At Long last

At Last 2nd May 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Troutbridge is sent off to Batawanaland to measure the ocean depths/ But an island rises beneath her trapping her three miles inland. Our gallant crew get home in a paddle steeamer. But the island sinks as rapidly as it rose and they have to go all the way back to get Troutbridge. Priceless.
The Dush washing Machine man comes and fixes it will it Work? We shall see tomorrow morning.
We Watch Forsyke Sage first episode withKenneth Moore
Mary wins at Scrabble today, just and gets just under 400, I might get my revenge tomorrow, I hope.

Obituary:

Deanna Durbin
Deanna Durbin, who has died aged 91, was the best-loved and most fondly remembered singing star of Hollywood’s golden age. Her debut, as an enchanting 14 year-old with a remarkable voice, saved the fortunes of the studio which employed her.

Deanna Durbin Photo: EVERETT COLLECTION/REX FEATURES
6:25PM BST 01 May 2013
She blossomed before the cameras into a spirited, light-hearted young woman; her first screen kiss made worldwide news. Then, at 27, her career faltered and she retired to France and a long happy marriage. Her admirers, who were more devoted in Britain than anywhere else, were left with an unfading picture of springtime personified. Her blue eyes, auburn hair and toothsome gaiety won the hearts of filmgoers without resorting to sexuality or coquetry.
Is there anyone, a contemporary critic asked, who doesn’t like a Deanna Durbin film? The answer was no — except for Miss Durbin herself, who came to dislike her screen image as “Little Miss Fixit who bursts into song”.
The daughter of Lancastrian emigrants, Edna Mae Durbin was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on December 12 1921, and moved soon afterwards to Los Angeles. The richness and purity of her voice attracted the attention of a talent scout while she was still at school.
Disney auditioned her for Snow White, but thought she sounded too old. MGM, planning a film — never actually made — about the life of an opera singer, put her under contract, but used her only in a short, Every Sunday, along with another child singer, Judy Garland. Joe Pasternak, a producer at Universal, tried to get Miss Garland for a film about three teenage girls: but MGM kept Judy Garland while dropping Deanna Durbin after six months, so Pasternak took Deanna instead.
By the time the film was released in 1937, she had already become popular in America as a resident singer on The Eddie Cantor Radio Hour: but Three Smart Girls was a sensation. It had been envisaged as just one more minor production from a studio which was faring badly, but a first glimpse of the rushes convinced the studio management that “Universal’s new singing discovery” — as the credit titles described her — offered outstanding potential. The budget was doubled, her part was fattened — and two million dollars flowed back through the box-office. Universal had found a new star.
Since a touch of highbrow music was then fashionable in musical films, Pasternak devised 100 Men and a Girl (1937), in which Deanna persuades Leopold Stokowski to conduct an orchestra of unemployed musicians. Again it was a huge success. Deanna Durbin was now far and away Universal’s most valuable property, and she was paid accordingly: but she remained unspoilt and free of the bumptious characteristics which rendered so many child stars offensive.
A series of carefully crafted vehicles gave her a wide range of songs to sing. They were gentle comedies, usually with a small-town setting and a warmly paternal leading-man. In Mad About Music (1938) she acquired Herbert Marshall as a stepfather; in That Certain Age (1938) she had a schoolgirl crush on Melvyn Douglas; in It’s a Date (1939) she lost Walter Pigeon to Kay Francis, playing her mother. She received a special Academy Award “for bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth”.
Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939) proved worthy of its predecessor. First Love (1939), a modern Cinderella story culminating in that famous kiss from Robert Stack, moved her delicately into grown-up romance, a notoriously difficult transition for child stars. Story ingredients and co-stars were, from then on, constantly repeated in slightly differing combinations.
In Spring Parade (1940) she fell for Robert Cummings, who had been in Three Smart Girls Grow Up; and in Nice Girl (1941), maddened by Robert Stack’s failure to respond, she flirted with Franchot Tone.
The Amazing Mrs Holiday (1943) cast her, oddly, as a missionary’s daughter bringing Chinese orphans to San Francisco. Jean Renoir resigned as director, complaining that she was “unable to escape from the style which made her famous”. Nevertheless, she aspired to more serious dramatic roles.
She was indulged with Christmas Holiday (1944), a gloomy piece derived from a Somerset Maugham novel. The misleading title helped to bring audiences into the cinema, but they were indignant at the film’s unsuitability. Neither Durbin’s genuine acting talent nor her rendition of Spring will be a little late this year consoled the public — or the critics. Universal declined to repeat the experiment; a refusal which spurred her growing disillusionment with Hollywood.
Her only colour film was Can’t Help Singing (1945), a comedy Western with an excellent score by Jerome Kern; enjoyable certainly, but her appearance was marred by heavy make-up and blonde ringlets. Lady on a Train was a pleasant little thriller, directed by a Frenchman, Charles David, who five years later became her third husband.
Partly because he could not agree with Universal about the best way to use Deanna Durbin, Joe Pasternak had moved to MGM, to which he always hoped he might one day lure her. Without his guidance, her later films were thin in the extreme, with poor scripts, uninteresting leading men and meagre production values. For a while she was the highest paid female star in Hollywood; the studio claimed that her salary consumed most of the budget, leaving very little for anything else. She said that, whenever she asked for better material, the studio responded by giving her more money.
Inevitably her popularity waned, and she was permanently at loggerheads with the studio. Finally, in 1949, the remainder of her contract was paid off.
There seems no objective reason why her career could not have been relaunched. She had a weight problem, but did not lose her looks. Her voice was just reaching its full maturity. The trouble was that she had come to loathe Hollywood and showbusiness. She no longer wanted to make the kind of films that her public, which held her in peculiarly proprietorial affection, wanted to see.
She had two failed marriages behind her, the first to the producer Vaughan Paul, the second to a German-born screenwriter, Felix Jackson, who produced many of her films. She had wanted to retire at the time of her first marriage, but was persuaded not to do so because in wartime she was needed as a morale-raising entertainer. Now “in a blue funk” about her career and personal life, she determined to leave not only Hollywood but America too. She turned down various possibilities, including My Fair Lady, which was then in the initial stages of conception, because she already had “a ticket for France in my pocket”.
She announced her retirement and, shortly afterwards, married Charles David, who was 16 years her senior. They settled at Neauphle-le-Château, outside Paris.
Unlike many Hollywood stars, she had invested her money sensibly and was a rich woman. But her tastes were simple. She made no public appearances and gave no interviews. Her husband fended off the journalists, and the local people helped to defend her privacy. Occasionally she would slip across the Channel, unrecognised, to visit Glyndebourne. One anomalous event temporarily threatened her seclusion: Ayatollah Khomeini, during his exile in France, came to live nearby.
Occasionally she would watch one of her old films — but only the early ones. Meanwhile, her records, made from the soundtracks, all of which had dropped out of the catalogues, were reissued, and her films were much requested on British television. She did send a message to her British fans, who formed a fan club in 1992, saying that she was “enough of an old man” to enjoy being remembered.
Her husband died in 1999. She had a son from her third marriage and a daughter from her second.
Deanna Durbin, born December 12 1921, died April 2013

