would offer a social solution for banking in the interests of the general public, while at the same time allowing the private banks to operate in the market (under regulation) but without taxpayer support. Surely this is how capitalism is supposed to work.
David Walker
Dudley, West Midlands

• Labour’s contrition over their past relationship with the banks (Editorial, 16 January) should be limited to an admission of naivety. If, like many customers, they trusted the banks then that trust was, and continues to be, blatantly abused. Going into the next election as a consumer champion would be no bad thing, with the Conservatives locked into market dogma. However, the strategy for fixing broken markets should be consistently applied: financial transparency, separation of retail operations, and that no business should be too big to fail. Forcing the sale of bank branches would not change the fundamental problems of the financial sector. As with TSB, it would just cause inconvenience for customers.
Richard Gilyead
Saffron Walden, Essex

• Polly Toynbee states (Comment, 17 January) that no one expects unwarranted bank bonus payments to be clawed back under new legislation. Throughout the PPI scandal I have yet to read of any commission paid back by those who benefited from mis-selling. And who, in the end, pays the fines imposed on banks, power firms etc? We customers do when they’re included in the costs of services we need.
Gren Gaskell
Malvern, Worcestershire

Thank you, Michael Rosen (A levy on grief, 15 January) for describing so poignantly how the absence of a dear one is felt in the empty room. Space is rationed and proscribed, always by those who have plenty. Enough space to store belongings, develop a hobby, study in peace, have someone to stay – could members of the current cabinet imagine life without this?
Hazel Imbert
Worthing, West Sussex

• Can I in Tottenham have some of the Guardian magic which restored the newsagent to Dartford station (Letters, 15 January)? Our newsagent has burnt down with a week’s worth of our vouchers inside. None of the other newsagents here delivers or will take vouchers. That only leaves Sainsbury’s Local, the opening of which I opposed because of the detriment to small businesses.
Carol Sykes

• Jon Savage says “without financial power or overt political affiliations, young people are too often ignored” (Comment, 18 January). At what age does this end? I’m 58 and I still feel I’m being ignored.
Petar Bavelja

• As any true fan of Peppa Pig will tell you (Letters, 18 January), it is Peppa’s little brother George who is the budding palaeontologist. And “dine-saw” is just about all he ever says.
Stephen J Hackett
Salisbury, Wiltshire

• There may not be dandelions growing in Tynemouth (Letters, 15 January) but there are a little further south in Durham. I also picked two blackberries yesterday, a bit sharp, but edible.
Alan Pearson

• To quote François Villon: “Mais où sont les neiges d’antan.” More to the point, where are the snowdrops this year?
E Shannon
Westleton, Suffolk


The ghost of Rwanda hangs over the Central African Republic (CAR), and again the UN warns of the danger of genocide (Report, 16 January). However, it is significant that EU ambassadors unanimously proposed last week in Brussels that urgent consideration be given to the proposal made by Cathy Ashton that there should be a rapid deployment of a battalion-size force to back up the African and French peacekeepers in their efforts to restore security in the CAR. According to them, there is a “pressing need” to restore security in order to “avoid the CAR sliding towards complete state failure … and large-scale massacres”.

The force would have the status of a common security and defence policy, modelled on Eufor RD Congo in 2006, which used EU member state soldiers under the command of a senior EU member state military official. This proposal would be likely to prepare the way for a better-equipped and effective UN force able to back up the African Union mission.

While the majority of EU member states, including the UK, do not have a direct interest in the CAR, or in taking action, the alternative is unthinkable. Fire support, intelligence, medical support and transport, including helicopters, would make a big difference. I very much hope that on Monday at the EU foreign affairs council in Brussels, William Hague will respond positively before the terrible predictions of genocide are realised.
Glenys Kinnock
House of Lords

Chris Grayling’s announcement that a 320-bed “secure college” is be built adjacent to the existing young offender institution at Glen Parva in Leicestershire is a serious step backwards, all the more saddening given the progress made in recent years to dramatically bring down the number of children and young people in custody from over 3,000 to fewer than 1,300 (Report, 17 January). This will not be the rehabilitative, educational “pathfinder” it is said to be. It is for children the “Titan” equivalent of the 2,000-bed prison the government plans for adults near Wrexham. Economies of scale are fine for the production of nails; they don’t work for seriously troubled adolescents. What are needed are relatively expensive, small, local, intimate units closely linked to the community agencies with whom troubled children and their families dealt prior to their custody and with whom they will have to relate on release. Large, misleadingly cheap, geographically distant institutions will, despite the best efforts of their teaching staff, fit the description the minister wants to put on the tin: colleges – but of crime. The likely outcome will be the displacement and closure of the local authority secure units. It is dispiriting to find the Youth Justice Board, now firmly back within the Ministry of Justice, endorsing the plan.
Rod Morgan
Former chairman, Youth Justice Board

• It is outrageous that at a time of swingeing cuts to other services for children and young people, the government proposes spending millions on a new 320-bed child prison. This flies in the face of evidence which indicates that where children have to be detained, small local units with a social care and therapeutic regime are most effective. While education is an important component in helping children who are in the criminal justice system, it is counterproductive to suggest that locking up even more of them is the way to ensure rehabilitation. The average time spent in custody is 11 weeks, and children who end up in custody have a myriad of needs which are unmet before and after their sentences. Providing education in a “fortified school” for a short period and, for many children, at a great distance from their home and community, will not deal with the impoverished lives, mental health and learning difficulties and lack of opportunities that most of them will return to. It will neither protect the public nor help children to stay out of trouble.
Pam Hibbert
Chair of Trustees, National Association for Youth Justice





To offer or conduct psychotherapy or counselling with the express aim of altering sexual orientation is profoundly unethical (“The woman who thinks Tom Daley’s gay because his Dad died”, 17 January).

The UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and all other leading therapy organisations have spoken out against this practice, including the Association of Christian Counsellors.

While UKCP agrees with the good intentions behind Geraint Davies’s Bill, we don’t necessarily need more legislation to ban gay conversion therapy.

The voluntary professional bodies have already issued guidance to their registrants. We would welcome the statutory regulators (the Health and Care Professions Council which covers arts therapists and psychologists, and the General Medical Council which covers doctors) rising to the challenge and following suit.

People who are struggling with conflicting feelings about relationships and sexual attractions need support, whatever their sexuality.

They need confidence that the therapist whom they see abides by a robust ethical code.

UKCP is calling for clear professional guidelines and high-quality public information, and is working with professional partners and the Department of Health to deliver both.

David Pink

Chief Executive,

UK Council for Psychotherapy,

London EC1

Dr Mike Davidson of the Core Issues Trust was reported as saying: “On what grounds should a married man with children be forbidden the opportunity to reduce unwanted same-sex attraction in order to hold his family together?”

Surely it’s unrealistic to see feelings in terms of “unwanted” or “wanted”? Our feelings are part of the raw material that makes us. They offer information in regard to ourselves and the world, and as such signal a potential.

I support Geraint Davies’s Bill. Any counsellor or psychotherapist who attempted to eradicate “unwanted” feelings  would be failing to recognise that human processes are not the same as medical ones.

Sexuality is more  complex and interesting than that.

Chris Payne

Registered with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy  and the UK Council for Psychotherapy,

London NW1


The media and  teenage suicide

Emily Dugan’s article “The tragedy of Tallulah: how a secret online identity took over a girl’s life” (18 January) seemed to jump on the bandwagon of accounting for teenage suicide by headlining the use of Internet sites by teenagers.

She is perhaps unaware that one person committing suicide often leads to others they know – or who hear of it – being more likely to kill themselves.

As the parent of a 16-year-old who knew Tallulah, I was horrified to open the paper and find the glamorous photograph – first used, irresponsibly, in another paper the day after Tallulah’s death.

Journalists should think very hard about how such issues are explored in order to prevent other young people looking at this image and thinking they, too, could receive such attention after their deaths and have their photograph in the national news. All forms of media can be dangerous to vulnerable people, not just the Internet.

Loraine Hancock

London W9


Lost girls: Think of a mother’s dilemma

There has been a great deal of outrage expressed about the “lost girls” who may have been aborted, and the need to stop people learning the gender of their babies until after the abortion time limit has passed. However, there has been little concern expressed for the woman who is in the position of being pregnant with a daughter not wanted by the father, as well as possibly by the mother herself and her extended family.

How will it help these mothers to force them either to seek an illegal abortion at an unregulated clinic or to carry to term an unwanted child?

And what kind of life will these unwanted daughters live, with fathers who wish they had never been born, and mothers who are ashamed of having produced them?

We allow women to terminate pregnancies of up to 24 weeks on the basis that, until it is viable, a foetus is a part of the mother’s body and not a separate human being. If that is the case, a mother’s reasons for requesting a termination before 24 weeks should not matter.

Of course, doctors do not want to be a part of forcing an abortion on someone. But isn’t it patronising to assume that a woman cannot make a rational decision to terminate a baby, sad though the prospect is, rather than bring a daughter into a family where she isn’t welcome?

It is terrible that women are being coerced into abortions by husbands and families. But the root of the problem is entrenched sexism, which needs to be tackled with education and community outreach, not by restricting mothers’ options.

Ellen Purton


Why would it be “draconian”, as Dr Sarah Wollaston argues (“Britain to act on illegal gender selection”, 16 January), to withhold gender information totally from expectant parents? Why is it necessary for any expectant parent to know the gender of their unborn child?

Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do. In fact, it could be regarded as unnatural. Countless generations of humans have managed perfectly well without this foreknowledge. The element of surprise through not knowing can add to the pleasure of the birth event.

Refusal by the medical profession to reveal the gender of the foetus would certainly put paid to much of the selection.

Iain Smith

Rugby, Warwickshire


I have just listened to the news with its litany of rape, sexual assault and generally unacceptable behaviour by a wide variety of men and boys. I also felt horror at The Independent’s revelation of the rate of abortion of female foetuses in certain areas of the world and the fear that it is even happening in this country.

It all adds up to make me feel extremely depressed at the state of our society. Misogyny seems to be everywhere and the casual “use” of women so widespread that many men don’t even recognise it.

Where have we gone wrong that our men are so dysfunctional and have such a distorted idea of the way they should relate to women? Do they not realise that women are people – as they themselves are – and not simply commodities?

Angela Peyton

Beyton. Suffolk


British spirit is a thing of the past

I read that the Royal Mail suspended deliveries to two villages near Swansea after a postman complained that paths were slippery and dangerous because of rain.

However, a resident is reported to have said that the condition of the paths was no worse than in other winters; and a neighbour said it was absolutely fine with a pair of wellies.

There was a time when the Royal Mail was proud that, whatever the weather, the mail was delivered.

During the freezing winter of 1947, a train delivering coal to a town on the east coast became frozen solid. But the railway staff knew that the town was almost out of coal, and despite the perishing cold and incredible discomfort, they managed to start the train, and the vital fuel arrived in time.

Where is the British spirit and pride these days in overcoming all difficulties to finish the job?

Perhaps we should be grateful that a different generation was around during the Second World War and that the health and safety brigade had not yet appeared on the scene.

Colin Bower

Sherwood, Nottingham

I understood that the Government privatised the Royal Mail in the best interests of both the business and its customers.

Recently, a notice has been pinned to our local postbox stating that to achieve business efficiencies the collection time on Saturdays is being brought forward by half an hour.

For many years we have received our mail between 9.30am and 11am. We have noticed since New Year that deliveries have gone back to between 1pm and 2.30pm.

Today, our post included a letter from the local sorting office saying that in the interests of efficiencies, rounds had been reorganised and the delivery “window” extended. As a customer, am I missing something?

Roy Baker

Marston Green,  West Midlands


Humane approach to lethal injection

Between reading your accounts on 17 and 18 January of the clumsy execution of Dennis McGuire in Ohio, I had to have an elderly and sick cat put down.

The process was entirely peaceful. A first injection sent the animal gently to sleep, and a second injection finished him off, with no distress whatsoever being caused. Have the authorities in Ohio and other American states that use lethal injection missed something?

D W Budworth

London W






Sir, George Osborne’s suggestion that the time is ripe for an above-inflation increase in the national minimum wage is economically prudent and politically astute (Jan 17). Opponents may claim that employment prospects of the lowest paid will be adversely affected but the independent Institute for Social & Economic Research (ISER) report published in February 2012 found no evidence of significant adverse impacts on pre-recession employment arising from the minimum wage.

