13 Febuary 2015 Mary the same
Mary still in hospital not much change.
Zhelyu Zhelev, who has died aged 79, was a former anti-communist dissident who became the first democratically elected president of Bulgaria and led his country from 1990 to 1997.
Zhelev’s legitimacy stemmed from the fact that he was one of a tiny handful of Bulgarian intellectuals who had struggled for the democratisation of Bulgarian politics since the 1970s. Described by a colleague as “a good-natured man with good intentions”, during his time as president he pushed forward brave but extremely painful economic reforms and helped lay the groundwork for Bulgaria’s entry into Nato (in 2004) and the EU (in 2007).
However, his efforts to influence the policy agendas of various governments in the 1990s led him into conflict with ministers, and in 1996 he was ousted as his party’s candidate for the presidential elections of the following year.
Zhelyu Mitev Zhelev was born on March 3 1935 at Veselinovo, a small village in north-east Bulgaria. He studied Philosophy at Sofia University and later took a PhD. But he dared to criticise Lenin in his doctoral dissertation, and although he got his degree he was expelled from the Communist Party. His confrontation with the state came to a head in 1982 when he wrote a celebrated book called Fascism, which equated communism with Nazism. The book was first published, then withdrawn and banned, though it became an underground bestseller. Zhelev was banished to his wife’s village in the provinces, where he worked as a farmer and a teacher.
His uncompromising stand made him the undisputed leader of the small Bulgarian dissident movement in the 1980s; and in 1989, after the fall of Bulgaria’s dictator Todor Zhivkov, he became head of the newly formed Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), a union of 16 different organisations opposed to the communist government. In the first democratic general election, in June 1990, he won a seat in a Grand National Assembly to draft a new constitution, and in August the Assembly elected him president of Bulgaria by a two-thirds majority.
In the early 1990s Zhelev was widely seen as the man behind shock-therapy market reforms which caused a fall in production of 36 per cent, price rises of 500 per cent and an increase in unemployment from 27,000 to 420,000 – in just two years. Yet in January 1992 he became the first Bulgarian head of state to be elected directly by the Bulgarian people.
Ironically, Zhelev seemed to get on much better with politicians of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP, the former communists) than with his colleagues in the UDF. A UDF administration led by Phjilip Dmitrov was elected in 1991, but collapsed the following year after a series of events culminating in an attack by Zhelev on the government for its insensitive handling of reforms. The attack contributed to a loss in support which led to the government’s defeat in a confidence vote, in which representatives of the country’s Turkish minority and a number of UDF defectors voted with the BSP.
The UDF was replaced with an administration of Zhelev’s nominees, led by his economic adviser Lyuben Berov, including many members of the BSP, which returned to office following a general election in 1994. For many in the UDF, Zhelev’s role in the demise of their administration represented a betrayal of the popular will. Party activists picketed his offices in Sofia’s central square and, in a bizarre reversal, his book Fascism was ritually burned by his former supporters.
Zhelev’s later years in office were marked by attempts by Russia to wean Bulgaria, a country which for years counted as Moscow’s most loyal ally in communist Eastern Europe, away from the EU and Nato and back into the Russian fold.
In 1996 Zhelev rebuffed an offer from the Russian President Boris Yeltsin to include Bulgaria in an economic integration agreement signed by four ex-Soviet republics and attacked the BSP prime minister, Zhan Videnov, who was suspected of having invited the offer during a visit to Moscow.
During his time as president, Zhelev refused to move into the presidential palace and donated a third of his salary to charity. He had hoped to win a second mandate, but lost internal UDF elections for the presidential nomination to his eventual successor, Petar Stoyanov.
After he left the presidency, Zhelev founded the Balkan Political Club, an informal grouping of former heads of state who discuss strategies for the development of the region.
Zhelev and his wife, Maria, had a daughter.
Zhelyu Zhelev, born March 3 1935, died January 30 2015
Will Hutton’s brave and visionary ideas for reforming British capitalism should be condensed into a terse popular narrative and incorporated into a widely disseminated pre-election “manifesto” (British capitalism is broken. Here’s how to fix it, 11 February). As he says: “The current national conversation is hardly conducive to these ideas”. What about crowd-funded one-page presentations in the national press and social media? It would surely be signed by a long list of respected national figures – not only economists.
The distorted economic imperative of short-term public-sector deficit reduction, bought into by the three main parties, has imposed such a straitjacket of negativity around the national conversation that ideas such as raising research and development investment to £16bn and a new Companies Act to turn companies into long-term value creators, rather than rent extractors, now sound like seditious thought crimes. People need to understand there is an alternative to the downward spiral of short-term public spending cuts and the “balancing the books” mantra. Once they realise that an investment-led strategy, implementing some of Will’s ideas using low-interest public-borrowing and fair tax-raising, could work – as advocated even by some in the IMF – then they may begin to lift their eyes to the hills.
• What has been missing in the many analyses of the current economic, social and political mess is any real attempt at a comprehensive solution. Will Hutton has produced a comprehensive and believable attempt to pull all the threads together. But there are gaps.
He talks about the future of businesses based on a new Companies Act, but it’s not clear how this would address the problems presented by 40% of shares in major UK companies (including utilities) being foreign owned. His picture of innovative, creative research-based companies of the future says nothing about where we are to find the people to lead and manage them; the mediocre, short-termist, self-enriching people at the top now hardly seem likely to metamorphose into such leaders. In what is becoming a low-skills, low-wage economy, where are the people who will work in the engine rooms of these new enterprises?
None of this is to pour cold water on the vision; it is simply to point out that the transition will take time to bring about. But it seems to me that Will’s approach, if taken up by our politicians (who but the Labour party in present circumstances?) and sold effectively, could get the voters out of their seats and into the polling stations.But does Labour, or any other party, have the guts to take on the vested interests that will be ranged against them? Let’s hope so for all our sakes.
Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire
• A total revolution in company legislation is seriously overdue and Will Hutton seemed to cover most of what is needed. But the audit process also needs a revolution. Auditors have failed to identify boardroom wrongdoing from the time of Robert Maxwell through to the banking scandals, and seem to aid tax evasion rather than ensuring companies pay what they should. Auditors should be appointed by and report to a financial regulation authority and be accountable for a company’s legal and fiscal rectitude.
Burgess Hill, West Sussex
• Will Hutton’s assertion that the state has initiated most significant technological developments during the past 500 years undermines his otherwise excellent manifesto. Only in wartime has the British state indulged the ill-disciplined mavericks ultimately responsible for innovation. As for the role of the guilds in medieval life, the modern wealth-creating economy didn’t emerge until the guilds’ collapse. I also suspect that the production line at Jaguar Land Rover welcomes the company’s foreign ownership, as do the owners of their cars.
• If only we could get Labour or the Lib Dems to at least read Will Hutton’s article. But they both seem frightened to abandon the failed neoliberal ways that have held sway since the mid-1970s. For example, both support the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being negotiated between Europe and the US. If signed, this agreement would enshrine in law the worst excesses of neoliberalism and potentially hand over control of our services, private and public, to multinational companies. Thank goodness people in Germany and Holland are sufficiently aware to be campaigning against it and so it is unlikely to be signed this year.
• In the 1870s, Anthony Trollope commented on his novel The Way We Live Now, which concerned a banking scandal: “… there seems to be reason for fearing that men and women will be taught to feel that dishonesty, if it can become splendid, will cease to be abominable. If dishonesty can live in a gorgeous palace with pictures on all its walls, and gems in all its cupboards, with marble and ivory in all its corners, and can give Apician dinners, and get into parliament, and deal in millions, then dishonesty is not disgraceful, and the man dishonest after such a fashion is not a low scoundrel.”
I’ve lived through a time when that risk seemed to have receded, and it is tragic to see it returning so egregiously in these days of unfettered capitalism. Are any of our politicians capable of tackling the nexus of money, corruption and influence that is so carefully wrecking our environment and debasing our civilisation?
• It is shameful that cross-party thinktank Demos supports the idea of food banks converting themselves into community shop-type operations (Could supermarkets for poor people tackle the UK’s chronic food poverty? 11 February). What an indictment of our society, where in the sixth richest country in the world, giving poor people “the chance to be consumers” by selling them food otherwise destined “to go to landfill” is viewed as worthy. Presumably “low income customers” only deserve the surplus no-one else wants?
It is to be expected that the right-wing, would-be Tory leader, and Churchill sychophant, Boris Johnson, and his “food policy adviser”, Rosie Boycott, “are understood to be fans” of the idea, but far more sensible “practical solutions” would be to increase the minimum wage so low-paid workers could survive without relying on benefits, for exorbitant rents to be reduced, and for the survival of the welfare state to be given top priority above tax reductions for the rich and such things as Trident renewal. At least Jack Monroe (These stores are no good if you don`t have any money), in the same edition, is not fooled, and sees that campaigns for all to be paid the living wage are much worthier of our support.
• Ian Birrell lumps together capitalists, risk-takers and wealth creators (I warned the Tories to shun tax dodgers. They wouldn’t listen, 10 February), which I would question. Certainly some capitalism involves risk, but it’s the equation with wealth creation that is most pervasive and never seems to be questioned. The Dysons of this world do create, but they are the exceptions. Most capitalism is involved in the provision of services – in effect, taking in each other’s washing. I doubt, for example, that HSBC ever created much, although in its proper function it might have provided a facilitating support service. Nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t wealth creation, which has to mean much more than simply appropriating money.
The Police Federation’s vote for all frontline uniformed officers to be offered Tasers in response to the threat of terrorism is understandable but wrong (Report, 10 February). It seems that Taser is often the answer regardless of the question. First we were told it would be used as an alternative to firearms, then that Tasers would only be used by specialist units, then it was rolled out to response units, and for the past few years there have been calls to arm all officers. Before its abolition, the Metropolitan police authority, of which I was a member, put real restraints on the use of Tasers because it recognised the danger of every officer being armed in that way.
I do not underestimate the threat posed by terrorism, or the anxiety felt by police officers. However, we should not throw away our unarmed police service – which is the envy of the world – because of the threat of terrorism. To do so would give up our civil liberties in exchange for the idea of temporary safety – and once the threat level is reduced I am not convinced the police would return their weapons. I hope the mayor of London recognises that the call to arm all frontline officers with Tasers is wrong.
Jenny Jones AM
Green party group, London assembly
As a young man in the 1960s, I lived for a few years in Trinidad (UK children should be taught black history, says Oyelowo, 10 February), finding a country almost split in two on racial lines: the descendants of slaves the British had brought from Africa, and the indentured labourers we forcibly brought out of India after slavery was abolished. This first-hand experience of what we British had done told me more than I had ever learned in any history lessons. This has stayed with me ever since, and I recall coming back to the UK to Enoch Powell’s racist bilge, which made me hate him even more, especially after seeing full-page advertisements in local papers in Trinidad, placed by the NHS and recruiting staff while he was health minister.
I don’t know what kids have been taught in the decades since then, but ignorance of how most immigrants came to be here is rife, suggesting that the topic has barely been addressed by the educational establishment. Our children should be told that most of the “greatness” of Britain came by exploitation of other people, directly as in slavery, indirectly by indentured labour and, of course, through our strong colonial presence in much of the world from Africa to Burma and beyond. We should be teaching our children this, if only to stop the sub-racist bilge that passes for policy in many parts of the political world, and not just Ukip.
• I remember as an inspector sitting in a classroom in a comprehensive, when the history teacher introduced the GCSE syllabus to a class of 13-year-olds. He had thoughtfully given each pupil a copy of what to expect if they were to choose history as one of their subjects in year 10. A black girl got up and asked: “Will there be outs?” The teacher was momentarily puzzled. “You know, sir, will we be going out? You can’t do history unless we go out.” The teacher confirmed her point to which she said: “Then I will do history.”