Guardian

If Mrs Thatcher declined to privatise Royal Mail (Finance, 30 April), she also failed to privatise the health and education services, now well under way. What does this say about the moderating influence of the Lib Dems, the caution of Mrs T or the ideologically driven “reforms” of today’s Tory party?
John Bailey
St Albans, Hertfordshire
• When I lived in Canada, my parents needed a forfeitable licence to buy alcohol (Report, 1 May). Having known self-destructive alcoholics, I believe the introduction of a similar system would be the most effective way of combating alcohol abuse. It wouldn’t inconvenience me or the landlord of my local, but it would prevent my former friends and relatives from killing themselves.
Michael Heaton
Warminster, Wiltshire
• Mark Cocker’s evocation of the smell generated by rain on sun-baked soil (Country diary, 29 April) was truly excellent, but he – and interested readers – can easily find an explanation for the odour by Googling the word “petrichor”. This was the term coined by Australian scientists RG Thomas and Isobel Bear in the 60s. The eccentric Magnus Pyke later made a BBC programme about it, which he entitled, typically, Smells Like Rain.
Martyn Berry
Sevenoaks, kent
• The quote from Ian Paisley regarding the then pope’s benign cancerous growth (Diary, 30 April) was a steal from Evelyn Waugh. When Randolph Churchill’s surgeon removed his suspected cancer, which later proved to be benign, Waugh observed: “They have successfully identified the only benign part of Randolph and removed it.”
RA Jones
Worcester
• “Earn enough money to buy books and time to read them” (Lucy Mangan, 27 April). Any chance this could become the motto of a new political party? Count me in.
Marion Worth
Newport, South Wales
• Perhaps we should be spotting bees rather than cuckoos or hairy caterpillars (Letters, 1 May).
Caroline Betterton
Chichester, West Sussex

I have been driven to write in sheer frustration at the ability of the Liberal Democrats to believe whatever it is that comes out of their mouths. On Tuesday Nick Clegg appeared on BBC Radio 4’s the World at One and pronounced that there was new money being put through the pupil premium for children in deprived areas (Politics blog, 30 April). In fact, this money has been top-sliced from the schools budget and the previous deprivation formula for distribution has now been abolished. Yes, the schools budget has been protected, but by redistributing it. As it happens, I am in favour of the pupil premium – but, in the words of Nick Clegg, as an addition not as a substitute for what really existed.
Simon Hughes also described it as “extra money” on Radio 4’s Today programme. And he mirrored his leader’s misuse of facts when he claimed more money had been put into child care. Nick Clegg had gone further and claimed the Lib Dems were responsible for the extension of funding for early years. The Liberal Democrats have colluded in the demolition job that has been done on Sure Start which, as those who have experienced it know, has transformed the life chances, not just of children, but of the families that have been touched by this holistic approach to early years.
Above all the Lib Dems have allowed the government to abolish the early intervention grant. Part of this has been used for the expansion of what had already been initiated by the Labour government, namely 15 hours of support for two year olds. I’m still not clear whether the Lib Dems do not know what they are doing or having done it, have managed to persuade themselves that they didn’t.
David Blunkett MP
Lab, Sheffield Brightside

Headteachers and others have rightly criticised Jesse Norman for saying Etonians’ dominance of government results from other schools not having the same “commitment to public service” (Report, 27 April). But the extraordinary feature is that the Etonian conception of public service is overwhelmingly Conservative and increasingly so. Of the 20 old Etonian MPs elected in 2010, 19 are Conservatives (the outlier is a Lib Dem). Why does Eton develop so remarkably uniform a view of what public service implies? It’s true all six old Etonian prime ministers since 1900 have been Conservative. But the uniformly Conservative outlook of contemporary old Etonians in public life contrasts with their forebears. George Orwell, JBS Haldane, JM Keynes, Hugh Dalton, John Strachey, Julian Huxley, Lord Longford, Ludovic Kennedy, AJ Ayer, Guy Burgess, Tam Dalyell, Jo Grimond – Etonians all – had , in diverse ways, decidedly anti-Conservative, views. What’s turned Eton so right? And why?
John Holford
Nottingham

While it is extremely desirable to reduce high levels of reoffending by former prisoners through making incarceration a period of rehabilitation through an active engagement in education/training, I feel something serious is missing from this policy rhetoric (Grayling cracks down on prison privileges, 30 April). Most prisoners come from areas of multiple deprivation and their associations with authority, especially schools, have led to many suffering exclusion. The reforms are designed to compel prisoners out of their cells into activities deemed to be relevant to rehabilitation. Failure to participate will mean they will no longer enjoy the basic privileges they have become used to during their sentence.
An unintended, but easily foreseeable, consequence of this regime will be the enormous pressure exerted upon prison officers, whose relations with the inmates may alter radically. School staff know only too well how stressful it is dealing with challenging behaviour from students. Time will tell whether the culture of incarceration produced is sustainable and what effects it will impose on staff-prisoner human relations. Up until now academic research has found such relations play a critically important role in managing the mental wellbeing of the prison population.
Professor Chris Holligan
University of the West of Scotland
• So access to the gym is now to be a privilege. Never mind that for many it is an opportunity to develop their health and strength, diminished by years of neglect and self-neglect. For some, especially women, prison is the one stable point in their lives and prison staff the most empathic reference points; prison PE instructors stand high in that list. Access to the gym is itself often a step towards self-knowledge and rehabilitation. Many prisoners have told me during my 15 years ministering in prisons that it was the gym and the instructors who gave them a sense of purpose when they might otherwise have self-harmed or attempted suicide.
You have to ask, as well, what meaningful moves towards rehabilitation can be made in a short sentence of, say, four weeks; people are still being imprisoned for seven or fourteen days, not even long enough to wear their own clothes under Grayling’s proposals. At the other end of the scale, what incentives are there for prisoners serving life sentences to prepare for rehabilitation when the system, already shorn of staff and resources, cannot cope with the numbers sent into it? I suspect that this will be another pretext for further creeping privatisation.
Rev Peter Phillips
Cardiff University
• The Inspectorate of Constabulary, HMIC, is one of the few brand names that survives the great policing shake-up (Editorial, 30 April), but it is too remote from the architecture of the new landscape. Tom Winsor needs to bring it out in the open. If given the necessary resources, it could take on new functions such as maintaining the register of chief constables’ interests and possibly even the central register of police commissioners’ interests the home affairs committee is compiling. It could also act as independent oversight on investigations of national importance. This would put an end to the “double-hatting” chief constables are having to undertake alongside their day jobs, leading operations such as Pallial (into north Wales child abuse) and Herne (into undercover police officers).
Keith Vaz MP
Chairman, home affairs committee

