Rain 16th May 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
There is a new Wren and Lesley’s kissed her and got her vital statistics even before he has realised that she isn’t Heather. Heather isn’t best pleased to say the lease. But theynare beingsent on a secret mission. Priceless.
Rain rain and more rain though a little sun at the end of the dday
The Fosdyke saga: The two love birds are still in love, Soames wife leaves him and a mysterious poet appears
I win at Scrabble today, just and gets just under 400, she might get her revenge tomorrow, I hope.


Sir John Burgh
Sir John Burgh, who has died aged 87, was a child refugee from Nazism who worked his way from a wartime aircraft factory, through the higher echelons of the Civil Service, to become Director-General of the British Council and president of Trinity College, Oxford.

Sir John Burgh 
7:12PM BST 15 May 2013
Burgh was appointed head of the British Council (the institution whose role it is to promote British culture abroad) in 1980, at a time when staff morale was at a low ebb due to budget cuts.
Over the next seven years, partly through the weekly “surgeries” he held for staff at all levels, he achieved the remarkable feats of restoring morale; increasing respect for Britain and the Council overseas (a 1983 British Council exhibition of JMW Turner at the Grand Palais in Paris was a particular triumph); and substantially improving its financial position — despite year-on-year reductions in its budget. Appointed for five years, he was asked to stay on for another two.
But Burgh was no government stooge. Buoyed up by a report from an independent committee calling for substantially increased government support for promoting the British arts abroad, in 1986 he used the platform of an appearance at the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to accuse Margaret Thatcher’s government of inflicting grave damage on Britain’s standing overseas.
The government, he said, had ignored the importance of international cultural relations and cut the council’s grant by more than 20 per cent in real terms since 1979.
In an emotional cri de coeur, he argued that it mattered that only a “paltry” number of overseas students were studying in Britain; that in Uruguay the French had succeeded in having English replaced as the language taught in schools; and that in West Germany “even intelligent and educated people have built up an image of Britain consisting of football hooligans, decline, racial prejudice and archaic traditions”.
According to The Times columnist Bernard Levin, an old friend of Burgh’s, such independent-mindedness was held against him by the powers-that-be in Whitehall who, after his retirement from the Council, effectively blackballed him from other public and quasi-public appointments.
As head of the British Council, Burgh had been a member of the academic council of Wilton Park (the Foreign and Commonwealth Office agency which organises conferences on important international issues). He was asked to stay on after he left the Council, only to be informed subsequently by an embarrassed chairman that the Foreign Office had “suggested that this would not be desirable’’. At about the same time, following a valedictory lecture at Chatham House, Burgh agreed to an invitation to join its council — but that invitation too was withdrawn amid much embarrassment.
In 1988 Burgh was asked to become a trustee of the Tate Gallery, but again the invitation was withdrawn after the trustees learned through the Whitehall grapevine that the Prime Minister was unlikely to approve the appointment; and that if the matter were pursued, she would ignore any second recommendation and make her own appointment.
In an article which drew somewhat fanciful parallels between the regime at Number 10 and the courts of Henry VIII and Stalin, Levin wondered why the Prime Minister could not see that “placemen are bad for her hopes of the country’s future, not good? Or that independence of mind, coupled with honesty, is the greatest asset she could have?”
But such disappointments did Burgh no harm at Oxford University, which had famously refused Margaret Thatcher an honorary degree in 1985. In 1987, when the position of president of Trinity College became vacant, the retiring Cabinet Secretary, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, was widely tipped as the front-runner. Instead the dons voted for Burgh, who had ranked below Armstrong in the Civil Service.
John Charles Burgh was born in Vienna on December 9 1925 to Jewish parents who had converted to Roman Catholicism. His father, a barrister, died in 1937. The family’s flat overlooked the city’s Ringstrasse, and Burgh recalled looking out as Hitler toured the city after the Anschluss in an open-top Mercedes Benz, greeted by jubilant crowds.
Shortly afterwards the family learned that their late father’s articled clerk had been helped by the Quakers to move to Britain, and Burgh’s mother decided to follow him.
The family knew nothing of Britain, and Burgh recalled that, in an effort to improve his chances of being accepted as a refugee, he had paid a visit to the chaplain at the British embassy, who taught him the Lord’s Prayer in English and baptised him into the Church of England.
In late 1938 John and his sister Lucy flew from Vienna to Croydon Airport, where they were met by their old friend, the articled clerk. Their mother followed shortly afterwards.
Burgh attended the Friends’ School at Sibford, Oxfordshire, where the only compulsory subjects were woodwork and art (“I could do neither”). As his mother could not afford to pay for his schooling beyond the age of 15, he left to work in an aircraft factory.
In 1946, after several false starts, he gained a place on an evening course at the London School of Economics, and the following year won a bursary to become a full-time student. In 1949 he was elected president of the student union.
On leaving the LSE, Burgh joined the Civil Service, reasoning that, with his background, it was a good idea to work for the state. Although he recalled that his 30-year career in Whitehall had been “punctuated by constant attempts to leave it”, he found the job fascinating.
After early years in the Board of Trade, in 1964 Burgh moved to the Department of Economic Affairs as Principal Private Secretary to George Brown, whom he described as the “most impressive” minister for whom he had worked, but who was so aggressive and difficult that Burgh had pressed, unsuccessfully, for a transfer.
In 1968 Burgh moved to the Department of Employment to become Principal Private Secretary first to Barbara Castle, with whom he worked on In Place of Strife, and then to Robert Carr, helping him to introduce the first Conservative Industrial Relations Act. He recalled the moment when Harold Wilson’s Cabinet caved in to union pressure and rejected In Place of Strife as the “nadir” of his Civil Service career.
In 1971-72 Burgh was seconded to the Community Relations Commission at the invitation of its chairman, Mark Bonham Carter. He returned to Whitehall as deputy chairman of the Central Policy Review Staff under Lord Rothschild, with the rank of deputy secretary in the Cabinet Office. In 1974 he transferred to the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection under Shirley Williams. His last job before leaving the Civil Service was as a deputy secretary in the Department of Trade.
Burgh’s great passion was music, and he served at various times as secretary of the opera committee at Covent Garden; chairman of the National Opera Coordinating Committee; chairman of the board of the Royal Schools of Music; and vice-chairman of the Yehudi Menuhin School. After his retirement he chaired the committee of trustees supervising the publication of the definitive edition of the music of Berlioz. He retired from the presidency of Trinity in 1996.
A long-time supporter of assisted suicide, Burgh was a patron of Dignity in Dying, and in 2011 he spoke out about how his sister and her husband had ended their lives 37 years earlier, with his support, after she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and he was suffering from a degenerative genetic condition that had left him confined to a wheelchair.
John Burgh was appointed CB in 1975 and knighted in 1982.
He married, in 1957, Ann Sturge, who survives him with two daughters.
Sir John Burgh, born December 9 1925, died April 12 2013