Then he asked them to look at the list of optional topics and explained how they could choose one for their coursework. Again the black girl got up and said: “My ancestors were slaves. I want to do a study of slavery, but it is not on the list.” The history teacher had to admit that she could not introduce a topic of her own choice. “Then I won’t do history,” she said, and sat down allowing the piece of paper to flutter across the classroom. I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I reflected that if we could not accommodate an interested pupil’s request, at least as part of coursework, then there would not be much hope for achieving the commitment and integration of black communities; nor extending the teaching of black history.
Groundlings at the mercy of hot wax and bad backs (Authentic Globe experience, 7 February)? Audiences at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse should be grateful for relatively limited authenticity. Back in the day, they had to brave more than warm liquid running down their legs. The preamble to an act of 1574 warned that “sundry slaughters and mayhemings of the Queen’s subjects have happened by ruins of scaffolds, frames and stages and by engines, weapons and gunpowder used in plays”. One of the Admiral’s Men discharged a musket on stage [in 1587], killing a child and a pregnant woman, and inflicting a head wound on another playgoer. Not to mention the magistrate’s son stabbed to death at the Fortune theatre , or the collapse of the puppet theatre in St John’s Street, which left 30-40 injured, with five dead, including two reputably “good handsome whores”. Not the sort of experiences ameliorated by a dry-cleaning voucher.
Sir, I completely agree with Alice Thomson that our political parties should be publicly funded to free them from the distraction of constant fundraising and the perception that they are dangerously indebted to generous donors, be they unions or big business (“Clean politics costs less than a packet of crisps”, Opinion, Feb 11).
An election tax on the 30 million UK taxpayers would cost about £1 each every five years, which would hardly be onerous. It would be better, though, to have an election tax on a sliding scale, whereby top-rate tax payers contribute the most. As such an election tax would be compulsory, there could be no suggestion of political influence attached to it.
Sir, Most voters are hostile to public funding of political parties and many suggested schemes typically link funding to seats held, favouring the major parties and the status quo.
We need a simple solution that is fair to all, does not favour the powerful or the rich and doesn’t marginalise small and new political parties. The answer is to make donations, gifts, loans, contributions in kind and all other ruses illegal, whatever the source and whatever their nature. No more political levies or big business donations, no more personal donations, no benefits in kind. Instead we should make membership subscriptions the only legal source of income.
To achieve a level playing field membership contributions should be limited to, say, £50 a year. In addition, we could link the number of party political broadcasts to the level of the validated membership.
Shudy Camps, Cambs
Sir, I understand the logic of Alice Thomson’s argument that political parties should be publicly funded but, notwithstanding the relatively small amount of money involved, it would nevertheless stick in my craw were I to be forced to financially support a party whose policies I abhor and which I consider would do great damage to this country if they were put into effect.
Sir, I am prepared to commit my vote to whichever party will repeal the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. If ever anything was designed to switch people of all ages off politics, it is the ridiculously extended election campaign that we are currently being subjected to.
The alternative would be a fixed election in September, thus shortening the length of the campaign (as August will remain a barren political time) — and hopefully abolishing the nonsense of the modern party conference.
Ryde, Isle of Wight
Sir, We fail to understand why the health secretary has said nothing about the role of medical examiners in his statement on implementing the recommendations of the Francis report (“Hunt to protect NHS whistleblowers”, Feb 12).
The report backed the introduction of independent medical examiners to scrutinise all deaths not referred to a coroner. Medical examiners would work closely with families to answer questions and address their concerns about the death of a loved one. The report also suggested that guidance should be provided for hospital staff encouraging them to raise their concerns with the medical examiner.
If an independent medical examiner had been in post, we think that cases of poor care and neglect at Mid Staffordshire would have been spotted earlier, avoiding the needless suffering of hundreds of patients.
Medical examiners were proposed in the 2009 Coroner and Justice Act, and pilot schemes have demonstrated improved patient care, reduced harm and financial savings, particularly by reducing the number of litigation cases. If we really want to improve patient safety, this valuable medical role should be introduced without delay.
Dr Suzy Lishman
President, Royal College of Pathologists
Sir, Teacher absence due to illness (Thunderer, Feb 10, and letter, Feb 11) is made much worse by parents who send their children to school with coughs, colds and tummy bugs. Even adults with a robust constitution would find it difficult to cope with the constant bombardment of germs and viruses teachers face in teaching the early years and primary phase.
The government, with its focus on targets for attendance, and parents and employers, with their focus on monetary gain, all share the blame for poorly children spreading illness far and wide in our schools.
Sir, I note that Prince Andrew has been appointed vice-admiral, “the rank the duke would have reached had he stayed in the Royal Navy” — a service that he left in 2001 (report, Feb 12).
I left the Army in 1957 with the rank of bombardier. It seems that the letter informing me that I am now a field marshal has been lost in the post.
Saffron Walden, Essex
Sir, When three cars arrive simultaneously at a mini roundabout their drivers are supposed to wait for the car on their right to move first. This circular deadlock is only broken when one driver takes the initiative and drives on. Which of three driverless cars (letters, Feb 10 & 11) will be programmed to take the initiative? Will they all just sit there for ever? Or, after some shared electronic signal, perhaps they will all move together — in which case who will be responsible for the multiple collision?
Sir, You report (Feb 10) that the Rev James Stevenson evicted a yoga class from his church without even bothering to observe a session. As church attendance declines, parochial church councils all over Britain are working flat out to install modern facilities in their churches to enable greater use by local communities. For example, All Saints in Darsham, Suffolk, has hugely increased its footfall and its outreach by holding weekly teas for the elderly, and by allowing the church to be used for meetings, concerts and exhibitions.
Unless our churches are more widely used, they will close, and this extraordinary heritage will be lost.