Polly Toynbee (Labour’s golden policy key? Build, build and build more, 30 April) highlights Labour’s problem in talking about borrowing. They should take head-on the Tory myth that too much borrowing by the last Labour government was what led us into trouble, and that more borrowing will lead to more problems. The difference between borrowing for current expenditure and borrowing for investment needs to be emphasised. Much government borrowing at the moment goes on benefits to people out of work or paid minimal wages.
As well as housing, borrowing to invest in massive home energy efficiency schemes and other sustainable energy projects, good cycle routes and sustainable transport would bring returns to the government in reduced unemployment benefits, lower housing benefit payments, reduced need for winter fuel allowances and lower healthcare costs, as well as in receiving more revenue from income taxes, housing rentals and, for example, larger payments by train operating companies for access to better rail infrastructure. These benefits to central finances could occur on a timescale comparable with the present government’s forecast of when the deficit will be reduced. Labour should say, clearly, we will reduce the welfare budget and the government deficit, not by hitting lower- and middle-income people, but by sensible investment.
Martin Quick
Stroud, Gloucestershire
• The news that the economy is not officially in a triple-dip recession (Report, 26 April) should not be allowed to mask the intolerable human cost of the downturn. Behind the statistics and rhetoric are thousands upon thousands of people being denied the opportunity to be economically active. This breeds resentment, fear and is corrosive to community cohesion. In the last few months, Newcastle city council, with partners, has created a massive capital programme to invest in infrastructure, including roads, pavements, housing and ultrafast broadband. We have also acted decisively with the private sector to unlock major development projects stalled by the failure of banks to lend. We are doing this to create much-needed jobs, instil business confidence and give people a sense of hope in the future. It’s time the chancellor switched from his destructive austerity programme and followed our example.
Cllr Nick Forbes
Labour leader, Newcastle city council
• Monday’s public accounts committee report on UK infrastructure spending and many of its recommendations are timely (Report, 29 April) but what the UK urgently needs is better cross-party consensus on major projects, improvements to the existing infrastructure strategy and more collaborative methods of infrastructure funding to obviate the failings of PPP.
Foreign investors are reluctant to invest in the UK because of dithering over south-east airport capacity and, despite leading the world in the implementation of PPP, we still deliver two-thirds of infrastructure projects late or over-budget. At a time when the UK should be benefiting from low rates of borrowing, the current PPP model fails to capitalise on this, which in turns feeds through to higher financing cost. Private sector and government need to work a lot harder to develop more effective development and financing strategies that provide better value for money.
Ian Kennedy
Co-founder Institute for Infrastructure Studies
• Ed Miliband has been criticised for his admission that Labour’s blanket cut in VAT would lead to a temporary increase in government borrowing. Any moves to cut VAT ought to be directly targeted at stimulating activity in those sectors of the economy struggling most – and where the Treasury is currently losing millions in tax revenue as consumers opt to pay cash in hand to rogue traders. This is one of the key challenges facing legitimate building firms in this country. With VAT at 20%, many property owners are choosing not to have building works done or else employing cowboys willing to “lose the VAT”.
As borne out by experience in France and the Isle of Man, a targeted cut in VAT on building repairs would stimulate construction activity and increase tax revenue. Rather than causing an increase in government borrowing, this policy would enable the Treasury to give an immediate stimulus to economic growth and bolster government coffers into the bargain.
Michael Levack
Scottish Building Federation

Independent

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The drive to move public services off the Treasury books and into the private sector might help the private sector employment statistics, but where is the evidence that it will improve public services?
To take one example from your article “The great Civil Service sell-off” (1 May), the Land Registry has cut fees to the public consistently over the past 20 years, returned a profit to the Treasury and maintains a 97 per cent customer satisfaction level. How many privatised services – gas, rail, electricity etc – can point to such a record?
The FDA, the union for senior managers and professionals in public service, believes there is a strong case for reforming the Civil Service – this is why the FDA launched a plan for Civil Service reform in Parliament last week – but reform should not mean the incremental transfer of public services to the private sector with little or no future public accountability.
As government services is one of the few sectors of the economy that actually generates positive GDP results, while UK economic growth remains in a parlous state, employees and the public alike will look for a compelling justification for mutualising, privatising or otherwise transferring government services out of the Civil Service.
Naomi Cooke, FDA Assistant General Secretary, London SE1
 
We welcome the Government’s interest in mutualisation and the possible benefits it might bring to parts of the public sector and the Civil Service. The “nudge unit” will understand the motivational power of staff owning their own enterprise. It is the right place to start.
We are clear though, that the current proposals – if they only require 25 per cent staff ownership – will not necessarily result in true mutuals. Mutuals need to set be up as having a controlling stake held by the members – whether staff or users – rather than outside investors, alongside the values and principles that will be shared with the best public services.
Our hope, if these proposals do go ahead, is that the new mutuals will follow a path that eventually makes them more mutual and gives the employees a greater stake in the business. Evidence shows that bottom-up rather than top-down structures often work better in the long run.
Ed Mayo, Secretary General,  Co-operatives UK, Manchester
 
A vote for Ukip is a vote for Labour
The only result of thousands of Tories voting for a Ukip candidate, in the county elections, or at a general election, will be the return of a Labour candidate, and a Labour-controlled county council, or a Labour government.
My standard of living is still suffering from what Gordon Brown did to it, and I don’t want to see him, or his like, returned to power ever again. However, if that is what those so-called Tories want, then why not have the courage to vote Labour, instead of making Ukip the scapegoat, and still ruin life for the rest of us?
No amount of voting Ukip is going to give them the boost that they badly want, an MP at Westminster. Nigel Farage is only an MEP because of the ridiculous PR system wished on us by the EU.
Alan Carcas, Liversedge, West Yorkshire
 
Ukip proposes to put major planning applications to local vote (“Selling Points: Ukip’s manifesto”, 1 May). Since most communities can be expected to reject large housing developments, let alone waste disposal sites, prisons or power stations, perhaps Ukip could explain by what mechanism they will be able to ensure we have the infrastructure we need.
Jonathan Wallace, Newcastle upon Tyne
 
Twisted minds of the bombers
Looking at the pictures of the six men who plotted to bomb an English Defence League rally (1 May) I find it incomprehensible how these British-born Islamists could reconcile themselves any longer with living under the reign of the Queen they denounce as infidel. Their rightful home is obviously in the desert of Arabia, where they would find the inspiration to slaughter fellow Muslims in Muslim lands, as is happening in Mesopotamia, Pakistan, Syria, Libya and elsewhere.
These British youth were not born with such a dead look in their eyes and murderous hatred of their fellow citizens in their hearts. It is imperative that the leadership of mosques in Britain is held accountable for their ideological and financial links with the heart of darkness that rules over the two holy sites in Arabia. Only then will we be safe from the atrocities of these twisted minds.
M A Qavi, London SE3
 