The return of strong economic growth and the rapidly improving jobs market supports the timing of the Chancellor’s statement which is one of the most significant Conservative policy reversals of David Cameron’s leadership. The lingering public perception that the party is hostile to the poor is now firmly contradicted by the huge increase in personal allowances focused exclusively on basic rate taxpayers, the freeze in fuel duty and council tax and the belated admission that the party was wrong to oppose the introduction of the minimum wage in the 1990s.

Philip Duly

Haslemere, Surrey

Sir, You assert that people on the minimum wage earn just over £12,000 a year. This is incorrect. The majority of those on this hourly rate are working part-time; many are students. The minimum wage is an ineffective anti-poverty instrument which does little for working families. A significant rise in the rate will, however, close off entry-level jobs for many young people. We already have a million under-25s looking for work — Mr Osborne’s generosity with other people’s money will do little for them.

Professor J. R. Shackleton

University of Buckingham

Sir, You say “there is no better welfare policy than better pay”. Surely the best answer is to align the proposed national minimum wage with the income tax personal allowance. For a 37-hour week at £7 per hour this would amount to a £13,468 annual tax threshold so that no one on the minimum wage pays income tax.

Derek Edwards

Brentwood Essex

Sir, A rise in the minimum wage will in the first instance attract even more migrants from within the EU. As for policing it, this will prove in the longer run to be a mug’s game. Better to acknowledge that a living wage and mass immigration are mutually exclusive. Curtail immigration and the market will automatically raise unskilled wages.

There will, of course, be a transfer of purchasing power from the majority “haves” to the minority “have-nots” as menial jobs that cannot be outsourced abroad become more costly. This is a small price to pay for all who espouse One Nation cohesiveness.

Only a “penny wise and pound foolish” society would import cheap labour with the aim of driving unskilled pay below a living wage. Not being able to control migrants from within the EU is tantamount to importing cheap labour.

Yugo Kovach

Winterborne Houghton, Dorset



A retired Colonel contacts the Times to offer up his own experience of titular misunderstanding

Sir, Colonel Dewar (letter, Jan 18) should be so lucky! I have been addressed in correspondence by the abbreviated title Colon.David Cooper, Colonel (retd) Sidmouth, Devon


As the “disease of kings” becomes more prevalant, Times readers write in to share anecdotes and home remedies

Sir, It is said that Judge Jeffries was suffering from gout when he made the long journey from London to Dorchester in a poorly sprung coach over roads that were even more potholed than they are today (“UK gout epidemic is no laughing matter”, Jan 16). The upshot was the “Hanging Assizes”.Robin HughesEast Ogwell, Devon

Sir, I suffered five bouts of gout during the course of 2012. Through 2013 I daily took a couple of teaspoons of Montmorency cherry juice (available at a fairly large price from your pharmacist). I had no recurrence of gout in 2013. Can there really be a connection?Shirley ThurstonHampton Hill, Middx


Reward systems with a high-bonus element lead to employees performing in a manner that is penny wise but pound foolish

Sir, The growth of the bonus culture in banking and in financial service industries has spread worldwide and is proving difficult to control and even harder to reverse (report, Jan 15).

Reward systems with a high bonus element are pernicious: they distort performance towards narrow and short-term objectives, they exhibit upward creep under competitive pressures, and they are perceived as unfair by those not eligible. They are popular only to those who receive them and they are sustained by fallacious arguments about attracting good people but they are most attractive to the avaricious.

I worked for many years in industrial operations management where our research indicated that bonus payments, or payment by results, works best for simple manual work. Here it is easy to relate earnings to tons of material moved or packed, and where proportional reward can be paid in relation to effort expended. In more complex roles, the direct relationship between effort and output is hard to define, and bonuses linked to specific business targets leads to distorted or selfish behaviour which diverges from the wider and longer term aims of the organisation.

The only way out of the present contentious and pernicious bonus culture in the banks, which has now run way out of control, is to bring it to an end. Governments and shareholders should work together to encourage distaste for these bad reward systems.

Arthur Dicken

Prestbury, Cheshire


It is wrong for banks to pay out huge bonuses when a fifth of renters are borrowing simply to meet housing costs

Sir, News of RBS proposals to pay some staff bonuses twice the size of their banking salary contrasts sharply with Shelter’s survey finding that a fifth of those in rented accommodation are borrowing simply to meet housing costs. No government should tolerate such active polarisation of UK society: any acquiescence of politicians to payment of these ridiculously inflated sums is socially irresponsible and unacceptable.

Robert Gower

Egleton, Rutland


The head of Ofsted has a habit of using anecdotes and personal opinion as if they were of equal value to inspection evidence

Sir, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, says trainee teachers have been sent into schools without proper guidance on professional behaviour or dress (Jan 16).

Sir Michael had no experience as an inspector before his appointment but this is no excuse for his tendency to use anecdotes and personal opinion as if they were of equal value to inspection evidence when he is speaking as the Chief Inspector.

He also suggested that weaknesses in training led to teachers leaving the profession early because they found pupils’ bad behaviour too challenging. As we are in the second year of a three-year programme of inspections of initial teacher training providers, in which inspectors are charged with checking on trainees’ preparation to meet the professional standards, including managing pupils’ behaviour, we might expect Sir Michael to refer to the inspection reports that led him to this conclusion. There are, after all, a large number of inspection reports from last year available on the Ofsted web-site. I can find nothing in these reports that would lead an impartial reader to think that there were weaknesses in the training provided by schools and their Higher Education Institution partners to help trainees manage pupils’ behaviour. Perhaps the contradiction between the inspection evidence and Sir Michael’s anecdotal evidence is the reason he is willing to ignore his own inspectors’ conclusions.

Norman Blackett

(former HMI) Malvern, Worcs

Sir, Michael Wilshaw is shocked that 40 per cent of new teachers leave within five years. Many others are leaving and this is probably due to exhaustion. Heads believe that a 9am to 3pm working day with eight lessons, a short morning break, a short lunch and no afternoon break is acceptable.

Finland, a top performer internationally, has the same working day but with five lessons, each with a 15-minute break, and a lunch hour.

The breaks are used to track pupils and to mark work produced in class. Finnish teachers have job satisfaction, have no inspections, and pupils have 1 hour of homework per week. Our school system needs a rethink.

Ken Rotheram

Maryport, Cumbria





SIR – Congratulations to Alan Titchmarsh for his article about manners (Life, January 12).

The demise of good manners is a sad reflection of poor parental care in today’s society.

When an elderly gentleman, passing me in the park the other day, raised his hat and said “Good morning, madam,” I was so delighted I had to run after him and tell him he had made my day.

Jo Swindells

SIR – Why have the manners and morals of our country changed so much for the worse?

Of course we must progress, but not to the detriment of a civilised society. Sadly, I feel we are all on a slippery slope to losing these things completely.

Anna Nicholas
Tutshill, Gloucestershire

SIR – Children need to be taught table manners and not to eat in front of the television. Saying “please” and “thank you” costs nothing but means so much.

I am always delighted when a gentleman opens a door for me or offers me a seat. I hope these things do not disappear.

Mo Sparrow
Morchard Bishop, Devon

SIR – As teachers, we led many school outings together. We never had any discipline problems. Boys always wore uniform on journeys and when we stayed in hotels on skiing trips in the Cairngorms they changed into their grey suits for the evening meal.

Table manners were most important. Once, in Holland, a small boy was seen watching our boys having a meal. When we asked why he was there, he said that he was the manager’s son and had been sent to observe the English schoolboys’ manners.

Michael and Christine Johnson


SIR – The wind energy industry’s claim that “the UK is the windiest country in Europe” is misleading (“Britons pay more for wind farms”, January 12).

Scotland is the windiest country in Europe. Most of onshore England has modest wind speeds, and too many English turbine developments underperform as a result. Seeing static turbines in fine landscapes or close to residential areas fuels public opposition to them.

Permitting wind energy developments where wind speeds are low should cease forthwith. Ed Davey should stop telling us not to worry because we only pay for the electricity they produce. All this does is demonstrate that subsidies are too high.

Professor Michael Jefferson
Melchbourne, Bedfordshire

SIR – Support paid for onshore wind in Britain is lower than in many other countries, such as Poland, Brazil, Italy and Japan.

To establish a secure and affordable electricity supply, we need government support to develop renewables. The amount required is falling as costs fall. Onshore wind is currently one of the cheapest large-scale renewable technologies, and we cut support rates by 10 per cent in April 2013, in line with falling costs. Support will be cut more in the future.

We are also looking to move to “competitive allocation” sooner than previously announced. This means onshore wind will have to compete on cost in order to be considered for a contract.

Wind is a vital contributor to our energy supply and met 6.6 per cent of our electricity needs last year.

Edward Davey
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
London SW1

SIR – As the warmists blame the storms and floods on climate change, perhaps we should look back a few years to when chaos theory was popular, and it was suggested that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings could cause a hurricane on the other side of the world.

If this is the case, one wonders what the turbulence from the thousands of turbines will do to the world’s weather.

Brian Clarke
Wivenhoe, Essex

Sexualised society

SIR – I was struck by the contrast between the First World War letters and the article by Hannah Betts on misogyny in Stella last week (January 12).

Those tender love letters were written under harrowing conditions by young men and women reared in a God-fearing culture in which most tried to live by the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. I wonder how many young people today even know what these are.

Young men now are being raised on hardcore pornography. Alas, not even the most energetic placard-waving feminist can overcome this.

Barbara Fisher
North Marston, Buckinghamshire

SIR – For several decades, young women have been subjected to propaganda in magazines and films, which seeks to persuade them that, unless they have casual sex with every male who shows interest, there is something wrong with them.

When I was a youth, a kiss and a cuddle was the limit of a young man’s expectation. Teenage pregnancies were unheard of.

Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex

Policing the world

SIR – We would save huge sums of money and many lives if we refrained from joining in every foreign war (report, January 12).

We should still maintain a powerful enough Army to defend ourselves or overseas interests such as the Falklands. Other countries can take their turn to act as the world’s police force.

Michael Faunce-Brown
South Ferring, West Sussex

Angel of Woolwich

SIR – Why did the New Year Honours List fail to recognise Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, the gallant woman who got off a bus in order to help the fusilier Lee Rigby? She found herself confronting a blood-stained murderer holding a meat cleaver, and held him in conversation for 10 minutes until the police arrived.

George Crosses have been awarded for less.

Godfrey Dann
East Grinstead, East Sussex

Bankers’ bonuses

SIR – I would be prepared to accept that bankers in the banks bailed out by the state should be given bonuses.

However, they should only be paid when the bank is returned to the private sector and at a profit to the state. This would certainly exercise their minds.

John Spiller
Long Ashton, Somerset

Affair and square

SIR – It is surprising that France’s first lady should be hospitalised due to shock over her partner’s alleged affair, when she herself allegedly continued an affair with Monsieur Hollande for some four years while he was with Ségolène Royale.

Narguesse Stevens
Newton Abbott, Devon



SIR – The attempt by 95 Conservative MPs to strengthen the Prime Minister’s hand in his negotiations for treaty change was bold, but doomed to fail (“95 Tory MPs call for EU law veto”, report January 12).

Unfortunately, José Manuel Barroso and his colleagues seem intent on cocking a snook at David Cameron’s reasonable aspirations to renegotiate our EU membership and refuse to take them seriously.

As things stand, the only way is Ukip, for the European elections at least. A large number of Ukip votes could hope to stop the juggernaut in its tracks, and lead to a sensible negotiation being pursued.

Alec Ellis

SIR – If the EU is confirmed by a referendum to be a permanent feature of our lives, I would recommend that we go the whole hog and rid ourselves of the 650 MPs and 780 peers who are now functionless, and spend their time bickering at Prime Minister’s Questions and clocking in and out in order to have lunch.

They have failed to maintain our independence or keep us safe from foreign powers.

Peter Griffith
Malvern, Worcestershire

SIR – Anyone standing for Parliament should be expected to study the 1972 European Communities Act and the Hansard debates relating to it, and then be tested on it.

Our MPs would then realise that calling for a “pick and mix” EU is not an option. Their predecessors voted for Parliament, and all future British governments, to be subservient to the foreign power then known as the Common Market, now the European Union, with all its laws having priority over all British law. The only way of vetoing EU laws would be to repeal the 1972 Act, thus taking Britain out of the EU. Talking about vetoing EU laws is like whistling in the wind.

