More wind and rain

More Sun and rain 29th April 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Captain Povey’s Old Flame turns up, and wants to resume their relationship. He is terrified that Mrs Povey will find out. Pertwee and Leslie and Murray help out and all end up locked in the fem fatal’s larder. Priceless.
Sun!, rain sun rain I fix an old computer hurrah it works!
Upstairs Downstairs Georgenia’s wedding and Hudson and Mrs Briges get married too last episode?
I win at Scrabble today, just by ne point, and get just under 400, Mary might get her revenge tomorrow, I hope.


Denise Epstein
Denise Epstein, who has died aged 83, caused one of the biggest literary sensations of recent years when she produced a manuscript written by her mother, Irène Némirovksy, a Russian-Jewish novelist who lost her life in Auschwitz; published in 2004 as Suite Française, it became a runaway bestseller.

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Denise Epstein 
5:45PM BST 28 Apr 2013
Irène Némirovsky had intended the work to be an epic five-part novel about a nation torn apart by war, to rival Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Written in the early years of the Nazi occupation of France, it was based on her own experiences; but she had finished only the first two parts when she was arrested on July 13 1942.
The first part in the planned sequence, Storm in June, is a clear-sighted depiction of mostly upper-class Parisians and the disintegration of civility and human kindness as they flee the city following the Nazi invasion. The second part, Dolce, drew on Irène Némirovsky’s experience of life in occupied Issy-l’Eveque (fictionalised as Bussy), a small village in Burgundy where she had fled with her family, and showed members of the self-righteous local social elite persuading themselves that they have more in common with the “cultured” German officers they are required to host than with their own socially inferior French neighbours.
With its bleakly comic and totally convincing depiction of the psychology of defeat and the processes of political, military and sexual collaboration, the book did not make easy reading for the French. Its stories of wartime compromise and capitulation fed a national mood of introspection, contributing to a debate on one of the darkest chapters of French history.
Awarded the prestigious Renaudot prize, Suite Française was sold, for record sums, to publishers around the world (it was published in English in 2006), and the interest it generated led to the reprinting and translation of other works by its author.
For Denise Epstein, however, the main rewards were personal: “It is an extraordinary feeling to have brought my mother back to life,” she told a BBC interviewer in 2006. “It shows that the Nazis did not truly succeed in killing her. It is not vengeance, but it is a victory.”
Denise France Catherine Epstein was born on November 9 1929 in Paris, where her parents, both descended from wealthy Russian-Jewish financiers, had fled after the 1917 Revolution. Her father, Michel Epstein, worked in a bank, and in the year Denise was born her mother made her name on the literary scene with her first novel, David Golder, about a dysfunctional, wealthy Jewish family, largely based on her own upbringing. She went on to publish nine more novels before war broke out.
Before then, when Denise was 10, during a period of rising anti-Semitism her parents made the strategic decision to convert to Roman Catholicism. This was not enough, of course, to prevent their being identified as Jewish after the German invasion (Denise would take her First Communion wearing the yellow star).
In 1940, as German tanks rolled into France, Irène sent her two daughters, Denise and her younger sister Elizabeth, to the Burgundy village of Issy-l’Eveque, the childhood home of Cécile Michaud, the nanny who had been with them since Denise’s birth. (Cécile’s family are immortalised — uniquely under their own surname — in Suite Française as the only truly good people in the whole book.)
The girls’ parents stayed in Paris, working, and visited when they could. By early 1942, with both of them registered Jewish, Michel had been banned from working and Irène told she could no longer publish her books. They, too, left for Issy-l’Eveque. Denise remembered the few short months that followed as the happiest of her life.
But on July 13 1942, betrayed by her French neighbours to the Nazi soldiers who were stationed in the village, Irène Némirovsky was arrested. “There was a knock on the door. She knew why the police had come, but there were no tears,” Denise recalled. “She just told me to look after my father. She said farewell to us, but I had no idea it was the final farewell, the last time I would see my mother.” Within 24 hours Irène Némirovsky was in a concentration camp north of Orléans. Within four days she was bound for Auschwitz. She died of typhus a month later, aged 39.
Knowing nothing of his wife’s fate, Denise’s father wrote to everybody he could think of, pleading for her life; but three months after her disappearance, he, too, was arrested and transported to Auschwitz, where he died in the gas chambers.
At first the girls were also detained, but a Gestapo officer took pity on them, saying they reminded him of his own daughters, and let Cécile Michaud take them away. Before they parted for the last time, Michel Epstein handed Denise a small leather suitcase and told her: “You must never part with this because there is a notebook of your mother’s inside.”
Cécile Michaud removed the Jewish stars from their clothes and fled the village with the girls and the suitcase. “I remember I was distraught because I had to abandon my doll Bleuette in order to carry the suitcase,” Denise recalled. But she kept it with her as they went into hiding for the next two years. Pursued by French police, they found refuge with nuns, then were passed around safe houses in Bordeaux, hiding in cellars and attics. Denise attended school under an assumed name.
Even when the war came to an end their troubles were not over. Not knowing that their parents were dead, the sisters would make daily visits to the Gare de l’Est in Paris to wait for trains carrying survivors from the concentration camps. They made their way to Nice, where their maternal grandmother, who had managed to convince the Gestapo that she was an Orthodox Russian, refused to open the door to them. “If you’re orphans, go to the orphanage!” she shouted.
Denise went on to work as an archivist, married, had two sons and a daughter, divorced, and eventually settled in Toulouse. Her sister became a writer and editor, publishing a novel, Le Mirador, based on their mother’s life, before dying of cancer in 1996.
Though Denise treasured the suitcase as the last relic of her mother, for years she could not bring herself to look at the dog-eared pages, covered in a tiny and almost illegible scrawl, that she had assumed was her mother’s personal diary of the war. “In 1975 I opened the manuscript,” she recalled, “but I found it too painful to read and closed it again.”
A flood in her apartment some years later prompted her to think about safeguarding the document and, using a magnifying glass, she began to transcribe it, only to discover that it was a novel.
For several more years she held back from approaching a publisher, fearing that she might be betraying her mother to publish a work which was clearly unfinished (in her notes Irène Némirovsky had named the unwritten parts of the book “captivity”, “battles” and, poignantly, “peace”). When she did, in 2002, the publisher, Denoël, immediately recognised its importance both as a historical document and a literary masterpiece.
After its publication Denise found herself invited to participate in the celebration of public events such as Bastille Day. But she never went: “How long will it take them to understand that I will never go to anything involving French flags flying and men in uniform?”
Denise Epstein is survived by her children, whom she raised as Catholics — just to be on the safe side.
Denise Epstein, born November 9 1929, died April 1 2013