Means-tested pensioner ‘perks’
Is it possible that one of the politicians, from any party, proposing to withdraw, reduce or means-test so-called pensioner perks could come clean and be more specific as to how they would do this?
Are they suggesting that the benefits be withdrawn from pensioners with an income above a particular figure, or will they be fully means-tested? In the latter case, I would imagine that this means that those with savings above a specified threshold would lose their perks even if they have low incomes – that would mean a penalty for those who have been prudent enough to put a little money by in anticipation of their retirement.
If savings are to be taken into account, then those who will be affected should be told now, so that they can make suitable arrangements to dispose of their ill-gotten gains before it’s too late.
R P Wallen, Nottingham
 
Although I am a pensioner I am unimpressed by the hysterical and groundless attempts to label Iain Duncan Smith as my enemy following his comments on bus passes.
The suggestion that better-off pensioners should voluntarily give up their free bus travel is simply another expression of the logical and ethical idea that entitlement does not equal need and therefore benefits should not automatically be taken.
However, that is not to say that the complicated web of age-related benefits does not need reform. It is insane that the Government takes a slice of my pension in tax and recycles a small portion to me in winter fuel payments.
Roger Earp, Bexhill, East Sussex
 
Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Bichard are not going far enough in their attempts to make pensioners do something extra, over and above a lifetime of work and contributions, in return for their lavish state pension of £110 a week. Surely, after cremation, dead pensioners, finished off by this government’s policies, could be declared fit to work by Atos, and encouraged by the Coalition to do a short stint in an egg-timer? Purely voluntarily, of course.
Steve Rudd, Huddersfield
 
Scotland’s quixotic colony
Two of your correspondents (30 April) object to Dominic Lawson’s description of the role of the Darien Scheme in the 1707 Act of Union, stating that “the English American colonies refused to help Scots at Darien when the latter were dying” and “Scotland’s attempts to set up a trading colony were thwarted by the English and I believe Spain”.
The scheme was almost certainly doomed to failure from the beginning. It was never supported by the King of Scotland, William II (William III of England), declaring himself “ill-served” by his northern kingdom’s decision. The colony was established in land which William recognised as being part of the Spanish Empire.
William was understandably opposed to any action which could alienate Spain, given the delicate European diplomatic situation between the Nine Years War and the War of the Spanish Succession. The location chosen for the colony was spectacularly ill-suited to European settlement, with Fort Saint Andrew sited in a malarial swamp in what to this day is one of the least densely populated regions of Panama.
The high loss of life among the Darien settlers was unfortunate, but hardly unprecedented for a late 17th-century colonial settlement; and peace with Spain was understandably a much higher priority for William’s English and Dutch governments than supporting a quixotic colony which could have sparked a European war had he given it his full backing.
That the Spanish expelled the surviving Scots two years after the foundation of Fort Saint Andrew can have surprised few people.
Dr Alasdair Brooks, Teaching Fellow in Historical Archaeology, University of Leicester
 
Don’t blame Primark
Much of the coverage of the Rana Plaza collapse has focused on clothing chains who purchased from companies located there. It would be good to see more focus on the main factor underlying this disaster – how was it possible to build or extend a structurally unsound eight-storey complex with the approval, acquiescence or connivance of the authorities in Dhaka?
Some deeper investigative journalism should lead to pressure on the government of Bangladesh to tackle the root causes of disasters of this type. Shots at Primark miss the target.
Paul Rex, South Warnborough, Hampshire
 
Thatcher’s image
Now that Thatcher, in name and image, has virtually disappeared from your pages, may I offer my heartfelt thanks to your cartoonists, Dave Brown and Grizelda, who have kept me sane throughout these past weeks. Dave Brown, as ever the deflator of huge egos, but especially Grizelda managed to put her finger precisely on the pulse. The depiction of a sorrowful nurse offering a patient a bag containing Margaret Thatcher’s heart kept me chuckling for the rest of the day.  
John Scase, Andover, Hampshire
 
My homework
You asked a student and a headteacher for their views on homework (25 April). Not surprisingly the student was against, the headteacher for. But if you had asked a teacher, like myself, you would have realised that homework is not a burden on some students as they copy and not a burden on headteachers because they don’t teach much. I personally think homework is good, but wish I didn’t have to mark it!
Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich, West Midlands
 
Flower sanctuary
May I join the snakeshead fritillary competition? We have over 120 blooms in our orchard from 12 bulbs planted some years ago. Anyone with a bit of meadow or orchard can help to increase the stock of these beautiful flowers – just remember to mow after the seed has set.
Faith Davis, Roydon, Essex
 
Irritation
Tautology and split infinitives litter the pages of the press. I tell myself that if the content is clear they are unimportant,  but I don’t hear myself, and continue to be irritated.
Eileen Noakes, Totnes, Devon

Times

‘Nearly all our Nato allies, including the US and Germany, are offering resettlement packages to their Afghan interpreters’
Sir, The argument apparently being advanced by ministers to justify refusing asylum in the UK for Afghan interpreters (report, May 1), namely that we should not encourage a “brain drain” of professionals, is spurious. Not all, but many of these interpreters are already living in hiding because of constant Taleban threats to their lives. They cannot send their children to school and they are desperate to leave Afghanistan now. They are hardly likely to emerge from hiding after the British withdrawal to fill important public and professional roles. Their skills as educated interpreters, however, would be much in demand in the UK, where we have a national shortage of public service interpreters in the courts and health service, not to mention their potential use in security, defence and international trade.
Nearly all our Nato allies, including the US and Germany, are offering resettlement packages to their Afghan interpreters. The UK Government also has a moral obligation to treat ours in the same way as their Iraqi equivalents, for whom a targeted assistance scheme provided exceptional indefinite leave to enter the UK, outside the Immigration Rules. This is the only fair and honourable way to repay the Afghan nationals who have risked their lives in our interests.
Baroness Coussins
Independent crossbench peer and vice-president, Chartered Institute of Linguists
House of Lords
Sir, Robert Rhodes, QC, (letter, Apr 30) is right that it will be shameful if the British Government does not enable Afghan interpreters to settle in this country. Even brief experience in the Royal Marines — without any active service — showed me how hard it can be to win any high ground.
The Government appears to be unaware how easy it is to lose it.
Patrick Green, QC
Henderson Chambers
London EC4
Sir, If I was a British soldier in Afghanistan I would lay down my arms in protest. I would be so ashamed of my country. I would not know why I was fighting or risking my life for it.
Stanley Jacobs
London SW18
Sir, Not only is it an important matter of principle to honour such sacrifice, but it is also common sense for the UK to welcome highly intelligent, brave and loyal foreigners such as these to our shores. It is deeply embarrassing for Britons, but more importantly, hugely dangerous for the interpreters, that our Government appears to take a different view.
John Slinger
Rugby, Warks
Sir, As you report, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia have all given the right to asylum to the interpreters who risked their lives to help them. But not us. Instead, we get weasel words about their being needed in Afghanistan to help secure its future.
Does Mr Cameron fear that if the interpreters were allowed to settle here they would be a burden on our social services? Almost certainly they would rapidly become extremely useful citizens, demonstrably loyal and with a knowledge of languages that could well be of value to our security services and to any company trading or planning to trade with Afghanistan or its neighbours.
David Terry
Droitwich, Worcs