Your article (European energy chief puts forward case for funding coal, 12 May) says the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has “hinted it may expand funding of high-carbon coal projects despite mounting pressure from climate change campaigners to rule out such investments”. This suggestion is wrong. The EBRD is not considering an expansion of its funding of coal projects. The EBRD has been pioneering in its development of a sustainable energy initiative which is actively promoting energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources across the regions where it invests. The EBRD may, on a selective basis and taking into account the lack of availability of alternative sources of energy, consider financing coal-fired projects that would replace highly polluting existing plants with new state of the art ones, thus improving energy efficiency and lowering emissions. But there is no consideration of a policy of expanding its funding for coal projects.
Anthony Williams
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development 
• It is disappointing that the transport select committee (Report, 10 May) calls for the expansion of Heathrow, given that millions of Londoners already suffer from the excessive noise and air pollution of an airport that was built in the wrong place. However, in recognising that Britain needs a competitive hub airport and that Heathrow would need a fourth runway, the committee has accidentally made clear why the Davies commission must reject Heathrow expansion and recommend a new airport to the east of London.
Richard Tracey
Transport spokesman, GLA Conservatives

The real reading problem in England is that policymakers in education have not read the research on literacy development (Report, 14 May). Results are very consistent: 1) Direct instruction in grammar and spelling produces very limited results. 2) Nearly all of our knowledge of grammar and spelling is acquired and absorbed through extensive reading. These studies have been appearing in scientific journals regularly for over the last 100 years. Policymakers are free to disagree with the research, but not free to ignore it.
Stephen Krashen
Professor emeritus, University of Southern California
• So only 2% want a bank job (Lloyds boss fears best and brightest students will shun a career in banks, 14 May). What are the brightest and the best intent on bringing to its knees next? And the recent past also raises the question of what exactly was so “bright and best” about that last lot.
Ivor Solomons
• Why is Larry Elliott getting so excited (Report, 14 May)? House prices increasing as wages stagnate or fall, in real terms. Wasn’t this a primary reason household debt soared last time round?
Roger Rees
• Reading about Peter Gumbel’s critique of the French political elite (Report, 15 May) reminds me of the story of the French minister who receives a project proposal from a civil servant. “Yes I can see it works in practice,” he comments, “but does it work in theory?”
Simon Jarrett
Harrow, Middlesex
• All communities are close-knit (Letters, 15 May) and in journalism white shirts – but only white ones – are always “crisp”.
Nick Beale
• The BBC often advertises a “major new series”. I’m still waiting to see a trailer for a “minor new series”.
Martin Fowkes
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire
• Can I remonstrate with anyone other than a football referee?
Richard Clubley
Dronfield, Derbyshire

Randeep Ramesh (Society, 15 May) highlights the conflict for charities between campaigning against the outrageous injustice of the government’s policy of imposing caps, cuts and council tax on poverty incomes and also being paid by the same government to deliver the policy. He describes the vulnerability of charities’ government funding when Tory ministers, “scarred by battles with campaigners”, start a “bout of creative destruction”. The political activities of charities are also limited by the charity commissioners, who might take exception to trustees engaging in mass civil disobedience against such damaging oppression of the poorest citizens.
The effect is to weaken the already vulnerable position of the poorest individuals and families, for whom none of the parliamentary parties makes a convincing stand. The poorest are a minority and rarely vote. All of which calls for enough decent people, who understand the injustice being done, to fund politically independent lobbying organisations, which are not charities, whose sole purpose is the eradication of income poverty, the introduction of fair taxes and the provision of decent housing.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
• Your article on voluntary groups (Society, 15 May) shows the growing demand for their services from the most vulnerable in society. While many groups have seen their income from government and other sources dwindle, the National Lottery’s contribution has steadily increased. Lottery players raise over £30m each week for good causes. While this is an adjunct to, not a substitute for, public funding, it provides a vital lifeline to groups operating in some of our most deprived neighbourhoods. In fact, all the projects highlighted by Mary O’Hara have received Lottery funding. Whether it’s a centre giving advice on employment, a support group for carers, or a social club to reduce isolation for older people, Lottery players should feel proud that they are making such a difference.
Vicki Kennedy
Director, National Lottery Good Causes

You did Sir Christopher Geidt, private secretary to the Queen, a gross disservice (Reports, May 8). As a friend and someone who knows well the facts surrounding the case to which you refer, I am appalled by the smearing attack on him. You insinuate that Geidt has mysterious, if not improper links to MI6 and that, as someone who won a libel action against John Pilger, he has too much authority over the proposed royal charter on the press. Both allegations are rubbish.
I have known Christopher Geidt for more than 20 years, initially because of a mutual interest in Cambodia. In 1989, while working at a research institute and with an established academic interest in Indochina, Christopher Geidt went there with a friend, Anthony de Normann, to visit. So did many other people. It was an exciting place to visit. The beautiful country was beginning to open up after two dreadful decades of war, Khmer Rouge communist terror and Vietnamese occupation. In October 1991 a historic UN peace agreement was signed in Paris, whereby all the parties, including the Khmer Rouge and Vietnam, agreed to hold elections in Cambodia.
Geidt and de Normann were seen in Cambodia by a Labour MP who in turn spoke to John Pilger, who had made a series of films about Cambodia. In his new film, Cambodia – the Betrayal, Pilger accuses the two men of training the murderous Khmer Rouge communists in the use of land mines. Geidt and de Normann sued Pilger and Central Television; they won their case and Central had to pay them “substantial damages”. Both Central and Pilger apologised in open court for the claims they had made and made unqualified retractions.
The Guardian attempts to throw doubt on this and other judgments in their favour by quoting the subsequent bluster about how the case was lost only because the British government refused to allow crucial evidence and witnesses to come to court. The insinuation was that Pilger was right and only government “gagging” prevented him from establishing his case against Geidt and de Normann. This is nonsense.
I next came across Geidt in the Balkans. He was working with Carl Bildt (former Swedish foreign minister and prime minister) when Bildt was the EU’s principal mediator in the wars of former Yugoslavia. I was writing a book about the UN and saw him often in Geneva, Zagreb and elsewhere; I remember noting that he was working extremely hard with other diplomats, soldiers and politicians first to stop the bloodshed and then to implement the Dayton peace plan. The Guardian glided past this important work, preferring to quote anonymous insinuations that he had “a touch of the spook about him”.
Perhaps even more shocking are your attempts to assert that “the mysterious” Geidt is playing a hugely important part in constructing the royal charter. In fact, the Queen’s private secretary has nothing to do with the substance of the charter – or any other political initiative. The Queen acts only on the advice of her ministers. The charter comes only from the government and the views of the Queen and her private secretary on its merits are irrelevant. Sir Christopher Geidt is a man of great intelligence, honour, experience and diligence. And humour. The monarchy is lucky to have such a public servant at its heart. And so are we. You owe him an apology.
William Shawcross
Author of Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia

You ran a story that jobcentres were requiring jobseekers to conduct a strengths test as a condition of receiving benefits, and described the test as “bogus” (Report, 1 May). Neither of these claims is correct. The test is not a requirement and jobseekers cannot lose their benefits as a result of not doing it. Furthermore the test is not “bogus” as claimed in your story. It was only described as such because one blogger found they could game the test when putting in certain unusual sequences of answers. Like any test of this kind, meaningless responses to the questions will lead to meaningless results. The test is supported by a strong academic literature including widely cited refereed journals. We too often define people by what they cannot do, rather than what they can. Exercises such as this test help rebuild self-confidence and identify character strengths, such as being good with people. It would be a shame if that confidence, and help, is knocked by a cheap exercise in showing it is possible to game a test.
David Halpern Cabinet Office behavioural insights team, Professor Martin Seligman University of Pennsylvania