Most of the workers in the collapsed Dhaka building containing four garment factories were women, many of whom had expressed concern about cracks in the building the day before, but had been ordered back to work because it “had been inspected and was safe” (Report, 25 April). Now many of those women are dead. But never mind, because we in the west can continue to rejoice in dirt-cheap garments. “Can’t decide between the geometric or floral bikini? It doesn’t matter, because at £3 a pop, it’s easier to buy both,” says a piece accompanying your report on Primark’s “absolutely brilliant start to the year” (Primark’s high street strategy lifts sales 24%, 24 April). Its items are “often worn just once”. It’s time for us shoppers to wake up and do some joined-up thinking.
Susan Tomes
• The factory collapse in Bangladesh will have pricked the conscience of many a business that relies on cheap labour in developing countries to keep down the costs of production. We hope the tragedy brings about a sharper focus on occupational health and safety, in which organisations recognise their moral duty to protect workers from harm no matter where they are in the supply chain.
Jane White
Institution of Occupational Safety & Health
• As a first step, we suggest that Britain’s importers and retailers of clothes made in Bangladesh should set up a fund to help the victims of the factory collapse and their families, to which those of us who benefit from cheap clothes, ie most of us, can contribute.
David and Mary Moore
Somerton, Somerset

If Abu Qatada is deemed to be an international terrorist (Report, 24 April), why not ask the international court at The Hague to try him? Terrorism is warfare by another name, and this court has the experience and the resources to assess evidence fairly. Whatever the man may have done, keeping him imprisoned here or under house arrest for years on human rights grounds is ironic in the extreme.
Deirdre Mason
•  Perhaps the government should be recommending that NHS managers spend a year on wards working as healthcare assistants to develop their “compassionate care” before becoming NHS managers (NHS ‘culture of fear’ stops nurses raising patient safety concerns, 23 April).
Rachel Edwards
Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire
•  If I bit another member of staff at my place of work, I would quite rightly be suspended, probably sacked, and possibly prosecuted for assault. It’s a sad day when Guardian readers fall over themselves to defend an overpaid thug for whom we should apparently feel sorry (Letters, 26 April).
Jill Allbrooke
Bromley, Kent
• Sharks do not “infest” the Caribbean (Report, 27 April). Do eagles infest the sky? Do tigers infest the rainforest?
Denis Kennedy
Witney, Oxfordshire
• Six swallows on Saturday in Kendal. Perhaps they know that it is the second best place to live in England…
Marion Kuit
Kendal, Cumbria

The public accounts committee’s report highlighting the “big four” accountancy firms’ conflict of interest in advising the government on tax reform while advising clients on tax avoidance (Inside knowledge lets rich off tax hook, says MPs’ report, 26 April) is welcome but only scratches the surface of a much bigger problem. The Treasury is not the only department to receive secondments from firms to advise on policy matters in which they have a direct conflict of interest.
The role firms such as McKinsey played in the drawing up of the coalition’s NHS reforms is well documented. Similarly, it is known that dozens of staff working for energy companies have been seconded to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Any company providing such a central role in the policy formulation of a political party would have to declare such advice as a donation in kind, yet such information must be eked out via FoI requests, which are often frustrated by claims of “commercial confidentiality”.
The benefits of such secondments to companies are obvious: not only do they have the opportunity to influence government policy, but the contacts and experience their staff garner during such periods will help them in the longer term. This competitive advantage is often even paid for by the taxpayer. This situation must be subject to much greater public scrutiny than it is at present. At a minimum, the government should publish a register declaring all such secondments and what they are working on in all departments as a matter of course. At the same time, the coalition must fulfil its promise of a lobbying register so we can see what the policy areas the companies involved are actively seeking to influence.
Alexandra Runswick
Unlock Democracy
• These complex structures which have made corporate tax voluntary for large corporations, but company tax compulsory for the small players, thrive because the accounting profession is allowed to get away with claiming a false distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion. The line delineating the two is not clearcut. Some tax avoidance schemes are declared illegal by courts. A subset of these rejected schemes could presumably be deemed to be measures to provide information in a manner deliberately to create a false impression to reduce the tax bill. The sellers and purchasers of these subset of schemes have presumably attempted to obtain pecuniary advantage through deception.
Yet no criminal prosecution is brought against those who sell and use schemes that are subsequently thrown out by the courts on the ground of deliberately giving a misleading impression of relevant facts. Surely it is not beyond the wit of government to tighten up legislation to ensure that any criminal prosecution brought against the purveyors and users of egregious avoidance schemes would succeed. A spell in jail for these people would be a more socially desirable association between government and accountants specialising in tax avoidance than the current system of secondment into the Treasury and HMRC.
SP Chakravarty
Bangor, Gwynedd
• The findings of the PAC will add fuel to the fire at a time when many already question the transparency and fairness of the UK tax system. While there are measures being put in place to tackle tax avoidance (such as the general anti-abuse rule), it is clear that improvements in tax legislation are essential to address this ongoing issue. Questions over the integrity of the tax system will only further exasperate smaller businesses who already feel at a disadvantage to larger organisations that can access greater consultancy resources.
We cannot shut out these big multinationals altogether – the UK must remain “open for business” – but more needs to be done to ensure there is a code of conduct so that all businesses play fair. David Cameron has indicated that tax avoidance and evasion will be at the heart of the G8 summit. Surely the government has to take this opportunity to create a global system of co-operation and transparency and restore public trust in the UK.
Adam Harper
Association of Accounting Technicians
• It seems that the PAC has a sense of humour in challenging failures in HMRC and conflicts of interest with exchanged/embedded employees from large accountancy companies. Considering the conflict of interests exhibited by parliamentarians and their abject failures to tackle unfairness in the tax system, trying to blame others is lamentable and shameless; the system’s failures are compounded by the surrender of many rules to EU suzerainty.
We have, in proportion, the highest number of accountants producing, all too often, worthless sets of accounts, eg pre-crash assertions that many banks were highly profitable and ongoing concerns – a tremendous waste of resources. The tax and benefit system could be easily transformed to a simple, robust and equitable one – all it requires is the political will – but there are too many vested interests in retaining the status quo.
Mark Bill
• Permanent secretaries may quiver under the ferocious cross-examination which Margaret Hodge and her all-party PAC colleagues display on BBC Parliament (On a mission, 27 April), but these forensic skills aren’t plucked out of thin air. Perhaps you should have mentioned that her apparent omniscience derives from the stream of reports provided to her committee by the auditor general and his National Audit Office colleagues, who are the eyes and ears of parliament wherever public money is spent.
Brian Biddiscombe
• It seems Burgess and Maclean, the KGB moles in the Foreign Office, have their 21st-century equivalents in the double agents of KPMG and fellow accountants in the Treasury. Assuming such activities cannot be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act, perhaps we need a new offence on the lines of conspiracy to pervert the collection of HM Revenue.
Doug Bastin