‘Employers are adept at slicing up the jobs offered and rates of pay to maximise the subsidy by paying appallingly low wages’
Sir, You say that if successful the universal credit will ensure that work always pays (leading article, Apr 30). But for who? Stripped of all the rhetoric, the universal credit will only further entrench a low-wage economy at huge cost to taxpayers. Taxpayers are now required to shell out £29 billion in wage and child tax subsidies. When first established the system cost taxpayers only £4 million.
Is it a surprise then that benefit dependency has become widespread among employers? Employers are now adept at slicing up the jobs offered and rates of pay to maximise the subsidy by again paying appallingly low wages.
In contrast to searching for a universal credit Eldorado, which is a long way from being deliverable, we should put all our efforts into making means-tested subsidies less rather than more important in our tax and benefit system. Real wages need to be through a mixture of a living-wage strategy and increasing productivity and thereby real wage rates. It is this approach you should be calling for instead of falling down and worshipping the universal credit.
Frank Field, MP
House of Commons

Is there any correlation between two seemingly unrelated news reports on crime in the UK this week?
Sir, You report (Apr 30) that many prosecutions for violent crime are being avoided by means of an apology from the perpetrator to the victim. Only four days earlier your Home Correspondent reported that crime figures were at their “lowest in 30 years”. Could these two reports be in some way connected?
Jim Norris
Broadwas-on-Teme, Worcs

Some would say that sales is not an appropriate university study, but employers would value such a qualification
Sir, I applaud the move to offer more vocational training (Opinion, Apr 27, letters, Apr 30). Can I suggest that sales should form part of this? At present I believe that there is only one university that offers a module on this important skill. Some would say that sales is not an appropriate university study, although try telling that to American universities.I believe that employers would value such a qualification — it gives them something solid as a reason to employ a first-jobber.
Paul Clapham
Margate, Kent

It is cheaper and less intrusive to use summonsing rather than arrest, which ought to be attractive to Chief Constables
Sir, Michael Zander, QC, (letter, Apr 30) points out that too many arrests are unnecessary, and as such unlawful. It may be the case that modern police officers are too keen to reach for the handcuffs before considering whether a suspect could be summonsed to court. Summonsing has the advantage of being cheaper and less intrusive — the cost benefit alone ought to be attractive to Chief Constables everywhere.
Jon Mack
Blackfriars Chambers
London EC4

Telegraph

SIR – For decades, beekeepers have been removing virtually all stored honey from hives and replacing it with a sterile solution of refined sugar and factory-produced “bee food”.
Could it be that we are taking, for our own benefit, the very substance that enabled the bees to resist infection and the assaults of mites?
Michael Tod
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
SIR – Richard Gray’s report on the importance of ivy for bees (April 26) brought to mind Gerard Manley Hopkins’s sonnet from 1885, Patience, hard thing.
The sonnet, with its image of the worker bee dropping honey into the honeycomb after a day spent in the warmth of the shining ivy, is given scientific authority by Professor Francis Ratnieks’s findings.