Dr Ruth Whittaker
Sir, David Chater’s claim (Viewing Guide, Feb 11) that “there is plenty of evidence” that [Thomas] More’s treatment of Protestants was “a betrayal of his humanist principles” depends who is reading the evidence.
In the royal campaign against heresy in England, More worked closely with other humanists, notably Cuthbert Tunstall, bishop of London. Rumours that he tortured suspects are dramatised in Wolf Hall. But More, who died rather than swear a false oath, indignantly insisted that no one in his custody had suffered “so much as a flip on the forehead”. By contrast, Cromwell’s role in the starvation and disembowelling of blameless Carthusian monks for refusing to recognise Henry as head of the Church is undeniable.
More’s humanist writings deployed humour and rational debate to reform Christendom, and promote its peace. He never abandoned those ideals, but saw Luther’s new gospel as an irrational force plunging Europe into religious war and wrecking the humanist project. There was less room for laughter or debate once the divorce issue reversed Henry’s religious allegiances. But it was More’s world, not his mind, that had changed.
Emeritus professor of the history of Christianity, Magdalene College, Cambridge
Sir, You report that “Britain leads Europe on sending rapists to jail” (Feb 12), with 5,408 prisoners serving sentences for rape in England and Wales in 2013. What is truly startling is that this number, despite appearing large in comparison to our neighbours, is only a tiny fraction of the number of rapists in our midst. There were 24,043 rapes recorded by the police in the year to September 2014, and the Office for National Statistics estimated that 85,000 women were victims of rape or sexual assault by penetration in 2012.
If all rapists were actually caught and convicted, our prison population would mushroom overnight.
SIR – In his article about preparing for the possibility of a Greek exit from the eurozone and the turmoil that would ensue, Matthew Lynn writes that Britain should be ready to help by providing Greece with hard currency to pay for oil and medicines (“What we should do in the event of a Grexit”).
At a time when our foreign aid budget is criticised for helping to prop up corrupt and repressive Third-World regimes, and British civil servants appear eager to disburse the cash without due scrutiny of the recipients, why not resolve two pressing problems simultaneously by using part of our foreign aid to alleviate Greece’s current appalling economic and social misery without waiting for the final collapse?
Treasury officials will haver; the British Government should not. Let us help our Greek friends now, before, in human terms it is too late.
SIR – I think I am beginning to understand game theory. Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, was not really interested in gaining British support.
I know this because he did not mention the Elgin marbles.
SIR – Given Germany’s intransigence over Greek debt, Vladimir Putin’s attempt to rebuild – at least in part – the former Soviet Union, and the new Greek government’s pro-Russian attitude, is it not likely that we could see Russia bailing out Greece in return for Athens leaving Nato and providing bases in the Mediterranean for the Russian navy?
Isle of Portland, Dorset
SIR – The European Union is showing its true colours. Germany is doing what it knows best: unilateral control.
Greece, too, is acting in its traditional way (“Greece seeks war reparations from Germany”).
The EU’s problem is fundamental. All nations in it are culturally different and, although they share a humanitarian outlook, they go about achieving their objectives differently.
When we get to a position where fundamental disparity exists and cultures inherently polarise, the EU generates major problems. In the past, similar problems have created conflict, the likelihood of which the EU is supposed to have diminished.
SIR – Cleaning my shoes on an old copy of the Telegraph – dated Tuesday January 1 2002 – I see that a front-page headline reads: “Few regrets as Athenians ditch
What thoughts now?
Cancer in the young
SIR – You report that two in three people will develop cancer in their lifetime. Professor Peter Sasieni, the author of the study that the report is based on, explained that: “Cancer is primarily a disease of old age, with more than 60 per cent of all cases diagnosed in people aged over 65. If people live long enough then most will get cancer at some point.”
While this is true for the majority of cancers, we have continually found in our analysis that it is not the case for brain tumours. I worry that reports like this one help people forget the urgent need for more research into new treatments for cancers that disproportionately affect children. Fifty-two per cent of brain tumour patients are under 65. Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet just 1 per cent of the national budget for cancer research is allocated to this disease.
Our understanding of the biology of the tumour has to be advanced soon if we are to make a meaningful attempt at reaching the survival rates of other cancers – rates that have doubled in the past 40 years.
Sue Farrington Smith
Chief Executive, Brain Tumour Research
SIR – As anyone who has ever been involved in the banking industry knows, there is a legal difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance.
Every private bank competes for clients’ funds with each tool in the box; they’re all doing the same as HSBC.
The issue of taxation has become an electoral ploy, designed to attract voters who feel somehow hard done by. Perhaps these voters, now rubbing their hands with glee at the HSBC exposure, might pause to consider that private bank clients who avoided tax spent their ill-gotten gains at the voters’ shops, invested in businesses that employ the voters, and purchased services that paid the voters’ wages.
SIR – My husband and I have banked with HSBC for more than 20 years, 10 of which were spent living and working in Asia, when we had a legitimate overseas bank account.
Not once were we offered personal tax-avoidance advice. I feel unloved.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
Driverless car technology can improve safety now
SIR – Some of the technology used in driverless cars is now being fitted in more expensive models produced by Volkswagen, Volvo and others.
These devices prevent low-speed collisions and inform the driver of obstacles during low-speed manoeuvres. This technology will improve road safety, so the Government should be encouraging car manufacturers to introduce more of these features and also spread their introduction to cars at the cheaper end of their ranges. Insurance companies should reflect the accident-prevention advantages in their premiums.
Driverless cars may still be 10 years away but there is good reason to encourage the introduction of the road safety aspects of the technology at a much earlier date.
SIR – When driverless cars are introduced, both motor and personal insurance products will have to evolve dramatically. An improvement in road safety will affect third-party insurance premiums.
However, it is estimated that the starting price for the driverless car could be as much as £170,000 and replacing parts or making repairs will be extremely expensive. Specifically designed software will be required to analyse the causes of any crashes that occur. This expensive technology will inflate premiums and increase the demand for comprehensive policies.