In the wake of Mrs Thatcher’s shamelessly political funeral, I wondered why I found myself feeling so angry. In spite of declining an invitation to No 10, I was unable to avoid meeting Mrs T on one occasion at a charity concert in which we were reading. She knew who I was without introduction, which was most impressive as she had not seen The Jewel in the Crown, screened earlier that year. She assured me, in those ghastly manufactured tones, that she had asked the BBC to send her the tapes. Jewel was not made by the BBC, but by Granada.
She clearly had many formidable qualities – David Cameron isn’t half the man she was – but I remember her as arrogant, aggressive, bullying and brutally divisive. Whatever good she may have done, she damaged arts funding irrevocably, wrecked communities in the north, crippled trade unionism, provoked riots and interfered dangerously with the relationship between government and the police. It’s hardly surprising that there are people who still hate her and all she stood for. I was not a “Ding-Donger”, and have proper respect for her family’s feelings, but the shocking expense of her funeral reminded me how angry she always made me. I have read that she didn’t care what people thought of her. Well, you reap what you sow.
Those presently in power should not be surprised, but chastened by the evident strength of people’s feelings. If they continue to ignore the effects of their policies (Austerity: an idea on trial, Editorial, 22 April), they may pay the same price as Mrs T – to suffer posthumous rage. The way they are going, they will experience it long before the grim reaper cuts them down.
Tim Pigott-Smith


As a qualified accountant, I am baffled as to why the authorities are incapable of preventing tax-avoidance schemes when the solution is so simple (Letters, 27 April). They grapple with “transfer pricing” in the knowledge that this is a mechanism used to avoid both corporation tax and VAT (effectively a tax on profits as you only pay tax on value added), but is impossible to police.
The solution is to introduce a “sales tax” at the rate of 5 per cent on sales excluding VAT, but in addition to that tax. It would be charged on all retail sales in this country and on all invoices sent to a UK address. Against this new tax, companies could offset any corporation tax they have paid or were due to pay. For example, in the two years ended 1 March 2012, Whitbread plc would have incurred £168.88m in sales tax, but as they paid £168.1m in corporation tax, they would owe only  £780,000 to HMT. On the other hand, foreign companies such as Amazon and Starbucks would now have to pay their fair share.
Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey
The problem of corporate tax avoidance arises not so much from the complexity of our tax laws, as from a lack of attention to the actual behaviour of the corporations at the centre of  this scandal.
I spent many years as an Inspector of Taxes in the Inland Revenue and a major part of my work involved the scrutiny and investigation of accounts submitted by the self-employed. If a trader showed losses for several years in succession, as Starbucks have for example, the first question to be asked was always “why?”
The rationale for this was that it was not logical behaviour and that, accordingly, it could be assumed that the continuing trading activity reflected the fact that profits were being made and being hidden from scrutiny. I never experienced any trader using the accounting excuse that his or her business was subject to huge interest or rent payments to third parties which reduced the profits to zero.
The answer to this problem lies in addressing the more benevolent tax regime which applies to incorporated concerns. It specifically permits artificial costs payable to connected companies to be used in the process of calculating the trading profits of any particular company. The matter could be addressed quite simply by changing the law so that any such connected company must itself be resident and taxable in the UK. Thus there would be no hiding place as all of the profit generated would lie within our borders.
Barry Butler, Birmingham
If high-earning accountants from the Big Four are so valued by HMRC for their help in devising or refining new tax laws, and those accountants (and everybody else) agrees that our system of taxation is far too complicated, why not pay them to simplify tax law? Then, 10 years later, pay them a bloody great bonus if it’s been effective in preventing tax avoidance by individuals and companies. Those would be bonus payments well-earned and not resented by anyone.
Patrick Cosgrove, Chapel Lawn, Shropshire
How I wish I’d been vaccinated
I am a pensioner now. When I was a child I got measles, which led to encephalitis and paralysis down my right side; I nearly died. For years I went to physiotherapy to get walking and being able to move and use my right side again.
I missed a lot of school and when I was there I was bullied because I was weak. I found work hard, because I have to do everything with my left hand; I can’t hold even simple things with my right hand.
Even as a pensioner I still can’t use my hand, so please love your child and give her/him the measles vaccine.
Sheila Hale, Stafford
The announcement of a catch-up campaign to increase MMR vaccination in children and teenagers comes not a moment too soon (“Measles outbreak: race to give  a million children MMR jabs”,  25 April). While attention has rightly been focused on the number of measles cases, it is  important to remember that the vaccine also protects against mumps and rubella.
The founders of Sense were parents whose children were born deafblind as a result of congenital rubella syndrome and we believe that urgent action is needed to prevent outbreaks of rubella, as well as measles. Indeed, last year saw the highest number of rubella cases since 1999. If contracted by a woman who is pregnant, rubella causes babies to be born with combined sight and hearing loss, along with life-threatening heart conditions and a long list of other health conditions.
It is important that MMR is offered beyond childhood.
Joff McGill, Lead on Rubella and Immunisation  Sense, London N1
Given the antipathy of many swathes of the American population to government interference in matters of choice, it is, perhaps, somewhat surprising that states mandate that prior to entering the public-school system, evidence must be provided that a child has received all his or her shots including MMR inoculations. What is to prevent this eminently sensible policy being adopted here in the UK?  
Brian Moores, Emeritus Professor Manchester University
Iain Duncan Smith vs human nature
Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, is encouraging those better-off pensioners, who don’t really need their winter fuel allowance etc – to give the money back. Any observer of human behaviour or student of psychology knows that self-interest will render this a useless gesture and that very  little money will be returned to the Exchequer.
Let the press regulate themselves. Let the police police themselves. Let people decide whether or not to repay any unneeded welfare benefits. Naive or what?
John Boaler, Calne, Wiltshire
Fracking won’t reduce UK gas bills
It is good to see that the Conservative co-chair of the Carbon Connect, Charles Hendry, is able to understand the clear evidence that has escaped George Osborne – that going for a gas-based energy future for Britain is an expensive alternative to developing our rich renewable energy resources (“Fracking ‘unlikely to give UK cheap gas,’ report says”, 22 April).
As the group’s report says, Britain, unlike the US when fracking started, is closely connected to the global gas market – and the price of any gas that we did manage to extract from the rock under our feet, mostly likely at great environmental cost – would be the world price.
And we’ve already seen how that has hit British households hard, with about 47 per cent of the recent leap in energy bills due to rising wholesale gas and electricity prices – while “green” measures, including insulation, have only contributed around 9 per cent.
It’s clear that we need to get serious about investing in our rich renewable energy resources, and in energy-conservation measures that can create large numbers of jobs, tackle fuel poverty and cut carbon emissions.
Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader, London NW1
Your report rightly stated that shale gas development in the UK will not prove a panacea. This understanding of the potential impact of shale gas on price is nothing new –   the Committee on Energy  and Climate Change’s report made clear. 
As Prime Minister David Cameron said in December 2012, if we ignored shale gas completely “we could be giving our economy much higher energy prices than would otherwise be necessary”. This is very different to claiming shale gas will be a silver bullet to reduce the price of gas; rather, shale gas will largely replace dwindling North Sea supplies to mitigate potential price rises.
Furthermore, price is not the only merit of shale gas. As the LSE’s Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment report recently concluded, the “UK should use natural gas, including from unconventional sources such as shale, to help decarbonise its power sector by replacing coal over the next few years, but should not assume that its price will be low.”
Mónica V Cristina, Shale Gas Europe, Brussels
BP’s sponsorship of arts is shameful
Two artists are competing for this year’s BP portrait award. But that is not the real story. The real story is institutionalised greed and arrogance. The National Portrait Gallery, like the Tate and other recipients of BP largesse, are publicly funded arts institutions. They accept BP sponsorship knowing that the company was guilty of one of the worst ecological disasters of the modern era, and for the death and injury of hundreds of people. The arts have learned to live without money from slavery, tobacco and alcohol; it’s now time to remove the oil stain from art. Even at a time of austerity and cuts, BP’s sponsorship of the arts is an expedient too far.
Nick Reeves OBE, Executive Director, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, London WC1
Paying for privacy in hospital
Mary Dejevsky asks for motel-style rooms in hospital (24 April). She may be too young to remember “amenity beds”. These allowed patients to pay for a private room but still receive NHS free treatment, so people with modest means could afford a bit of privacy. Barbara Castle got rid of them when she was Minister of Health, probably as they were considered elitist.
John French, London SE21
Roman misconceptions
I am afraid that Alasdair Riley has repeated a commonly held misapprehension (“Dinner at the Pompeii takeaway”, 25 April). He implies that a vomitorium was provided to allow diners to evacuate their stomachs. In fact, a vomitorium was an exit passageway beneath or behind a bank of seats to allow rapid egress for large crowds from a stadium or an amphitheatre. The confusion arises because the word derives from the latin vomeo, vomere, vomitum, meaning to spew forth, as would occur with a large number of gladiator or football supporters all exiting at once.
Chris McDermott, Crewe, Cheshire
Far-flung flowers
I was surprised to discover (report, 24 April) that snakeshead fritillaries “grow only in a very specific habitat: hay meadows in lowland flood plains”. I have just counted 59 of them in my garden. I know the lawn needs mowing, but even so…
Dr David Bartlett, Ilkley, West Yorkshire