Derek Bennett
Walsall, Staffordshire

SIR – Perhaps the 95 Tory rebels were exercising loyalty to the people who should matter most to them – their constituents.

A prime minister can be replaced. Most of the 95 MPs’ constituents could not be dispatched so speedily.

Chris Keats
Christchurch, Dorset

SIR – The late Professor Kenneth Minogue once said that “an ideological movement is a collection of people, many of whom could hardly bake a cake, fix a car, sustain a friendship or a marriage, or even do a quadratic equation, yet they believe they know how to rule the world”.

Isn’t this an excellent summary of the ideologically driven European federalists, whose project is in free-fall, and yet still they dogmatically pursue their ends while insisting that the crisis is over?

James Adam Paton
Billericay, Essex

SIR – Would the 95 Conservative MPs who want the power to veto EU laws be happy at the prospect of other countries being able to veto laws that were clearly in Britain’s interests?

Alan Pavelin
Chislehurst, Kent

SIR – Surely, if all the MEPs who disagree with their monthly decamping to Strasbourg stayed in Brussels and got on with their paperwork for four days, it would embarrass the EU into taking action? Perhaps not.

William T Nuttall
Rossendale, Lancashire

SIR – If a man couldn’t decide which of two cities, 300 miles apart, to live in, and his solution was to live for a month in each and go to and fro 12 times a year at great expense, he would rightly be regarded as mad.

Yet this is what is costing the EU £93 million a year.

David Cook
Cottingham, East Yorkshire

SIR – The Tories said: “There is no question of any erosion of essential national sovereignty” while Labour’s slogan was: “In Europe, not run by Europe”.

Both very similar, and equally untrue.

Robert Edwards
Hornchurch, Essex


Irish Times:


Sir, – Your Editorial (January 13th) highlighted the continuing crisis in relation to ongoing overcrowding in hospitals, particularly in our emergency departments (ED).

The sad reality is that seven years after being described as a national emergency by the then Minister for Health, there is still no end in sight to this problem.

The fundamental problem with overcrowding stems from a reduction in bed numbers at a time of increasing population. The IMO believes that the problems in EDs will not be solved until this Government addresses the issue of integrated health care and bed capacity. It is the lack of vision and resources that cause the problems in EDs all over the country and it must be recognised that emergency departments represent just one of the many pressure points in the system.

The Special Delivery Unit (SDU) theoretically looks at the total picture of a hospital but the reality is that so much more needs to be done – where are the long stay units for elderly and high dependency patients? Where are the so-called community services? Where are the beds in the hospital when at any given time wards are closed for budgetary reasons further reducing capacity?

It is not acceptable to blame the crisis on the season of the year or the ageing of the population – the sad but true fact is that our health services are starved of resources and cannot deliver the quality of care required for patients. – Yours, etc,



Irish Medical Organisation,

Fitzwilliam Place,


Sir, – Last October I filled out the annual statistical census in my school. One of the easiest sections was a straight Yes/No answer to the question, “Does your school operate a book rental scheme?”. With justifiable pride I clicked “Yes”. With an average donation per child of €60,with parents most generously sending in all their children’s used books in order to create a stockpile and with a committee of staff and parents giving up to two weeks of their summer holidays, we ensured that every child in our school was part of our new book rental scheme. Click “Yes” for a job well done!

What would have happened had I clicked “No”? What if the parents had not donated €20,000 as well as their used books to provide the initial outlay? What if the staff had not given their time along with the PA volunteers to put the scheme into effect? Simple. The school would have received €150 per capita over the next three years (approximately €50,000) to introduce a book rental scheme.

Minister of Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn has decided to reward the no-clicking schools with a €15 million grant (Home News, January 9th). Damned if you do, damned lucky if you don’t. – Yours, etc,


Principal, Scartleigh NS,


Midleton, Cork.


Sir, – Reporting on the Government-backed launch of an online version of Ireland’s Memorial Records, Stephen Collins (Home News, January 11th) repeated the official statistic that “49,000 men from the island of Ireland” died in the 1914-18 war. This figure is simply untrue.

In 1979, I began a thorough examination of the Memorial Records, which had originally been compiled by Eva Bernard 60 years before. I found that some 11,007 of the 49,400 dead had not been born in Ireland, and that 7,245 were without a listed birthplace. However, no simple conclusions may be drawn from these raw figures. Willie Redmond, for example, who emphatically was Irish, was born in Liverpool, and Lord Kitchener, who emphatically wasn’t, was born in Co Kerry. Similarly, neither the English John Kipling, son of the poet, killed in action with the Irish Guards in 1915, nor the Irish Tom Kettle, killed in action with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1916, are accorded a birthplace. What muddies the waters considerably is that the Memorial Records also include men from Britain who either served in Irish regiments, or enlisted in British service battalions with the parenthetic (Irish) attached. No authentic Irish connection was required for such enlistment.

Other listings defy analysis, such as those of Demosthenes Guilgaud, died of a heart attack in Canada, in 1919, William Jennings Bryan, died in Colorado Springs 1916, and Richard Smythe, drowned in Jaffa Bay 1919.

Overall, I found that some 31,000 of the dead were born in Ireland, and I concluded that some 35,000 could properly be considered Irish. Other analyses, notably Pat Casey’s, generally – if not in detail – concur with my far lower estimate than the “official” figures. I published my findings in a long article in The Irish Times on November 11th, 1980. Yet, more than 33 years later, the utterly inaccurate figure of circa 49,000 is still being cited. Perhaps one reason for this is that anyone doing a search in The Irish Times online archives for material on the Great War will not find my analysis: page 10 for November 11th, 1980, which contained that article is – quite uniquely in my very extensive experience of the archives – missing in its entirety. How very curious.

The official recycling of statistical falsehood as historical fact comes hard upon the widespread allegation last month that Major Willie Redmond asked not to be buried in a British military cemetery in 1917, in protest at the execution of the 1916 leaders. This utter falsehood, with its calumnious implication that he did not wish to be buried with the men he so gallantly led into battle, has no documentary basis whatever – yet it has now found its way into Wikipedia, with RTÉ News being cited as a reputable source. Innocent students interested in the Irish involvement in the 1914-18 war are now being systematically misled by publicly-funded institutions into believing complete fabrications.

This follows the deplorably one-sided commemorations of the 1913 industrial disputes, tendentiously and inaccurately named “The Lockout”. These differing examples suggest that an officially-supported fiction masquerading as history remains, as always, the Irish narrative of choice. In which case, God help us all come 2016. – Yours, etc,


Ballymore Eustace,

Co Kildare.

Editor’s note: Due to a technical error, the page referred to above did not go online. This is being rectified.



Sir, – Is it not time the European Union considered abolishing the European Parliament?

I doubt if even 1 per cent of the Irish electorate can point to any achievement of the European Parliament. The democratic element in the union is already provided by the Council of Ministers where democratically elected government representatives have much stronger credentials for representing the local electorate. It is time we stopped pretending the EU is a state. It is a multi-lateral international organisation that plays a very important role in citizens’ lives, but is not a national state.

The European Parliament is an expensive charade which does little for the good governance of Ireland, but has been established to provide hefty salaries to “has been” national politicians. It is time to abolish it. It makes the Irish Senate actually look good. – Yours, etc,


Eglington Road,




Sir, – You have published three interesting figures recently.

The first was that our agricultural exports were worth almost €10 billion last year, a great achievement by that industry.

The second was that the interest paid on our national debt was €8.1 billion ( almost all paid to holders outside the Irish jurisdiction and therefore a total loss to Ireland Inc) which largely wiped out the benefits of the above.

The third is that we Irish have approximately €90 billion worth of savings, most of which is held outside Ireland. The Post Office, our banks and prize bonds pay a derisory rate of interest which does not match inflation, why doesn’t the State offer to pay us the 3.53 per cent it is paying international lenders and thereby ensure we fund our own deficits and the interest paid remains in our economy? – Yours, etc,


Avoca Handweavers,



Sir, – When my late father David Faiers married Peggy Tansey (my mother) in Haddington Road Roman Catholic church on August 29th, 1953, there were no guests and just two witnesses.

The marriage ceremony was conducted at a side altar and there was no Mass, candles, nor flowers. There was however a dispensation from Pope Pius XII. My father had to sign an agreement to have all children of the marriage raised in the Roman Catholic faith. This was, he contended throughout his life over many a glass of Bushmills whiskey, a form of ethnic cleansing .

By profession he was a marvellous sports journalist, but according to his neighbours he was the “black Prod” on the avenue. I was baptised a Roman Catholic and I practise very hard at being a good Christian. I suspect that inside me there is a “raging Protestant” trying to emerge. – Yours, etc,





Sir, – If, in his answer to Prof Sheila Greene (January 15th), Prof Kevin Mitchell (January 16th) had stuck with “mental states arise from brain states” and that such brain states incorporate all the complexity of past experiences, I would be happy to declare him the winner in this exchange.

However, he exposes a narr owness in neuroscience by say ing that past experiences are “written in changes to brain circuits”. Since there is much about matter and consciousness and how they interact that we do not understand, such an assumption is just an unproven theory. So, for the time being, we might be wise to stick with the view of that other Trinity College academic, George Berkeley, who said: “What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind.” – Yours, etc,


Glencree Road,


Sir, – I gladly noted Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s decision to drop its plans for an €800,000 refurbishment of its chamber (Home News, January 11th).

The plan, which was to allow extra seating for the increased number of councillors to be elected next May, was expensive and unnecessary. People want to see money being spent on their local services, not on plush new surroundings for the council.

A focus on providing social housing, more community grants and improved library and educational services is where this vital funding is needed. This extravagant refurbishment was never essential. If we learn anything from the past, surely it is to first think of the most cost-effective way to deliver a solution. – Yours, etc,


Merrion Grove,



Sir, – Emmet Malone’s excellent article on the links between Ireland and Everton FC (Sport, January 15th) omits mention of perhaps the most remarkable connection, the signing in 1939 by Sligo Rovers of the legendary ex-Everton forward Dixie Dean.

Dean’s 60 goals for Everton in 1927-28 stands as the record for most scored in a season in the top tier of English football. His prolific strike rate continued with Rovers and helped the club reach the FAI Cup final, and secure runner-up spot in the league in 1939. – Yours, etc,


Royal Canal Park,

Ratoath Road, Dublin 15.




Sir, – Eamonn’s McCann’s article (Opinion, January 16th) lacked one important thing – namely, facts, to support his thesis.  At no point does McCann provide any evidence that the biblical quotes he provides, or any part of the Bible, had any impact on Ariel Sharon’s political ideology.  Rather than facts, McCann merely writes his personal suppositions of Sharon’s belief system.  Moreover, he makes false historical claims.

For instance, he stated that Sharon wanted to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from Israel yet the only mass cleansing under Sharon’s leadership is when he forcibly removed the Jewish community of Gaza.  Taken in sum, it appears that McCann’s goal is not to educate the readership of The Irish Times but to teach them to demonise religion. – Yours, etc,


Beechnut Street,


Texas, US.

Sir, – I’m scratching my head at Ena Keye’s evaluation (January 16th) and wondering has s/he perhaps confused this Sabra and Shatila iconic “. . . warrior hero raised up to defend Israel and deliver peace to the land . . .” with a certain biological detergent of similar appellation and coincidental white-washing reputation? – Yours, etc,


Castleview Estate,


Co Galway.

Sir, – Eamonn McCann’s latest piece of anti-Israeli agitprop (“Paisley and Sharon driven by ideology of biblical destiny”, Opinion, January 16th) claims that both Ian Paisley and Ariel Sharon based their ideologies “on books of the Bible”. Unfortunately, because Sharon was not religious McCann has to pepper his references to him with phrases like “. . . will have been mindful of” and “. . . will have believed”.

The simple fact is that Ariel Sharon supported, for example, settlement building not as a result of some biblical command but rather as a means to make Israel secure. Ariel Sharon had many faults, but religiosity was not one of them. – Yours, etc,


Bayside Walk,

Bayside, Dublin 13.



Sir, – Cutting through the verbiage, the justifications and the slippery self-righteousness of those who constitute themselves as cheery advocates of the bonus culture, it might be timely to resurrect what the economist JK Galbraith wrote in his 2004 book, The Economics of Innocent Fraud, when he commented, “Performance-related pay is called salary. Bonuses should be beneath the dignity of professionals, as bribes should be beneath the dignity of commerce”. – Yours, etc,


Hillcourt Road,

Glenageary, Co Dublin.