It’s good to hear that £9,000 tuition fees are purchasing 18 minutes extra teaching per week (Rise in university fees outpaces tuition time, 15 May), but it’s difficult to find out where this is being delivered to arts students at one prestigious London university college. Students are offered eight hours of contact time per week (four of lectures, four of seminars) in the first term, seven per week in the second and no contact time at all in the third term. This amounts to 21 weeks of lectures and seminars during the year ie 165 hours at an average cost of £54.54 per hour per lecture or seminar. The quality of the lectures is reported to be mainly poor. Postgraduate students run the seminars and the quality of these is reported to be of better quality than the lectures. An explanation for this is that university reputations are based on the quality of their research and researchers are required to lecture undergraduates. But good researchers do not necessarily make good lecturers.
Nicola Dandridge of Universities UK states that “tuition fees also pay for far more than contact time (and) cover all manner of services including student support facilities, employment advice and training, library services and clubs”. Given that the rate for my language evening class at a different prestigious London college is £7.50 per hour, this suggests £7,755 of the £9,000 fees must go towards “services other than contact time”. Ms Dandridge does not mention that arts students heavily subsidise science students who are offered between 20 to 35 hours per week of contact time. How can universities rationalise charging arts students £27,000 for a degree during which approximately 62 days (165 hours x three) of tuition have been provided?
Rosetta Delisle
• Are we to imagine that the nine-fold increase in most fees since 2006 ought to produce: (a) a nine-fold increase in student/tutor contact time; (b) a nine-fold increase in the “quality” of teaching; (c) a nine-fold increase in the development of students’ scholastic competence? Meanwhile, concerns over value seem silent on students’ actual attendance at available lectures and seminars, and equally oblivious to the online revolution that enables students to enjoy endless hours of engagement with their subject and their tutors through blended learning. Of course, to question simplistic assumptions about the relationship of the cost of the learning experience to its value is just a cynical swipe at the commodification of all human experience, isn’t it? Discuss.
Paul McGilchrist
London Metropolitan university 
• This phenomenon – the rise in tuition fees being accompanied by less hours of tuition – started well before I retired from university teaching in 2004. Students are encouraged to apply to the best universities. These are graded according to their research ranking. University administrators, understandably, expect lecturers to prioritise their research and publication records. Not surprisingly, departments resort to all sorts of wheezes to reduce the number of hours their staff devote to teaching and increase those they spend on research. Even though they are being short-changed, students don’t object as all they want is a good degree (which their tutors ensure they still get). Until universities are funded according to the excellence of their teaching and not the excellence of their research, this sorry state will continue.
Arthur Gould
Loughborough, Leicestershire
• It is easy to underestimate the real costs of development of high-quality distance learning materials and robust methods of assessment (Will Moocs be the scourge or saviour of higher education, 13 May). High-quality distance learning cannot be developed and delivered on the cheap. That maybe why the current drop-out rates for massive, open, online courses (Moocs) are estimated at greater than 90%, which would be unacceptable for most university degree programmes.
Moocs are important and exciting for opening up access to higher education. But for those in government and elsewhere who think it’s going to provide a quick fix for escalating deficits associated with student loans, think again. Development of personalised learning by harnessing technological advances is going to transform higher education. But it will require substantial, long-term investment and, for those who pay the bills, considerable patience in realising a return.
Professor Stephen Caddick
Vice provost enterprise, UCL