For the sake of the history, Britons should be presented next year with an all-round view of 1914-18, not a bowdlerised one
Sir, As a British war historian, may I express concern at the tendency being suggested for the centennial commemorations next year, as I interpreted it from your leader (“Not Remembrance Alone”, Apr 27). It would be a great mistake, and historical injustice, if 2014 is going to be a record of Us and Them: Brits and Germans, Tommies v Huns, Christmas Truce, Somme and Passchendaele, Blackadder and Oh! What a Lovely War — and all that.
Britain lost a terrible total of 750,000 killed, but we should not forget the role and suffering of our allies. Russia lost around two million; the war led to revolution and horrendous suffering over the next seven decades. France lost 1.4 million. In one battle alone, Verdun 1916, the longest and arguably the worst in history, combined French and German casualties came to nearly one million. For France, consequences of that pyrrhic victory could be seen a generation later in the defeatism of 1940. And what about little Serbia, the original casus belli, with deaths totalling more than 16 per cent of its population, the highest of any combatant?
For the sake of the history, Britons should be presented next year with an all-round view of 1914-18, and not any bowdlerised, “Little-England”, media-style view.
Alistair Horne
Turville, Oxon
Sir, Apropos your leader on the First World War, airbrushing the political context of the First World War out of modern view doesn’t do justice to those of this country and its allies who gave their lives. In his moving account 1918: The Last Act, Barrie Pitt quotes the following exchange with the French Prime Minister, Georges Clemenceau, at Versailles: “Upon the occasion of the signing of the Treaty one of the German delegates turned to Clemenceau and said, ‘I wonder what History will have to say about all this ?’ There was a pause, while Clemenceau eyed the speaker with cool deliberation. ‘History,’ he replied, ‘will not say that Belgium invaded Germany !’”
A. C. Wilding
Welwyn, Herts
Sir, Ben Macintyre (“One last battle over how we mark the First World War,” Apr 27) repeats the common assumption that the First World War poets spoke with a uniform anti-war voice. He thus quotes Kipling (“If any question why we died / Tell them because our fathers lied”) in the context of Graves, Owen and Sassoon partly on the grounds that Kipling’s only son was killed in the war.
However, Kipling’s “typically blunt epitaph” was directed at prewar liberal politicians who — he believed — had failed to prepare the country for war with Germany. The briefest reference to his poems Justice (Oct, 1918) or Memories (Nov, 1930) would show total agreement with Sir Max Hastings’s comment: “Far from the struggle having been futile, it was fought in a just and necessary cause.” John Onions Longsdon, Staffs Sir, Your article did not mention the promises made by survivors who returned to remember those who served. My grandfather John Wynn, 4th (City of London) Royal Fusiliers, fought alongside Lt Dease and Pte Godley who won the first VCs in August 1914 at Mons. He joined with other Old Contemptibles to visit the the Belfry of Mons and pledged that “When the 100th anniversary is commemorated it will be at the base of this same Belfry that our children will come and say that they have not forgotten”. I intend, with my children and their children, to do just that.
John Rider
Sawbridgeworth, Herts

The jurisprudence of the European Court shows that neither privacy nor free speech enjoys a presumptive priority over the other
Sir, The non-disclosure of police arrests is, as you say, a further unwelcome consequence of the Leveson Report (Apr 23). Indeed, such a change is a departure from practice, for English law has long taken the view that “justice is not a cloistered virtue: she must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, even though outspoken, comments of ordinary men”.
Fortunately, this is also the view of the European Court of Human Rights. The jurisprudence of the European Court shows that in such cases neither privacy nor free speech enjoys a presumptive priority over the other. A reconciliation of these competing rights via a consideration of the public interest is required. An arrest and judicial proceedings will generally be a matter of public interest warranting publication, particularly where the arrestee is a public figure and thus has an attenuated expectation of privacy.
This is all the more so where the investigation involves the suspicion of serious criminality. Indeed, by reporting such matters the press fulfils its important watchdog role, ensuring the public has the information it has a constitutional right to receive. Such reports are unlikely to interfere with the privacy rights of an arrestee where the press, acting in good faith, reports the arrest responsibly.
Richard A. Edwards
Principal Lecturer in Law
University of the West of England, Bristol

