Sweeping

Sweeping 20th May 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Troutbridge is back on ferrying duties for Sir Willowby Tod-Hunter-Brown, off to France, where the chief engineer ‘blows soot’ a months worth all over Calais! But it turns out all right. Priceless.
A quiet day just reading and sweeping half the drive tones of falen bits alas
The Fosdyke saga: Fleur has a row with another lady Soames calls her a traitoress and the law in involved. Enter a rather wooden American falls in love with the lady involved and seeing her in another arms gets pneumonia.
Mary wins at Scrabble today, just and gets just over 400, I might get my revenge tomorrow, I hope.

Obituary:

Richard Beeston
Richard Beeston, who has died aged 50, was a highly-acclaimed foreign correspondent for The Times, reporting from many of the world’s most dangerous trouble spots in a career spanning nearly 30 years.

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Richard Beeston Photo: BRUNO VINCENT
6:59PM BST 19 May 2013
His first posting was to Beirut, where he reported on the Lebanese civil war of the 1980s, and returned to the Middle East nearly a decade later to become the paper’s correspondent in Jerusalem. More recently, he was in the region again, reporting on the uprising in Syria against the Assad regime.
As a foreign reporter, his early assignments included the Iran-Iraq war, and in March 1988 he witnessed Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against the Kurds of northern Iraq. Some 5,000 people, mainly women and children, were killed in the small market town of Halabja, the worst hit, when Iraqi aircraft dropped nerve agents and mustard gas.
“Like figures unearthed in Pompeii, the victims of Halabja were killed so quickly that their corpses remained in suspended animation,” Beeston reported. “There was the plump baby whose face, frozen in a scream, stuck out from under the protective arm of a man, away from the open door of a house that he never reached.
“Nearby, a family of five who had been sitting in their garden eating lunch was cut down — the killer gas not even sparing the family cat, or the birds in the tree which littered the well-kept lawn.”
“Even by Saddam’s ruthless standards the massacre broke new boundaries,” Beeston remembered. “Yet what was more shocking was the cynical response of the West. The US attempted to blame this crime on Iran. Britain carried on business as usual with the regime in Baghdad. Saddam was shielded from any meaningful punishment.”
Beeston was one of the first to volunteer to go to Baghdad to cover the first Gulf War, and had hoped to stay on but was pulled out by The Times for his own safety just before the American bombing began. He was denounced by Saddam for “negative information and falsehoods” and later found the secret files on himself in the burnt-out ruins of the Iraqi ministry of information.
Although blacklisted by Saddam, whose officials called him a “two-faced deceiver”, Beeston returned to Baghdad after the second Gulf War and continued to file vivid eyewitness reports as the situation deteriorated. Suicide bombings and random acts of terror often exposed him to considerable risk, but he was at pains to shield his staff from unnecessary danger.
Richard Nicholas Beeston was born on February 18 1963 in London, the son of Dick Beeston, who had joined The Daily Telegraph as a foreign correspondent two years before and whose postings over the ensuing quarter of a century would include the Middle East, Africa, America and the Soviet Union. Richard was educated at Westminster School, and after toying with a career in the Army took a journalism course instead before completing his training on the Leicester Mercury.
In 1984 he began working as a freelance correspondent in Beirut at the height of the Lebanese civil war, often under fire, and witnessed bombings, rocket attacks and kidnappings. He narrowly missed being seized himself when he left Beirut on the day the Americans bombed Libya — on an earlier plane than the one John McCarthy tried to catch; later that day, McCarthy was seized from a taxi on his way to the airport and held hostage for more than five years.
Beeston’s dispatches so impressed The Daily Telegraph and The Times that both papers offered him a job. He plumped for The Times, joining as a foreign reporter in 1986. Promoted to Jerusalem correspondent in 1991, three years later he followed in his father’s footsteps to Moscow where, as the paper’s correspondent until 1998, he reported the post-Soviet chaos of the Yeltsin years.
Beeston covered the bloody uprising in Chechnya, and was in Grozny when the Russian air force flattened the city. He also visited the Crimea, retracing the steps of the celebrated Times correspondent William Howard Russell, who made his name reporting the Crimean War in the 19th century. As an admirer of Russell’s reportage, Beeston re-examined the siege of Sebastopol, and visited the famous Valley of Death, the scene of the charge of the Light Brigade.
He returned to London in 1998, initially as foreign news editor and, between 2000 and 2007, as diplomatic editor. In his final post, as foreign editor from 2008, Beeston coordinated a network of correspondents around the world and continued to contribute commentaries and analysis on events and developments even though he was seriously ill. In his last days, his wife, Natasha, read to him from Scoop, his favourite Fleet Street novel, Evelyn Waugh’s comic account of a hapless war reporter.
Beeston relished the life of the foreign correspondent, and although as foreign editor he recognised the constraints of modern risk management, he insisted on his reporters filing eyewitness accounts rather than relying on agency copy or, more recently, social networking.
“People say: ‘No story’s worth a life’,” he observed, “and you think, well, if I would have been a reporter, say, in the Second World War and somebody said: ‘Here’s a pool ticket for D-Day’, it would be extremely dangerous, but you’d take it. It’s a moment of history and I think any journalist worth his salt would say: ‘Yeah, I’d love to be on that first wave into Utah Beach where I know it’s going to be bloody dangerous, but it’s going to be one of the great stories of the 20th century’.”
In January 2007, when he was 43, Beeston was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. After treatment he was told he was clear, but in 2010 he learned it had returned. Despite undergoing several operations, he continued to work while undergoing chemotherapy, and was in the office making decisions on foreign coverage only three weeks before his death.
Richard Beeston married, in 1989, Natasha Fairweather, a literary agent, who survives him with their son and daughter.
Richard Beeston, born February 18 1963, died May 19 2013

Guardian:

Rolls Royce, Land Rover, Boots, Cadburys etc all gone and with them most of the tax and VAT they were paying (Letters, 17 May). A question mark remains over Royal Mail and, I seem to recall, Companies House, the Land Registry, Met Office and, of all things, Ordnance Survey. Are we so desperate? Where will we turn when everything has gone?
John Peachey
Elmer, West Sussex
• I have been unable to find any evidence, even in the Book of Revelation, that the FTSE hovering around a value of 6666.66 is a good omen.
Gerry Emmans
Edinburgh
• Perhaps it’s time for our politicians to consider what the rest of Europe thinks of the UK. A glance at the results of the Eurovision Song Contest will give them a good idea (Believe in her, 18 May).
Ron Brewer
Old Buckenham, Norfolk
• So when Scotland get independence, that’ll be another nul points then.
David Williams
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
• While we’re on the subject of journalistic cliches (Letters, 18 May), it would be nice if yours would stop appending my surname to all things unpleasant, such as war-, rumour-, gossip-, scandal-.
Alan Monger
Plymouth
• Why do men in pubs always sit nursing a pint?
Alison Ryan
Sheffield