In the run-up to a referendum, who will tell the truth about the EU – and will anyone listen if they do?
As a result of lies and half-truths fed to them over decades, huge numbers of the public believe that British ministers have no say in what “Brussels” decides, that the Commission is an over-inflated bureaucracy staffed by incompetent and lazy time-servers, and that the chief aim is to remove the sovereignty of member states and make them all identical. They think that health and safety rules all come from “Europe” and that the EU is responsible for policing human rights.
They know nothing about the Commission’s work on reducing and simplifying legislation. They have no clue that harmonisation is designed to facilitate global trade and that, in many cases, the US and China voluntarily adopt European norms for this reason. They also do not know that countries like Norway and Switzerland, which are not members, still have to comply with most EU legislation in order to trade with the Union. And if the euro is such a disaster, why has the pound been losing value against it? 
A few years ago, I asked the BBC Europe Correspondent in Brussels why he never filed positive stories about the EU. He replied that he had given up trying because they only ever used the negative ones.  
Politicians and the media have found it very convenient since we joined the EU to use Brussels as a whipping boy. It will be a hard task now to start telling the real story. 
Dave Skinner
Tervuren, Belgium
For David Cameron to say, as you reported yesterday, that there will be “no more concessions” to Tory eurosceptics is patently risible. Like Oliver Twist, they will always be back for more until they force us into the status of an island with no say in our natural regional market, and without a special relationship with the US, which is founded in its eyes in being its gateway to the EU.
Philip Goldenberg
Woking, Surrey
Your letters in support of the EU seem to me to have three characteristics in common:
Fear – the unproven and indeed unargued assumption that leaving will inevitably do us harm.
Nonsense – the EU “kept the peace” (Nato did that); we have “influenced it” (show me the evidence?).
Abuse of opponents – they are “little englanders” or “xenophobes”.
I personally find such “arguments” neither convincing nor attractive – and certainly no substitute for a democratic vote on the matter.
R S Foster
In response to Robert Edward’s assertion (letters, 14 May) that you either belong to a club and obey the rules, or you leave: I would suggest that a third, and better, option would be to stay in and work with other members to change the rules. We are not alone in Europe in believing that not everything is perfect in the EU.
Paula Saunders
St Albans
Mixed schools will fix ‘us and them’ mentality
David McKittrick raises some good points in his article about the continuing problems in Northern Ireland (“Terrorism is the backdrop against which we have to operate”, 14 May). However, both he and the interviewees miss out on an idea that could have a far greater impact than many current plans. Integrated schooling has been shown to reduce inter-community violence by removing, or at least diminishing, the “us and them” aspect, which is the root of sectarian conflicts.
The UK as a whole seems to be reluctant to adopt completely secular schooling, but it may be an important way forward for a part of this country that has been deeply divided for too long.
Alexander Leitch
Your report “Plans for first mixed Catholic and Protestant school in Northern Ireland” (3 May) implies that this is the first initiative of its kind. You fail to mention the Integrated Schools movement that began more than 30 years ago and was resisted strongly by religious institutions and politicians. The first of more than 60 of these genuinely integrated schools was opened in the early 1980s. Social divisions remain in Northern Ireland and the school system is no exception. The new plans for Omagh suggest that the schools will remain segregated by religion but share a campus. It is hypocritical for politicians from sectarian parties to congratulate themselves on a move that will continue to support education divided along religious lines.
The Integrated Schools movement has always struggled to get and maintain government funding and it is one of the few initiatives in Northern Ireland that is truly non-sectarian.
Dr Andrew McGrath  
London W6
Children are too young for classics
I, too, am a retired English teacher and I agree entirely with Dane Young (Letters, 15 May) about Middlemarch. It would be wrong to spoil the future appreciation of this novel, my favourite, by asking children to read it.
A studious and well-read teenager in the 1950s, I was fortunately not required to do so until I was at university; even then, I didn’t grasp all its subtleties. I re-read it from time to time and I still find more.
There are ways of making “the classics” (particularly Shakespeare and Chaucer) accessible to young people, but reading a novel is a private activity, and, in this case, an intense experience, which I don’t think a child should be subjected to. I do wonder how much the Education Secretary and his advisers know about these things. Has anyone asked an English teacher?
Christina Jones
Retford, Nottinghamshire
Dr Nuttman (Letters, 15 May) is right to question any correlation between intellect and teaching ability. More than 60 years ago, my late mother-in-law’s mother, who had left school aged about 12, decided when middle-aged to learn some mathematics. She happened to know an Oxbridge PhD of great repute in the subject and persuaded him to initiate her into some basics.
During the first lesson, he said, “and the decimal point goes there”. When asked why, he answered: “Because it does”. He proved incapable of explaining the function of the decimal point. There were no more lessons.
It can be argued that those who have struggled to learn a subject are likely to understand the pitfalls, and thus become better teachers.
S Lawton
Kirtlington, Oxfordshire
Asians are no longer a group
Your report (“Council boss insists she will not resign after seven found guilty of child rape”, 15 May) refers to men accused of sex- grooming of white girls as “Asian men”. This is misleading because “Asian” is no longer the composite identity it once was. Today, British Asians – because of successive governments’ policy of multiculturalism – do not see themselves as members of one racial group, but as Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. It is, therefore, time the media and those who compile crime statistics took cognisance of this social reality.
Gants Hill, Essex
The story about the Oxford paedophile gang (15 May) is leading some parts of the media to stir up trouble by focusing on the ethnicity of the gang members. The same media organisations do not pay attention to the ethnic origin of the paedophiles or rapists when they are whites. Covering the issue with such double standards is wrong, dangerous and more likely to cause racial tension.
Mohammed Samaana
Subsidies slashed as commuters rise
Subsidy per passenger journey in London is less than half that in the North-west of England and significantly lower than in the North-east (letters, 14 May). Subsidy on the London bus network has fallen by 40 per cent in the past few years, while passenger numbers have risen to record highs.  
London’s population is set to grow by around a million in a decade, and it is vital that we invest in public transport to meet that demand. This will not only deliver greater tax revenues for the UK as a whole, but also directly support more than 40,000 jobs and thousands of apprenticeships outside London and the South-east.
This is not a zero-sum game.
Sir Peter Hendy CBE
London’s Transport  Commissioner, London SW1
Never mind the hours…
Owen Jones’s comments on Boris Johnson’s attitude towards British workers are well made (13 May). However, his argument is somewhat undermined by the use of statistics – it is not about how many hours are worked but output. Is it that others in the “developed world” fulfil their obligations more effectively than we in the UK? Are the shortcomings about worker performance, or resource management?
Charles Lawrence
Ripon, Yorkshire
Eleanor Rigby did really exist
Someone should point out to UK Gold (report, 13 May) that Eleanor Rigby did really exist; she is buried in the graveyard at St Peter’s Church in Woolton, Liverpool. Paul McCartney was leaning on the wall reading the gravestones and spotted her name. The church is attached to Bishop Martin Primary School on whose playing field Paul was invited to play with the Quarrymen featuring one J Lennon.
Robert Guinan
Upper-class twits
I cannot believe it, the Tories are voting against their own Queen’s speech. Monty Python did a sketch called the “Upper-class twit race”, but that wasn’t as funny or incomprehensible as this.
Steven Calrow
The way forward
I am a great admirer of Satyajit Das’s writing on economics. He invariably creates light where others sow confusion. However, I would take issue with him on a point he makes in this week’s Midweek View article (Business, 15 May). He says that ‘‘all brands of politics and economics are deeply rooted in the idea of robust economic growth”. This is not strictly accurate. Green politics and economics have long postulated that low- or no-growth economics might be the way forward in a world of increasing population and demand but decreasing resource availability.
Keith O’Neill
A policeman’s life
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, is valuing a police officer’s life more than others if she forces criminals to serve life without parole for killing an officer (Report, 15 May). Will the murder of a chief constable mean solitary confinement for life?
Kartar Uppal
West Midlands


‘Where meetings with controversial, but lawful, speakers take place, the priority is ensuring that events are appropriately chaired’
Sir, Your story on extremism conflates two separate issues: the question of segregated meetings and whether extremist speakers are allowed on university campuses (“Extremists preaching to students in Britain”, May 13).
Institutions have a legal obligation to promote free speech, and that may involve allowing controversial, indeed sometimes offensive, opinions to be expressed. But universities draw the line at speakers who break, or are likely to break, the law. Where illegal behaviour is identified, action is taken and there is good liaison with the police and security services.
If organisers intend to segregate events, they should state this clearly when requesting use of university facilities. This will allow universities to approve or reject the request.
Where meetings with controversial, but lawful, speakers take place, the priority is ensuring that events are appropriately chaired and that opposing views can be put forward to allow proper debate.
The easy solution would be to ban and boycott discussions on controversial subjects. But that would be wrong. It would serve only to drive issues underground and lead to speakers going unchallenged, which is the biggest risk of all.
Nicola Dandridge
Chief Executive, Universities UK
Sir, Ruth Gledhill (May 13) describes how an “Islamist” photographed a panel of speakers in order to identify them and threatened to visit them at their homes and murder them and their families if they spoke “negatively” about the Prophet. What is extraordinary is that she describes this behaviour as “protest”.
It is nothing of the sort. It is intimidation, harassment and has elements of stalking. Its motive was to impose censorship on the panel who intended to debate the issues of Sharia and human rights.
The article mentions amendments to the Public Order Act 1986. But it omits to refer to sections 111 and 112 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. This introduced a specific offence of stalking. Tracing individuals to their homes to intimidate and harass clearly amounts to stalking, and this particular individual should be arrested and charged accordingly.
If convicted he could face a sentence of up to five years’ imprisonment.
Tim Lawson-Cruttenden
Co-author, Blackstone’s Harassment Law and Practice
Sir, While UK universities are penetrated by radical Islamic extremists to promulgate their messages of hatred and inflame the passions of inexperienced minds, the Vice-Chancellors look on supinely and with much hand-wringing as if they can do nothing about it. Every university has a room bookings officer and due processes for the use of expensive space, including the reasons for its use.
Universities have powers to stop this corrosive phenomenon. It is time they realised that the battle — yes, battle — to stem Islamic fundamentalism is a huge one in which universities ought to have a key role.
Michael Batchelor
Sir, Muslim extremists hold hate-based and gender-segregated meetings at universities across the UK, but these are only discovered when a study is carried out (reports, May 13). But, it seems, none of the many tolerant and law-abiding people who attended — who must have known that these meetings were taking (or had taken) place — expressed concern or reported these to the university or other authority.
Peter G. Little
Brookmans Park, Herts