Private landowners in the UK own all rights within and beneath his/her land, unless they have been severed by an Act of Parliament
Sir, It is not true that all mineral rights in the UK belong to the Crown (“Drill, but don’t expect a shale gas boom, warn MPs”, Apr 26). The English common law provides that “whose is the soil, his is to the heavens and the depths”. This means that the private landowner in the UK owns all mineral rights within and beneath his/her land, unless they have been severed by an Act of Parliament.
The ownership of petroleum in the UK “in strata” was vested in the Crown by the passage of the Petroleum (Production) Act of 1934. All other minerals, except for gold and silver, coal and uranium (also severed) remain the property of the British freeholder.
Michael A. G. Bunter

The UK system of profiling has 10 DNA sites, whereas the new system adopted by the rest of Europe is more sensitive because it has 16 sites
Sir, The claim by the Home Office that new DNA profiling systems are “as sensitive, if not more sensitive” than systems now used in UK casework is a perverse assertion that violates a fundamental law of statistics, the multiplication rule. The UK system has 10 DNA sites, whereas the new system adopted by the rest of Europe is more sensitive because it has 16 sites.
The strength of evidence obtained by DNA profiling works on the same principle as picking a lottery winner. The chance of randomly guessing ten numbers is very much greater than guessing 16 numbers. This analogy illustrates why the old system can never be as sensitive as the new. The ex-FSS had a world-renowned group that specialised in statistical reasoning. The group no longer exists which may explain why the Home Office is releasing statements that have no scientific basis.
However, I understand that the Home Office aims to implement the new system in June 2014, nearly two years after the rest of Europe. Perhaps there is a political incentive that overrides scientific reasoning.
Peter Gill
Professor of Forensic Genetics
Norwegian Institute of Public Health

The sum of £2 million a year for the next four years is merely a sticking plaster over the incredible damage that faces our woodlands
Sir, Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientist at Defra, has two disadvantages when reporting his committee’s reaction to ash dieback (letter, Apr 25).
First, he works for a ministry which lost the confidence of the forestry industry by its past incompetence in funding forest research, to say nothing of the farce over the sale of state woodlands. It is not surprising to see a letter (Apr 24) with more than 127 signatures, all knowledgeable about woodlands, who bemoan the lack of a credible strategy over this unfortunate disease. Second, the main plank of Defra’s research programme, seems to be breeding for immunity. Informed opinion in the forest industry sees this as clutching at straws. Those with long memories will recall a similar claim for the doomed elm.
Even if reliable immunity can be shown to be genetically carried, which is far from obvious from the experience of continental Europe, it will be decades before any worthwhile results can emerge, and footling about with systemic “cures” is equally pointless.
The sum of £2 million a year for the next four years begins to look like what it is, a sticking plaster over the incredible damage that faces our woodlands and our landscape in the near future. You don’t get a “vast amount” of research work for £2 million these days.
David W. G. Taylor
(Past President, Institute of Chartered Foresters)
Rodley, Glos

SIR – In his assertion that dogs are either a nuisance or a danger to the public, Brian Chambers (Letters, April 21) has overlooked some fundamental truths.
To my knowledge no dog has ever sat at a computer grooming children for sexual gratification, deliberately mis-sold PPI, glassed someone in a pub brawl, or made the lives of local pensioners miserable through victimisation and nasty antisocial behaviour.
On the whole it is not those on four legs he needs to worry about, but those with two.
Christian Boulton
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall
SIR – Dogs have provided love, loyalty, companionship and solace to millions of people the world over.
They save lives, they catch criminals, they guide the blind. A dog is utterly sincere. It cannot pretend.
Peter Riley
Oldbury-on-Severn, Gloucestershire
SIR – In response to Brian Chambers’ letter about his right to a dog-free environment, I would suggest that I have the right to a grumpy-misanthrope-free environment, but alas, one is not so lucky.
I suppose he’ll just have to put up with our dogs.
Suzannah Adams
Wells, Somerset
SIR – In my experience humans are a public nuisance at best and at worst, a danger to the canine public.
The noise of their cars, which litter our streets, disturbs our peace and quiet, and their speed causes accidents, some of which are fatal. I would suggest that we all have a right to a human-free environment.
Daisy Springer
c/o Michael Davies
Chard, Somerset