SIR – Traditionally a Conservative voter, I have not been over impressed with the present Government, hampered as it is by compromises that a coalition necessitates. To keep an open mind I have read the Ukip bumf that has hit my doormat. It targets getting out of the EU, controlling immigration and saving a fortune in benefits and overseas payments.
While these are important national considerations I cannot see what they have to do with Norfolk County Council. This tunnel vision on the part of Ukip makes them unattractive to me.
The corresponding Conservative bumf promotes business growth in Norfolk, better broadband and mobile coverage, closer working with parish councils, protection of our local environment and promotion of apprenticeships. These are clearly relevant matters for the county council, which is what I am looking for in voting at this week’s election.
Paul Fulton
Dereham, Norfolk
SIR – Richard Lutwyche (Letters, April 29) criticises Ukip’s policy document, What We Stand For, for detailing “national policies that have little relevance to local elections”. But that was not its purpose. It simply sets out what it says in the title. If Mr Lutwyche wishes to know what party candidates intend to do for Cirencester he must go to their meetings and ask them.
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01 May 2013
Nor should he imagine that Ukip’s policies make no difference unless they are in power. Many councillors and activists from other parties have joined Ukip, and for one very good reason: that Ukip’s is the voice that their own parties have lost, and which their constituents long to hear again.
Richard Shaw
Dunstable, Bedfordshire
SIR – After too many years of being ignored by local and county councillors, I, like many in my village, will not be voting Tory in this week’s local elections.
Having lost its purpose, this once typical village, with a walk to shops, public lavatories and post office, is now a grubby car park, awaiting even more developers.
Can anybody give a good reason why we should not give others, such as Ukip, a chance to help this village, rather than bury us under a carpet of concrete? It is time for a change.
Kevin Barry
Englefield Green, Surrey
SIR – Boris Johnson (Comment, April 29) writes: “Who is going to offer a referendum on the EU? Only the Conservatives.” This of course depends upon the Conservatives winning the election (which they won’t) and entering discussions on repatriating powers from the EU (which they won’t). Only then would they have a referendum.
Not for the first time has David Cameron made a promise he knows he can’t keep. The voters know that, too, and, disenchanted with all three major political parties, are placing their loyalty elsewhere.
John Ling
Old Colwall, Herefordshire
Bulgarians in Britain
SIR – As a counterpoint to the tide of ill-researched information about potential Bulgarian migration, we would like to draw attention to the significant contribution to society that those Bulgarians who already live here make.
They work as lawyers, bankers, accountants, doctors and nurses, dentists, lecturers, classical musicians, in travel, wine and retail businesses, and as builders, decorators and cleaners.
Most acquired their skills in Bulgaria by the Bulgarian education and training system. Britain has, therefore, benefited from talented, hard-working people without the expense of training them.
No research about the number of unskilled and unemployed Bulgarians who may travel to Britain in pursuit of benefits can be accurate.
To his surprise, on visiting the poorest Roma district of Sofia and telling people what advantages they would find on moving to Britain, Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, discovered they had no wish to leave.
Just as sensible-thinking British people would not wish to be known for binge-drinking and offensively promiscuous behaviour, so too, hard-working and intelligent Bulgarians neither wish, nor deserve, to be portrayed as a nation of pickpockets and scroungers.
Dr Annie Kay
Chairman, British-Bulgarian Society
Michael Holman
Emeritus Professor of Russian and Slavonic Studies, University of Leeds
Ivan Stancioff
Former Ambassador to the Court of St James’s
Richard Crampton
Emeritus Fellow, St Edmund Hall, Oxford
Dr Sonia Rouve-Ouvalieva
President, Ouvaliev Foundation
John Chapman
Professor of European Prehistory, Durham University
Dr Bisserka Gaydarska
Department of Archaeology, Durham University
Professor Anthony Harding
Department of Archaeology, University of Exeter
Dr Emilia Knight
Ognian Avgarski
Founder, Balkania Travel
John Osborne
Senior Master (retired), Marlborough College
Venera Bojkova
Classical pianist
Dr Duncan Brown
Political historian
Dr Boika Sokolova
Professor of Shakespeare Studies, University of Notre Dame in England
Professor Elliot Leader
Imperial College London
Dessislava Stefanova
Leader of London Bulgarian Choir
Mirella Koleva
Doctoral student
Dr Yana Proykova
Former Senior Lecturer in Physics, University of Portsmouth
Margarit Todorov
Cancer, with hope
SIR – While I do not doubt Lord Saatchi’s grief nor the intensity of his late wife’s suffering (Comment, April 29), I do not recognise his description of a chemotherapy treatment room as “death row”.
On the contrary, as a sufferer from incurable ovarian cancer, I have found the one at my local hospital to be a place of inspiration, comfort and relief. Indeed, I am extremely grateful for the extra few years of life, some of very high quality, that my many visits there have afforded me.
So, although I wish him every success with his campaign for alternative treatments, I would urge women diagnosed with this awful disease not to be in total despair.
Gillian Mann
Kirk Ella, East Yorkshire
Real jail sentences
SIR – At last we have a Justice Secretary who believes prisons should be a deterrent (report, April 30). Why has it taken so long?
Let’s hope the next step is to stop prisoners serving only half their sentence. If someone gets four years’ custody, he should serve four years, not two, and then only be released if he has behaved.
A J C Gorman
Ickenham, Middlesex
I see no fiver
SIR – The Bank of England was founded in 1694 to supply money for the rebuilding of the Royal Navy, yet no member of the Senior Service has featured on a bank note.
Winston Churchill might well be surprised that his own image will appear on a bank note (Letters, April 29) when Admiral Nelson has not made it – although Wellington has.
Lester May
London NW1
Privatising defence
SIR – There is debate about the extent to which industry supports the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in its proposals to reform defence acquisition, with the aim of introducing greater private sector involvement.
Reform of defence acquisition is essential if the Armed Forces and security services are to be supplied with the equipment and support they require, within reduced budgets, and at costs that deliver value for money to the taxpayer.
Reforming defence acquisition is complex, and the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond’s “appreciation of the excellent staff” working within defence acquisition is well deserved.
All options that might improve efficiency should be pursued and, as the largest supplier to the MoD, BAE Systems will support the MoD in its reforms. The MoD is currently consulting with the defence industry. We do not yet know the outcome, but recognise the merit of the current “GoCo” (Government owned, Company operated) proposal that is now the MoD’s preferred option.
BAE Systems will work with the MoD to realise the benefits of whatever it decides to implement.
Nigel Whitehead
Group Managing Director, BAE Systems
London SW1
Porn harms children
SIR – We strongly believe that all pornography is bad for children and young people (Judith Woods, Features, April 27). We firmly, and very publicly, believe that while adults are free to do as they choose within the law, the evidence is increasingly showing that young people’s views of sex, and what is and isn’t acceptable, can be warped by watching adult videos at a young age.
We have campaigned vigorously for more stringent safeguards to block adult videos from young eyes, including an automatic filter for broadband connections and a block on adult content via public Wi-Fi.
Phillip Noyes
Acting CEO, NSPCC
London EC2
Gathering winter fuel
SIR – I have passed my winter fuel allowance to the Salvation Army for the past nine years. It is much better equipped to see that it is spent wisely than the Government – of any persuasion.
Richard Walton
London W14
Private schools lacked coherent health policy
SIR — Correspondence in The Lancet was not an “ill-founded attack on independent education” (“Measles risk claim angers private schools”, report, April 29).
A key date mentioned in The Lancet is 2002, when MMR vaccination rates hit a low point. I was then chair of the national School Health Research Group, contacting a range of professionals in both public-sector and private education.
Some examples of good health care were identifiable in all types of school. However, neither at that time nor later (when the Chief Medical Officer was investigating the state of teenage health) could I observe any “coherent policy” across the private school sector for proactive, population-based health. Fragmented and reactive fixes were the norm across many health risks.
I suspect my public health colleagues in Cumbria last year were doing their professional duty: anticipating risks to health (including among transient residents), collaborating with different services (including education) and above all, acting as advocates for health locally, based on grass-roots experience.
Professor Woody Caan
Duxford, Cambridgeshire
SIR – Private schools are highly regulated through the Independent Schools Standards Regulations and the National Minimum Standards for Boarding. Residential schools keep detailed health records and their health policies are scrutinised through rigorous inspection. They are models of best practice in ensuring pupils’ health and wellbeing.
Neil Roskilly
CEO, The Independent Schools Association
Saffron Walden, Essex