‘Outside the EU we would have greater freedom to develop our own trade policy, but much less ability to get that policy accepted by others’
Sir, Your correspondents who advocate UK withdrawal from the EU are right to say that the UK would still be free to trade with the EU. But outside the single market the UK would have little or no influence over the conditions on which that trade is conducted. Equally, the UK would be an independent member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and free to seek to expand our exports to the developing world. But outside the EU our influence on trade negotiations, whether globally in the WTO or bilaterally with countries such as the US, would diminish sharply.
Independence is one thing: influence another. Outside the EU we would have greater freedom to develop our own trade policy, but much less ability to get that policy accepted by others. The price of influence may well be co-operation with others and acquiescence in some positions that we would not choose for ourselves, but it is a price worth paying.
Christopher Roberts
UK Director-General of Trade Policy, 1987-97
Woldingham, Surrey
Sir, It is strange that Conservative MPs are getting so excited about the prospect of legislation requiring an “in-out” referendum on the EU in 2017 (report, May 14). It is a fundamental principle of English constitutional law that no Parliament can bind its successors. Accordingly, even if the Bill were to be enacted despite Mr Clegg’s declared opposition, it would only have effect if the Conservatives won the next election. Any other government could simply repeal the Act.
Robert Rhodes, QC
London WC2
Sir, You claim in your leading article (May 4) that “the UKIP prescription of sheltering behind tariff walls would be to the detriment of the nation”. UKIP is in favour of the free movement of goods and services. What we are against is the free movement of people.
William Dartmouth, MEP
UKIP spokesman on international trade

If its use was to be countenanced, then the practice of adding dye to the water should be reintroduced, to help to identify suspects
Sir, While serving with the RAF in Singapore in the 1960s I had the dubious distinction of being a member of a “riot squad”. The approach used was, to say the least, “heavy-handed” to a degree that would never be countenanced today. However, water cannon (letters, May 15) was available and one feature of its use was that the water contained an indelible dye which enabled the police to identify those who had been present at the disturbance.
The use of dye may seem somewhat archaic today but CCTV is not infallible or, in many instances, crystal clear. Finding suspects with dye on their skin would do much to complement any other evidence the police might have. It might also act as a deterrent by making suspects’ relatives, friends and colleagues aware that they had been involved.
Dennis A. Hewitt

If the Labour Party is ‘a creature of the trade unions’ then the Conservative Party is ‘a creature of big business’
Sir, You allege that “The Labour Party is in danger of becoming a creature of the trade unions” (“Cash Flow”, leading article, May 14). It is worth pointing out that to most of us the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition has already become a “creature of big business” and cares nothing about the vast majority of the rest of the population.
Cllr David Hibbert (Lab)
Chadderton, Oldham

‘Arbitration opens the way for cheaper resolution of civil legal cases, benefiting both complainants and news publishers’
Sir, Your report, “Local press held to ransom after Leveson, say editors” (May 13), paints an alarming picture, with one editor quoted as saying, “The proposal for an arbitration arm for any new regulator is a clear and present danger to the future of the local press and is a surefire way of lawyers making money out of us.”
You supply no balance to this view. Arbitration opens the way for cheaper resolution of civil legal cases, benefiting both complainants and news publishers. Notably, local papers will be able to defend cases where previously they often could not afford to.
The Royal Charter that was approved by all parties in Parliament in March has strong public support, as the polls prove. It delivers what the year-long Leveson inquiry recommended after it heard evidence from every interested group, including the national, regional and local press. The Charter is also rigorous in protecting journalism from political interference.
Professor Brian Cathcart
Director, Hacked Off


SIR – Lapis lazuli (report, May 11) was used extensively by the artists who illustrated the fabled Winchester Bible, commissioned in the 1160s by the first bishop of Winchester, Henri de Blois, who was the grandson of William the Conqueror.
Then, as now, found only in Afghanistan, lapis cost six times the price of the 24ct gold also used but, as Henri demanded only the very best of materials, both were lavishly applied. Today, the lapis and the triple-laid gold leaf, enhancing the finished illustrations, are as fresh and vital as the day they were completed. Many visitors come to Winchester Cathedral especially to view this priceless and unique treasure.
Adrian Fleetwood
Winchester, Hampshire