SIR – Richard Grant (Letters, April 21) is right to state that Ukip does not have any MPs at the moment, but it is only a matter of time. Many of those who currently represent constituents in Parliament have no experience of anything other than university, political activism and then a “safe” seat in Westminster. Could this explain why the country is in such a state?
As a sitting Ukip councillor and a candidate at the May elections, I would like to point out that, having run my own business for the past 20 years, I have always sought to apply my life experience to the running of local government.
Unlike Mr Grant, I am not happy with the way that the three tired old parties have carved out cosy sinecures for themselves on local councils (just look at the levels of councillors’ allowances) while ignoring the wishes of those who continue to vote for them.
A vote for Ukip is not a wasted vote; continuing to vote for the same parties that let us down time after time, however, is.
Ian J Smith
Lakenheath, Suffolk
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28 Apr 2013
SIR – Concerning Ukip’s expected success on May 2, there will no doubt be a steep learning curve for many new Ukip local councillors, but I am sure they will succeed in that challenge. At least they will not be hampered by having to obey the central diktats imposed by the LibLabCon central policy machines. Ukip will trust its local councillors to make the right decisions for their constituents.
Regarding Ukip’s ability to manage council budgets, Richard Grant might want to reflect on the inflated salaries that many council executives and senior management teams have awarded themselves. Many are paid in excess of £100k and some more than the Prime Minister, for what is essentially an administrator’s role.
Ukip will challenge the status quo at a local council level in the same way that Nigel Farage is exposing the calamitous nature of the federal European project.
Ian McWilliams
Godalming, Surrey
SIR – Richard Grant can rest assured that Ukip has county council candidates of wide-ranging talents and qualifications who will be as able as any to run a local authority.
These candidates will bring with them commonsense policies covering the whole spectrum of council responsibilities and a determination to fight for our right to remain a sovereign nation governed only by those whom we elect.
E G Barrows
Wittersham, Kent
SIR – Richard Grant attacks Ukip candidates in the approaching council elections for “lack of experience in running things”. This is a fairly obvious criticism if you view party politics as the driving force of local government, and local councils as mini-Westminsters.
However, the gale of fresh air that Ukip’s 1900 candidates want to bring to these elections is the fact that they are not subject to the strict central direction enforced by the three main parties but are simply standing to represent local constituents in a common sense manner – a return to the days before the suffocating intrusion of party politics into local affairs when there were many more independent councillors.
Sir George Earle Bt
Crediton, Devon
SIR – Of course all the council budgetary problems will remain.
But that won’t stop Ukip councillors from flagging up the endemic waste of resources tolerated by the incumbent establishment parties and opposing politically correct policies or plain crazy projects such as wind turbines.
Tony Stone
Oxted, Surrey
SIR – I am not a member of any political party and I can understand Richard Grant’s reticence regarding Ukip’s experience in council control.
But what is it they say about a new broom?
Mike Bridgeman
Market Lavington, Wiltshire
Let’s use gas while we wait for nuclear power
SIR – I share the concern of Professor Sir David King et al (Letters, April 21) that the building of new nuclear power stations is being delayed. It may take a decade or more due to political dithering.
In the meantime we need to keep the existing coal-fired stations running by converting them to gas.
As I asked earlier this month (Letters, April 7), why can’t Didcot power station be modified to burn gas instead of coal?
Ian Strangeways
Wallingford, Oxfordshire
SIR – While we are shutting down our coal power stations, Germany is busy building them. This year alone, another six will come on stream.
Together with two which opened in 2012, they will be capable of supplying 13 per cent of Germany’s electricity.
Coal remains by far the cheapest and most reliable source of energy. If it is good enough for Germany, surely it is good enough for us?
Paul Homewood
Stocksbridge, South Yorkshire
SIR – Given that the Government can find £32 billion to fund HS2, is it not feasible to fund our own new nuclear industry?
This could also be an ideal opportunity to expand public share ownership by giving everyone shares in a newly listed British energy provider.
John Reeves
Beckenham, Kent
SIR – If Peter Lilley’s statement in Christopher Booker’s article (Opinion, April 21) is accurate –that the increase in China’s CO2 emissions alone in 2011 was 200 million tons more than the total emitted by Britain – then the energy policy of the Government is beyond nonsense.
Perhaps the energy minister could be prevailed upon to respond to Mr Lilley’s statement so that we taxpayers can judge for ourselves.
Ken Rimmer
Chelmsford, Essex
Deporting Abu Qatada
SIR – It really is pretty rich for Ed Miliband, Yvette Cooper and others to blame Theresa May for the fact that a bunch of bewigged buffoons, in thrall to Brussels, have yet again blocked the deportation of Abu Qatada to Jordan.
Theresa May has done more in three years to try to have the vile preacher of hate deported than the previous Labour government did in a decade.
Indeed we would not be in this predicament over the deportation of undesirables if the last Labour government had not shackled us to the EU’s ridiculous Human Rights Act in 1998. But of course, politicians have extremely short, not to say very selective, memories.
If Spain, France and Italy can get away with deporting undesirables in defiance of the EU Human Rights Act, why on earth can’t we?
Robert Readman
Bournemouth, Dorset
Flagging it up
SIR – Alan Titchmarsh (Lifestyle, April 21) is right that we should all be proud of the place where we live, not only our country but our own city, town or village.
Encouraged by the Flag Institute, Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has recently relaxed the rules on flag flying and is positively encouraging organisations to fly their own flags, just as they do on the continent.
We in St Anne’s on the Sea have had a flag designed for our town free of charge by the Flag Institute. It is being called “the people’s flag” as we are encouraging hotels, shops and indeed everyone to fly it with pride. Part of our flag shows the famous St Anne’s lifeboat.
Vince Settle
Lytham St Anne’s, Lancashire
Renaming celebrities
SIR – We hear too much these days about “celebrities”. They overwhelm the media and create undemanding role models for lazy youth. Part of the problem, is the hyperbole represented by the very word “celebrity”. It carries a connotation of deserved fame, of excellence, that in most cases is unjustified.
Currently visiting Australia, a country not known for tolerating the pompous and the fake, I note the use of the noun “identity” instead. This does seem a more acceptable alternative; “media identity” is factual, attributing no talent or otherwise, and leaving it to the beholders to make up their own minds.
Paul Wood
Tired auld rhetoric
SIR – Last week the Chancellor set out the sensible reasons as to why Scotland’s future is best in the United Kingdom due to the currency arrangements that would be in place in a potentially independent Scotland.
Within hours, the Scottish National Party’s John Swinney, Scotland’s Finance Secretary, responded by claiming it was “scaremongering”.
This is the SNP’s favourite word. There are over 1,400 uses of “scaremongering” on its website.
Kieran Bailey
Almondsbury, Gloucestershire

Irish Times

Sir, – John B Reid (April 26th) maintains that because the practicalities of the issue are difficult the entire plan to legislate for the X case is “completely unworkable and must be dropped”.
It is truly breathtaking, the contemptuous disregard in which some Irish people – not to mention successive Irish governments – hold the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens. There is now, and has been since the X case was decided, a constitutional right to abortion in Ireland.
If the proposed legislation is impractical then the solution is simply to advance better legislation, not to trample on the constitutional rights of Irish women. – Yours, etc,
Gill Street, Limehouse,
London, England.
Sir, – Jennifer O’Connell (“Forcing suicidal pregnant women to prove they are serious is cruel and dangerous” April 24th) takes great licence in denigrating people who share a similar view to herself but arrive at a different conclusion regarding the welfare of mother and baby. This “group of people” believes abortion in such crisis circumstances is not an appropriate treatment option. So do the many, many psychiatrists who have given expert opinion to Dáil committees.
I work in an area of mental health in which the family, friends, professionals and voluntary organisations, without exception, take the risk of suicide very seriously and never consider it as an option in a crisis. We are constantly on alert for signs that could be a clue to the intention of the person. On rare occasions we fail to detect that sign and the person takes their own life leaving behind devastating consequences at all levels.
From my experience, from research that I have reviewed and from Government policy on mental health the two essential ingredients that people experiencing mental stress/illness need to help change their circumstances are hope and recovery. It is evident that people in crisis, no different to pregnant women, need to believe that hope will give them a positive destination and take them out of the black hole they are in. “Talking therapy”, whether it is with two or six doctors, helps in a crisis situation and is the very reason for having a pregnant woman or anyone else with suicidal thoughts go through a process with doctors/counsellors. Resilience is then what is found deep down inside by women or men who do overcome very difficult situations and go on to recovery from their crisis.
So, contrary to the headline on Jennifer O’Connell’s article, there is no forcing pregnant women to prove they are serious. The groups that come to a different conclusion to O’Connell accept that women do experience a life-shattering event with an unwanted pregnancy; but what sets these groups apart from their detractors, is the belief that outcomes can be changed positively even when there is a risk of suicide. – Yours, etc,
Mental Health,
Upper Kindlestown,
Delgany, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – As a woman, I’ve always felt angry how my life in this country is so simplistically equated by so many with a foetus.
The shocking circumstances of Savita Halappanavar’s death and the continued attempts by Fine Gael politicians to shamefully delay and restrict legislation endorsed by two referendums have made me feel something else.
I’m still angry that should my health be endangered by any future pregnancy, termination would not even be a consideration, let alone were I to suffer the unimaginable fate of women pregnant by rape. But now I feel powerless, I feel threatened, and I feel unsafe living in this country as a woman of child-bearing years. The latter term itself is evidently how the State and those who hold anti-choice views would see my principal purpose on earth – no more than a vessel, no matter what the cost. – Yours, etc,
Mespil Estate, Dublin 4.
Sir, – How many psychiatric specialists does it take to investigate a woman, who is in the depths of despair and wants to take her own life because she is can’t legally call a halt to her pregnancy in Ireland? Six. One to investigate the woman’s mind and motives and five more who have to make up their own minds on what is going on in the mind of the woman, who is some place no man has ever been and very few women will ever be.
I personally think it should be the woman’s choice, end of story. – Yours, etc,
Mill Street,
Westport, Co Mayo.
Sir, – Suicidal ideation can be associated with mental illness and mental illness can lead to involuntary psychiatric committal and involuntary treatment.
If abortion is now to be regarded as a treatment for suicidal ideation, any legislation for abortion must clarify precisely how abortions can be carried out on women who are of unsound mind. Will the decision be one for her doctors and family, as with other treatments in those circumstances? How will the views of other family members be taken into account? What will the situation of the doctor be if the woman subsequently recovers and regrets the abortion? And what will the doctors’ position be if an abortion is not carried out and the woman does in fact subsequently take her own life?
These questions require an answer before any legislation can be drafted. – Yours, etc,
Ballyroan Park, Dublin 16.
Sir, – An interesting possibility arises from the Taoiseach’s insistence (News, April 25th) that a three-line whip will apply in relation to the upcoming Protection of Maternal Life Bill.
If, as reported, Deputy Lucinda Creighton breaks ranks with her party when it comes to a division on the legislation, we will lose our Minister of State for European Affairs almost precisely half-way through our European Council presidency?
The instability caused by that job loss would surely raise questions about our six-month presidency slogan: “For stability, jobs and growth”. – Yours, etc,
Armagh Road,
Newry, Co Down.

