Joan and June

June 21th May 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Pertwee has been set up by Taffy who wants promotion. His Aunt Morpeth wants to buy him out of the Navy and send him down the pit, unless he becomes a petty officer. And the only way he can do that is too get rid of Pertwee. Priceless.
A quiet day off to Joans and pay June who is three weeks in arrears, shopping and Dr Who
The Fosdyke saga: Fleur has a row with another lady Soames calls her a traitoress and the law in involved. A trial and Soames wins but all the attention is now focused in the lady and not on Fleur.
Mary wins at Scrabble today, just and gets just under 400, I might get my revenge tomorrow, I hope.

Obituary:

Godfrey Hewitt
Godfrey Hewitt, who has died aged 73, was a founder of the new discipline of molecular ecology, arguing that genetic tools can be used to discover the history of animal and plant distributions .

Godfrey Hewitt 
6:45PM BST 20 May 2013
His major insight, published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society in 1996, was that during the successive ice ages of the Quaternary period, many species of animals and plants in the northern hemisphere managed to survive by retreating to safe havens, or “refugia”, from which they emerged after the ice retreated to recolonise the continent.
He discovered that the location of critical refugia in southern Europe — in Spain, Italy and the Balkans — were areas characterised by genetically diverse populations with long histories. By contrast, the populations of plants and animals in northern Europe tend to be genetically homogeneous, tracing their ancestry to one or other of the refugia.
“Some genetic consequences of ice ages, and their role in divergence and speciation” became the second most cited plant and animal ecology paper in the world; and Hewitt’s papers on the histrorical geographic distributions of individual species in Europe form the cornerstone of this field of research.
Hewitt’s work has important implications for the future. In an article in Climate Change and Biodiversity (2005, edited by Thomas Lovejoy and Lee Hannah), he pointed out that past climate change had involved very large shifts in temperature, so we should learn from our knowledge of how species survived such crises in the past to ensure their survival in the future. While many scientists argue that the speed of climate change means that species will not be able to adapt in the same way as they have in the past, Hewitt was more concerned by the way that so many habitats had been destroyed by man, making it difficult or impossible for species to shift their range and retreat to safe havens as they had previously.
Far more serious than rising temperature, in his view, would be a sudden large drop in temperature, such as happened in previous ice ages. Even though the globe is currently warming, the instability of climate change can put the planet’s thermostat down as well as up. The warm interglacial period, which began when the last Ice Age started to wane 17,000 years ago, is nearly at an end; so the next ice age could begin in a few thousand years – or a few hundred. Whether the temperature rises or falls, species will survive only if their ranges can change: “The political rub is we must look after these [natural] places if we want plants and animals to survive in the future,” he said.
Godfrey Matthew Hewitt was born in Worcester on January 10 1940 and educated at the King’s School, Worcester, and Birmingham University, where he remained to take a PhD in Cytogenetics (a branch of genetics concerned with the structure and function of chromosomes).
In 1966 he took up a lectureship at the newly-established University of East Anglia, where he was appointed professor in 1988. He worked in the School of Biological Sciences until his retirement in 2005.
Hewitt published some 250 peer-reviewed papers and was widely cited by other scientists. Early work, with Nick Barton, concerned so-called hybrid zones — narrow geographical areas in which hybrid individuals are found (the offspring of the crossing of genetically different populations). Hybrid zones tend to be in places where populations that evolved distinct features in isolation in ice age refugia met up with their long-lost relatives during a subsequent period of colonisation, and sometimes interbred with them.
Hewitt described such zones as “natural laboratories for evolutionary studies” which provide insights into the way gene exchange functions and the dynamics of the development of new species. He found that repeated cycles of range contraction and expansion along circumscribed routes helped explain the position of specific hybrid zones.
In these areas he also identified the accumulation of many genetic transitions — so-called “clines” — between closely related but genetically divergent populations. In the 1970s he discovered a steep cline between two races of Podisma pedestris — a short-horned grasshopper living in the Alpes Maritimes. Analysis of this cline led to the development, with Nick Barton, of a theory by which hybrid zones are maintained through a delicate balance of factors involving gene flow. Hewitt followed up with studies of other grasshopper hybrid zones in southern Europe.
He married, in 1963, Elizabeth Shattock, with whom he had three sons.
Godfrey Hewitt, born January 10 1940, died February 18 2013

Guardian:

The secretary of state for education is pressing on doggedly with his proposals for the reform of education at all levels. This is in the face of opposition of the major headteachers’ unions and representative associations throughout the maintained and independent sectors (ASCL, ISC, GSA and HMC). And all the admissions tutors of Cambridge University. At the weekend the NAHT expressed clearly what many teachers and headteachers think (Report, 18 May). The lack of respect for our professional expertise and long experience is breathtaking and will win no one to the cause. Indeed, it is a strategy no good teacher would ever use to alter the mindset of an apparently troublesome student. Conflict breeds conflict and, before long, contempt.
There is no hunger for many of these reforms. Parents and students are not baying for them. Teachers oppose them as retrograde steps in many cases. Too much change at too many levels is a recipe for chaos for the next decade. And at A-level – to name but one area – we risk undoing the progress since 2000 towards greater breadth and flexibility in the two years of study. Am I alone in thinking that cost-cutting may be just as important in these developments as any altruism apparently tilted at standards?
No good teacher I have ever met was against rigour. If it has been lost, by all means reintroduce it – but with teachers on side and not embattled by long lists of implied failings. Above all, Mr Gove, please just listen to those closest to the country’s young people. You will find us open to constructive dialogue. But deeply resistant to endless, destructive – and undeserved – criticism.
Alice Phillips
Head, St Catherine’s, Bramley; president-elect of the Girls’ Schools Association

The revelation that councils are forking out billions on temporary accommodation comes as no surprise (Housing bill rockets as councils are forced to use B&Bs, 20 May). Housing for Women’s experience is that increasingly local authorities are placing women and their children who are victims of domestic violence in inappropriate private accommodation due to the lack of affordable housing. This is often outside the area where they have established support networks and children’s schools and is particularly detrimental to their recovery and resettlement. The solution has to be more social housing, coupled with greater regulation of the quality and cost of private accommodation.
Elizabeth Clarson
Chief executive, Housing for Women
• As the number of homeless families in temporary accommodation increases dramatically, so too do sales of council houses. Sales of council houses in the last quarter have quadrupled since the same time a year ago. Bad news for homeless families, that’s for sure.
Gillian Dalley
London
• Your editorial (20 May) rightly highlights the need to underwrite local council building of urgently required homes instead of recasting old, failed, policies in new forms such as Help to Buy. The New Homes Bonus and New Buy have similarly failed to produce the desired boost to housing figures, while the benefits to housebuilding prompted by the national planning policy framework have been needed to offset the removal of housing allocations following the abolition of regional planning outside London. Meanwhile, community infrastructure levy tariffs on new development are at such high levels that affordable housing is being sacrificed to keep housing schemes viable.
Rather than another homeowner scheme what we need now is a scheme which is truly in touch with the barriers to building.
Ian Blacker
Chairman, John Rowan and Partners
• Your observation that Margaret Thatcher introduced the right to buy 30 years ago precedes a suggestion for more public housing. But if this right remains, lower-cost council houses will be sold on to the market at higher prices handing nice profits for those lucky enough to get them. The biggest cause of Britain’s headache is not the lack of housebuilding but the readily availability of mortgages once banks were deregulated.
George Talbot
Watford, Hertfordshire
• Mervyn King is right to warn the government about pumping too much money into the mortgage market. First, it is not the role of a government to perform this function. In the run up to the next election, we should be worried about politicians, in an unpopular government, having their hands on a tap over mortgage debt. Second, the governor knows that during the 10 years from 1997 to 2007, the value of outstanding mortgage debt increased by a staggering 200%. This produced a corresponding 200% increase in houses prices. During the same period, the CPI only increased by about 45%. This means that the UK economy is still vulnerable to a correction in houses prices. It is surely wrong for the government to exacerbate this risk by undermining the foreign investors’ confidence.
Leonard Shuter
Sevenoaks, Kent

It was good to read Ian Jack’s description of the London Underground as a “great public institution” (What’s Ian seen, 18 May). In all the publicity surrounding the 150th anniversary of the tube, hardly a word has been said about another important date: the 80th anniversary of public ownership, inaugurated on 1 July 1933, when the underground became part of the London Passenger Transport Board. This major reform of London’s transport had been piloted by Herbert Morrison at a time when many believed that public ownership was both necessary and desirable for many utilities as the market was incapable of delivering good quality transportation in the capital.
The underground had long been a playground for fat cats, as noted by William Morris in 1886, when he denounced the directors of the Metropolitan and District Railway for forcing Londoners on to “the beastly sewers” of the underground. It was only stabilised by Lord Ashfield and Frank Pick, but with lavish government subsidies, in the 1920s. It was certainly not the ideal form of public ownership: there was little public accountability until the Greater London council’s takeover in 1968, followed by the dismal years of direct government control from 1984 to 2000. Even then, Gordon Brown attempted to privatise the tube, resulting in the dismal failure of several private companies. Nevertheless, if we are to celebrate 150 years of the tube, let’s also celebrate the durable legacy of public ownership, which has provided London with an essential service for 80 years.
Dave Welsh
Author, Underground Writing
• Curious to see that four of the Eurosceptic ministers that you highlight (Bulldog spirit, 20 May) are or were ministers in charge of developing HS2 – Philip Hammond, Theresa Villiers, Justine Greening, Patrick McLoughlin. The EU policy intention is that HS2, as a core European route, will be contracted by and run out of Brussels. Toxic, non?
Madeleine Wahlberg
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