Sir, – It is time for the annual State ceremony to mark the founding of Dáil Éireann on January 21st, 1919 to be given more emphasis and publicity. I would suggest an Army presence on Dawson Street, Dublin, to mark the turning of the sovereign seal ceremony in the Mansion House.

Traffic could be diverted from the top of Dawson Street for about an hour and the ceremony relayed outside on speakers. Schools could be given a brief talk on this most important event, including a copy of the chief justice’s annual reading. – Yours, etc,



Co Roscommon.


Sir, – Martyn Turner’s cartoon “The 7 wages of MANagement” (Opinion, January 17th) is slightly misleading as the sack of money for the pension should be at least three times the size of the others.– Yours, etc,


Glencar, Co Sligo.


Sir, – “Roadmap”, especially when applied to anything maritime, such as the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (European Commission, some 10 years ago). – Yours, etc,


Nutley Park,

Dublin 4.




Irish Independent:


* Another week, another government scandal — be it Irish Water revealed to be splurging tens of millions of euro on consultants without the minister in charge seemingly being aware, or more details leaking out about how leeches on the board of the CRC considered themselves more worthy recipients of charitable donations than the people the CRC was established to help.

Also in this section

Cheap drink comes at a cost

Letters: Disagreeing with Donal on suicide

Letters: Just ask ‘how are you?’

Something is seriously wrong with the country’s governance. Politicians, civil servants and people in semi-state bodies are too commonly putting self-interest before public service.

They should be open, direct and fully accountable to the public for their actions and their custodianship of billions of euro worth of public assets.

Instead when forced out of their bunkers into the glare of public scrutiny, they all too often hide behind excuses of data protection and commercial confidentiality, and heavily redact (ie, censor) any documents squeezed out of them under freedom of information laws. So much for democracy.

A key function for elected representatives should be to hold government to account, but instead too many members of the Oireachtas are more concerned with preventing public scrutiny of government actions for political reasons.

This state of affairs is likely to continue until TDs and senators are given broader powers to question decision-takers and hold them fully accountable for their actions. Why not give Oireachtas committees the responsibility for deciding the variable pay/bonuses of senior decision-takers? Additionally, our highly restrictive freedom of information laws should be brought in line with those of other EU countries.

It’s often said that a country gets the government it deserves. The problem is that Ireland deserves and needs a much better government than it has got.




* It’s hard to believe that Ian Paisley is now saying that he was aware of the injustices that stirred the civil rights protesters into action half a century ago.

It really can only be explained in the context of him becoming a happier man in recent years.

He was clearly a deeply unhappy man at the beginning of the Troubles, demonstrating great bitterness and anger at Catholics, Nationalists and the Catholic Church. He was also pretty hard on mainstream unionists.

This serves to explain well the power of moods in our lives. This unhappy man had to be right every time, to suppress and intimidate his opponents and know everything there is to know about everything.

A happier Paisley, with his memories of sitting in government with Sinn Fein and regularly making Martin McGuinness laugh, is much more at ease with himself. He has nothing to prove, conquered many of his demons and can speak his mind without being concerned about incurring the wrath of friend or foe.

Truth becomes more important than anything else and incurring the wrath of those in the DUP who have, as yet, not found happiness and, because of this, persist in telling the tribal account of recent history, is not a particular concern.

I hope more politicians find happiness, for it is a powerful mood for progress. We might even hear Gerry Adams say that things aren’t as bad as he’s been telling us they were.




* Environment Minister Phil Hogan seems to think that this Irish Water scheme is really the equivalent of the electrification of the country (by German engineers) in the 1920s, when really it is no more than a metering system.

Little wonder, then, that the consultants hired by Irish Water were able to sell their expensive expertise without the minister apparently being aware.




* You know Christmas is long gone when we are bombarded with holiday ads. Many of them offering trips to places I never heard of and have no wish to be in. I have never been in ‘Cahoots’ as you can’t get there alone ; you must be with someone. I’ve never been in ‘Cognito’ as nobody would recognise me. However, I have been in ‘Sane’. It has no airport, as you must be driven there. I’ve also been in ‘Doubt'; sad place, won’t go back. I was also in ‘Flexible’, but only when I was cranky.

A while ago, I was in ‘Denial’ where I met a lot of quango bosses and ‘top-up’ CEOs. My doctor says when I get much older, I’ll be in ‘Continent’. I still don’t know the place, but I’m told it’s wet and damp. On second thoughts, maybe I’ll just head for ‘Lisdoon’ in September. I met her sister there last year: ‘Nothindoin’.




* Of late, your paper’s letters section has been filled with people bemoaning the wages earned by individuals working in the charity sector in Ireland. This has been prompted not only by the CRC scandal, but also by your paper’s surveys into how charitable donations are spent in this country.

I would like to raise a number of concerns I have regarding the logic that is applied by those who are taking part in what can only be described as a witch-hunt of those working in the charitable sector in Ireland today.

Despite what many people like to believe, the charitable sector is in constant competition with the private sector. This is because, as every economics’ student knows, consumers have a limited amount of resources. They shall spend these resources as they see fit, and the private sector, through marketing, attempts to influence their economic decisions.

Now I would like to ask you this — if the charitable sector is competing with the private sector for limited resources (donations), yet is vilified for hiring the most capable staff it can because they demand a respectable wage, how can it possibly manage to actually tackle the massive issues that it sets out to fix?




* I wish to register, on behalf of my generation, my disgust at the choice of May 22 as the date for the upcoming local and European Elections.

The Council of the European Union has confirmed that the European Parliamentary elections will be held between May 22-25. However, given this scope, our Government has decided that Thursday is their day. This proves to be of significant inconvenience to working people (especially commuters) and of devastating inconvenience to the student population of Ireland.




* The writer, activist and citizen Margaretta D’Arcy has taken a brave stance against the use of Shannon Airport by US military flights. She is to be applauded for this selfless action. Her refusal to rule out further protest has put her, knowingly, on the wrong side of the law.

The issue now is to get her out and home, but also to see that the publicity that has followed her sacrifice (for such it is, despite our cynical times) is used to bring pressure on a government that allows this ‘grey area’ in Irish neutrality to persist.



Irish Independent


Still clearing out

January 19, 2014

19 January 2014 Still clearing out
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Captain Povey ihas a bad cold and Commander Murray is put in charge.
Start to clear out attic for insulation
Scrabble today Mary wins   and gets  over   300,  Perhaps I will win tomorrow.


The Lord McAlpine of West Green, who has died aged 71, was an early supporter and confidant of Margaret Thatcher and as Conservative Party treasurer in the 1980s was probably the most successful fundraiser the party ever had; late in his life he was wrongly accused of paedophilia, in a scandal that ultimately led to the resignation of the BBC Director General, George Entwistle.
The false allegations of child abuse began to swirl around McAlpine in 2012, following an edition of Newsnight which claimed to expose “a senior Tory”. Lord McAlpine was swiftly “identified” on social media as the Tory in question, only for the whole story to be equally swiftly debunked.
Among those who mistakenly linked him to the scandal was Sally Bercow, the wife of the Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, who wrote on her Twitter account: “Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *Innocent face*”
McAlpine received significant damages, including from Mrs Bercow – which he gave to charity – though the self-inflicted damage at the BBC was far greater.
The affair had threatened to wreck the career of one of the great Conservative figures of the last generation. Yet this was a career in the world of politics rather a career as a politician. For, despite his undoubted influence and absolute loyalty to Mrs Thatcher, McAlpine – by nature a dilettante – did not become a significant political figure.
Indeed, the columnist Alan Watkins once described him as being “fundamentally anti-Conservative”. This seemed an eccentric judgment in the 1980s, when McAlpine placed his liver and waistline (and eventually his heart, which underwent two rounds of multiple bypass surgery) at the service of the party in a ceaseless round of lunches and champagne receptions designed to persuade corporate plutocrats to part with their cash. During the Thatcher years an invitation to his lavish parties at the annual Conservative Party conference was a sign of high political favour.
Yet though he served as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party from 1979 to 1983 and treasurer from 1975 to 1990, McAlpine was never really “into” politics. At heart he was an 18th-century amateur, a collector of art and of garden implements, of wooden statues, stuffed birds, old cushions, Turkish carpets, gossip — and people.
He enjoyed fund-raising for the Conservative party, and his personal devotion to the woman he called “the most magnificent” Margaret Thatcher was absolute. But politics per se never really engaged his attention. His personal credo, expressed in such works as Letters to a Young Politician from his Uncle (1995), seemed to be a mish-mash of ideas derived from the Right (the destruction of the EU), the Left (huge public subsidies for motor manufacturers to develop the electric engine), and soggy liberalism (the decriminalisation of all drugs).
He was mischievously fascinated by the mechanisms of power (among other things he penned a tongue-in-cheek updating of Machiavelli’s The Prince), and relished the gossip and intrigue of high politics. But he was impatient with the democratic arts of negotiation and compromise and a low boredom threshold coupled with a subversive streak made him disdainful of the sort of party loyalist on whom all political leaders must rely. One of his damning judgments was simply: “He causes no trouble.”
When Mrs Thatcher fell he remained loyal, continuing to address her as “Prime Minister” and scorning her assassins as a bunch of pygmies and worse. There was never any doubt that whoever succeeded her would fail to match up and he made no attempt to make the transition to John Major — whom he once described as “hanging around like a pair of curtains” — or to disguise his contempt for the new consensual political style. He once compared the Major cabinet to pig farmers on an Irish ferry: “One moves to the right-hand side of the boat, they all move, then fearing the ferry will capsize, they all move back again with much the same result.”
His animus against those who had “betrayed” his leader led him in the 1990s to turn on his old party and to campaign for its defeat, lobbing journalistic salvoes at Major and anyone else suspected of playing a part in his heroine’s downfall. The party, he declared, could do with a “good scrub with a hard brush” (a term in opposition). So there was no surprise when in 1996, six months before the Labour landslide of 1997, McAlpine announced his defection to Sir James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party.
A third child and second of three sons of Lord McAlpine of Moffat, and a great-grandson of “Concrete Bob” McAlpine, who built the West Highland Railway and founded the family construction company, Robert Alistair McAlpine was born by caesarean section on May 14 1942 at the Dorchester Hotel, which his family built and owned; as a baby he received his first bottle via room service. His mother Molly was a powerful woman who smoked cigars and believed that the only real education was to be had in travel. This was just as well since, being dyslexic (a condition only diagnosed when he was in his twenties), young Alistair did badly at school, leaving Stowe aged 16 with just three O-levels.
Following family tradition he started work as a timekeeper on McAlpine’s South Bank site in London. Working long hours and being covered in dust meant that he was never invited to Society balls, but in any case he preferred the company of Irish navvies and the Bohemian friends he met in Soho pubs.
McAlpine started making serious money on his own account at 22 when he learned that the government of Western Australia was about to privatise road-building. He flew out immediately, concluded that road-building prospects were poor, but decided to go into hotels instead. After building various properties in Perth, he moved up to Broome, an old pearl-fishing station on the north-west coast, and started developing it as a holiday resort, complete with zoo, cinema and international airport.
As a child McAlpine had a cupboard of curiosities including a snake in a bottle, a wartime lemon and a piece of Zeppelin. In adulthood he indulged his collecting obsession by developing a taste in modern art and sculpture. Encouraged by a friend, the art dealer Leslie Waddington, he acquired a knack for spotting talented artists — for instance the abstract expressionist Mark Rothko — well before they became famous. He therefore was able to buy their works before they became prohibitively expensive. Apart from fine art, the objects of his desires included police truncheons, snowdrops, rare breeds of chicken, Renaissance tapestries, curiosities such as five-legged lambs in formaldehyde, shells and ties. In the 1980s staff at Central Office would recall one of his secretaries telephoning customs trying to get one of his acquisitions released: “No, it’s not Lord McAlpine’s penis. It’s a dinosaur penis.”
As a collector McAlpine seemed to buy more for the pleasure of having things pass through his hands than of owning them permanently. When his interests changed he gave things away or sold them; the Tate and other galleries were among the beneficiaries. In the late 1980s he had a shop in Cork Street where he sold everything from busts of Roman emperors to prehistoric artifacts.
In the 1970s McAlpine was a fervent believer in the Common Market and was treasurer of the “Britain in Europe” campaign for the 1975 referendum. But he was not then active politically and at one stage members of Harold Wilson’s kitchen cabinet even thought of offering him a job as a Labour Party fund-raiser.
Everything changed in 1975 after he met Margaret Thatcher, who had recently supplanted Ted Heath as leader of the Conservative Party, over dinner. They hit it off immediately. He admired her forceful radicalism; she appreciated his garrulous charm and air of business efficiency. “I told him he would have to give up his German Mercedes for a British Jaguar,” she wrote in her memoirs, “and he immediately complied.” He complied also with her request that he become the party’s (unpaid) treasurer.
The appointment of a 32-year old millionaire with unconventional tastes did not go down well with some of the more dignified members of the party’s treasurers’ department, who were soon shunted aside. Yet McAlpine did not spend much time at Central Office itself, being much more effective outside it. “I used to lurk,” he explained. “I lurked all over London where rich people went.”
At his office in London journalists were regaled with gossip and generous lashings of Chateau Latour, and he became a favourite of even such papers as the Independent and the Guardian. Rotund in loud but well-cut Savile Row suits and bilious pink and green Garrick Club ties, he would lunch prospective donors (and journalists) at the Club. Money was never discussed directly but the follow-up letters left recipients in little doubt about what was expected – and the funds poured in. In 1975, the year before McAlpine arrived, the Conservatives raised about £1.5m. By the time of the 1979 election, it was £4m, and by 1990 at least £9m. In between McAlpine was thought to have raised about £100m.
During the 1980s McAlpine’s country home, West Green, a handsome 18th-century house near Basingstoke, Hampshire, became the venue for lavish dinners (often cooked by the host himself) at which prominent Tories would rub shoulders with artists, dealers, writers, Bohemians and even stalwart socialists.
He was sometimes criticised for the secrecy of Conservative finances and his willingness to accept donations from rich foreign businessmen such as the Hong Kong millionaire Li Ka Shing, Mohamed Fayed and Asil Nadir. But there was never a serious whiff of scandal. In 1993, after Nadir had fled to northern Cyprus to escape prosecution for fraud, he claimed he would reveal favours promised by McAlpine in return for his cash. McAlpine challenged him to do so; he never did.
McAlpine was deputy chairman of the party from 1979 to 1983. His raffish, anarchic streak meant that he liked Cecil Parkinson but loathed Parkinson’s successor John Gummer, whom he considered sanctimonious and dull. Such was his influence with Margaret Thatcher that he was said to have engineered Gummer’s rapid replacement by Norman Tebbit.
In 1984, on Margaret Thatcher’s recommendation, he was created a life peer. That year, when the IRA blew up the Grand Hotel, Brighton, during the Conservative conference, McAlpine was staying in the suite above the Prime Minister’s. Woken by the explosion but otherwise unhurt, he immediately set to work to address the practicalities of the situation and, as stunned survivors wandered around in their nightclothes, he called the top brass of Marks & Spencer and got them to open their Brighton store early so that people could be properly dressed for the conference that day. His Hampshire home became a refuge for several shell-shocked survivors.
In 1987 McAlpine had to have a major coronary bypass operation and in 1990 he gave up the treasurer’s job. His name was on IRA lists and, ostensibly for reasons of safety and tax, he decided to move to Monte Carlo and Venice. He took almost nothing with him from Britain, having put all his English possessions up for sale at Sotheby’s so as to start afresh.
Although McAlpine ascribed his decision to leave Britain as a matter of personal whim, there were also financial considerations. In 1989, after an Australian pilot’s strike lasting six months, his Australian tourism venture, in which he had invested £250 million, collapsed, costing him much of his personal fortune. In June 1990, shortly after he and his family had moved out, West Green was blown up by the IRA.
When Margaret Thatcher was challenged at the end of that year, he watched with horror as her leadership campaign unravelled. After her defeat he lent her a house on College Green where the atmosphere of Downing Street was for a while religiously preserved.
In the 1990s he turned to writing and was the author of some dozen books ranging from two volumes of memoirs to a guide to the world’s museums and a guide to happiness to mischievous political parodies. He also wrote a regular column in The World of Interiors and contributed widely to national newspapers.
Having defected to James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party in 1996, following Goldsmith’s death in 1997 McAlpine became its leader. He sat as an Independent Conservative for some time in the House of Lords before rejoining the Conservatives.
McAlpine’s love for the arts was not limited to collecting: he was a member of the Arts Council, chairman of the Theatre Investment Fund, trustee of the Royal Opera House and a director of the Institute for Contemporary Arts.
Yet he himself admitted that there was truth in the accusation of dilettantism that was often levelled against him. This applied not only to possessions but to his relationships, as major changes in his life sometimes entailed equally dramatic changes in his domestic arrangements.
When his first marriage, to Sarah Baron, collapsed shortly after he became treasurer of the Conservative Party, his disabled mother hit him over the head with her walking stick. For years, his two daughters from the marriage never spoke to him.
In 1980 he married, secondly, his political secretary Romilly Hobbs, who became a glamorous and popular hostess during the Thatcher years, bore him another daughter and nursed him through two triple bypass operations.
The second of these, in 1999, nearly killed McAlpine and he spent a month in a coma on a life-support machine. He experienced a deathbed conversion to Roman Catholicism, emerged declaring that he felt “more casual about life” and, months later, left the family home. After an acrimonious divorce from Romilly on the grounds of his adultery, in 2002 he married Athena Malpas, a glamorous brunette three decades his junior.
McAlpine’s account of his marital inconstancy was chillingly casual: “I keep changing my life, houses and relationships. I reinvent myself every few years. My first marriage lasted 15 years and this one [to Romilly] 20. It’s hardly into bed and out the other side. There was a great deal of love. But there comes a point when life is just a habit, and I’m rather against habits. I just didn’t want to carry on.” To his credit, though, he never tried to square his behaviour with his new-found faith.
Lord McAlpine is survived by his third wife and by the three daughters of his earlier marriages.
* Lord McAlpine, born May 14 1942, died January 17 2014