Sir, – It remains to be seen whether senior bankers will make a “substantial contribution” to reducing their pay and pensions, as predicted by the Taoiseach.
The record of senior figures in Irish life to such requests historically has not been unanimously generous. Many bankers, senior public servants, trade unionists, judges and even politicians prefer to stress their entitlements or perceived self-worth.
The argument is often advanced that the overall savings would be small. But this misses the massive negative impact on lesser paid colleagues, who seek to follow their leadership.
Token gestures may be made, but there is little incentive to forego remuneration voluntarily, particularly where refusal may be cloaked in anonymity.
Politicians could make a start by ensuring that the extraordinary and anomalous double pension is never paid to any of their teacher members for their time spent in politics, rather than teaching. – Yours, etc,
Ontario Terrace,
Dublin 6.
Sir, – In response to public outrage at senior remuneration in the Bank of Ireland, the Taoiseach is reported to have asked those involved to take a substantial and voluntary cut in their own pay and pensions (Home News, April 25th). May I suggest, with the straightest of faces, that herein may lie the basis for a breakthrough in the troubled Croke Park III negotiations. Enda Kenny should ask our thousands of public sector workers to wait a few days for Richie Boucher’s response. Then, all of those public servants would agree to accept, on an equally voluntary and generous basis, a cut of exactly the same percentage level in their own pay and pension provisions. Public-sector pay-bill problem solved. – Yours, etc,
Green Road,
An Charraig Dhubh,
Co Átha Cliath.

Sir, – Gerry Sheedy (April 25th) is concerned about the potential dangers posed by foxes in urban areas. He is worried about the spread of disease or about attacks on humans. I am not aware of any diseases that are spread from foxes to humans and I am only aware of a single case of a fox attacking a human.
By contrast, our urban areas have very large numbers of dogs and cats; mainly domesticated, but some feral. The former do regularly attack humans and farm animals and these attacks are sometimes fatal. The latter are major predators of wild birds in urban areas. Both are also capable of spreading diseases to humans, through their excrement.
The great majority of dog and cat owners seem to behave very responsibly in keeping their pets parasite-free, under control and in properly removing their faeces. A small minority, however, seem unwilling or unable to control them or clean up after them. An appalling recent trend is for owners to pick their faeces up in plastic bags which are then flung in hedges. In comparison to all this, foxes are extremely well behaved. – Yours, etc,
Castle Park,
Monkstown, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I note that the Bank of Ireland is slashing its deposit rates for certain accounts. This comes hard on the heels of the increase in Richie Boucher’s already unacceptable salary (Home News, April 24th). So, those who are struggling to put by a little for future needs are helping to fund this increase. Furthermore, they are being invited to close their accounts if they cannot stomach this rate change – provided they can repay any debts still owing. What sort of blatant exploitation is this? – Yours, etc,
Lower Kilmacud Road,
Dublin 14.