Now is the time for the insurance industry to think about the impact of the introduction of driverless cars.
Executive Chairman, UNA Alliance Ltd
Dutch turn to national flower in desperate times
Dig for victory: picking free tulips in front of the Royal Palace on Dutch National Tulip Day (Getty)
SIR – As a group of 16-year-old schoolboys visiting Delft in the Netherlands in 1947, we were informed, with much regret, by our Dutch hosts that they could not take us to visit the extensive bulb fields surrounding that area, since there were no flowers to be seen there.
An original book in my possession, Rotterdam 1940-1946, devotes six pages to photographs showing the lengths these people had to go to in order to survive Nazi occupation. At the end of the Second World War, food was so scarce that the Dutch were making soup from any available material.
This included almost all their stocks of dormant tulip bulbs, which were peeled, chopped and placed in the vast vats at the Heineken brewery in order to produce tulip soup. It was reported that the tulip bulbs caused sickness and even death in some who ate them.
In 1945, Allied aircraft dropped thousands of tons of supplies across the western Netherlands. It was too late for some.
Tangmere, West Sussex
Lessons out of doors
SIR – As a retired teacher, I share your concern over the teacher drawing the blinds to prevent children seeing snow.
As part of careers and geography lessons I used to organise trips to local businesses and the coast, to give children first-hand experience of the workplace, commerce, and physical geography.
However, in my final years of teaching I encountered an increasing reluctance to allow children out of school, on the grounds that it took them away from the “educational environment” of the classroom.
Schools need to recognise that they are preparing children for the world beyond the school gate. This obsession with classroom learning promotes mere schooling at the expense of real education.
Bognor Regis, West Sussex
SIR – On seeing the Labour women’s bus on BBC Breakfast yesterday morning, my wife said that she did find the pink colour a little patronising.
But what she really objected to was the fact that they could only muster a 16-seat minibus in order to appeal to half of the electorate.
Stanstead Abbotts, Hertfordshire
SIR – I once worked for a large corporation with six divisions, each with its own chief executive. One of my tasks was to prepare and order the printing of booklets which went out to each retail outlet. Before printing, the booklets had to be proof-read by each chief executive, who all invariably made changes. The booklet had to be re-typeset to incorporate the changes and proof-read again, and so on.
I quickly worked out that if I made a couple of spelling errors and put in some bad punctuation, the chief executives would correct my “silly” mistakes and leave the substance of the booklet alone. This ruse shortened approval times, though I hate to think what was said in the executive dining room about “that idiot in purchasing”.
SIR – Why go to the trouble of shooting Wolf Hall using tallow candles for the sake of authenticity only to have Thomas Cromwell walk out of Cardinal Wolsey’s bedroom accompanied by a haunting solo flute? This is just one example of background music that adds nothing to the viewers’ appreciation of the drama. This excellent series has absolutely no need of such intrusions to create mood – the actions speak for themselves.
SIR – In the episode of Wolf Hall that I watched it was James Bainham who was imprisoned in the Tower of London then burnt at the stake, not William Tyndale.
Eastbourne, East Sussex
SIR – Every time Valentine’s Day comes round, I am reminded of a letter sent to me many years ago by my French pen friend.
She told me that her sister had got engaged, and that the engagement ring was “a lonely diamond”.
Globe and Mail:
Bob Rae is former premier of Ontario and a former Member of Parliament. Mr Rae is a partner at Olthuis Kleer Townshend, a law firm that acts for First Nations across Canada, and teaches at the University of Toronto School of Public Policy and Governance.
The famous American commentator Walter Lippmann once summed up public opinion as “the pictures in our heads.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave us all some insight into the picture in his head when he made his famous comment that “Canada has no history of colonialism”. What he might have been thinking was that Canadian troops didn’t fight overseas in various wars to conquer foreign territory. But what he was forgetting is that Canada itself is the product of colonialism. That is what an important part of our history is, remnants of empire fighting over land that had been occupied for thousands of years by indigenous people. For many Canadians that is what our present is as well.
A year from now there will be a march from Paris to Rome. The marchers will be indigenous people from the Americas. They will be going to Rome to ask the Pope to repudiate the Papal Bulls that blessed the “civilizing missions” that justified the extermination of indigenous people, their civilizations, cultures, and governments. Let’s hope the Holy Father is listening.
This is the nightmare of violence and repression from which all First Nations are seeking to awaken. The remnants of this colonialism are more than just memories. They are memorialized in the Indian Act, the residential schools, the provincial legislation that assumes aboriginal people, their governments, and their jurisdiction don’t exist, that denies to this very day concepts of shared sovereignty and aboriginal self-government.
In words that haunt today, Ian Scott, then Ontario’s Attorney General, spoke these words in 1986. He was asking how Ontarians in a quarter century might look back on a period of accomplishment and reconciliation:
“The important thing, and one of the ways we will be judged, is how we deal with the three critical issues on the agenda for native people.
The first is the entrenchment of aboriginal self-government in our Constitution, a matter that must be resolved next year.
The second is the introduction of self-government systems to the native people, in the bands on the reserve and off the reserve, in a way that meets their needs, a terribly difficult talk which has already begun under this government with the Nishnawbe-Aski nation negotiations.
The third thing is developing a way to bring the public services to which all Ontario people are entitled because they are Ontarians to the native people, wherever they may live, in a delivery method that is satisfactory to their needs and that responds to their concerns.”
Looking at ourselves in the mirror, none of these three things has happened. What has taken place is different – in the absence of political progress, First Nations have turned to the courts, who have responded by asserting aboriginal title and calling on governments to negotiate. Laboriously, painfully, and at the continuing price of “extinguishment” as Hayden King pointed out a few days ago, there have been some negotiations in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, B.C., and in the Territories producing negotiations that are the subject of current litigation. At the same time, from Ontario to Alberta, the old treaties have been used as a cover for inaction. First Nations lack the means, the land, the revenue, the capacity, to govern themselves. It is more than a sad commentary. It is a national disgrace.