It wasn’t only the gracious mansions that were built on the profits of slavery (“How gracious mansions hide a dark history of Britain’s links to slavery”, In Focus).
In 1984, Peter Fryer published Staying Power, a ground-breaking history of the black presence in Britain. This book analysed the way in which those with interests in slavery contributed to the developments of banking and to the demands out of which the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century grew. Ships needed financing. The British leg of the trade to Africa carried textiles, iron rings, chains, muskets, tobacco, beer. And this was not a shrinking market.
Judy Palfreman
In Bristol, the defeat of the reform bill in 1831 led to riots in Queen Square. The square is not far from Welsh Back, where slate and coal was unloaded.
Shareholders in these industries would have followed the example of the plantation owners and bought an elegant Georgian house in Queen Square.
The fusion of income streams from exploitation at home and abroad kept the capitalist show on the road.
Ivor Morgan
Jamie Doward’s excellent article on slavery’s absence in the public understanding of the history of Britain called to mind a visit some 20 years ago to the University of Louisiana.
A large exhibition on the subject of Louisiana’s economic development featured a section devoted to agriculture, including the extensive cotton crop, which it managed to cover without any reference to the fact that the workers were slaves.
There was, as I recollect, no reference to slavery at all in the exhibition. It had been airbrushed out.
If it was possible to do that in the US, in a former slave state, how much easier has it been here where slaves existed only in faraway colonies?
My education in the 50s, both at school and at home, told me much about the empire and its glories. It told me nothing of the shameful trade upon which it was built.
Dick Russell
As Jamie Doward notes, Britain is self-servingly one-eyed in focusing largely on its role in the abolition of the slave trade. Our country’s long history of profiting from it is conveniently swept under the carpet.
A key objective of the 2007 bicentenary should have been the erection of prominent monuments to the Unknown Slave, at least in London, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow, which all made enormous profits from slavery.
It was an opportunity missed. Perhaps the education secretary, Michael Gove, could take the initiative to help remedy the omission.
Graham Thomas
St Albans
Being from Bristol and maybe being presumptuous enough to speak for fellow Bristolians, I think most are acutely aware of the city’s link to the slave trade. It is not a proud history, clearly.
I do however resent the implication that the subject is actively avoided or that people are apathetic to it. The choice to focus on slavery in the US is one of mass appeal, required to make a Hollywood movie.
M Konig
Posted online

Nick Cohen (“Osborne says there are no easy answers”, Comment) highlights major injustices arising from George Osborne’s economic policies. But pitching “the old” against “the young” is unhelpful. “Triple-locked” pensions look cheap set besides declining income from annuities and savings, increased energy bills and the rising cost of personal health and social care. Not all of “the old” are protected by gains in property values: around 40% of those 60 and over have no or minimal housing wealth; a quarter of the houses occupied by older people actually fail the decent homes standard. And the “weight of austerity” to which Cohen refers remains especially important for the estimated two million people who are 60 and over and living on or below the poverty line. Social and economic inequalities influence the old as much as the young and young middle aged. Indeed, from the trends that Cohen describes, this pattern looks set to increase as a result of the divisions created by coalition policies.
Professor Chris Phillipson
School of Social Sciences
University of Manchester
Yes to a free and just Scotland
I’m surprised that Alistair Darling didn’t take the opportunity to spell out what he believes are the benefits of being “better together” in his interview (New Review). Instead, he reverted to attacking the tactics of the yes campaign and the Scottish government’s white paper. As as English expat of nearly 25 years standing, I will be voting yes in September with my head much more than my heart. In an independent Scotland, there will be no more demonising of the poor, the vulnerable and immigrants. There will be no nuclear weapons and billions wasted upon their replacement. There will be no unelected second chamber. There will be the promotion of social responsibility and social justice.
I wonder if Darling has read the white paper. It acknowledges from the start that there will have to be negotiations with the Westminster government, the EU and others in the 18 months following a yes vote. The paper is also full of figures, if he cares to look.
Hugh Jones
A warning you can’t sweeten
As the GP member of the committee on medical aspects of food and nutrition policy that in 1994 recommended, as you say, reduction in salt intake, I remember the disbelief at government rejection of this important step (“Sugar: the lobbying menace that is making us ill”, leader).
You also refer to the protracted battle with the tobacco industry and there is an interesting analogy in the relationship between food and smoking and their relevance to health. Although, as you say, it took about 30 years to convince government of the scientific evidence of harm, the tasks of tackling the tobacco industry and persuading government were a bit easier. With food, the relationship is much more complex. But as a GP for many years, now retired, I am only too aware of the harm to health and wellbeing of an unhealthy diet.
Professor Godfrey Fowler
Emeritus professor of general practice
University of Oxford
Ipso fails independence test
Peter Preston defends the Ipso self-regulation system proposed by the big newspaper companies to replace the failed Press Complaints Commission (PCC) and disputes my suggestion that its appointments procedures are unsatisfactory (“There’s no hope if Hacked Off can only harangue us”, Media). There is a simple way of resolving this disagreement, because a test exists to determine whether a press self-regulator meets adequate standards of independence and effectiveness: does it satisfy the criteria set out by Lord Justice Leveson after his painstaking public inquiry?
These criteria, which are incorporated in the royal charter on press self-regulation granted last year, carefully safeguard freedom of expression while also ensuring that for the first time the public should have impartial and accessible means of redress when things go wrong. If Mr Preston believes Ipso would be independent and effective, and if he wants the public to be satisfied of this, then he should encourage the big newspaper companies to ensure that it meets the criteria.
Sadly, at present, not only does Ipso fall far short of passing this test, but those behind it have no intention of even submitting it to the scrupulously independent body now being set up under the charter to administer the test.
Brian Cathcart
Executive director, Hacked Off,
London SW1
On borrowed time
I would like to endorse every word of Catherine Bennett’s article (“Need advice at your local library? Look under A for amateur”, Comment). I do not write for any of my fellow volunteers. All of us are aware that the work we have committed to was previously done by those who had trained for that profession. Equally, we are aware that we will not provide as good a service as before. We also know that to do nothing will mean the loss of a valuable local resource. So we do not see ourselves as replacements but as a necessary interim measure until normal service can be resumed.
John Poucher
Stonesfield, Oxon