The consultation paper launched last month by the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, didn’t only alarm “already despondent lawyers reliant on publicly funded cases” (Report, 16 May). At a time when so many people are struggling financially and are at risk of losing their home, Shelter is deeply concerned that the proposed further cuts to civil legal aid will make it even more difficult for us to help homeless families find a place to stay for the night.
Judicial review is the main mechanism Shelter uses to ensure local authorities meet their legal duties to help homeless people. These proposals remove the funding for cases where permission to proceed is not granted by a judge. While it’s true that a significant number are either refused permission or withdrawn, this is because many cases are settled in favour of the claimant before the case needs to go that far. In some cases, simply the threat of a judicial review prompts the local authority to provide the temporary accommodation to which homeless families are legally entitled.
This will be exacerbated by other proposals – for example, the introduction of a “residence test”, allowing local authorities to ignore, with impunity, their legal obligations to the vulnerable children and families. Without the use of judicial review to intervene, many more people will end up on the streets. Sadly, this could mean children being separated from their parents. We fear that this additional cut, if implemented, will make it even harder for families who become homeless to get back on their feet.
Campbell Robb
Chief executive, Shelter
Maura McGowan QC
Chairman of the Bar, Bar Council
The accusation that China “restricts” press and artistic freedom (Letters, 3 May) is untrue and unacceptable. The constitution of the People’s Republic of China explicitly enshrines Chinese citizens’ right to freedom of expression and press in its article 35. The Chinese government attaches great importance to and protects such rights in accordance with law. China now publishes 1,937 newspapers, 9,851 journals, 302,000 kinds of books, and owns over 500 radio and TV broadcasters. China also boasts the world’s biggest and most dynamic online community. Sina Weibo alone has more than 500 million registered users, posting 100m comments every day that cover wide-ranging topics and opinions.
Moreover, cultural undertakings in China are experiencing rapid development and great prosperity. Across the country there are over 200,000 performers and nearly 7,000 troupes. China overtook Japan as the second largest film market after the US last year. Only with a free and unbridled environment can China maintain such development in its media and publishing industry. Only against a diverse and flourishing cultural backdrop can outstanding artists such as Nobel laureate Mo Yan come to prominence.
But while China firmly upholds the rule of law, all must abide by the constitution and law. I believe this is also true in the countries where the petitioning artists come from. We hope that those artists respect the legal system of China as well as that of their own countries. They should understand China’s press and cultural development in an objective and all-around way and change their untrue and biased views.
He Rulong
Chinese embassy, London

Bob Crow is correct to label the European Union as a free-market straightjacket increasing misery for the continent’s majority (Exit Europe from the left, 18 May), but he is mistaken to imagine we can improve matters by leaving. Should we do so we will then be out in the cold and easily picked off by big business and finance demanding lower wages in order for the UK to receive investment or prevent relocation.
Instead, the answer has to be to align the public anger about austerity and businesses anxiety about declining effective demand with an alternative end goal for the EU. Its present emphasis on the free movement of goods, money and people is rarely recognised as being the cause of the present crisis. It allowed, for example, German banks to lend to Greeks to import German cars they couldn’t afford – and then the resulting national debts were dealt with by austerity. Meanwhile, the increasing migration of EU citizens caused by the inability of countries to control their borders under the single market is increasing tensions across the continent.
It’s time that trade unionists, activists and lateral-thinking politicians developed cooperative polices to protect and rebuild Europe’s local economies. Such “progressive protectionism” will have two huge advantages. Its rejection of the open market and the fantasy of ever-growing export-led growth will get us out from under the illogical fantasy that everyone can export their way out of economic trouble, while ridding us of the need for Europe’s last colonial delusion – that we can out-compete the low-wage economies of China and the rest of Asia.
Most importantly from Bob Crow and other trade unionists’ point of view, it will also rob international business of its ability to continue forcing a lower wage economy on the EU by rendering impotent their threats to relocate, since leaving Europe would mean them facing punishing barriers to its huge market.
Colin Hines
Author, Progressive Protectionism (forthcoming)
• The notion expressed by your correspondents (Letters, 17 May) that sweatshop workers could be helped by a voluntary fair trade premium from western consumers is ill-advised. The responsibility for workers’ abysmal conditions lies predominantly with multinational retail chains who use their purchasing power to drive down the price they pay for the garments produced. Despite the crocodile tears of Primark executives after the factory collapse in Dhaka, these enterprises are completely amoral and the only reason for their existence is to maximise revenue for shareholders.
Until such a time as the concept of limited liability is abolished and the profit motive is diluted, there will be little change in corporate behaviour. Consequently, transnational companies should be made liable for what happens at the end of their supply chains. However, at a time when the government is hell-bent on removing protection for domestic workers, never mind those toiling down the supply chain, the chances of such radical changes even being considered are slim. Nevertheless, that should not stop us taking action to support trade union colleagues in the south and campaigning to highlight the appalling behaviour of corporations in the north with a view to affecting their bottom line which, for them, is the only thing that matters.
Bert Schouwenburg
International Officer, GMB
• We are disturbed that David Cameron, co-chairing the UN high level panel on post-2015 development, is blocking efforts to focus on inequality (Report, May 15). Economic research shows that smaller income differences lead to more sustained economic growth and catalyse disproportionately large reductions in poverty. We have a unique opportunity to get inequality rooted in the way we “do” development – how we talk about it and measure it. That’s why we, with 90 academics, economists and development experts, asked the high level panel to put strategies to reduce inequality at the heart of the new framework (full text and signatories at: http://tinyurl.com/bsdqpm2. Most key actors on the development stage now understand the evidence.  Why does Cameron think he knows better? In 2009 he said: “We all know, in our hearts, that as long as there is deep poverty living systematically side by side with great riches, we all remain the poorer for it”. We challenge him to match words with action.
Professor Kate Pickett
Emeritus professor Richard Wilkinson
Equality Trust

Independent:

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The economic case to stay in the EU is overwhelming. The creation of the Single Market was instigated by Britain, and is now the world’s largest trading bloc, containing half a billion people with a GDP of £10 trillion. To Britain, membership is estimated to be worth between £31bn and £92bn per year in income gains, or between £1,200 to £3,500 for every household.
What we should now be doing is fighting hard to deliver a more competitive Europe, to combat the criticism of those that champion our departure. We should push to strengthen and deepen the Single Market to include digital, energy, transport and telecoms, which could boost Britain’s GDP by £110bn.
The Prime Minister is rightly working hard on a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and US which could be worth as much as £10bn per year to the British economy. On exiting the EU, we would lose not only the benefits of this free trade agreement, but all 37 already in existence. Renegotiating these would be costly, time-consuming and the UK alone would lack the colossal bargaining power of the EU.
The City of London is Europe’s global financial centre. Some of the EU’s ideas put this standing at risk. So the Government needs to work hard to protect it. But there is also a huge opportunity to promote London’s capital markets to help solve the problems of the EU banking system. We should promote the cause of EU membership as well as defend our position. The benefits of membership overwhelmingly outweigh the costs, and to suggest otherwise is putting politics before economics.
(Signed in a personal capacity) Roland Rudd, chairman, Business for New Europe; Dame Helen Alexander, chairman, UBM; Sir Win Bischoff , chairman, Lloyds Banking Group; Sir Richard Branson, founder, Virgin Group; Sir Roger Carr, chairman, Centrica; Sir Andrew Cahn, vice chairman, Nomura, public policy EMEA; David Cruickshank, chairman, Deloitte LLP; Lord Davies of Abersoch, vice chairman, Corsair Capital; Guy Dawson, director, ASA International; Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, deputy chairman, Scottish Power; Sir Adrian Montague, chairman, 3i; Nicolas Petrovic, CEO, Eurostar; Sir Michael Rake, chairman, BT; Anthony Salz, vice chairman, Rothschild; Sir Nicholas Scheele, chairman, Key Safety Systems Inc; Sir Nigel Sheinwald, non-executive director, Shell; Sir Martin Sorr elL, chief executive, WPP; Malcolm Sweeting, senior partner, Clifford Chance; Bill Winters, CEO, Renshaw Bay
May I suggest that the Scottish nationalists have unknowingly mistimed the independence referendum for Scotland. Instead of a simple question of whether to remain part of the UK and EU or take full independence, probably within the EU, there is now a possible third option. This will be whether to remain shackled to the Little Englanders on the outside of the EU. This is a far different proposition – and unfortunately the Scottish referendum comes first.
Malcolm Calvert, Holyhead, Anglesey
Your recent Europhile correspondents (Letters, 15 & 16 May) have excelled themselves in their support for the UK’s continued membership of the EU. And, of course, they think that ridiculing and demonising their opponents will clinch their arguments. But, nowhere do they address the EU’s democratic deficit. While “Europe” as a concept may not be at the top of the electorate’s concerns, most people believe that MPs, once returned to Westminster, should have the power to carry out the wishes of those who elected them. Yet our MPs are hamstrung at every turn by EU directives and regulations made elsewhere, and over which they have little control. This is not what most people understand by democracy and is not what I and millions of others voted for in 1975. None of this seems to matter to the eurofanatics; to them, democracy is for nutters.
D Stewart, London N2
Pakistan is not one single culture
I am a Scottish, Pakistani Muslim, and now live in London. Pakistan does not present the world with immigrants from one all-binding culture, so why don’t some of your readers stop trying to force one label on all of us? All of my cousins are university educated and live with or are married to people they love, of all nationalities, colours and religions; like any other normal middle-class British family. We are as far removed from those perverts from Oxford as you are from Jimmy Savile.
Why should I reflect on “my community” and apologise for them? They disgust me. When I read the accounts from their victims I am sickened, and I look at my nieces and want to hug them and protect them from all the evil men in this world. My reaction is exactly the same as yours.
It irritates me when religious leaders apologise for those paedophiles. They are not Muslims. Give me a break. Just because you are born into a family that stems from an Islamic country, that does not make you a Muslim.
I suppose they feel compelled to quickly apologise and reflect on our community and all that nonsense, to try to placate any backlash the Pakistani community will receive as a result of the heinous crimes committed by a few uneducated, backward, misogynist men whose parents happen to come from the same country as mine. If you think that somehow “being from Pakistan” is related to the appalling actions of those men, then you are a racist and you should deal with it.
Meniss a Saleem, Hampstead, London
Theresa May’s fooling no one
I would urge readers not to be taken in (or to think the police service will be either) by Theresa May’s announcement of a “whole-life tariff” for those who kill police officers (leading article, 15 May). Having just retired after 30 years in that job, I doubt there are more than a handful of officers in the country who strongly believe that murdering one of their own is so uniquely heinous that it should attract a longer sentence than, say, killing a child or one of the many civilians who risks his or her life each year in trying to resist a criminal.
Police officers in general just wish for longer sentences for all premeditated murder. Full stop. The Home Secretary’s announcement is simply the most obvious of attempts to curry favour with a service that is experiencing a massive crisis in confidence in this Government, the worst I have ever known by a very large margin. Her actions are quite, quite pathetic and I very much doubt that anyone in the Government actually supports the idea (as opposed to the underlying deceitful motivation) either.
Mark Crumpler, Chorleywood, Hertfordshire
Short, Helpful (If Tenuous)
A simple abbreviation could provide the answer to the problem of naming the remainder of the Union. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, universally known as “FYROM” may provide a precedent. Might the “Former United Kingdom” be acceptable? Although on second thoughts…
Adrian Lee, Yelverton, Devon
Brussels doubts
We are told we don’t want to be run by Brussels. But can any of your, readers produce an example of a law, that would change if we left the EU?
Nick Bion, Reading
The poverty tax
You report (Business, 17 May) that “the National Lottery operator, Camelot, has enjoyed a bumper year, despite the poor state of the economy”. “Despite” should read “because of”.
John Riches, Brighton
Students are not passive consumers
Yet another gripe about the “limited” contact time between academics and their students (report, 15 May). A couple of points should be made.
To start with, the hike in fees from £3,000 to £9,000 has not made most universities better off. The increase has merely offset the Coalition Government’s draconian cuts to universities’ teaching budgets as part of the austerity package. It does not constitute additional money for universities, merely a different source of income.
Second, what would be the point of increased contact time if it merely led to students being spoon-fed, rather than learning to think for themselves by independent study and research, albeit under guidance from academic staff? Ministers and employers would be the first to complain if universities simply churned-out graduates who cannot think creatively and solve problems, as a consequence of increasing the amount of time in lectures in return for higher fees. Sadly, the Government seems to view students as passive consumers, paying for a product just as if they were in a supermarket buying a loaf of bread or tin of baked beans. That is not what a university education is about – and neither should it be.
Professor Pete Dorey, Bath
Poorest hit hard by hidden costs
The poorest UK citizens are hit far harder than the OECD study of 34 developed nations reveals (report, 15 May). None of the figures you quote show the impact of inevitable rent arrears – and the legal costs of their enforcement or evictions – as a result of the bedroom tax, the housing-benefit cap and the £500 overall benefit cap.
Many councils are charging 8.5 per cent to 30 per cent of the council tax, plus the legal cost of enforcement and the bailiffs, against benefit incomes which cannot meet the rent. These personal debts of the poorest households have been created deliberately by a pitiless government seeking to cure a housing shortage by forcing decent people to move into a market where housing is in short-supply, in a country which has lacked an affordable-housing policy from any Government for the past 30 years.
The consequences are a visit to a food bank, utility bills unpaid and long queues at local GP’s surgeries due to the intolerable stress of unmanageable debts.
Rev Paul Nicolson, Taxpayers Against Poverty, London N17
Retirement kills?
I read with some degree of levity that the Institute of Economic Affairs suggests that retirement can be bad for your health (report, 16 May). This raises two interesting questions. Is this some scheme to encourage older people to work longer and therefore deprive youngsters of getting on the work ladder? And how can playing golf two or three times a week, keeping the garden up to scratch and more interaction with neighbours be less healthy than my previous existence of either sitting in an office or sat in the firm’s vehicle for eight hours a day?
Mark Robertson, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire

Times:

The tragedy of old age is being marginalised by society and by the institutions which have benefited from the endeavour of older consumers
Sir, Mark Littlewood, who from his picture byline is presumably a younger man than me (I am 70), informs me that by going back to work I “can look forward to being happier, healthier and wealthier” (“Work on into your 70s. It will be good for you”, Opinion, May 16).
I have gone back to work twice now as a result of feelings of guilt produced by such advice. The first occasion was in a warehouse team, in which I was constantly reduced to near-exhaustion trying to cover for many — though not all — of the team who were very young and bone idle. I stuck it for a couple of years. The second occasion was of much shorter duration, stacking shelves in a supermarket, which proved impossible because of arthritic fingers. In between jobs I studied for three degrees, two advanced, and had a go at a doctorate. Late-life university education has provided me with both happiness and good health doing something I love. Admittedly, I have both an RAF and a company pension to enhance my old-age pension.
Mr Littlewood is director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs and is therefore rightly concerned at the cost of financing an increasing number of pensioners. Futhermore, I can appraciate his motives in attempting to make working in old age seem attractive; but I would suggest that he experiences old age before he offers such advice.
Alan Munro
New Milton, Hants
Sir, My husband has recently turned 70. He is energetic, capable and completely able to help me run our business (which employs 160 people). He wants to continue working with me — I am 11 years younger — because he can, because he loves it and because his employees and customers love him.
He has also recently had cancer surgery and is undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy. One by one, the so-called financial service companies who have benefited not just from his lifelong premiums but also from his employees’ premiums have lined up to say they are no longer willing, because he is 70, to provide financial products such as health insurance to him.
The contradiction is clear. Either society accepts that he works until he is incapable, contributing to revenue and avoiding being a drain on the public purse but at the same time being provided with the same rights as younger able-bodied/minded people, or it accepts him as a “pensioner” who needs to be funded from the public purse.
It is high time that insurance and financial service companies were required to keep pace with demographic and social developments in the workplace instead of avoiding their responsibilities to serve their policy holders.
The tragedy of old age is not illness or loneliness but of being marginalised by society and by the institutions which have benefited from the endeavour of older consumers for more than 50 years of active work.
Jill Hill
South Chailey, E Sussex
Sir, If we work into our 70s occupying jobs, where would the jobs be for school-leavers, graduates and the “radically liberalised immigration policy for those under 30” that Mark Littlewood mentions? Unemployment in the UK is already more than 2 million.
Anne Clarke
High Wycombe, Bucks

We have to decide whether to introduce a tiered system based on difference in age or expect the CPS to prosecute all alleged offences
Sir, The problem is not that the age of consent is too low (letter, May 15), it is that it is unclear when the Crown Prosecution Service will prosecute.
The law is perfectly clear that any sexual activity with an under 16 is unlawful, yet it is well known that the majority of the British public engaged in some form of sexual conduct before their 16th birthday and that the CPS is unwilling to prosecute them.
We have to make a decision, bring the law in line with reality and introduce a tiered system based on the difference in age between the participants, or expect the CPS to prosecute all alleged offences, even between two consenting 15-year-olds.
I know which seems more sensible.
Alex Woolley
Longhorsley, Northumberland

It is not possible to argue that there would be a the loss to the Exchequer if Amazon were “driven offshore” — this is already the case
Sir, Mr Michael Stannard (letter, May 17) is concerned at the loss to the Exchequer that would be incurred if Amazon were driven offshore. Surely the problem has only arisen because Amazon is offshore, being registered in Luxembourg?
Alan Miller
Edgware, North London

A significant number of doctors and other healthcare professionals support a change in the law with upfront safeguards to confirm diagnosis
Sir, The 12 brave doctors who spoke out in favour of assisted dying (letter, May 18) agree that the matter of changing the law should be for the legislators, not the medical profession, and ask that the debate among legislators and the public should focus on the central issue.
However, should the matter not also be a major item of discussion among the general medical profession, many of whom confess that it is a subject seldom discussed among their peers.
It is also a subject that remains taboo among many ordinary people who simply do not want to know, or discuss it. Why are they afraid to confront some of the issues, and maybe argue their corner, rather than simply walking away from the debate?
Helen Bessemer-Clark
Charlbury, Oxon
Sir, Baroness Finlay of Llandaff states that most doctors oppose assisted dying (Thunderer, May 16). In fact a significant number of doctors and other healthcare professionals support a change in the law. What is more, surveys have shown that only a minority of doctors would oppose having that choice for themselves. A majority also believe that their professional bodies should be neutral on the issue, it being a matter for society as a whole to decide. Moreover, the evidence indicates that an assisted dying law with upfront safeguards would far better protect vulnerable people than does the current situation.
Like many other doctors and nurses, I strongly believe that assisted dying should be permissible within a law that incorporates upfront safeguards to confirm diagnosis, and to establish that the patient has mental capacity and is making a decision in full knowledge of all the care and treatment options.
Professor Raymond Tallis
Chair, Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying

A solution for the BBC would be to interview aspiring female presenters in the same way as aspiring singers are chosen on The Voice
Sir, I enjoyed Carol Sarler’s Opinion article (“TV’s missing women should blame themselves”, May 17). The obvious solution for the BBC would be to interview aspiring female presenters in the same way as aspiring singers are chosen on The Voice. No extra expense — the swivel chairs are already in place.
Bennie Gray
London NW3

Telegraph:

SIR – Sue Matts’ letter about Scottish midges (“Scottish midges are invading England”, May 12) reminds me of a little known fact, or possibly myth.
Midges are said to have been the original cause of Scottish Highland dancing, because of their tendency to make people jump up and down waving their arms in the air. Bagpipes were supposedly invented as a deterrent because midges are stunned by the soundwaves they emit.
The mind reels at the thought that our village greens may soon echo to the skirl of the pibroch!
A John Corbett
Beedon Hill, Berkshire
SIR – The southward march of the midges is further proof (if more were needed) of the total failure of the global warming dogma. According to their alarmist theories, midges should be marching north.

SIR – As Christopher Booker states (Opinion, May 12), the only way for Britain to negotiate a new relationship with the EU and retain access to the single market would be to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
It would be bizarre indeed if David Cameron were not aware of this. He, however, is prepared to see hell freeze over before announcing that Britain wishes to leave the European Union, as he would be obliged to do when invoking Article 50.
The solution therefore for all those Conservative MPs who can see the tide of support for Ukip sweeping them from office in 2015 is to bite the bullet and remove Mr Cameron as leader of the party. His replacement would invoke Article 50 and come to an electoral understanding with Nigel Farage.
Roger Hopkins
Eastbourne, East Sussex
SIR – An EU referendum can only have validity after a full, honest and open debate: one which Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories have consistently refused to hold as they have no intention of ever leaving the EU.
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Scottish midges – the origin of Highland dancing?
19 May 2013
Ukip (now the third party in British politics) must take the lead and present the cast-iron warts-and-all case for leaving, how it will be achieved and how we will “survive” outside the EU. Otherwise the status quo will prevail out of a natural fear of the unknown.
Barry M Jones
Beckley, East Sussex
SIR – Despite the protestations from eurocrats in Brussels, and from the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, overwhelming levels of European debt and unemployment are not being reduced, but getting worse.
The European earthquake has much further to go. Some solutions may turn out to be unexpected. Italy, for example has huge gold reserves, and could easily issue gold-backed bonds for investment projects without even consulting the EU. It just needs a bit of initiative.
The issue of British EU membership will finally have to be sorted out, and David Cameron’s promise of a referendum is probably the best solution. Such a referendum will certainly sink Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg as well. But the Tories need to be constructive about it, and not just wreckers. It needs a constitutional approach.
Timothy Stroud
Salisbury, Wiltshire
SIR – The reason why some of us are “banging on about Europe” is that the accumulated mass of EU directives prevents our Government from doing many of the things that are necessary to return our country to prosperity.
Ditching those directives is key to freeing our Government’s hands to take effective action on things that directly affect us ordinary citizens.
Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex
SIR – If Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, can arrange for the Scottish Referendum to take place in 2014, why can Prime Minister Cameron not double the stakes and have the EU referendum on the same date?
Then the people of Britain will settle these festering issues for ever.
Sandy McKay
Eastriggs, Dumfriesshire
SIR – The three traditional political parties are each being disingenuous in their approach to the EU and the next general election. It appears none will state clearly their position on Europe.
Surely with such a major issue facing us, a public referendum, not a defeated vote in Parliament with disregarded public opinion, should be held before 2015.
This way the parties would go into the next election knowing the opinions of our citizens, one way or another, for or against Europe, something that has been avoided since 1975.
Anthony Ridler
Ickenham, Middlesex
SIR – There is no need to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty as Christopher Booker suggests, or even to hold a referendum. It would be sufficient to uphold the 1689 Bill of Rights and cut off the money supply.
Peter Howell
Malmesbury, Wiltshire
Sinister implications of assisted dying Bill
SIR – The sad story of the death of Glenys Porter at the Dignitas centre in Switzerland (“Why we helped our mother to die”, report, May 12) illustrates Lord Carlile’s timely warnings about the dangers of Lord Falconer’s Bill to “allow doctors to help terminally ill people to die”.
Lord Falconer’s Bill would give the legal seal of approval to killing those who feel they are a burden on others. Legal protection would be removed from the vulnerable, so that the helpless can be helped to commit suicide.
Lord Falconer should support those who are really assisting the terminally ill by caring for them, instead of trying to revive a cause that has been effectively killed off by cogent arguments about its negative effects in the House of Lords; he might discover the real meaning of “assisted dying”, rather than providing a convenient alibi for a society that would rather kill than care.
Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex
SIR – Lord Carlile is correct in asserting that “assisted dying” has currently no meaning in English law (Commentary, May 12). However, it will if Lord Falconer’s Bill becomes law.
The term “assisted dying” is important because it will distinguish assisted suicide for those who are not terminally ill, (which will remain illegal) from those who are dying as defined by a terminal prognosis certified by two independent doctors.
If assisted dying is legalised it will permit a small group of very advanced terminally ill patients to obtain help from a doctor within strict legal safeguards to choose the time and circumstance of a dignified death. This is very different from assisted suicide for the seriously disabled or mentally infirm, who may yet have many years to live.
Terence English
Oxford
Foreign aid
SIR – While Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, announced that the £19 million of foreign aid to South Africa will cease in 2015 (leading article, May 12), nothing was said about the Government’s plan to raise Pakistan’s foreign aid from £267 million to £446 million in 2014-15.
In February 2013, the US Congressional Research Service published a report on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and the security threat it poses. Pakistan has an arsenal of at least 90 nuclear warheads and it is predicted their nuclear stockpile will be 150-200 within a decade.
On April 11 2013 Pakistan successfully test fired a Shaheen-1 intermediate range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead over 900km.
British taxpayers should not be aiding those countries which are developing a potential for nuclear war. All aid should be withheld until nuclear weapons of mass destruction are given up but I doubt whether the Coalition do-gooders will agree.
Geoffrey Millward
Plymstock, Dorset
Social care concerns
SIR – As the Care Bill starts its journey through Parliament, we have high hopes that it could transform our social care system for current and future generations. The new legislation will eliminate the current grossly unfair postcode lottery where care is concerned.
But we, as the Care and Support Alliance, fear the Government is planning to exclude all but those with substantial or critical levels of need from the social care system.
This would increase the burden on the NHS, increase the numbers of disabled people and carers having to give up work and leave hundreds of thousands of disabled, older and seriously ill people and their carers struggling to survive.
Through our collective experience, we know that the best social care support comes before people reach crisis point, before the need for unnecessary hospital admissions and before disabled people or carers are forced to give up work.
We urge the Prime Minister to ensure that the spending review invests enough money into the social care system to ensure that all those assessed as having “moderate” need are able to access the care and support they need, when they need it.
Michelle Mitchell
Charity Director General, Age UK
Jeremy Hughes
Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Society
Clare Pelham
Chief Executive, Leonard Cheshire Disability
Richard Hawkes
Chief Executive, Scope
Baroness Sally Greengross
Chief Executive, International Longevity Centre -UK
Jolanta Lasota
Chief Executive, Ambitious about Autism
Jane Ashcroft
Chief Executive, Anchor
Phil Baker
CEO, Arthritis Care
Paul Lenihan MBE
National Director, Action Duchenne
Simon Gillespie
Chief Executive, British Heart Foundation
Dr Penny Woods
CEO, British Lung Foundation
Mike Adamson
Managing Director of Operations, British Red Cross
Thea Stein
CEO, Carers Trust
Helena Herklots
Chief Executive, Carers UK
Professor Martin Green
Chief Executive, English Community Care Association
Richard Leaman
Chief Executive, Guide Dogs
Rachael Byrne
Executive Director, Home Group
Cath Stanley
Chief Executive, Huntington’s Disease Association
Simon Morris
Chief Executive, Jewish Care
Ciarán Devane
Chief Executive, Macmillan Cancer Support
Jan Tregelles
Chief Executive, Mencap
Patricia Gordon
MS Society
Robert Meadowcroft
Chief Executive, Muscular Dystrophy Campaign
Mark Lever
Chief Executive, The National Autistic Society
Ailsa Bosworth
National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society
Jeremy Taylor
Chief Executive, National Voices
Adrian Bagg
Chief Executive, Papworth Trust
Brian Hutchinson
Chief Executive, Real Life Options
Paul Jenkins
Chief Executive, Rethink Mental Illness
Lesley-Anne Alexander
Chief Executive, RNIB
Gillian Morbey
Chief Executive, Sense
Peter Beresford
Chair, Shaping Our Lives
Alex Fox
CEO, Shared Lives Plus
Paul Woodward
CEO, Sue Ryder
Sir Nick Partridge
Chief Executive, Terrence Higgins Trust
Lord Victor Adebowale
Chief Executive of Turning Point
Bridget Warr
Chief Executive, United Kingdom Homecare Association
Jonathan Senker
Chief Executive, VoiceAbility