We’re about to hear from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and that will shock Canadians with its description of the profound racism that is deeply imbedded in our past and, sad to say, our present. There will be a call to action. Who will respond? Provincial and federal leaders need to come to grips with this, our most compelling national issue. The lack of education, health, housing, are all symptoms of a deeper problem: powerlessness. We need to put power, responsibility and accountability in post-colonial governments. The federal and provincial institutions of modern colonialism have to be removed from the backs of people whose rights have never received the political recognition they need and deserve.
It will require real leadership on all sides to get there, a leadership that will take historical understanding, legal opinion, and moral outrage and turn them into a political agenda worthy of the name. We cheer Mandela and we weep while watching Selma. Cheers and tears are not enough. It’s past time we created a modern, workable agenda that admits what we’ve tried before has failed. The picture in the heads of most Canadians is a reflection in a rear view mirror. It’s time our leaders stopped counting heads, and started trying to turn them.
A chara, – Bruce Arnold, in arguing against the same-sex marriage referendum (“Should Irish voters pass the same-sex marriage referendum?”, Opinion & Analysis, February 12th) says that “marriage needs the procreative element to grow and enrich human beings within nature”. I assume then that Mr Arnold would disallow people who are infertile from marrying. And what about people who do not want to have children? Should they should not be allowed to marry either? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Bruce Arnold confuses “marriage” with “fecundity”. That they are not the same thing is evident from the number of people born out of wedlock.– Yours, etc,
Sir, – Your main editorial “The meaning of marriage” (February 9th) attempted to promote the Yes side of the same-sex marriage debate by severing the ties between marriage and the raising of children. However, in so doing you raise a much larger question as to why the State should regulate marriage at all.
You claim that marriage is no longer about the formation of families and has already been redefined, or reduced, to the point where “it is now about adults making a public statement of their commitment to each other”. If that is indeed so, then we must ask why such a commitment should need to be endorsed by, or regulated by, the State. After all, what business is it of the State when two consenting adults wish to go public with their romantic commitment to each other?
We can all make public statements about all kinds of things without governmental regulation or interference. So why should the State presume to legislate as to which adults are allowed, or are not allowed, to make public statements of commitment to each other?
True, the State has an interest in regulating matters of inheritance and taxation – but these could be more easily dealt with through implementing the existing mechanism of civil partnerships in a way that treats everyone equally irrespective of sexual orientation. If we are to accept your redefinition of marriage as simply a public statement of commitment, then the obvious conclusion is that marriage equality would be best served by the State getting out of the marriage business altogether. Then all sections of society, both religious community groups, and non-religious community groups (including the LGBT community), would be equally served by having have the freedom to make their public commitments in whatever ways they see fit. – Yours, etc,
Evangelical Alliance Ireland,
22-24 Foley Street, Dublin 1.
Sir, – I was delighted to read Prof Sheila Green’s letter (February 7th) stating that the American Psychological Association had given its reassuring support for the suitability of lesbian and gay couples to become adoptive parents.
This would be the same organisation that supported the psychologists who took part in the CIA’s interrogation procedures (sleep deprivation, water boarding, etc) at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere.
As James Risen, a journalist with the New York Times has written in his book Pay Any Price, “the American Psychological Association worked assiduously to protect the psychologists who did get involved in the torture program”.
I would suggest that Prof Greene look elsewhere to find more credible support for the position that “parental sexual orientation does not influence parenting effectiveness”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, speaking at a colloquium at the Vatican on the complementarity of man and woman, said: “Almost everything that marriage once brought together has now been split apart. Sex has been divorced from love, love from commitment, marriage from having children, and having children from responsibility for their care”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The State recognises traditional marriages (ie between heterosexuals) and values them because they contribute to the stability of society and produce the next generation of citizens. In the interests of equality, the Stage will, if the people consent, recognise same-sex marriages and value them for the first of these reasons, but the second reason doesn’t exist.
So, to approach equality even more closely, married homosexuals will be given the same right to adopt children as married heterosexuals.
At the same time, however, adoption rights are to be extended to unmarried couples. Doesn’t that devalue marriage? There will be perfect equality (in all but the reproductive capacity) between both kinds of marriage, but if you want kids you may as well stay single! – Yours, etc.,
Sir, – Clearly, in the wider setting of the present debate on marriage equality irrespective of a person’s sex, there are two distinct cultures; one values traditional beliefs based on the heterosexual nature of marriage being ordained by God; the other culture advances secular ideals, much of which flow from humanism and modern atheism, which deny ethical and moral absolutes and desire all human society, either to recognise, or to follow their own arbitrary goals.
It is against this backdrop that we see a growing secularism pressing for a parity of esteem and social recognition of same-sex “marriage” as a right, when no such right exists and is therefore not ours to give. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Further to your recent article on homeless policy (February 12th), working at the coalface of homelessness since 1973, I have never met in that time a minister or politician who has given such commitment to addressing homelessness as Alan Kelly. Homelessness is a hugely complex issue and the impression should never have been given that it would be solved, first in 2010 with the goal posts shifting every few years since.
For those losing their homes for many reasons it is extremely difficult, but it is also much easier to quantify the problem and address it. However, understanding why is it people continue to sleep out rather than accept a bed when offered is much more difficult to understand.
Daily we meet people in this situation and knew the two people well who died on the streets in recent times. Their deaths lead to an outpouring of blame and generosity.
I attended the forum to address homelessness organised by Mr Kelly, my first time meeting him. I should also say that it was the first time in years for Trust to be invited to such an event, even though we work daily with people who are homeless. Neither Trust nor I are aligned to any political party however I found Mr Kelly’s concern, commitment and “can do” approach was not just a breath of fresh air but an injection of inspiration and encouragement to all attempting to care for some of our most vulnerable citizens. Mr Kelly is quite right to say that “I’d rather if people were more constructive”. Our nation at times seems to be drowning in negativity and a “can do” approach is required at all levels of Irish life, now more than ever. – Yours, etc,
Director and co-founder,
Sir, – Given the large number of British retailers now trading everywhere in Ireland and, presumably, repatriating millions if not billions of euros in profits each year, I’d be far more concerned about “British Aisles”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I prefer “The North Atlantic Archipelago”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I’m very pleased that Michael Stapleton raised that intriguing term, “the Anglo-Celtic Isles”.