I was saddened to read about Joan Smith’s recent experience and that she feels the needs of NHS healthcare professionals are put above patients’ needs (“It’s not difficult. Sick people need doctors”, 12 January).
Even though NHS doctors are confronted with an increasingly challenging and high-pressured environment, our priority is to provide the best possible care. A key blocker is the funding problems that the NHS is facing.
GPs are seeing more people than ever – an estimated  340 million consultations a year. All NHS services are under enormous pressure from a combination of rising demand, falling resources and staff shortages in key specialties. There is little evidence to suggest that problems with GP access are increasing pressure on emergency care.
Joan Smith is right that the government must implement a more robust out-of-hours system. Although four out of 10 GPs continue to work in out-of-hours care, the resources available to the service have remained static for many years despite increases in demand. A system-wide approach is needed, looking at everything from NHS 111 to community care services.
The BMA shares Joan Smith’s concerns that when she called NHS 111 she “got an ‘adviser’… who appeared to be reading from a script.” We have repeatedly warned that removing doctors and nurses from the frontline risked turning the service into nothing more than a call centre. The Government needs to improve the service by making it more clinician-led.
Joan Smith’s aunt’s care was not good enough. We should do better, but we need the Government to stop cutting and allocate sufficient resources to ensure that we really can provide the best care for our patients.
Dr Mark Porter
Chairman, British Medical Association
London WC1
Brian Paddick (“We mustn’t forget what plebgate is really about”, 12 January) suggests that the false claims made by PC Keith Wallis were politically motivated; but that our trust in the police should not be unduly shaken. How can it not be?
We regarded the policeman as likely to be more honest and honourable than the politician. How wrong we were! By playing down the importance of  “plebgate”, Brian Paddick – an ex-Met officer himself – illustrates just how oblivious the police sometimes are to the high standards of conduct expected of them; and how the spectacle of fellow officers closing ranks to protect their own, further damages their standing in our eyes.
John Boaler
Calne, Wiltshire
It is extraordinary that in the coverage of the death of Ariel Sharon (Special report,  12 January) there was no reference to the wars of 1967 and 1973 when Sharon’s military leadership contributed to the salvation of Israel.
Charles Foster
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
I’m sure many of us can agree with the thrust of Sarah Hughes’ piece (“Finally, television dramas that know when to stop”, Arts & Books, 12 January) that too many TV dramas overstay their welcome. But when she says that we, the viewers, should “stop demanding” that every series has a sequel, I feel she should be directing her remarks to those who commission and buy programmes. No, this is all about ratings, marketing and advertising space. Downton Abbey action figure anyone?
Geoff Hulme
Altrincham, Cheshire
I agree with your editorial (“A small triumph for democracy”, 12 January). But I feel select committees need to go further. If they brought in members of the public, who worked within the field the committee was discussing, it is more likely they would get a realistic picture of what is happening on the ground. This would allow select committees to hear the voice of the people.
Kartar Uppal
West Bromwich, West Midlands
Katy Guest (“I’m no toff, but I’d prefer a pro-Oxbridge bias”, 12 January) is right to argue that there’s nothing wrong with a pro-Oxbridge bias when it comes to recruitment. However, it is objectionable to see so many from the top public schools being favoured – it is this that concerns we meritocrats.
Tim Mickleburgh
Grimsby, Lincolnshire
Have your say


CAMILLA CAVENDISH’S column “After a terrible week for the police, it’s time for a drastic solution” (Comment last week) starts by saying: “If we can’t trust the police, who can we trust?”
I would say: “If we can’t trust our elected politicians, who can we trust?” Our police need no lessons from those who govern this country, with their expenses scandals, lies and cover-ups over the years.
Andrew Mitchell behaved inappropriately towards the officers on the gate and has admitted to swearing. We will probably never get to the bottom of this incident but it is not as clear-cut as Cavendish describes it. She should not jump on the anti-police bandwagon — the service remains the finest in the world, with the highest standards of professionalism, training and integrity.
Nigel Cross, Westbury, Wiltshire
New York attitude
Cavendish sings the praises of Bill Bratton, New York’s recently appointed police commissioner. Let’s get things into perspective: New York is an extremely violent city compared with London, with police carrying weapons at all times.
A friend of mine — a retired officer — worked in Spanish Harlem and had a gun in a shoulder holster, one on the rear of his belt and another strapped to his ankle. Would Cavendish really prefer to live in this environment?
The column suggests the Metropolitan police should be taken over by Bratton, who has no knowledge of the workings of the British police. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met commissioner, is one of our most respected officers and is well capable of surpassing Bratton. Let him get on with the job.
Bruce Duncan, Glasgow
Searching questions
I find it disappointing that Cavendish has repeated the ill-informed notion that police officers can stop and search people “without justification”. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 requires me as a serving officer to have reasonable grounds to suspect that I will find stolen or prohibited articles before I can search anyone.
I also have to explain to every person I search who I am, why I am searching them and what I am looking for. If individuals and communities feel alienated by stop-and- search, that suggests issues with the way officers are conducting and explaining the searches as opposed to issues with stop-and-search legislation itself.
Chris Millar, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear
Hooked on classics
Mitchell has strongly rejected the claim made by PC Toby Rowland that he had called him a pleb. There are many terms of abuse commonly used today but pleb is certainly not one of them and would probably only be employed by someone who has studied the classics. If Mitchell’s denial is correct, this would presumably be Rowland or one of his colleagues.
John MacGillivray, Dundee

Unworkable benefits ban on migrants
IT WOULD not be practicable to deny benefits to EU migrants for the length of time proposed by the work and pensions secretary (“Ban migrant welfare for two years — Duncan Smith”, News, last week).
This could increase poverty, deprivation and homelessness in those cases where migrants come to Britain in good faith but find, possibly through no fault of their own, that the job they came for did not work out. After all, employers can fire a new member of staff within a probationary period.
We would face considerable social problems in such cases. Not being able to claim benefits for two years would leave the migrant impoverished until another job came along, or UK taxpayers would have to pay the repatriation costs to send them back to their own country.
Elizabeth Oakley, Dursley, Gloucestershire
Give and take
As recent research has shown, immigrants put 34% more into this country in taxes than they take out in benefits, and the Office for Budget Responsibility has announced that if all immigrants left the country, over the next five years public sector debt would increase by £18bn.
It is a disgrace that in the past three years under Iain Duncan Smith the number of people having to go to food banks just to survive has risen from 61,000 to more than 346,000, that homelessness is increasing hugely, that the disabled are being forced from their homes and that in many circumstances the poor will no longer receive legal aid.
We are supposedly a First World country in the 21st century, and yet the poverty and starvation is like something you might see in the Third World. I’m ashamed we are letting this happen.
Bethany Tye, Barnsley, South Yorkshire
Welfare states
I would recommend a central EU benefit fund managed by the existing EU purse holders. From its allocation each country would pay benefits to those who emigrate from it. The level of benefit would be commensurate with the nation from which the migrant originates, thereby reducing the temptation to move because of welfare alone.
Douglas Vallgren, Norwich, Norfolk
Same old song
This issue may not be as modern as everyone assumes. My father has a record by Billy Williams from the early 1900s called Wake Up, John Bull!. The song includes phrases such as, “Close your open door, the same as they do on the foreign shore.”
Elaine Grainger, Stroud, Gloucestershire
Plan of attack
I presume if Labour retains a comfortable opinion poll lead over the Conservatives, we can expect more attacks on migrants from Tory cabinet ministers all faithfully and prominently reported.
David Middlemiss, Beverley, East Yorkshire
False picture
I was disappointed with the photograph (from the TV series Benefits Street) accompanying Eleanor Mills’s article “Slowly driving a nation back to work” (News Review, last week) and its caption: “Ministers want to change the lives of dependants…” The Romanians pictured were living in squalid conditions and working 12 hours a day. They were virtually slaves who had to give up their pay to their “contact”. After complaining to the police — whose hands were tied — they had to flee for fear of reprisals. Not one of them was claiming benefits.
Linda Davidson, Leominster, Herefordshire

United nations of caring nurses
SOME head nurses have remarked that Portuguese, Spanish and Filipino nurses who are working in the NHS because of a shortage of their British counterparts are more caring, especially to elderly patients (“NHS’s foreign nurses ‘best at caring’”, News, last week). In my experience, nurses from all countries are caring, though no profession is perfect.
I am a graduate nurse and love my job and I love looking after patients. I am definitely not one of those graduates who you report are “too posh to wash”. I consider it a privilege to be able to use my knowledge and skills to help people at difficult times in their lives, whether I am having difficult conversations about how and where they will die, and what they wish for their loved ones, or helping them onto the commode if this is what they need. This variety is what caring is all about. No one goes into the profession for the money or the status; we enter it to help people and to make a difference.
I am fed up with being called lazy and uncaring. Nurses who are trying as hard as they can are being systematically demoralised. We need to be telling people what is being done to our NHS by this government, because we want the best care for our patients. Nurses need to fight back against the dismantling of the NHS.
Karen Chilver, Palliative care community nurse specialist


Happy flyer
We regular Ryanair travellers know the service on offer (“Cabin pressure”, Magazine, last week). The airline provides cheap travel to places we’d never visit if it didn’t exist. I stand in queues with people of every shape, size, nationality and IQ level you could imagine. We’ve all managed to print off our boarding passes. We’ve all turned up with the correct-sized hand luggage. So we spend a couple of hours in a seat with a rake you can’t adjust? Gosh, my house is full of those. There’s too much noise to sleep? You’d have to have really pushed the boat out the night before to be that desperate for a nap on a two-hour flight. And we’re sold overpriced food and drink? Well, only if we buy it. Lynn Barber is lucky she can afford to sneer at this kind of travel. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to visiting a friend in France on Ryanair.
Juliet Bothams, Alton, Hampshire
Dickensian childhood
Like the former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson I had a troubled childhood and found David Copperfield a source of comfort and inspiration (“David Copperfield saved me as a boy, says Alan Johnson”, News, last week). In the early 1960s, aged nine, I was in the care of a Birmingham city council children’s home. At times I found the environment lonely and intimidating and the regime frightening. One of the female members of staff — Mrs Turner — became my Clara Peggotty. Mrs Turner exuded warmth and would read David Copperfield to me, which left me spellbound. I have loved the works of Dickens ever since.
Peter Henrick, Birmingham
Vital lesson
I was astonished and shocked by Camilla Long’s review of 12 Years a Slave (“Nasty, brutish, for far too long”, Culture, last week). Films are not just about entertainment; very often they inform and educate, and this movie totally exposes us to the realities of human bondage. It is the Schindler’s List of slavery and should be sent to every educational establishment across the land.
David Weale, London
Korea opportunity
With more than 200,000 people incarcerated in its gulags, North Korea is no laughing matter (“Teletubbies on stand-by to soften up hardline North Korea”, News, last week). Instead of trying to sell programmes such as Teletubbies to Pyongyang, the foreign secretary, William Hague, would be much better advised to support an extension of BBC World Service programming to the Korean peninsula. We should be promoting Britain’s cherished belief in democracy and human rights, and never miss an opportunity to underline the gravity of the suffering inflicted by this regime on its own people.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, Chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on North Korea, House of Lords
Open country
Eleanor Mills is to be applauded for her bold and insightful article defending free access to the countryside for ordinary people (“We’re not all poachers, Mr Darcy”, News Review, January 5). We believe the government needs to promote outdoor recreation and the many benefits associated with it, be they social, economic or in relation to wellbeing. A healthy, accessible countryside means healthy people.
Nick Kurth CBE, British Mountaineering Council
Hit the bottle
Sugar is the latest item we take into our bodies that has become a scapegoat because of possible ill effects on health (“‘Five-a-day’ foods packed with sugar”, News, last week). But one commonly used liquid seems to have little opposition — alcohol. Consider some of the negatives: it causes liver disease, has well-recognised short-term effects on the brain that might well turn into long- term degradation, is linked to obesity and is a big contributor to road accidents. With such a record it would seem to merit some firm action, but the state cannot even commit itself to price control.
Roy Burrell, Kenilworth, Warwickshire

Julian Barnes, novelist, 68; Martin Bashir, journalist, 51; Jenson Button, Formula One driver, 34; Larry Clark, film director, 71; Michael Crawford, actor, 72; Stefan Edberg, tennis player, 48; Richard Lester, film director, 82; Dolly Parton, singer, 68; Sir Simon Rattle, conductor, 59; Cindy Sherman, photographer, 60; Steve Staunton, footballer, 45; Dennis Taylor, snooker player, 65; Caron Wheeler, singer, 51

1661 rebel Thomas Venner hanged, drawn and quartered; 1813 birth of Sir Henry Bessemer, inventor of a process for turning molten pig iron into steel; 1839 birth of Paul Cézanne, painter; 1915 first Zeppelin raid on Britain during First World War kills four in Norfolk; 1966 Indira Gandhi becomes first female prime minister of India; 1983 Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie arrested in Bolivia