Arctic convoy heroes
SIR – Christopher Booker (Opinion, May 12) refers to Arctic Convoy PQ17, which sailed from Iceland in June 1942. In fact 11, not 10 out of 35 ships arrived Archangel, still an appallingly low number.
My late husband was on this convoy in HMS Ayrshire (a former deep-sea fishing trawler). The commanding officer had the good sense not to sail direct to Archangel but to go due north into the ice. Three American merchant ships went with them.
They camouflaged all four ships on their south-facing sides with white paint and stayed there until the hue and cry had died down before proceeding safely in stages to Archangel.
Joy Aylard
Barnet, Hertfordshire
It’s just not cricket
SIR – Alan Massie (Letters, May 5) is correct in his assertion that cricketing literature is superior to that of any other sport, and last week’s correspondent Dr Greenhalgh errs egregiously to suggest that angling has better.
The tedious solitary pursuit of fishing is not a sport at all; it is a pastime, analagous with, say, billiards or chess. Anyway, the good doctor cannot be much cop on his chosen subject because he does not list the sublime Fishing and Thinking by J J Luce, a masterpiece by any standard.
Richard Foster
Angmering, West Sussex
Local heroes of WW1
SIR – The letter from the Remember WW1 project (May 12) prompted me to write to you.
I have spent over a year researching the lives and war records of the 11 men from Drigg and Carleton Parish in Cumberland who fought and died in this war and have produced a small book on the subject as a lasting tribute for the future. Could I plead for other villages to find someone in their area to do the same?
I know that many people have little spare time in this busy world but the men who died for our country in that horrific war found the time to fight and sacrifice their lives for us.
Pam Clatworthy
Drigg, Cumberland
Inconvenient history
SIR – The suggestion to move a bank holiday to October to celebrate the Trafalgar, Agincourt and El Alamein is quite ridiculous (Letters, May 12).
The Battle of Hastings was lost on October 14.
Chris Harding
Parkstone, Dorset

Irish Times:

Sir, – It is very strange that Science Today (May 16th) devoted more than a half-page to clinical trials, without acknowledging that the trials system is the subject of considerable controversy.
The UK House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology has recently held hearings on the withholding of clinical trial data from doctors and patients.
A campaign for release of all trial results has won support from the British Medical Journal , Wellcome Trust and Public Library of Science, among other major medical and scientific organisations.
Six months ago, the pharmaceutical company, Glaxo Smith Kline, undertook to publish all data from its clinical trials, going back to 2000.
The specialist academic journal, Trials , has recently published critical reviews of aspects of the conduct and reporting of trials.
Ben Goldacre, who is a central figure in current campaigns and controversies, claims in his book, Bad Pharma , that trials are too short, that they often test drugs against the wrong comparator, that drugs companies resist carrying out studies of drugs’ efficacy with “real-world” patients, and that academics have papers on drugs trials written in their name by contractors for drug companies.
You don’t have to subscribe to all of Dr Goldacre’s polemics to see that you have marked World Clinical Trials Day, May 20th, with a very partial summary of the current issues. – Your, etc,
BRIAN TRENCH,