It’s healthy and normal that the people of an archipelago should at key points in their history discuss what they call their shared environment. In an age when we can look forward to putting our difficult history behind us, this is a term that not only allows us to name our islands – but to name ourselves as well.
The idea isn’t new. Nineteenth-century anthropologists considered it superior to “Anglo-Saxon” (as in economics) or “British” as a name for the people of these islands for the same reasons it is a good name today.
So, from Shetland to the Channel Islands, from the Scarborough coast to the beaches of Kerry, British and Irish alike, why not call ourselves Anglo-Celts – and these, the Anglo-Celtic Isles? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – We were previously called PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) in Europe, so maybe we could now be called WISE (Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England) on the periphery. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Jonathan Blake (February 12th) comments that “Australia and New Zealand have much in common yet there is no suggestion to call both islands the Australian Isles”. At their closest points, Australia and New Zealand are over 2,000km apart, which is approximately the same as the distance from Ireland to Morocco, Ukraine or Greenland. Australia is significantly closer to South East Asia than to New Zealand.
Furthermore, the indigenous people of Australia and New Zealand are entirely distinct from each other, and even the European settlement of the two countries followed very different patterns.
In contrast, Ireland and Great Britain are separated by less than 20km in places. There has been continuous movement of people between the islands for thousands of years, and people from different parts of the archipelago have an enormous amount in common. Consequently, it makes perfect sense to have a simple name describing the archipelago. “Ireland and Britain” is inaccurate, as that would seem to exclude the poor old Isle of Man! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Jonathan Blake (no relation) asserts that “no Pole would consent to the use of Pomerania” to refer to the area formerly in Germany. It is now actually restored to Poland. The name comes from “Pomorze” which is Polish for “Land on the Sea” and would be understood as such by speakers of any Slavic language. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – On opening your sports section, I was thrilled to be able to read a full page with reports on England’s soccer games of the previous night including Chelsea and Everton; West Brom and Swansea; Southampton and West Ham; Crystal Palace and Newcastle and Manchester Utd and Burnley.
I then turned to your Letters Page and read the ongoing correspondence concerning calling these islands the “British Isles”. – Is mise,
Sir, – IONA, “Islands of the North Atlantic”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – While I was pleased to read of a possible cycle route to the city centre from my neighbourhood, I am once again perplexed by Dublin City Council’s plans to reconfigure the transport network which will incur significant financial cost and disrupt existing traffic flows (“Four options for Liffey cycle route revealed”, February 12th).
Why do we seek to reinvent the wheel (no pun intended) when existing public transport failures are ignored? The bus lanes beside my home are persistently blocked both by regular traffic and in particular by parked cars. Bizarrely these cars are parked by members of An Garda Síochána attending the nearby courts complex. I have reported these to the relevant authorities but it seems that a car parked on double yellow lines on a busy junction is ignored if it is an unmarked Garda vehicle. Reducing the lanes available has significant effects on traffic flow, but the Garda Traffic Corps is not willing to take colleagues to task, despite the consequences for safety or the ample negative publicity via social media. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – If you go down to the courthouse on Washington Street in Cork today or any day that the courts are sitting, you are sure of a big surprise.
For every day that the court sits, you will see an abundance of cars parked, illegally and with impunity, all day long on the public footpaths, obstructing passersby, particularly those in wheelchairs. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Eamonn McCann writes that “many in positions of authority in the Catholic Church seem to have managed to forget that it was taught within living memory that it was literally true – no question of metaphor – that ‘the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ’ was contained in the Communion wafer” (“Stephen Fry’s ‘God’ comments raise questions about atheism”, Opinion & Analysis, February 12th).
He may wish to consult the current edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (on sale at many fine bookshops as well being available online free at the Vatican website) which states “in the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained”.
It would seem Mr McCann was wrong to imply that this particular teaching may have gone away. But then, I suppose still being taught qualifies as being within living memory. – Is mise,
Rev PATRICK G BURKE,
Sir, – Eamonn McCann demolishes the once-respected thinker St Thomas Aquinas with the single sentence: “The circular banality of Aquinas’s ‘proofs’ also deserves mention.” Gosh, is it that easy? In that case, let me advert to John Stuart Mill’s painfully inadequate theory of liberalism; or call attention to Jean Piaget’s patently self-contradictory theories of child development; or point out the insane incoherence of Milton Friedman’s quantity theory of money; or pause and reflect upon Sir Alex Ferguson’s embarrassingly inadequate theories on defensive formation. I am willing to expand upon all of these topics, as soon as Mr McCann explains why St Thomas’s proofs are circular and banal, for those (and I hear that they still exist) who don’t already know. – Yours, etc,
Ballymun, Dublin 11.
Sir, – Pope Francis is reported to have described as selfish the decision of some couples not to have children (“Pope Francis says choosing not to have children is ‘selfish’”, February 12th).
As he himself has long since chosen to remain childless, is this not somewhat a matter of pots and kettles on his part? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – When I was in UCD in the early 1970s, there were radicals among the student population who liked to protest by disrupting lectures, chanting down government ministers who attended student debates and, in some cases, getting themselves arrested.
It amuses me now to see some of the same individuals as prominent politicians, lawyers and members of the judiciary. It also gives me hope that Paul Murphy TD will, in time, grow up. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Michael F O’Neill (February 12th) calls for automated announcements to be delivered in a sweet Irish accent. Even if sung by the Sirens of Anthemoessa, “unexpected item in bagging area” would still be an unwelcome message. – Yours, etc,
When you note how tough Greece are in dealing with their debt in comparison to Ireland, is it any wonder the Troika practically hugged Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan when bidding them adieu?