SIR – I agree with Benedict Brogan (Comment, May 14) – the Tory party seems to have gone collectively mad over Europe.
As the Conservative Party is busy tearing itself apart, as in John Major’s premiership, the electorate is primarily worried about unemployment, job insecurity, job prospects for the young and the rising cost of living, while most wages and salaries are stagnant. It is time for Tory MPs to concentrate on these matters and wait for 2017 for the EU referendum.
There are many things that are in need of reform concerning the EU, but the fact that America wishes us to remain a member should have some significance for all parties if Britain wishes to keep punching above its weight.
Valerie Crews
Beckenham, Kent
SIR – I read with interest Boris Johnson’s article (Comment, May 13) about the pros and cons of EU membership. However, what about the timescale and the administrative cost to Britain of leaving?
Related Articles
The illuminating paint more expensive than gold
15 May 2013
After more than 30 years of membership, we now have thousands of regulations, orders and acts pertaining to many aspects of daily life, including trade, which, while enacted by command of Her Majesty, are European-based and may have to be revoked or repealed. Even small changes in legislation can lead to unintended consequences, so there is a danger of replacing one legal framework with another that is inferior. Will the task of making changes of this magnitude cost hundreds of millions and take decades, or is there an efficient way of achieving the legislative break with Brussels?
The cost of leaving the EU must be weighed in the balance when considering our membership.
C B Rosenberg
Farnham, Surrey
SIR – The posturing on legislation for a referendum on the EU to take place in 2017 graphically illustrates the limitations of our own form of democracy. The Swiss, with the support of 100,000 votes, can call a referendum on any subject at any time.
They settled the matter of remaining outside the EU years ago with a substantial majority, and have prospered ever since.
Hugh Ellwood
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire
SIR – Fran Foxon (Letters, May 14) suggests that Britain would forfeit subsidies from unaudited accounts in Brussels if we were to leave the European Union.
The electorate needs to reflect on the current arrangement – £52 million is sent daily to Brussels, of which about half is returned in the form of subsidies.
I would prefer the British government to be without federal hindrance from Brussels, and assume payment of all relevant subsidies. The balance should be used for debt reduction and sensible projects within our islands.
Athol Forsyth
Luminous horse riders
SIR – With regard to high-visibility jackets worn by riders that resemble those used by mounted police officers (Letters, May 13), surely the most important concern is to keep both riders and horses safe. If they can clearly be seen by drivers, does it really matter if they look like mounted police?
As for the public who feel they are being deceived, is that really such a bad thing? One can draw an analogy with the situation of seeing a “maintenance car” on the motorway whose livery and stripes closely resemble a police car.
Although sometimes annoying, it is a very effective way of slowing cars to the correct speed limit.
Pamela Orsborn
Crondall, Hampshire
SIR – My wife rides her horse on the roads to and from bridleways in the Lingfield area of Surrey. She is regularly put in danger by motorists who sound their horns or rev their engines deliberately to startle the horse, usually grinning through their window as they speed by.
No doubt if apprehended they would claim it was because they were angry that my wife was impersonating a police rider. But driving in a way that deliberately aims to startle a horse should be a serious road offence, whether the rider was dressed like Lady Godiva or the Lone Ranger.
Dr David Cottam
Dormansland, Surrey
SIR – The problem would surely be solved by officers wearing an exclusive visibility vest of a distinct light blue. That may lose a little in visibility, but it would be compensated for by being “police-only”.
Alan Douglas
East Grinstead, West Sussex
Watershed newsroom
SIR – Newsrooms with a view (letters, May 14) are nothing new: they just come in and out of fashion.
Some 30 years ago, the BBC’s Nine o’clock News was presented against a backdrop of the newsroom. That year’s Morecambe and Wise Christmas show had a sketch of a newscaster gamely reading a bulletin while behind him an office party was in full swing with much drunkenness.
The public thought it was hilarious: those of us working at ITN thought it was a fair depiction of television newsrooms everywhere at that time.
Philip Moger
East Preston, West Sussex
You’ve been framed
SIR – Rudyard Kipling was not the first prominent figure in Britain to be seen wearing spectacles in public (Letters, May 13). Queen Victoria accepted spectacles for reading in 1877, but it was only in 1899 that she consented to wear them in public. There is a photograph of her disembarking from the Royal Yacht following her return from her tour of Ireland in 1900 where she can be seen wearing them.
The spectacles were inherited by her granddaughter, Princess Marie Louise, and they appear, together with the spectacle case, in a photograph in the latter’s book, My Memories of Six Reigns, published in 1956.
Donald Griffiths
Wednesbury, Staffordshire
SIR – The Spanish term for pince-nez is quevedos, named after the writer Francisco de Quevedo.
Several contemporary portraits show him wearing prominent round-rimmed spectacles, prescribed for his myopia. He thus predates Edmund Burke, a member of the Whig party, by more than a century.
Eric Miller
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Out-of-hours doctors
SIR – In comparing veterinary practices with the NHS service, Philip Johnston (Comment, May 14) does not mention the inverted pyramid of “mind-your-backs” management which sucks up resources in the NHS; this does not exist in veterinary practices.
Secondly, Mr Johnson recommends that access to the NHS should be funded by an insurance policy. It already is – it’s called National Insurance. The remedy to the problems with NHS out-of-hours is simply to conduct radical surgery on the bloated NHS management.
Brian D C Holden
Westbury, Wiltshire
SIR – I live alone, am elderly and twice recently was feeling wretched in the middle of Saturday night. I rang our local surgery and was transferred to a call centre in Birmingham, but all they could offer was to see that my doctor had a note on his desk on Monday morning.
There are six doctors in our local practice; surely they could take a turn to be on call at weekends. It would only happen once every six weeks.
Nora Jackson
Uttoxeter, Staffordshire
Why are we waiting?
SIR – I was amused to read that some applicants had spent four hours in the warmth of their own homes queuing online for Proms tickets (Letters, May 14).
I queued for a chilly eight hours at the Albert Hall only to be told, on finally reaching the box office, that the tickets I wanted had sold out.
After complaining to staff that they need to revise their current procedures to speed up Proms “in person” ticket sales (I counted only 40 people an hour going though to the ticket booths), I was told that after an internal review they had optimised the process to be as fast as possible.
Who did this review?
Dr Michele Hill-Perkins
London W14
Love at first call
SIR – Residents of our village have also purchased its telephone box from BT (Letters, May 14). Next Saturday will see it officially “twinned” with its counterpart in Thurlestone, Devon, in what we believe will be the first such arrangement.
A deputation from Thurlestone will visit Marden to seal the relationship.
Malcolm Nurick
Devizes, Wiltshire
Succession to peerages is not an issue of fairness
SIR – Proponents of the campaign to alter the succession to peerages (Letters, May 13) profess their aim “to resolve the situation as fairly as possible”. But this issue has little to do with fairness.
How can it be “fair” that an eldest child succeeds (regardless of sex), and not the youngest, or another? Perhaps succession should require an IQ test? Or a lottery or a ballot?
What is truly unfair, surely, is the fact that any woman in the land can make herself a peeress by marrying a peer, whereas no man can become a peer save by inheritance.
Nikolai Tolstoy
Southmoor, Berkshire
SIR – Parliament could easily enact legislation to enable the eldest child of a family to inherit a title, irrespective of gender. What our lawmakers should carefully consider is whether it is right to constrain the Royal Prerogative in this way.
All titles derive from the Sovereign as the fount of honour. In spite of changes in statute law to prevent hereditary peers from (except in a few cases) sitting in the House of Lords, successive governments have been careful not to interfere with the Crown’s right of patronage in granting honours and the form in which it does so.
The proposed change would put the granting of future titles under the control of Parliament, and over time the logical progression would be for honours to become politicised to an extent unacceptable by society.
Jeremy Goldsmith
Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – The controversy on the penalty points system has more than a passing interest for me. I am a retired chief superintendent and I was the first head of the Garda National Traffic Policy Bureau. The actions taken then resulted in a major improvement in our road fatality statistics. This was achieved through interagency co-operation, political will, and most of all, public support.
After retiring I carried out an examination of the penalty points system for the Garda Ombudsman Commission, which was submitted to the Minister of Justice. This report examined and made recommendations on the matters of current controversy.
The current debate undermines the credibility of the successful enforcement and awareness action taken by the Garda Síochána which has been a major factor in improving our road safety record.
It also further undermines garda morale which is fragile enough today. It belittles the fine work, which has been done by the force.
Essentially we need a system that is fair, open and transparent and confusion- free. No we don’t have such a system now. There is no exemption for Dáil deputies and Deputy Ming’s explanation is derisory.
Discretion is a necessary element in such a system but discretion should be exercised in an open robust manner and this onus should not be placed on one individual, such as a local garda superintendent.
Obviously such discretion should be process-driven and open to public scrutiny. Well what should we do once and for all?
Simply publish on the web the key conditions which apply to all, including TDs. These questions have all been asked and answered in many other jurisdictions and frankly there is no mystery on their construction.
The success of our road safety campaigns depends on acceptance and support from the widest cross section of society.
Unfortunately some of the explanations made by individuals who allegedly benefited from “home town decisions” will be found to be self-serving, but frankly I think the real challenge is to learn the lessons and make the necessary reforms now. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Dr Eoin O’Malley defends robustly the indefensibly over-rigid Irish party whip system (May 7th).
The whip system – and the gross imbalance between the leadership of political parties and their individual elected officials that it perpetuates – is one thing I cannot accept. Dr O’Malley calls the whip a “voluntary arrangement”. But when aspirants to elective office are seeking (ie, begging) to be ordained their party’s nominees, just how “voluntary” is it from the outset?
Moreover, how is it at all reasonable that Irish political parties demand that their elected members march in lockstep, like unthinking sheep, with their leadership on each and every single vote in the Oireachtas? Dare to go off the reservation – whether on an issue of conscience (abortion is not the only such issue) or on a matter that is vitally important to one’s constituents – on just one vote and the penalty is typically banishment to the political wilderness.
This being the case, what incentive is there for the overwhelming majority of Oireachtas members who belong to political parties to engage fully with and examine carefully all the myriad matters they vote on when they are simply going to be told how to vote anyway?
Furthermore, how can commentators who defend the status quo criticise backbench TDs for engaging in clientelism, when that is now the only way that they can distinguish themselves in any way as individuals come election time?
I’m afraid that as long as the whip’s extreme rigidity is maintained, it is anything but a “red herring”, as Dr O’Malley alleges. And given the unprecedented level of scrutiny the party whip system is currently receiving, I’m cautiously optimistic that reform could happen in future. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I was beyond perturbed to read that, as a Dublin city resident, I will soon have to prove how I dispose of my waste and prove I have a contract with a waste-operator or face a €75 on-the-spot fine from Dublin City Council (Front page, May 15th).
When disposing of my waste I go to my local shop, buy bin-tags with cash, put a tag on my bin and off it goes. The same process is used for recycling.
Should a council bureaucrat rock up to my house demanding evidence of where the empty packet of ham from last week’s lunch went I won’t be able to satisfy them.
I dispose of all my waste responsibly, but, like many law-abiding citizens, I fear I will now be subject to unwanted and unfair council intrusion and harassment. Dublin City Council should reconsider this new rule immediately. – Yours, etc,
Kirwan Street Cottages,