Irish Times
Sir, – The recent inquest on Savita Halappanavar has raised important issues about hospital infection in obstetrics. Much of the public attention appears to have been directed at the expert opinion of Dr Peter Boylan who suggested that Irish law prevented necessary treatment to save Ms Halappanavar’s life. We would suggest that this is a personal view, not an expert one.
Furthermore, it is impossible for Dr Boylan, or for any doctor, to predict with certainty the clinical course and outcome in the case of Savita Halappanavar where sepsis arose from the virulent and multi drug-resistant organism, E.coli ESBL.
What we can say with certainty is that where ruptured membranes are accompanied by any clinical or bio-chemical marker of infection, Irish obstetricians understand they can intervene with early delivery of the baby if necessary. Unfortunately, the inquest shows that in Galway University Hospital the diagnosis of chorioamnionitis was delayed and relevant information was not noted and acted upon.
The facts as produced at the inquest show this tragic case to be primarily about the management of sepsis, and Dr Boylan’s opinion on the effect of Irish law did not appear to be shared by the coroner, or the jury, of the inquest.
Obstetric sepsis is unfortunately on the increase and is now the leading cause of maternal death reported in the UK Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths . Additionally there are many well-documented fatalities from sepsis in women following termination of pregnancy. To concentrate on the legal position regarding abortion in the light of such a case as that in Galway does not assist our services to pregnant women.
It is clear that maternal mortality in developed countries is rising, in the US, Canada, Britain, Denmark, Netherlands and other European countries. The last Confidential Enquiry in Britain (which now includes Ireland) recommended a “return to basics” and stated that many maternal deaths are related to failure to observe simple clinical signs such as fever, headache and changes in pulse rate and blood pressure. Many of the failings highlighted in Galway have been described before in these and other reports.
The additional problem of multi-resistant organisms causing infection, largely as a result of antibiotic use and abuse, is a serious cause of concern and may lead to higher death rates in all areas of medicine.
Ireland’s maternal health record is one of the best in the world in terms of our low rate of maternal death (including Galway hospital). The case in Galway was one of the worst cases of sepsis ever experienced in that hospital, and the diagnosis of ESBL septicaemia was almost unprecedented among Irish maternity units.
It is important that all obstetrical units in Ireland reflect on the findings of the events in Galway and learn how to improve care for pregnant women. To reduce it to a polemical argument about abortion may lead to more – not fewer – deaths in the future. – Yours, etc,
Dr JOHN MONAGHAN, DCH FRCPI FRCOG Consultant Obstetrician/Gynaecologist, Portiuncula, Galway; Dr CYRIL THORNTON, MB BCh MRCOG, Consultant Obstetrician/Gynaecologist, Cork Clinic; Dr EAMON Mc GUINNESS, MB BCh MRCOG, Consultant Obstetrician/Gynaecologist, Mount Carmel Hospital, Dublin; Dr TREVOR HAYES, MB BCh FRCS MRCOG, Consultant Obstetrician/Gynaecologist, St Luke’s General Hospital, Kilkenny; Dr CHRIS KING, MB DCH MRCOG Consultant Obstetrician/ Gynaecologist, Letterkenny General Hospital; Dr EILEEN REILLY, MB ChB MRCOG, Consultant Obstetrician/ Gynaecologist, Galway Clinic; Prof JOHN BONNAR, MD FRCPI FRCOG, Prof Emeritus Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Trinity College Dublin; Prof EAMON O’DWYER, MB MAO LLB FRCPI FRCOG, Prof Emeritus Obstetrics & Gynaecology, NUI Galway; Prof STEPHEN CUSACK, MB BCh FRCSI, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Cork University Hospital; Dr RORY PAGE, MB BCh FFA RCSI, Consultant Anaesthetist, Cavan General Hospital; Dr JAMES CLAIR, MB BCh PhD FRCPath, Consultant Microbiologist, Mercy University Hospital,
Cork.

Sir, – So retail sales are “shockingly poor” and the weather is to blame. I think the huge elephant in this room was, and still is, the threatened pay cuts in the public sector. With possibly 20 per cent of the workforce and their extended family units anticipating cuts in take home pay, is it any surprise they behave in a rational way economically and cut back?
Of course, in all the debate about public sector pay and reform, the fact public servants behave the same way as anyone else in response to the absence of financial incentives and to cuts in their pay seems to be overlooked. Apparently, public servants live in another virtual economy separate from their fellow workers in the private sector. So the next time Ibec or ISME feel obliged to look for “savings” in the public sector they should think of their own members’ interests first and, perhaps, say nothing. – Yours, etc,
SEÁN LEAKE
Greenlea Grove,
Terenure,

Sir, – Even at this late stage, may I appeal to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste to reverse the decision to apply the whip to the upcoming Dáil debate on abortion legislation.
Surely on an important matter of life and death such as this, each TD should be allowed the freedom of voting according to his or her informed conscience?
It appears to me that as we have already seen such diametrically opposed views expressed by both sides, a free vote by secret ballot would achieve a more democratic result.
Such a vote would also avoid the many pitfalls and unforeseen consequences that will surely follow if the debate is held as currently proposed. – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL J LOWEY,
Knocksinna Crescent, Dublin 18.
Sir, – While appreciating that this is a very sensitive and divisive issue, I fail to see what the fuss is all about.  
The Government is trying to bring the common law decision of the Supreme Court in the X case of some 21 years ago into statute law. The Government will legislate within the parameters of that decision, and I emphasise not beyond it! The whole object is to give clarity to the situation.  Not forgetting that this law (Article 40.3.3) was brought into the Constitution by the 8th amendment in 1983  by the democratic  will of the Irish people and the judges interpreted this law, which is their job.   People talk of opening the “flood gates”. The “flood gates” have been opened for the past 21 years at common law and nothing extraordinary happened until disaster struck with the unfortunate Savita Halappanavar tragedy  last year. 
 If people, or some civil society group, are not happy with the decision in the X case then I suggest that they lobby their representatives for another referendum to overturn the Supreme Court decision. If such a referendum were passed  the proposed legislation would then be unconstitutional and that would be the end of the matter.  Highly unlikely I should think.  – Yours, etc,
JOE MURRAY,
Beggars Bush Court,
Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
Sir, – One aspect of the abortion debate which seems to be ignored is the question of conscience. Regardless of the precise wording of whatever legal text is eventually adopted, some doctors and nurses will almost certainly flatly refuse to have anything to do with abortion in any shape or form on grounds of personal conscience which may or may not be derived from religious belief.
Any law which does not provide such people with wide-ranging, appropriate safeguards will face challenges on human rights grounds both in the Irish court system and in Europe.
In this context, it is worth noting that Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act has such a clause and last week a Scottish appeal court ruled that “the right of conscientious objection extends not only to the actual medical or surgical termination but to the whole process of treatment given for that purpose”.
The two people who won this judgment are labour ward co-ordinators in an NHS hospital in Glasgow whose employer argued that they were contractually obliged to delegate, supervise and support staff engaged in terminations and that the conscience clause applied only to people directly involved in terminations. The judges ruled that this was not the case. – Yours, etc,
ED KELLY,
Keswick Road,
St Helens, Merseyside,
England.
Sir, – Are we now at a stage where we have elected representatives advocating a denial of our Constitutional rights? – Yours, etc,
DOROTHY LIDDY,
Kilquade,
Greystones, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – Women need to be the people to who decide all issues about abortion. There are not enough of them in the Cabinet for a quorum, so a joint meeting of both houses of the Oireachtas (women only), should be called to decide on any change in the law relating to the matter. If a referendum is necessary, this too should be limited to women. If there is something magical about the number 12, it should be 12 women, and I am sure 12 wise midwives would suffice. Under no circumstances should men be listened to or have a say on these matters. (Oops! I’m a man). – Yours, etc,
PADDY MOLONY,
Balally Grove,
Dublin 16.
Sir, – For many years we have clearly defined what is meant by “death”. Could someone please clarify the definition of “life”. – Yours, etc,
Dr GRAHAM FRY,
Beechcourt,
Killiney, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I think it was about a year or so ago that you began to publish letters on this topic. These were many and varied. After a month or two it all ceased. Only for it to start up again in recent weeks, causing something of a sense of déjà vu , particularly as some of the previous suggestions were resubmitted by their original suggesters. At this stage may I suggest it be called “The Provisional Bridge”.
Because it hasn’t gone away, you know! – Yours, etc,
MICK BOURKE,
Ceannt Fort,
Kilmainham,

Sir, – It was instructive to witness Simon Coveney and the Government jumping through hoops to appease the farmers to quite rightly, finance the importing and distribution of fodder for starving animals – cattle, sheep and pigs. Contrast that with Government ill-treatment of the most vulnerable human beings in our society, children, the disabled and the aged. Easy to spot where the votes are, so much for a twisted sense of priorities. – Yours, etc,
JOHN LEAHY,
Wilton Road,
Cork.