Even prior to the Greek election, that country got a better deal than Ireland because it stood up to the European Union. Since new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took power he has wasted no time. He has tried to raise money to reduce that debt. His latest effort is to reclaim a Nazi war loan – reputed in Athens to be around €162bn, or more than half the level of debt Greece is struggling with. Unfortunately, Germany’s economics minister has rejected this on the grounds the issue was concluded 25 years ago.
Our own finance minister tells us Irish debt is affordable and repayable.
Independent TD Seamus Healy, speaking in support of a motion from Independent deputies calling for a European debt conference, certainly wouldn’t agree with Mr Noonan. He put it to Minister for State Simon Harris that in Ireland there are 350,000 unemployed people, 90,000 people on local authority housing lists, 40,000 families facing repossessions and 30pc of the population experiencing deprivation.
These are the people wanting debt write-downs – and surely wouldn’t be the ones to believe debt is either repayable or affordable. Minister Noonan, please retrieve your steps on ‘simple’ debt collection and face reality.
Thurles, Co Tipperary
Marriage is a cure for love
The report by Accord published in the Irish Independent (February 11) contained an interesting, though unsurprising, finding. The research found that “men are still more commitment-phobic than women when it comes to tying the knot…” Not only should men be “commitment-phobic” they should be totally ‘commitment-resistant’.
Marriage and cohabitation are governed, in my view, by misandrist laws designed to benefit women at men’s expense and which are contained in family legislation.
I do not feel that those entering marriage are made sufficiently aware of these laws by those who provide pre-marriage courses.
If the termination clause of the marriage contract were extrapolated from this legislation and presented in contract form, I believe it would read like this: “the female party may at any time and without having to provide any justification terminate this contract on terms which she can largely dictate.
“She may remove the male party from the family home purely on the grounds that he is male; she may choose to live off his earnings for the rest of her life; she may plunder his assets; she may dictate the terms of his fatherhood and his continuing relationship with his children or may terminate his relationship with his children entirely; she may move a new boyfriend in to the family home and instruct their children to call him ‘Daddy’ and the courts of the land will make orders to give effect to these dictates”.
Some may think that this is an exaggerated portrayal of the family law system but, sadly, many men have found to their cost that it is entirely accurate.
If more men were made aware of this fact then men would simply avoid marriage like the plague.
At this stage civil marriage is an institution that is only fit for male imbeciles and female gold diggers.
Name and address with Editor
The 1916 centenary programme
Eamon Delaney poses the question as to why 1916 relatives should have such a major say on commemorations. At this moment in time they don’t, but who has ever suggested that they should have?
Relatives have launched a centenary programme that we hope will open up a much needed debate and discussion as to how best we might celebrate this seminal event in our history.
The relatives programme includes official State ceremonies, a centenary preservation plan for the Moore Street battlefield site, a cultural programme including music, theatre, cinema, exhibitions, education and sporting events as well as proposed tribute events hosted by an tUachtarain and an Taoiseach.
It is, in fact, a blueprint for the “people’s celebration” that Mr Delaney himself is proposing. Since that launch, the ‘Reclaim the Vision of 1916’ group – chaired by Robert Ballagh and Sinn Féin – have drawn up their proposals for the centenary. Both have plans that are, in our view, worthy of consideration and support.
Mr Delaney rightly refers to the now infamous Ireland Inspires GPO launch as having little or nothing to do with a commemoration of The Rising. It neither remembered or paid tribute to the volunteers who fought for Irish freedom. In the very location where they made history they were airbrushed out of history.
In that light it would be strange, to put it mildly, if 1916 relatives were to make no comment or have no view and remain silent on the apparent lack of urgency in official circles in relation to 2016.
Like Mr Delaney, we view Sinn Féin’s proposed events as having “many impressive aspects” worthy of support. It is axiomatic that this does not imply support for Sinn Féin per se.
Having launched our initiative with the purpose of opening a commemoration debate it would be churlish to refuse to consider or support others efforts in view of the regrettable failure of the relevant Department to engage in meaningful dialogue and discussion with all interested parties.
Michael Barry, chairman
James Connolly Heron
Proinsias Ó Rathaille
The 1916 Relatives Centenary Initiative
We need to work to end conflict
The shooting of three Muslims in North Carolina by a militant atheist sent a shiver down my spine.
The US was built on the great foundational principles of toleration, religious and political freedoms, social justice and the respect of the law. Unfortunately, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to a drastic surge of contention, defamation, rivalry and racism towards Muslims.
World leaders, decision-makers and other stakeholders need to speak the vocabulary of tolerance, mutual respect and understanding, build bridges of hope that transcend religious, ethnic, racial and cultural boundaries, and transform us from an era of conflict towards cooperation.
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
A bit too much of Fry
Who’s evil: God, the archbishop or Stephen Fry?
1. We may leave God to his or her inscrutable wisdom, but an apology for the creation of so rude and self-indulgent a person as Stephen Fry might be in order.
2. Stephen Fry is as entitled to his atheism as the Irish in the Republic of Ireland are entitled to their Roman Catholicism. But he must have caused unnecessary offence to many Christians, not only Roman Catholics, in Ireland by the insensitivity of his presentation of his arguments. I doubt whether he would speak of the Muslim God in these terms. I dare say Mr Fry would know something of the hurt that homophobia can cause.
3. As for the Archbishop of Canterbury (yet another Old Etonian) that is another matter, for he purports to speak on behalf of the Anglican Communion. Hence I called for his resignation when he supported the renewed bombing of Iraq in the unelected House of Lords.
If he does not resign I call for him to be sacked for this unchristian attitude. Paul Lambert has just been sacked as the manager of Aston Villa. In my view, a lesser offence.
Dr Gerald Morgan
The Chaucer Hub
Trinity College, Dublin