SIR – You express annoyance with people who “begin every explanation with the word so”.
Be thankful that you don’t understand Danish. In recent years, everyone in Denmark has acquired the verbal tic of starting every answer with Ja, men… which translates as Yes, but… This drives me up the wall when I watch Danish television news: “So what’s the outlook for the weather then, Yvonne?” “Yes, but it’s going to be warm and sunny.” Everywhere, it’s the same thing: “How old is this building?” “Yes, but it’s 200 years old.”
Like all such mannerisms, it will die out eventually. In the meantime, holidaying in Denmark takes on a slightly surreal quality if you understand the language.
Nils Erik Grande
Oslo, Norway

SIR – We in the Syrian Opposition Coalition are grateful that Daniel Hannan and other conservative parliamentarians visited a refugee camp in Turkey, and that they are shining a light on the continuing suffering of Syrian civilians due to the barbarity of the Assad regime.
However, we disagree with Mr Hannan’s conclusion that “there are things beyond our control, problems without solutions”.
In the last few weeks, the Free Syrian Army has been clearing the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant from northern Syrian towns.
We are establishing governmental structures in the areas we control, including a ministry of defence, which aims to professionalise our armed forces under a sustainable structure.
Assad’s preferred narrative that it is a choice between him and the extremists is as untrue as it is devious. It is important that it does not take root in the West. We regret that the West chose not to punish militarily Assad’s use of weapons of mass destruction and has, until now, refrained from providing our armed forces with the arms necessary to challenge the regime. Had a no-fly zone been imposed, Assad would not be able to bomb civilians with barrel bombs, killing more than 500 people in the last few weeks alone.
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Rotten speech in the state of modern Denmark
18 Jan 2014
Our growing unity and success on the ground necessitates greater outside military, practical and diplomatic support, in order to continue our fight to uphold the legitimate rights of Syrians to enjoy peace, democracy and religious tolerance.
Monzer Akbik
Chief of Staff to Ahmad Jarba, President of the Syrian Opposition Coalition
Playing like a girl
SIR – Elizabeth Truss, the education minister, has warned that girls could be put off careers in science and maths by gender-specific toys. Does she not realise that children have the ability to make choices themselves?
I have four daughters. As young people they wanted and had (as far as finances would allow) the toys they asked for. There were things that some would say were aimed at boys, and some at girls. My daughters didn’t see gender specificity attached to these toys. Incidentally, one of them now drives double-decker buses.
Colin Jamieson
Horncastle, Lincolnshire
Belly-dancing tax
SIR – Having read of the belly dancer’s twists and turns with HMRC, I observe that the taxman continues to dance in mysterious ways.
The disputed tax of £50,000 is small beer compared with what major corporations repeatedly avoid paying.
HMRC needs to stop picking over the bones of small businesses and concentrate where there are truly rich pickings to be had. We will all benefit and be better able to afford Audrey Cheruvier’s entertainment, be it sport or dance.
Graham R Brown
Ampthill, Bedfordshire
For the record
SIR – I would be happy to share NHS data as long as it is correct.
By chance I came into possession of a list of my “problems” (fortunately few) held on my doctor’s database and found that my daughter wasn’t born on the day I actually had her and that I had had a forceps delivery 12 years later, when I know I was on the beach.
Sally Browne
Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex
Lord Rennard
SIR – The internal review conducted by the Liberal Democrats did not “clear” or “exonerate” Lord Rennard in any sense; indeed the statement cites “evidence of behaviour which violated the personal space and autonomy of the complainants”.
We deeply Lord Rennard’s failure to issue an apology at the earliest opportunity following the publication of an internal party investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.
We believe that until he apologises and acknowledges the distress that his actions have caused, regardless of intent, he should never have had the Liberal Democrat whip restored and should be barred from any party body or involvement in any party activity that might facilitate a repeat of this situation. No apology; no whip.
We note also with deep regret the failure of senior members of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party to denounce in the strongest possible terms Lord Rennard’s behaviour.
We will not rest until our party is a safe space for all free from sexual harassment and assault, without exception. With this in mind we as members will continue to put pressure on the whips office in the House of Lords with a view to reversing the inappropriate decision to restore Lord Rennard to the Liberal Democrat group.
We invite the leadership to meet with action the needs identified in this letter.
Katherine Bavage, Leeds North West, Member of Lib Dem Women
Iain Donaldson, Chair, Manchester Gorton Liberal Democrats
Stephen Glenn, Northern Ireland, LGBT+ Liberal Democrats Executive
Elizabeth Jewkes, City of Chester, member of Lib Dem Women
Timothy J. Oliver, Hull & Hessle
Angharad B.Jones, Rhondda Cynon Taff, RCT Lib Dems Membership Officer
Kurt Jewkes, City of Chester
Craig O’Donnell ,Chair of London Liberal Youth
Hywel Morgan, Calderdale
Chris Nelson, Kettering & Wellingborough (2010 parliamentary candidate, Kettering)
Liam Pennington, Preston
Cllr Lloyd Harris, Regional Treasurer East of England, Deputy Leader Dacorum Council Group
Cllr Gareth Aubrey, Cardiff and Vale
James King, Southport, Liberal Youth Co-Finance Officer
Robin McGhee, Bristol, Liberal Youth Co-Finance Officer
Cllr Mark Mills, Oxford East
Allan Heron, Paisley and Renfrewshire
Callum Leslie, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, Edinburgh Liberal Youth Treasurer, Scottish conference committee
George Potter, Guildford, Guildford Secretary
Linden Parker, South Norfolk, Liberal Youth Non-Portfolio Officer
Hannah Bettsworth, Edinburgh South, Edinburgh Liberal Youth President, Scottish Women Lib Dems Executive Member
Jack Carr, Aberdeenshire West, President, St Andrews University Liberal Democrats
David Evans, Aberdeenshire East
Andrew Page, Inverclyde
Zoe O’Connell, Cambridge, LGBT+ Liberal Democrats Executive
Ruaraidh Dobson, Glasgow North (2010 Candidate Paisley & Renfrewshire North)
Euan Davidson, President Aberdeen University Liberal Democrats, Scottish Conference Committee, Aberdeen Central, South and North Kincardine
Jonathan Wharrad, Congleton, Chair University of Birmingham Liberal Democrats
Samuel Rees (East Dunbartonshire, former IR Cymru Officer)
Hywel Owen Davies, Preseli-Pembrokeshire
Jezz Palmer, Winchester
Jennie Rigg: chair, Calderdale Liberal Democrats; member LGBT+ Liberal Democrats
Euan Cameron, Islington Borough
Siobhan Mathers, Edinburgh North & Leith
Richard Symonds, Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats
Michael Wilson, Stirling Liberal Democrats
James Harrison, Edinburgh North and Leith
Callum Morton, Sutton Liberal Democrats
Tommy Long, Maidstone Lib Dems Data Officer, Liberal Reform Board Member
Amy Dalrymple, Edinburgh North and Leith
Natalie Jester, Bristol South
Maria Pretzler, Swansea and Gower, Member of the Welsh Policy Committee.
Sophie Bridger, Chair of Glasgow North Lib Dems
Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera, Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion, Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) – Vice Chair, Liberal Democrat South Central Region Executive – Diversity Officer, Newbury Town Council – Councillor for Victoria Ward & Deputy Leader, Newbury Constituency – Executive, Newbury Branch – Chair
Geoff Payne, Hackney LP
Ben Lloyd, Cardiff Central (resident in Belfast)
Paul Pettinger, Westminster Borough and Liberal Youth Vice President
Paul Halliday, Newport Party Chair
Amanda Durley, Dartford and Gravesham
Daniel Jones, Northampton, former Chair Northamptonshire Liberal Youth, East Midlands executive member
Natasha Chapman, Lincoln, Chair of Lincoln Liberal Youth,Social Liberal Forum Council Member
Alisdair Calder McGregor, Prospective Parliamentary Candidatefor the Constituency of Calder Valley (Calderdale Local Party)
Robbie Simpson, North Glasgow, Liberal Youth Scotland Treasurer
Cllr Robin Popley, Chair of Loughborough Liberal Democrats and Shepshed TC.
Cllr Henry Vann, Bedford Borough, Secretary North Bedfordshire Liberal Democrats
Andrew Crofts, Vice Chair of Liberal Youth Saint Albans
Naomi Smith, Co Chair, Social Liberal Forum.
Daniel Gale, Nottingham
Jonathan Brown, Chichester, Member of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats, Lib Dem Women & Social Liberal Forum.
James Blanchard, Huddersfield, GLD Exec
Chris Keating, Streatham
Grace Goodlad, Bromley Borough
Norman Fraser, Glasgow North, Organiser, Social Liberal Forum (Scotland)
Morgan Griffith-David, Cardiff and the Vale, Liberal Youth Policy Officer.
Peter Brooks, Islington
Jessica Rees, Swansea
Sanjay Samani, Angus North & Mearns
Dr Mohsin Khan, Oxford East (Secretary, Oxford East. Policy Chair, South Central Region)
Holly Matthies, Manchester Gorton, (Secretary LGBT+ Lib Dems)
Andrew Hickey, Manchester Gorton, (Member of Social Liberal Forum, LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, Humanist & Secular Liberal Democrats)
Duncan Stott, Oxford East
Benjamin Krishna, Cambridge
Lee Thacker, Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taff
Sebastian Bench, General Secretary University of Nottingham Liberal Youth
Michael Carchrie Campbell, Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats (Member of LGBT+, Social LIberal Forum, Lib Dem Lawyers Association, Liberal Youth)
Neil Monnery, Southend, Data Officer
Matthew Wilkes, North Bristol Liberal Democrats
David Freeborn, Oxford East
Adam Bernard, Harrow West
Andrew Hinton, Data Officer, Shrewsbury & Atcham
Joshua Dixon, Chair of Hillingdon Liberal Democrats (Social Liberal Forum Membership Development Officer)
Sandra Taylor, Altrincham and Sale West
James Brough. Calderdale Liberal Democrats. Member LGBT+
Harry Matthews, Sheffield
Rob Blackie, Former London Assembly candidate, member of London Region Executive, Dulwich & West Norwood
Alex Wasyliw, Party member, South Cambs
Daisy Benson, local councillor and former parliamentary candidate, Reading.
Richard Morgan-Ash, Hackney
Ryan Cullen, Lincoln
Peter Bancroft, Westminster
Linda Jack, Chair Liberal Left
James Shaddock, Portsmouth, Rock The Boat founder
Steven Haynes, South West Birmingham, Liberal Youth Vice Chair
David Franklin, Leeds North East, University of Birmingham Liberal Democrats
Jon Neal, former Parliamentary Candidate, Haltemprice & Howden, party trainer and mentor
Cllr. Harry Hayfield, Lib Dem representative on Llansantffraed Community Council, Ceredigion, Wales
Mag. Andrew A. Kierig, Lib Dems in Brussels and Europe, ALDE Associate
Jennifer Warren, Romsey and Southampton North
Duncan Borrowman, Bromley Borough. Former member Federal Executive, former National Campaigns Officer, former Parliamentary
candidate Old Bexley and Sidcup, former London Assembly candidate.
Penny Goodman, Leeds North West, Secretary of Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform
Caron lindsay, Member, Federal Executive and Treasurer, Scottish Party
Laura Gordon, Tonbridge and Malling Alix Mortimer, Lewisham
Jon Massey, Bristol North
Laurence Cox, Member of Harrow LB local party
Kat Dadswell, Member of Liverpool LP
Louise Shaw, Member of Hazel Grove Local Party, Liberal Reform Board Member
George Carpenter, Nottingham Liberal Democrats
William Hobhouse, Heywood and Middleton, Liberal Reform Board Member
Alexis McGeadie (East Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute)
Cath Smith, member Newcastle
Mark Blackburn, Westminster Borough, Exec Director Social Liberal Forum
Rochelle Harris, Member of Maidstone LD Party
Richard Gadsden, Manchester Central, former Parliamentary candidate, Worsley and Eccles South, Secretary Manchester City Party.
Tom Lister, Birmingham Yardley
Layla Moran, Parliamentary Candidate, Oxford West and Abingdon
Stephen Morgan, Birmingham Yardley
Michael Wilson, Twickenham & Richmond
Mary Reid, Kingston Borough, Social Liberal
Marie Jenkins, Newton Abbot, Lib Dem Women member, Leadership Programme member (plus former Campaigns Officer)
and 118 other Liberal Democrat party members; see
Labrador shampoo
SIR – Our dog, Bailey, is a cross between a rottweiler and a doberman, but looks like a labrador. She often returns home from a wet country walk caked in mud but, within an hour or two of simply lying in her bed doing nothing, her coat appears to be clean. Apparently labradors produce a self‑cleaning substance for their fur. Is this true? What is it? We have christened it labrolin, and there is a fortune to be made if someone can find a way to bottle it.
Bob Ellis
Worthing, West Sussex
Lingering romance
SIR – To remember passwords I simply use nicknames for old girlfriends, plus where or when I met them. Perhaps I am the “Last Romantic”.
Richard Froggatt
Cyclists should not transfer risk to pedestrians
SIR – A transport minister has urged police not to fine cyclists riding on pavements to “escape dangerous sections of road”.
Why can cyclists not wheel their machines on the pavements, and so avoid transferring risk to pedestrians?
C K Robinson
London SE10
SIR – While the transport minister is in an asking mood, perhaps he could please ask motorists to stop parking on pavements.
Mike Nichols
Earls Barton, Northamptonshire
SIR – Were cycling invented today, it would not be allowed on the roads for health and safety reasons. It would make sense for cycling on the pavements – either shared paths or separate paths – to become more mainstream and regulated. It happens in cities all over the world, particularly where there are footpaths on both sides. Pavement paths work in Bristol, if they are properly signposted, because pedestrians are now aware that the paths are shared.
Richard Owsley
SIR – Rather than fine cyclists for riding on the pavement, the police should be given the power to fine them for riding on the road where a cycle path has been provided. Cyclists clog up Surrey roads daily, while the council-built cycle paths remain empty.
Anthony Merryweather
Old Woking, Surrey
SIR – Reverse running was obviously meant to be a joke. More seriously, sideways walking should be promoted. This would make it easier to pass other pedestrians, and to jump into the road to avoid mobility scooters and the ever-increasing number of cyclists.
Wallace Bowden
Denmead, Hampshire