President Obama’s broken promise on the Guantánamo detention camp doesn’t have to define his term of office, he just needs the political will to walk the talk (Report, 17 May). Obama has executive power, but he doesn’t have the luxury of time. Time is also running out for the hunger strikers in Guantánamo, as the camp-wide strike goes past 100 days. The president could issue an executive order stating the timetable for the closure of Guantánamo. He could stop the brutal force-feeding of the hunger strikers (Report, 14 May) and the abusive physical attacks by the guards. He could order the immediate release of the 86 prisoners who have already been cleared to leave the camp. He could use the waiver agreed by Congress for these transfers. The UK government should help Obama by demanding the urgent release and return of British resident Shaker Aamer. If he dies, the UK and US will be culpable of his murder.
Joy Hurcombe
Worthing, West Sussex

It has been good to see family carers getting attention, particularly the problems of young carers (17 May) and those of the “sandwich generation”, supporting both a parent and an adult child. There’s another group that should attract attention: the many older people looking after a spouse, both perhaps in their 80s or 90s. With the increasing prevalence of dementia, more older people will be taking on this role. Who is looking out for them?
Tessa Harding
Harleston, Norfolk
• If Ron Brewer thinks that the UK’s placing in the Eurovision song contest is a reflection of Europe’s opinion of us (Letters, 20 May), I wonder what his view is of Germany, France, Spain and Ireland now?
Harry Harmer
Eastbourne
• Sarah Butler’s assumption that over-50s are satisfied with “unfashionable, poor quality items” is insulting and unfounded (You want the fizz put back into frumpy M&S fashion?, 17 May). Even the subheading – “New boss hopes changes will bring younger shoppers back to high street giant” – seems at odds with the determination expressed by Belinda Earl (51 herself) to help customers of “every size, shape and age look their best”.
Jean Glasberg
Cambridge
• Your next box set (17 May) says The IT Crowd is held down by its three main characters: Roy, played by Chris O’Dowd, “riding a crest of Hollywood fame”; Moss, played by Richard Ayoade, “now an established director”, and Jen (presumably played by some woman). Well, the actor is Katherine Parkinson, and she has ridden a few crests herself. Perhaps the misogyny of the male characters isn’t as hilariously incredible as we’d like to think.
Vivian Lister
Leeds
• If Russia has “publicly” revealed the CIA’s Moscow station chief (News, 19 May), how come your article doesn’t give his/her name?
David Lewin
Oxford
• Is there a support group for those of us suffering withdrawal symptoms as a result of the continuing late arrival of the English asparagus season?
Terry Cook
St Albans