Sir, – With waiting times for the National Car Test now on a par with those for public health service appointments, one is left curious as to when the parallel, private system will be created to enable the well-heeled to jump the queue.
Further examination of the website reveals that such a system already exists, but only for those in the motor trade. Surely free market economics require that this be made available to the populace as a whole? – Yours, etc,
Shanganagh Road,

Sir, – Patrick Talbot (May 10th) correctly points to the issue of desertion and its context, however, in his contribution he avoids the fact that those accused of desertion have an inalienable right to adduce evidence in their defence pursuant to military law. Mr Talbot appears to be echoing the mantra that constitutional imperatives can be abrogated when it suits a political agenda.
The commendable action of the Minister for Defence supported by his staff and members from all sides in Dáil and Seanad Éireann in bringing the Amnesty Bill to a conclusion is an event of historical significance and in the coming weeks a private commemorative event for our families will conclude our effort. In time one hopes Mr Talbot can find space for those veterans and former defence forces personnel who lie in eternal silence on the various battlefields of the second World War, who paid one hell of a price for the freedoms we have in Europe today.
In the meantime, our old soldiers can now fade away with dignity and our families live out their lives with some semblance of honour restored. – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:

• I was delighted to read about the Government’s intention to develop a Celtic Tiger memorial theme park, to be known as Chancer’s World (‘The Irish Fantasist’, April 32).
Also in this section
Bruton had his shot at politics
Church’s weapon is a blunt one
Protect partners who are pregnant
The centrepiece will be ‘The Bertie Ride to Oblivion’, the world’s longest rollercoaster.
A large bouncy castle, ‘The Seanad’, will enliven those who have difficulty finding a productive outlet for their lives, other than jumping up and down. Here the judiciary can recover from their Shattered hopes of endless idle days.
A terrifying experience will be offered by the Priory House of Horrors. You will be taken into a world where health and safety inhibitions are out the window; though it might cost you an arm and a leg.
The Squanderer will offer an imaginative adventure through a series of bank loans and mortgages where you will experience the thrill of saying goodbye to your life’s savings.
The Developer, sponsored by the DBA (Dodgy Builders’ Association), will send you hurtling through a collection of unfinished properties, incorporating a water feature created by the imaginative use of faulty plumbing.
The Ciara Cake, sponsored by Sean Quinn, will be the largest wedding cake ever baked. Participants in this attraction will be taken on a miniature railway through this obscenely large confection and allowed to eat as much as they wish as they travel through.
The politics experience, The Junket, will take you on a meaningless long trip with all the family. A special prize will be given to the participant who returns with a single useful idea.
The Run Away Gravy Train is expected to be the most popular attraction, especially in government circles, for whom it is a most enriching experience.
The Guess the Weight of the Banker’s Bonus competition will provide a light-hearted ending to the day.
The attraction will be opened by Cardinal Sean Brady as the church is sponsoring the death-defying Leap of Faith.
Philip O’Neill
Edith Road, Oxford
Rubbish food
• Why is it that the food in many of our restaurants is still so poor?
Like many other people these days, my partner and I rarely go out to dinner any more – we just can’t afford it. So when we do, it’s a pretty big deal and we go with high hopes, yet invariably we’re disappointed.
Last Wednesday evening, we decided to try a recently opened restaurant. Firstly, we had to wait at least 45 minutes for our meals to arrive – despite the fact that the restaurant wasn’t overly busy.
Secondly, by the time our food arrived we were starving, but the portions were mean to say the least.
My partner’s salmon and mash was only slightly more generous than mine, but my vegetarian lasagne was a sad sight on the plate with some green leaves and, somewhat bizarrely, miniature slices of brown bread.
It took me all of six mouthfuls to finish the lasagne. After complaining about the portion, I was offered more – which arrived 15 minutes later, and could not be finished because, having apparently been reheated from frozen, it was still freezing cold in the middle.
Thirdly, the meals themselves were edible but a long way from delicious.
I just can’t understand it – why does this keep happening? And why, in particular, is the quality of the vegetarian meals on menus always so poor? Is it too much to expect to get value for money and enjoyable food?
We both left feeling really hard done by. We want to support local restaurants but don’t serve us rubbish and don’t make us feel like we have just thrown away our hard-earned, ever-scarce money.
G Williamson
School of terror
• Kathleen Ryan writes that many people today in their 50s and 60s can’t read or write because they were labelled dunces and left at the back of the class (Letters, May 10).
This is partly true – the reason that most of these people are illiterate is because of the terror they faced on a daily basis. In those days school masters/mistresses/brothers assaulted children who weren’t able to keep up with lessons by slapping them on the hands with a cane, supplied by the State. They would get smacked without warning in the face, they’d have their hair pulled and ears twisted, and some had their heads banged against the wall panelling.
This savagery was allowed take place right up until 1982, but why the parents of Ireland allowed their kids to suffer at the hands of these brutes remains a mystery. There were some good teachers who never laid a finger on a child, but some of those savages who were let loose on the kids in those days were sadists.
Paddy O’Brien
Balbriggan, Co Dublin
Nature’s choice
• Surely David Quinn’s defence of fee-paying schools is contradictory to the constitutional ethic, demanding that the children of the nation be treated equally. Surely also it is plain common sense that nature does not, of itself breed intelligence according to economic circumstances. A potential talented doctor, engineer or artist can issue from any womb, regardless of address or parents’ salary.
One must ask what, therefore, is Mr Quinn’s underlying intent? The status quo is helping the would-be economy to stagnate, through a lack of creative genius. In the end, nature decides who the Flemings, Stephensons, Mozarts, and Einsteins will come from. Not your parents’ salary.
Victor Feldman
Ringsend, Dublin 4
Clouded memories
• A very nice letter from Mark Lawler on Monday – lots of nostalgia. However, Mark’s memory must have become a little clouded, because the 1999 European Cup final didn’t go to extra-time (injury time, maybe) and Peter Schmeichel remained on his goalline. I wonder did Mark forget that Peter saved a penalty?
What a game. What a manager. And a supporter from Kilmainham.
RJ Hanly
Screen, Co Wexford
Suicide prevention
• The recent runs and walks all over Ireland on Saturday for Pieta House to raise awareness of suicide and self-harm are touching, but the Government is still failing to act on one of the biggest issues facing this country.
So many people are taking their own lives – and these are just the ones we know about, so many others are not recorded. It is time for the State to take this issue more seriously and to create an authority that will work to prevent suicide. I would suggest a statutory body based along the lines of the Road Safety Authority.
Actions and not words are called for NOW.
Paul Doran
Clondalkin, Dublin 22
Failed experiment
• I would like to compliment your journalists, Fergus Black and Fionnan Sheahan, on their pieces in the newspaper (May 13) regarding Roscommon TD Luke Flanagan.
Mr Sheahan makes the very valid point that Mr Flanagan considers himself, and indeed promoted himself to be ‘Anti-Establishment’, making what we know now to be false promises that he would “not do this . . . nor that . . .” but that he would change politics completely! I would like to add that Mr Flanagan was an ‘experiment’ by the people of Roscommon, and this experiment has failed, miserably.
The honest people of Roscommon deserve much better than this.
James Campbell
Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Roscommon
Irish Independent