Irish Times:

IrishMadam –If I didn’t know that my poor Mam is dead and gone I would have thought it was her sending in that letter. (Sunday Independent, Jan 12, 2014). It must be like that in a lot of Irish homes, forgetting about your elderly loved ones who were once young, beautiful and full of life, just like the selfish people who are ignoring them now.
Also in this section
Cheap drink comes at a cost
Letters: Disagreeing with Donal on suicide
Letters: Hurtful writing
My heart goes out to that lady. She really must be feeling low to try and reach out to someone who will perhaps just read what she’s going through.
I believe we all should stop for a moment, pick up the phone and just ask: ‘Mam or Dad, how are you?’
Is that too much to ask?
We have all lost our way, given the enormous stress we are under trying to survive, but at the end of the day, what really matters is your family ok: end of story! Do not forget where you came from.
That lady and all other ageing folk who toiled for years trying to rear us and guide us on the straight and narrow deserve better. And lady, I hope you take comfort that even though I don’t know you, you remind me of my poor Mam, who felt the exact same about some of her family. I miss her so much.
Name and address with Editor
Madam — Having read the letter of the week (Sunday Independent, January 12, 2014), it distressed me so much it compelled me to write. The poor lady who wrote it, how absolutely and utterly miserable her life must be, and what a disgraceful way for her seven children to treat her. She mentions her husband’s jealous streak, so I can only assume that this poor lady is completely isolated as she was not allowed to have any sort of life outside her home.
It unfortunately is not the only case I have heard of whereby people just get on with their own lives and are not only able to conveniently forget about elderly parents and relations but to cut off their contact with grandchildren, who should be allowed to bring such joy and happiness into their lives.
How anyone can turn their back on the mother who gave birth to them, who looked after them, reared them, nursed them when sick and in some cases went without so that their children could have something, is just beyond comprehension. How these same children can call themselves human beings is a mystery to me. They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
The Irish nation has always been known for their hospitality, the ‘Land of a Thousand Welcomes’. Have we evolved from this to such an extent that we now neglect our own, that we discard our elderly parents like last week’s rubbish once they are no longer of use to us or when the cash flow has dried up?
We would do well to remember that we owe these people our lives — without them we wouldn’t be here — and treat them accordingly.
Edel Cregan,
Longwood, Co Meath
Madam — Your letter of the week (Sunday Independent, January 12, 2014), is nothing short of one big moan.
It is said, ‘when you are right and everybody else is wrong, chances are it’s you who is wrong’. Also ‘to have a friend you must be a friend’.
Anna Lyons,
Dublin 14
Madam — What an incredibly distressing Letter of the Week, “Life is sheer hell at 80″ (Sunday Independent, January 12, 2014). The level of hurt and despair was very upsetting to read. It seems unbelievable in this day and age that someone who has lived that long has literally no one to turn to — and the sad thing is that I’m sure she is not the only one out there with that horrendous sense of isolation.
I would also wonder how many people out there are reading it and a tiny part of their mind is wondering could it be their mother writing it.
In today’s hectic world it is so easy to keep putting on the long finger that phone call or visit home which can mean a huge amount.
Likewise it is too easy for the grandchildren to accept the yearly birthday card with cash as their due and not make the thank you call or visit.
I think that with the recession and with longer working hours and more financial worries we have probably all become more complacent about the things that matter most and have let family responsibilities slide. I personally think it is a lot more important to spend even a small amount of time with the living and not just turn out in great numbers at the funeral of a family member.
To the lady who wrote the letter I would say it is never too late to change your life. If your health permits it, use the free travel to go out and make some day trips, watch out for coffee mornings in your local church hall or whatever. Make it a point to go out of the house every day even if it is only going to buy milk. The change of scene and fresh air really will help. Make it a point to speak to the shopkeeper and to the person you are standing beside at the bus stop. In a lot of cases, they are probably lonely too.
I would also let your family know how isolated and lonely you are… for in today’s busy world they may not be aware of it. I sincerely hope 2014 will be a better one for you.
Mary Quinn,
Dun Laoghaire
Madam — I am saddened you gave “Life is sheer hell at 80″ the ‘Letter of the Week’ award (Sunday Independent, January 12, 2014). The tone of the letter was that of a person who acts the victim. This lady is also steeped in anger.
I would bet her husband and children are the real victims. Is it any wonder they avoid her? No doubt she has hurt them all so much they have no choice but to stay away.
What upsets me is that she has fooled you with her ‘poor me’ talk. How many other people does she fool with her sob stories? I would love to hear from her children and husband what she is really like to be around.
Real victims do not write letters like that.
Dr Annette Hunter,
Letterkenny, Co Donegal
Madam — This year there is a lot of remembrance concerning World War I. This revived my memory of the 1941 bombing of Dublin. Living in Henrietta Street, I remember sheltering with my grandparents in the top flat during the bombing of North Circular Road.
It was also wonderful to see the same building (untouched since we left in 1941) used in a recent episode of Ripper Street. The nearby Kings Inn has also been used and we had many happy days with our picnic (bread, maybe jam) in there collecting caterpillars on the rough grass area. I stood outside the building in May last year wishing to look inside so it was good fortune to be watching that episode. I also visited the Kings Inn and walked around the parkland at the back. Nobody ever bothered us in there and we roamed around the outside grounds and considered it as part of our playground.
James Joyce, in Dubliners — A Little Cloud, refers to Henrietta Street and the horde of grimy children that populated that street. In 1941 I am sure we were less grimy. Maybe not.
Tom Cullen,
Argyll, Scotland
Madam –In your letters page (Sunday Independent, January 12, 2014) I referred to Eoghan Harris as a “former documentary-maker”. In the same paper Eoghan referred to himself as a “sometimes documentary producer”. Perhaps I was presumptuous, as I discern this to mean the warhorse hasn’t hung up his camera lens just yet.
John Bellew,
Dunleer, Co Louth
Madam — Brendan O’Connor’s front-page article (Sunday Independent, January 12, 2014), mentions Enda Kenny’s comment that if we want jobs we need to have pylons.
The Taoiseach comes from Mayo and I doubt very much if there is any chance of any of the new pylons going through Mayo territory.
We have come a long way from overhead power cables in this country and the use of pylons would be a huge backward step, not to mention a huge blot on the landscape.
And, by the way, where are the jobs that go with the manufacture of 750 pylons going to be created?
Not in Ireland surely.
Pylons have traditionally been imported from Italy and Spain in the past. Are we going to break ranks and put all the engineering workshops and steelworkers back into meaningful manufacturing jobs?
If the cables go underground, as they should, the money saved on the pylons would stay in the country to generate more jobs.
Is there any joined up thinking in this country?
Walter McCutcheon,
Madam — With regard to Michael Dryhurst’s letter, concerning Lyric FM, (Sunday Independent, January 12, 2014), I couldn’t agree more about Motor Mouth M…y in the morning. He just doesn’t know when to stop. It’s the same when he does the Eurovision Song Contest. I must admit I do find Gay interesting, but the whole point of listening to Lyric FM is to be soothed and transported to another world. The presenter I like is Aedin Gormley. She has a lovely tone, and knows that people usually tune in to hear the beautiful music. Less talk please.
Roisin Steed,
Madam — I read Barry Egan (Sunday Independent, January 12, 2014) and it reminded me of the question in the Catechism: ‘What is Presumption?’
Answer: ‘It is the foolish expectation of salvation, without making the necessary and proper use of the means to obtain it.’
I am reading the Encyclical ‘Lumen Fidei’ of the Supreme Pontiff Francis. We should also read the other encyclical letters of the previous Popes.
Myra Smith (Mrs), Longford
Disagreeing with Donal on suicide
Madam — For too long the points the late Donal Walsh made in relation to suicide have gone unchallenged. It is not appropriate to speak ill of the dead but it is equally not inappropriate to disagree with the views that they had expressed. The views that Donal Walsh expressed and in particular his views on those who commit suicide should not be seen as acceptable. There was an inference that those who battle depression and succumb to suicide do so out of an element of choice; this cannot be further from the truth, and sadly was never opposed.
I know many who fight against depression and the last thing I would like to see is that devalued by allowing such an inference. I do not believe that anybody who succumbs to suicide does so without enduring a great level of pain or consideration for the pain that it will cause. The battle against depression is a silent one and is often hidden, unlike a physical illness, but that should not devalue the veracity of mental illness, which this debate and media coverage has done. The effect that Donal Walsh had was to galvanise the issue and make it relevant, but elements of his views towards blame should not be accepted. Those who suffer from this illness should not be subject to critical judgment just because the battle and the scars that come with their fight cannot be seen.
Sean Cassidy,
Dublin 20
Brendan O’Connor: In fairness to Donal Walsh he was always at pains to say that he was not referring to people who suffered from mental illness.
Madam — Great to see the photogenic Antonia Leslie writing again. Hope she will do so regularly from now on.
Eddie Walsh,
Nottingham, England
Madam — I was personally delighted with our former president’s comments on the church’s attitude to gay people.
I was encouraged, hopeful and glad to hear from such a respected person, words that might lighten the burden of our many young gay people.
Having, as a retired school principal, witnessed first hand the bullying that most young gay teenagers have to endure in our schools, I said to my heterosexual self, “Well done Mary”.
Then, Madam, on reading Emer O’Kelly’s ‘You’re still on a ticket to hell if you have gay sex’ (Sunday Independent, January 12, 2014), I was so taken aback that I must have read it 10 times before putting pen to paper to your good self.
Writing of the sin and the sinner, Ms Kelly uses the dreadful and highly emotive sin of child rape to further her sin/sinner argument.
How devious and dangerous that is. She may as well have stood outside a gay pub and pointed out the gay patrons to the gay bashers.
This was a piece of very hurtful and potentially life-threatening journalism.
Pat Burke Walsh,
Madam — Colm McCarthy is right when he points out that in a country in which government spending outpaced government revenue by almost €1bn per month last year, “the sale of yet more government debt is a funny kind of good news story” (Sunday Independent, January 12, 2014).
Since the consequence of all the unwarranted good news in the recent past was a bankrupt country, one would have thought that the people heard far too much good news during the boom.
Judging from their public pronouncements lately, I am not sure anyone in politics, media or academia is listening to the warnings of Mr McCarthy and his likes.
A Leavy,
Sutton, Dublin 13


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