Sir, – The famously infamous spreadsheet error by economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff (Martin Wolf, Business, April 24th) and the subsequent debate on austerity has rightly or wrongly brought forth one important issue: the sensitivity of techniques, tools and methods that economists use to analyse economic data have immense consequences for economic policy.
The Massachusetts economists’ study that replicated the original Reinhart and Rogoff’s paper argues that in addition to the coding error they have also uncovered a non-standard weighting scheme and selective exclusion of available data, and they show that taking all these into account leads to the conclusion that the average GDP growth for countries with public-debt-to-GDP ratio of over 90 per cent is actually 2.2 per cent and not -0.1 per cent as estimated by Reinhart and Rogoff.
Notwithstanding Reinhart and Rogoff’s defence that correcting the coding error does not change their original result, the issue raises larger questions given their impact on economic policy and hence the human condition.
If economic policy conclusions are drawn from models and analyses so sensitive that a small change in the technique can result in a diametrically opposite conclusion, is it not high time to ask economists what else are they doing with the data and what other unstated assumptions underlie their bold policy recommendations to governments?
Is it not high time to expect some accountability from economists who advise governments and other media economists who generate wider political support for the established economic doctrine of the day? – Yours, etc,
SRINIVAS

Sir, – Geraldine Coburn makes a good point (May 15th) about the lack of facilities open at weekends. To the National Museum could be added many other museums, public libraries, etc, in towns and villages across Ireland. Why are they closed at just the times people are more likely to use them? My local library, for example, is open only when I am at work – and closed Saturday and Sunday when I would like to visit it.
While I respect the right of workers to their days off, the facilities are public property, paid for by all taxpayers. I wonder if volunteers could be found to man them at the times salaried workers are not available? There are many retired or unemployed, skilled and/or interested, who might be delighted with a little “community service” in an area that interests them for a few hours, on rota, at evenings or weekends, even though they might not offer all the services trained employees do. Volunteers work in houses and gardens of the National Trust in the UK without incident. Dedication and enthusiasm don’t always require payment. – Yours, etc,
JOHN COLLINS,

Sir, – David Whitehead (May 16th) confuses climate change and global warming. We are seeing climate change. Warming is happening as energy is pumped into the Arctic; 75 per cent of the ice has melted and the seas are warming as the ice cover is removed. As a result the area of Arctic influence increases as the Arctic vortex weakens and meanders and we find ourselves in the weather systems which used to stay safely north around Iceland. – Yours, etc,
PATRICK M DAVEY,
Dublin Road,
Sir, – We note the recent comments by the Minister for Health and Children, Dr James Reilly regarding the National Paediatric Hospital (Front page, May 16th). It appears this much-needed facility will not now open before 2019 at the earliest.
Against this backdrop, is it not an opportune time to reconsider the vacant site adjacent to the Coombe Women’s Hospital (CWH)? In the context of: 1. The recognised planning risks associated with the development of the National Paediatric Hospital (NPH) on the current St James’s Hospital (SJH) site as identified by Clear and Martin in their report to Dr Reilly in 2012, 2. The inclusion of the Coombe with St James’s in the new “Dublin Midlands” Hospital Group, and 3. The recognition of the Dublin children’s hospitals as a separate hospital group under the reconfiguration plan announced on May 14th, we wish to appeal to the Minister to seriously consider the readily available Player Wills and Boy’s Brigade site on the South Circular Road adjacent to the Coombe as the optimal location for the development of the new NPH.
By extending the notional boundaries of the St James’s campus eastwards, to include the CWH and the contiguous vacant site, the McKinsey criteria for co-location with a major adult teaching hospital will be satisfied. On this vacant and available 6.2 hectare site the NPH could be built more quickly, cheaply and at considerably lower planning risk than elsewhere. It would also provide immediate co-location with a fully operational tertiary referral major maternity hospital and so provide for the safe and immediate transfer of critically ill newborn infants via a short internal corridor rather than by a hazardous ambulance road journey. It would be less than 600 metres from the nearby SJH, thus meeting the adult co-location criteria.
Of significant importance – in terms of cost and speed of delivery of the project – construction on the South Circular Road site would not require any temporary decanting of facilities from St James’s and thus would not interfere with the ongoing operation of any clinical services. It would avoid the capital cost of building a new maternity hospital at St James’s Hospital.
Furthermore the SCR site is future-proofed for expansion of the NPH and would also allow for the future expansion of adult services on the current SJH site.
As a group of independent retired paediatric specialists we have no partisan interests. We are not suggesting that the Government’s decision in relation to co-location with SJH be changed. However we are convinced that locating the NPH on the Player Wills and Boys’ Brigade site which backs on to the CWH site would very significantly facilitate and accelerate the overall project and could be achieved at the lowest planning and financial risk. The Dolphin Report has recognised the planning risks associated with the current chosen site at St James’s and the planning advantages of the South Circular Road site. If history were to repeat itself with the failure of a second planning application then the consequences for the children of this State could be disastrous. – Yours, etc,
Dr JERRY KELLEHER,

   
Sir, – I’m sure the views expressed by Muriel A Mulcahy (April 22nd) on the dubious benefits of saving will have struck a chord with many readers.
My fine parents, operating on modest means, taught me the practice of thrift. In those days (I am in my 80s) they cut their coat according to their cloth. I wonder what my parents’ generation would have made of the sheer stupidity of 100 per cent mortgages?
Over the years my wife and I have tailored our expenditure to enable us to put a modest sum into savings. The interest on these savings (derived from after-tax income) is taxed and is considered to be part of one’s income for further taxation.
If the savings left to one’s children after death exceed a certain threshold (equivalent to a professional footballer’s weekly wage or a small fraction of a banker’s annual bonus), the State grabs one third.
So the intention to provide a modicum of comfort in old age and leave our children something to ease their burden in the difficult future they face is undermined by layers of taxation. It would appear that thrift is, as Muriel Mulcahy has suggested, a “mug’s game”.
An attack on savings coupled with the creeping erosion of benefits earned during one’s working life means that the so-called Golden Years have lost their sheen. Perhaps we should have taken that world cruise after all but, alas, too late now. – Yours, etc,
ROBERT BATES,

Sir, – Perhaps the question of Irish neutrality during the second World War is best settled by those whose side we were supposed to be on.
The British prime minister at the time, Winston Churchill, believed southern Ireland was neutral, and was furious about it; his deputy, who handled day-to-day administration (and was prime minister from 1945), Clement Attlee, responded on hearing that the South was leaving the Commonwealth with what can best be described as an attitude of good riddance.
The US ambassador at the time, perhaps not a dispassionate witness, was famously angry at the South’s stance. The Russians barred Irish entry to the UN because of its position during the war. If Southern Ireland were really on their side, it did a very good job of keeping it from people who might be expected to know. – Yours, etc,
EOIN DILLON,

Irish Independent:

Madam – I write to offer a complimentary word to Willie Kealy on a quite superb article published on your front page (Sunday Independent, May 12, 2013). I find it uplifting, not to say encouraging, when a journalist hits the nail on the head, particularly when the target is one of our careerist elitist politicians. Another of your journalists, Gene Kerrigan, writes with laser-like accuracy in this regard. None fits the target bill better than the subject of your piece last week, Mr Bruton.
This guy truly does inhabit a world utterly divorced from the realities of everyday mortals, trying despairingly, in the face of the cruellest cut-backs, to make some sort of existence for themselves and their families. This brass-necked buffoon has the effrontery to tell our people that this cruelty is the way forward while at the same time raking in obscene salaries and pensions on various fronts.
On top of all that, he has the further bare-faced self-indulgence to appear at some vigil or other on behalf of a disgraced Catholic church. There really does appear to be no end to his humanitarianism!
Butt out indeed. Some chance. Long may you continue to dog and hassle these muppets!
Donal Sweeney,
Castleknock, Dublin 15
Irish Independent

Madam – Young or old, it’s the human legacy left behind that counts. Last weekend, within a day of each other, two noteworthy people sadly passed on to their eternal reward.
In normal circumstances they would have nothing in common, other than both were male and bore the same Christian name. They were born distances apart – the older one in Warrenpoint, Co Down and the younger in Blennerville, Co Kerry.
Renowned cancer specialist Professor Donal Hollywood of St James’s and St Luke’s Hospitals, Dublin, died of cancer at a relatively young age. His funeral Mass was at the Church of the Three Patrons, Rathgar on Monday and he was interred in Mount Jerome Cemetery.
Brave teenager Donal Walsh, a terminally ill 16-year-old rugby fanatic lost the battle and died of cancer.
On Wednesday, amidst huge crowds, his remains were removed to St John’s church in Tralee for requiem Mass.
While fighting a terminal illness from age 12, the young man inspired the nation with his writings and pleas through the media telling youngsters to cherish life and seek help if any suicidal tendencies occupied their thoughts.
How equal those two people became at death. Each was named Donal and both died prematurely of cancer.
The famous, yet kind and gentle, cancer specialist Hollywood, saved a great many lives and brought hope to hundreds of people.
Donal Walsh spent most of his living hours pleading with young people to be grateful for the gift of life and advising them to live it fruitfully.
What a legacy they both left us!
James Gleeson,
Thurles, Co Tipperary
Irish Independent

Madam – Mr A Leavy (May 12) argues that President Michael D Higgins is wrong about austerity and that Marc Coleman’s article (May 5) supports his stance, but they are all wrong.
The argument that there is no alternative to the current version of austerity, simply because the Government spends more than it generates, is not true. We all know the economy won’t be fixed overnight and that public spending needs to be reduced. But there is a growing level of public anger arising from how money that is generated is spent and, in that regard, there are plenty of choices.
If the country is bankrupt as Mr Leavy and Mr Coleman believe, and we can’t afford to pay for a child to have a hearing implant in both ears at the same time, how can we afford to pay President Higgins a salary of €200,000 per annum (more than the UK prime minister) on top of which we also pay unverified expenses and allowances. If Mr Higgins is so concerned about the country then why does he accept such an obscene salary? How can we afford to pay a pension of €140,000 to the likes of John Bruton and others?
These salaries and pensions are paid because this government chooses to pay them. Refusing to pay for a child’s two ear implants or to cut the home help of an elderly person are choices made, not because we can’t afford them, but because the money that should go towards that child or elderly person is instead being used to pay Mr Higgins and Mr Bruton.
Every day choices are made about who to apply austerity to and who is allowed to walk off into the sunset with an obscene pension and payoff. If it was as simple as just balancing the books, as Mr Leavy and Mr Coleman suggest, there are plenty of alternative choices that could be made and at the stroke of a pen the books would balance.
But that would mean making different choices and shifting the burden so that the well-off would make the same scale of real sacrifices as the less well-off.
No one predicted the outcome of elections in Greece or Italy so there’s no reason the same can’t happen in Ireland. It won’t solve our problems but it might mean a different choice is made about fairly distributing austerity from the top down instead of the current choice of from the bottom up.
Desmond FitzGerald,
Canary Wharf, London
Irish Independent

Madam – I congratulate Willie Kealy on his wonderful piece of journalism (Sunday Independent, May 12, 2013), regarding John Bruton’s speech, which he made in his capacity as President of the Irish Financial Services Centre. In it he informed the assembled gathering at the insurance industry event that we must embrace the pain of austerity.
I would like to let him know we have been experiencing austerity for the past four years. Mr Bruton has a nerve and hard neck in making outrageous statements considering his multiple pensions, enormous salaries, vast bonuses and various expenses that he is awarded yearly, while thousands of families in Ireland are struggling to live on low incomes.
Is he aware of the many people who have lost their jobs and their homes and are now destitute?
Maybe he should take a moment to ponder the many suicides that are happening throughout our country as a result of austerity and depression. The sadness of mothers and fathers whose children are emigrating in their hundreds in order to seek out a new life for themselves in foreign lands.
The bankers who were instrumental in causing the bank crisis are still in control and are calling the shots. No banker lost their job due to their incompetence. The taxpayers, who bailed them out, are now having to pay an increase in mortgage interest rates. The Government is too weak to challenge them, and their salaries and bonuses are immoral. Mr Bruton is their safe pair of hands and their mouthpiece. Builders and speculators who borrowed billions are still enjoying exotic foreign holidays and are now being paid by Nama to look after their bankrupted interests.
We trusted Nama to put things right, but it is cloaked in secrecy and yet another quango set up at the taxpayers’ expense.
President Higgins was courageous in speaking out about the injustices of austerity foisted on our people through no fault of their own. There is a certain elitist group of fat cats in this country who are paid massively and have never known austerity. We don’t need to be chastised into austerity by Mr Bruton, a well known and super-rich man who has never experienced austerity, or who has never been in circumstances that would warrant a visit to St Vincent-de-Paul to get alms, or ever know the trauma of losing a job or losing a home.
Mary Tobin,
Lucan, Co Dublin
Madam – Secondary school students should be taught logic and critical thinking in their junior and senior years. Unfortunately we educate young men and women without any knowledge in these disciplines and then expect them to participate effectively in our democratic process.
One cannot participate effectively in a democracy if one does not have these fundamental tools as one enters voting age.
Classic example off ill-prepared citizens across Ireland may be witnessed in those journalists, columnists and contributors to letters to newspaper editors, who continually argue that because somebody is on a pension of €140,000, their arguments supporting “austerity” should be disregarded because of their incomes. Illogical nonsense!
Vincent J Lavery,
Dalkey, Co Dublin

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