• I assumed Enda Kenny was the Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael. But I am beginning to wonder. John Bruton, allegedly retired, seems to have wide-ranging opinions on how this State is run.
Also in this section
Excitement ahead of Celtic Tiger theme park
Church’s weapon is a blunt one
Protect partners who are pregnant
Mr Bruton chides the President, who took issue with the curse of austerity that has hung on our shoulders.
Mr Bruton asks that we tighten our belts further to help lift the nation from the mess his class has left us in. Tighten it more and we will choke.
Mr Bruton derides Keynesian policies, stating: “Keynesian economics is completely unreal.”
Hmm. I’ll tell you what’s unreal. The barefaced cheek of a man who has supped generously from the public purse since first elected as a 22-year-old.
Being able to retire on a €140,000 pension in 2004, aged 57, is unreal. Stepping into an ambassadorship of EU emissary to the US is what I call fortuitous.
Mr Bruton had his shot at politics.
We all think we have the answers. Most of us never got the chance to do something about it. Mr Bruton did.
When he divests himself of the state pensions, privileges and perks he enjoys, and tightens his own belt, then he can come and share his wisdom with us about austerity.
John Cuffe
Stick to the day job
• Quite a lot of inches have been printed since the minister’s attempt at a bit of comedy up in Donegal – and if anybody needs to be advised about sticking to the day job, it surely is himself.
A lot of our TDs can get away with bits of repartee, and a lot of them should steer well clear of any kind of ad-lib – particularly James Reilly.
But as he did have a go at a bit of comedy, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and his biggest sin was that he was James Reilly, the reaction to his little bit of inexperience was very much OTT. In fact, he was lucky to get a bit of applause for delivering a bit of good news.
“Stick to the day job” is probably the most hackneyed cliche and, believe it or not, it can be expressed as a term of endearment.
In any event, Dr Reilly should stick to the day job and pay more attention to Michael Noonan and Joe Higgins.
Stand-up comedy is harder than it looks.
RJ Hanly
Screen, Co Wexford
Abortion legislation
• The proposed legislation allows anyone to say: “I am suicidal and I want an abortion.” No doctor or psychologist can prove for certain whether this statement is true or not.
Therefore, the proposed legislation is creating a situation of moral hazard undermining the ‘equal right to life’ provision of the Constitution because if a termination of pregnancy is approved, the professional opinion facilitating it can never be proven wrong. I think that this is placing the professionals concerned in an invidious position, where saying yes to a termination in such instances is the only guaranteed safe option for them.
I believe that the proposed legislation should concentrate instead on providing clarity in the matter of the protection of the life and health of the mother, which would attract the overwhelming support of the people.
Whatever outstanding issues there are could be tackled, as required, by further targeted legislation to give greater practical expression to the constitutional protection for all parties involved.
Laurence Moore
Walkinstown, Dublin 12
Red Devil reverie
• Ian O’Doherty’s article on his “rocky love affair with Manchester United” (Weekend Review, May 11) brought back many memories. My love affair with the Red Devils started as a six-year-old in 1969 as I got my hair cut in the local barbers in Meath Street and regular goal flashes on the radio heralded a 4-1 victory at Anfield by Best, Law and Charlton.
Unfortunately, this was the last death throes of a once-great team and, less than five years later, this 10-year-old roared crying as Denis Law consigned us to the ignominy of the second tier of English football.
The year 1969 also marked the start of a ferocious rivalry as a teenage right-half marked a tough, no-nonsense centre-forward in an Old Firm reserve match in Celtic Park. It will probably surprise you to hear that the defender was Kenny Dalglish, who apparently snuffed out the threat of Alex Ferguson on that occasion, despite the gruff Glaswegian’s claim to the youth that “you’ll need a doctor after this”.
Fast forward 30 years from that haircut moment, to a mad dash from the train station at Eyre Square to find a pub with a TV to watch the 1999 European Cup Final.
Already 1-0 down by the time I reach the Skeffington Arms, and as the minutes tick away and a certain Jan Koller is the width of a goalpost away (or was it a crossbar, or was it Mehmut Scholl? – in fact, it was both) from doubling Bayern’s lead, I watch as Alex Ferguson plays his last two cards with the introduction of Sheringham and Solskjær.
We move into extra time. Seeing Peter Schmeichel going up for a corner brings home the Last Chance Saloon nature of it all and as the initial efforts are repulsed, my eyes gaze mournfully downwards.
But suddenly, the ball is scuffed back across the box and there is the gunslinger, Terry Sheringham, caressing the ball into the corner of the net. We are still cheering when Ole Gunnar Solskjær directs the winner into the roof of the net.
So, Alex, it’s been a wonderful 26 years, but I will never forget when you played your final hand and won the jackpot.
Mark Lawler
Kilmainham, Dublin 8
Sense of entitlement
• Many facets of society have become imbued with a delusional sense of personal entitlement to a standard of living that is neither sustained by underlying economic fundamentals, nor bears any relationship to the value or contribution that they provide in return – and that includes politicians. The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) strike at Bus Eireann is an apt illustration of this.
The business of Bus Eireann is divided almost on a 50:50 basis. It involves the provision of school transport services, which requires the services of slightly more than 500 part-time bus drivers. Over the decade to the end of 2011, the number of journeys on school transport dropped by 8pc and the number of part-time drivers employed by the company dropped by 8pc.
The remainder of the business comprises scheduled services in provincial cities, Expressway and point-to-point. The annual number of passenger journeys on these services has dropped by 27pc, from 50.22 million in 2007 to 36.5 million four years later. But the number of people employed to operate these services only dropped by 5pc to 2,103, while their net average pay increased by 10.8pc in the period since 2007. Does this indicate there are a substantial number of underemployed personnel at Bus Eireann?
The collapse in demand for Bus Eireann services has coincided with the annual state subsidy to Bus Eireann being increased by 99pc in the decade to the end of 2011, to almost €44m. How can the claims of the striking NBRU members to preserve income and the chaos they are inflicting be reconciled with maintaining job numbers at Bus Eireann, while the travelling public are clearly opting for the products and services of alternative suppliers?
Why should the State continue to operate a subsidised bus service for which the demand has fallen away so severely that the viability of the business is unsustainable without extravagant subsidies?
Myles Duffy
Glenageary, Co Dublin


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