Irish Independent

Madam – I see that a Dutch company is seeking volunteers “from all the nations” for a planned trip to Mars. It envisages the planet being colonised and populated in the not too distant future.
Also in this section
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Special accolade for hypocrisy
Disenfranchised are real victims
Could this be the solution to our own employment problem, and a way to relieve the effects of austerity?
The company involved in the Mars One initiative has cautioned that anyone travelling would have to say goodbye to all their family and friends. Well, that would come naturally to a lot of us, emigration having proved such a friend to the Live Register and to the reputations of politicians.
Ireland’s Mars Pathway to Work Scheme would have to be compulsory of course because you’d always get the malingerers that the Government never tires of reminding us are “out there” busily conniving to avoid work. Anyone unwilling to take up this opportunity to alleviate the unemployment crisis could be assessed by a panel comprising six psychiatrists, a social welfare inspector, and a garda.
There would be a few downsides, naturally, but we’d take those in our stride. The air isn’t great, but could it be any worse than the air of desperation that pervades our own fair land? It’s a barren landscape, they say… but after years of austerity could it be any more daunting than our own bleak horizons? Solar winds will lash you up there, we’re told. We’ll survive that too, having endured the icy winds of recession blowing around our ankles for years.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to look through your telescope at the Red Planet of an evening, and know that there really are little green men and women living, and more importantly, working, up there?
John FMadam – I welcome debate on the role of local government and on local government reform. That said, the article by Councillor Mary Fitzpatrick (Sunday Independent, April 21, 2013), is more notable for what it omitted than for what it contained. Furthermore, Councillor Fitzpatrick put forward a number of inaccurate claims and misconceptions about the Putting People First policy statement for local government reform approved by Government last October.
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McDowell right on whip system
Special accolade for hypocrisy
Disenfranchised are real victims
I accept that there is, perhaps, a lack of confidence and trust in the local government system at present. Local government has also been routinely bypassed in recent decades as a conduit for the delivery of many public services. Councillor Fitzpatrick may not wish to be reminded that it was her own party, Fianna Fail, that established many of the quangos set up as a result.
I want to empower local government in an entirely new way, particularly in relation to economic development. Jobs and getting people back to work are this Government’s core objectives right now. I will be strengthening local government structures to ensure that the promotion of enterprise and job creation is given top priority. I also want to bring greater coherence across the breadth of local community and local development initiatives, eliminating duplication of effort and structures at local level. I have set up an Alignment Working Group, comprised of all of the key stakeholders, to report to me on how best this can be done.
Councillor Fitzpatrick claims the reforms will lead to a more bureaucratic and bloated system. This is simply not the case. The local government sector has achieved savings of almost €840m since 2008, and reduced staff numbers by almost a quarter – approximately 9,000 – the largest reduction in staffing of any part of the public sector since the start of the financial crisis. A further 500 staff will be taken out of the local government system over the next 18 months.
The number of local authorities will be reduced by almost three-quarters, from 114 to just 31 city and county councils, and a new model of municipal governance will be introduced, eliminating duplication of functions, and replacing the current sub-county patchwork with a more comprehensive system closer to the European model. Far from increasing bureaucracy, this reorganisation will result in a more streamlined system of local government, generating further savings of up to €45m per year.
The reforms will also result in a reduction of over 40 per cent in the number of councillors nationally from over 1,600 to no more than 950, and a rebalancing of representation nationally, which is being addressed through an independent electoral review.
Councillor Fitzpatrick’s frankness in advocating a steep reduction in councillor numbers in Dublin is admirable, but it ignores the fact that the ratio of population to elected members is currently eight times higher in Dublin than the national average. In any event, I have ensured that the revised numbers are capped at less than might be warranted on population grounds.
International best practice holds that local services administered by local authorities should, as far as possible, be locally funded. This is the main rationale for the introduction of the local property tax (LPT). I want to give local authorities greater discretion on the type and levels of service that they provide, through the choices that the elected members make in framing their budgets and the levels of local revenue they collect, such as commercial rates, parking fees and other charges, and in the variance they will be able to set in the level of LPT from 2015 onwards.
Finally, I have provided for a special colloquium of elected members from the four Dublin local authorities to be convened to consider the question of a directly elected mayor for the Dublin metropolitan area.
I agree with Councillor Fitzpatrick that women are currently under-represented in local government. For general elections, I introduced legislation last year to incentivise political parties to select more women candidates.
While a replication of this in council elections is not available to me, as the State does not fund political parties at local government level, I am confident that there will be a knock-on effect, and we will see an increase in the number of women candidates at local elections.
I would also like to reassure Councillor Fitzpatrick that a National Oversight and Audit Commission will be established as a key component of the reform programme to scrutinise what local government does.
Through the reform programme I am taking local government by the scruff of the neck and turning it to face the people it serves. I acknowledge that this is extremely challenging. But I am determined to see the process through. The reforms will put people first. People will be able to see change happening, and when communities begin to see that change, then confidence in local government will be rebuilt.
Phil Hogan, TD,
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government

itzgerald, Callan, Co Kilkenny

Madam – I read with interest, Michael McDowell’s views that the Seanad can be reformed and should not be scrapped (Sunday Independent, April 21, 2013).
Also in this section
McDowell right on whip system
Special accolade for hypocrisy
Disenfranchised are real victims
The reality is that whether Michael McDowell likes it or not, the Seanad is irrelevant to the life of this Republic and plans to abolish it must proceed.
Mr McDowell exhausts himself in attempting to present an argument to save the Seanad from abolition.
He failed to outline any substantial reason – because there isn’t one.
In the absence of any defence of the Seanad, he rants about the workings of the Dail and what he considers its shortcomings.
The majority of EU countries have no Seanad or Upper House and with a population equivalent to that of Greater Manchester, there is no justification for a Seanad in Ireland.
Since a decision was made to hold a referendum on the closure of the Seanad, the great and the good of Irish public life are in revolt.
Some politicians, with the assistance of some academics, have embarked on a mission to “Save the Seanad”.
Among their arguments they seek to impress upon the public that our democratic Republic would be in danger without Seanad Eireann.
These latter-day “aristocrats” would have us believe that a parliament elected by the plain people of Ireland needs an undemocratic “watchdog” under the title of Seanad Eireann. Only the most pompous citizens in this Republic would make such an argument.
Seanad Eireann has never been democratic and it is as elitist now as it has ever been.
None of its members was ever elected on the principle of “one citizen – one vote”. It owes its origins to the British, who succeeded in giving the landed gentry some influence, by the back door, on the Dail as elected by the people.
The Seanad has no real power in relation to legislation, given that the Dail has the final say in making laws. In reality the abolition of the Seanad would speed up the introduction of any new legislation.
There have been various calls over the years for the abolition of the Seanad. Dr Noel Browne TD was one of them. It wasn’t only the Labour Party that called for an end to the Senate. In 1928, former Taoiseach and Fianna Fail TD Sean Lemass voiced his opposition.
The Dail is the democratic parliament of the Irish people.
The Seanad is not a democratic institution and has developed into a political quango which for the Irish taxpayer has been an expensive one.
There will be no people’s revolution when Seanad Eireann is abolished, nor do I predict a riot on Kildare Street or any other Irish street.
Eamonn Maloney TD,
Labour Party, Dublin South West

Madam – Gary O’Connor’s point regarding Gerry Adams is well taken (Letters, Sunday Independent, April 21, 2013). Every time I hear or see Adams in the media I cringe. It is a singular relief though not to have to listen to him and the whining tones of McGuinness, demanding that the British should leave Ireland when tens of thousands of their fellow countrymen and women were trying to survive in Britain, many being driven out of their jobs.
However, one is less sanguine about Mr O’Connor’s point on the discrimination against Catholics in the North. Might one suggest that what the Catholics most needed in 1922 was leadership of sufficient integrity and vision to face up to the reality of the situation and guide them accordingly.
The Craig-Collins pact of March 1922 failed because of an IRA campaign of murder against Protestants which was aided and abetted by Collins, and, in short, all of what Protestants feared regarding Home Rule came to pass in the South. Surely it is reasonable to suggest that if Devlin and Collins advised the Catholics to throw their lot in with the new state, things would have worked out much better for them.
In the light of the foregoing the Southern regime lost the moral high ground. What Mr O’Connor describes as ‘a near apartheid system in the North’ had its converse in the South in the form of ethnic cleansing, as your correspondents have so vividly and painfully demonstrated.
With the greatest of respect to Gary O’Connor, I suggest it is far too naive and simplistic to rhetorically ask, ‘Was this the Ireland envisaged by Collins, Connolly and Pearse etc?’ for the Proclamation was so lamentably out of touch with reality as to render it a risible fiction and the bit-players were mere political cretins.
William Barrett,
Bletchingley, Surrey


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