Irish Independent

l For the first quarter of 2013 retail sales came in much lower than expected. The reason for this is ongoing reduced consumer confidence, as one authoritative economic commentator noted: “As things stand, all consumers are seeing is more austerity, more taxes and less disposable income.”
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McDowell right on whip system
• For the first quarter of 2013 retail sales came in much lower than expected. The reason for this is ongoing reduced consumer confidence, as one authoritative economic commentator noted: “As things stand, all consumers are seeing is more austerity, more taxes and less disposable income.”
The Coalition’s response to the rejection of Croke Park II also prompts concern. If no agreement is reached, public servants will face potential pay cuts, a permanent freeze in increments and loss of protection from compulsory redundancy.
The US Economic Policy Institute has said that public-sector job cuts also cause job losses in the private sector. First, public-sector workers need to use inputs into their work that are sourced by the private sector. Second, the economic ‘multiplier’ of state and local spending is sizeable.
For every dollar cut in salary and supplies of public-sector workers, another 24 cents is lost in purchasing power across the economy.
Clearly there needs to be some reduced public spending on the pay side, especially for higher-paid public servants. Fairness and equality, however, decree that there also needs to be reduced pay for high earners in the private sector, especially those on exorbitant incomes.
Austerity fatigue is growing. Last Saturday in Iceland the Independence and Progressive parties were returned to power after years of biting austerity measures. Significantly perhaps, from the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition’s perspective, the Icelandic electorate returned a centre-right government that had ruled over their country’s financial collapse just five years previously.
On the same day, a Red C opinion Poll showed that most voters, including those in the private sector, have more sympathy for the public service unions than perhaps might have been expected.
Fundamentally, there is increasing awareness that the well-being and prosperity of us all, in the private and public sector, is inextricably linked.
The continued pursuit of austerity, however, erodes social and economic solidarity and thus national recovery.
Perhaps, despite the inherent challenges, it is time now for the Coalition to catch up?
Dr Margaret O’Keeffe
Mayfield, Cork
Lessons of Savita case
• The recent inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar has raised important issues about hospital infection in obstetrics. Much of the public attention appears to have been directed at the expert opinion of Dr Peter Boylan who suggested that Irish law prevented necessary treatment to save Ms Halappanavar’s life. We would suggest that this is as much a personal view as an expert one.
Furthermore, it is impossible for Dr Boylan, or for any doctor, to predict with certainty the clinical course and outcome in the case of Savita Halappanavar where sepsis arose from the virulent and multi drug-resistant organism, E.coli ESBL.
What we can say with certainty is that where ruptured membranes are accompanied by any clinical or bio-chemical marker of infection, Irish obstetricians understand that they can intervene with early delivery of the baby if necessary. Unfortunately, the inquest shows that in Galway University Hospital the diagnosis of chorioamnionitis was delayed and relevant information was not noted and acted upon.
The facts as produced at the inquest show this tragic case to be primarily about the management of sepsis, and Dr Boylan’s opinion on the effect of Irish law did not appear to be shared by the coroner, or the jury, of the inquest.
Obstetric sepsis is unfortunately on the increase and is now the leading cause of maternal death reported in the UK Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths. Additionally there are many well-documented fatalities from sepsis in women following termination of pregnancy. To concentrate on the legal position regarding abortion in the light of such a case as that in Galway does not assist our services to pregnant women.
It is clear that maternal mortality in developed countries is rising, in the USA, Canada, Britain, Denmark, Netherlands and other European countries. The last Confidential Enquiry in Britain (which now includes Ireland) recommended a “return to basics” and stated that many maternal deaths are related to failure to observe simple clinical signs such as fever, headache and changes in pulse rate and blood pressure. Many of the failings highlighted in Galway have been described before in these and other reports.
The additional problem of multi-resistant organisms causing infection, largely as a result of antibiotic use and abuse, is a serious cause of concern and may lead to higher death rates in all areas of medicine.
Ireland’s maternal health record is one of the best in the world in terms of our low rate of maternal death (including Galway hospital). The case in Galway was one of the worst cases of sepsis ever experienced in that hospital, and the diagnosis of ESBL septicaemia was almost unprecedented amongst Irish maternity units.
It is important that all obstetrical units in Ireland reflect on the findings of the events in Galway and learn how to improve care for pregnant women. To reduce it to a polemical argument about abortion may lead to more – not fewer – deaths in the future.
Yours sincerely,
Dr John Monaghan, Portiuncula, Galway
Dr Cyril Thornton, Cork Clinic, Cork
Dr Eamon McGuinness, Mt Carmel, Dublin
Dr Trevor Hayes, St Luke’s, Kilkenny
Dr Chris King, Letterkenny General Hospital
Dr Eileen Reilly, Galway Clinic, Galway
Prof John Bonnar, Trinity College Dublin
Prof Eamon O’Dwyer, NUI Galway
Prof Stephen Cusack, CUH
Dr Rory Page, Cavan General Hospital
Dr James Clair, Mercy Hospital, Cork
Stop oppressing women
• You can nearly write the script when it comes to the unbelievable cowardice that has been consistently demonstrated by our politicians. Despite two referendums, pro-life groups supported by the disgraced Catholic Church want a third referendum and to place another article in our Constitution.
You can almost smell the fudge, the suggested six consultants’ approval in the case of suicide, politicians voting against their party whips in an attempt to save their seats in their constituencies.
It’s not so long ago that women were being arrested in Connolly Station after importing condoms on a train from Belfast.
The time has come for legislators to wake up and legislate.
As a country we need to recognise the rights of women and stop oppressing Irish women because it’s the easier political option.
David Moore
Donabate, Co Dublin
Paid like a banker
• Regarding the news item: Gardai want to “be treated like judges” in pay talks – I wish (like a thousand others) that I could be “treated like senior bankers” in our pay talks!
Catherine Ryan
Newbridge, Co Kildare
Road to nowhere
• The roads around the M1 motorway, at Dublin Airport, have recently been changed. To get to Malahide and the north side of Dublin, motorists are being directed on to a slip road which used to lead to the N32 but now it takes them to the R139.
However, there is no R139 road. It seems to have been stolen. The old N32 is still there, taking traffic down to the Malahide Road as efficiently as ever. So where is the R139? If anybody finds it could they please give it back to Fingal County Council. They don’t seem to be too worried about it, so perhaps they don’t realise it has gone missing.
John O’Connor
Raheny, Dublin 5

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