It is the first duty of governments to protect the health and wellbeing of citizens. It is a priority objective of the EU, enshrined in legislation. Surveys show it is top of people’s concerns. So when we read that Nordic politicians are not surprised by the work of David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu (Austerity kills, G2, 16 May), because they have begun to act already with success, our question must be why the dominant political choice across Britain and Europe is to disregard this, and impose austerity measures however much they hurt and destroy lives.
We rage and rush to act when a small number of people are hurt in a specific incident, or by a single disease. Yet millions of people in every country in Europe, as studies commissioned by the EU and WHO will reveal when published, are being almost silently condemned to early, preventable deaths or painful lives, because of economic decisions.
It does not have to be this way. There are well evidenced, cost-effective, proportionate, affordable, immediate and long-term alternative measures available for all political and social systems, left, right or centre. Stuckler recently presented his findings to a WHO Europe intergovernmental conference in Oslo on sustainable health systems in the context of the financial crisis. As he confirms, it is not too late to act, and it is a matter of political choice. These facts, and the relevant work of other British experts such as Professors Marmot, McKee and Wilkinson, should be on the desk of every prime and finance minister, every editor, every company director, every civil servant and every community leader across the country and internationally.
Wellbeing is the business of not only leaders in public, private and voluntary sectors, but also all of us, and the benefits of simple actions can be massive in political, economic and human terms.
Clive Needle
Director, EuroHealthNet
• The College of Emergency Medicine report on rising demand in emergency departments (Call for A&E overhaul, 15 May) highlighted the ever-growing chaos of government policy.
Let’s look at it from a patient’s perspective. In the 90s we introduced targets (the carrot being increased resources to sooth staff reservations) and to some degree they worked.
However, the public received mixed messages – wait four hours in an emergency department or 48 hours to be seen by a GP. We also started talking about choice and, hey presto, patients started voting with their feet.
Problem is, we don’t want the public to have choice about urgent care. We designed lots of pathways for different illnesses and injuries that could be dealt with at lots of different destinations. These included minor injury units, pharmacists, walk-in centres, polyclinics and urgent care centres. Additionally, we had NHS Direct and now the 111 service. Unfortunately people don’t always want to follow your nicely designed pathway. Safe and efficient emergency departments have become victims of their own success – the better they perform, the more patients arrive.
On top of this, financial incentives are skewed. I once had a very odd discussion with a senior finance manager. We had been directed by the PCT to try and reduce minor injury attendances at our emergency department and so we were looking at our resources to try and redirect these patients. The man from finance was not too keen on these reductions as these were the “easy wins” – the tariff was relatively high for the little work or resource that was necessary for managing these cases. I can see why the CEM has recommended that GP surgeries be set up in hospitals – patients seem to want a single point of entry into the system. If that means an emergency department, then we may need to provide the necessary resources, however politically challenging that may be. I hope Sir Bruce Keogh’s review of urgent care finally comes up with an evidenced based solution that both staff and the general public have faith and confidence in.
David Flood
London
• Thousands of us marched in London on Saturday to protest at the cuts, closures and privatisation of our hospitals. Campaigns like ours that are fighting the sell-off of buildings, beds and jobs, and others trying to maintain full functioning accident and emergency provision, engage their communities and hospital workforce to oppose the cuts. Such events are covered by local and national media.
What is not so widely publicised is the dreadful crisis in mental health provision. Mental health has suffered the brunt of NHS cuts recently. In the Camden and Islington area alone 100 beds have been closed, hospitals and wards have gone. And now there are no spare mental health beds within the M25 area. This crisis in mainstream and mental health is taking place at a time of increasing health need. Suicides rise and health deteriorates as this government makes cuts to council and other welfare spending and strangles our NHS.
Shirley Franklin
Chair, Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition

Independent:

The predictable band of corporatists who claim that leaving the European Union would be a mistake because it would put “politics before economics” (letter, 20 May) have, as one would expect, no concept of democratic sovereignty. We eurosceptics put national democracy before corporate profit.
Those who have really put politics before economics are in fact eurofederalists and businessmen – with the predicted disasters visited upon Irish, Greeks, Spanish and Italians.
Rodney Atkinson, Stocksfield, Northumberland
Nick Bion (letter, 20 May) asks what laws would change if we were to leave the EU. A topical example would be the forthcoming ban on shared olive oil bottles on restaurant tables.
This will increase waste in both olive oil and packaging and will stop restaurants serving higher quality olive oils whose manufacturers cannot afford to produce the individual portions.
Even Danny Alexander thinks this is a silly idea. We already have strong food hygiene regulations and I am not aware of a national epidemic of people being poisoned by restaurant olive oil from bottles.
This example is a small one. The wider issue is that somewhere in the depths of the Brussels bureaucracy there is a department thinking up things like this. Had it come from our own civil service, Danny Alexander could have added his weight to the general opinion and it would have been dropped. As it is, there are no political channels to tell those who thought this up not to be so daft.
Julian Gall, Godalming, Surrey
I would have thought a huge number of British people would be very upset to see an end to the endless supply of cheap wine and beer bought in Calais superstores.
Never mind the cheaper groceries, electrical goods, and even cars, which can be bought at a fraction of the UK price on the continental mainland at present.
What happens when customs limits are restored and duty is payable on the excesses? Why is this never mentioned? It may be frivolous – but so are almost all the arguments against the EU.
Elspeth Christie, Alston,  Northumberland
D Stewart (letter, 20 May) is of course right; the EU today “is not what [he] and millions of others voted for in 1975”; as was inevitable, it has evolved. Whether Britain remains in or out it will continue to exist, evolve and impact on our lives.
Inside the EU our elected representatives have opportunities to influence the direction of that evolution; were the UK to leave they’d have none.
Brian Hughes, Cheltenham,  Gloucestershire
Criticism of Israel or hatred of Jews?
First-rate writer and columnist though he is, Howard Jacobson cannot resist conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Israelism (18 May).
Yet the big question about Israel’s hopes to continue as a Jewish state depend not on boycotts or on motions passed by a university union, but on how Israel will in future govern a non-Jewish-majority population if it fails now to accept a two-state solution when there is still – perhaps – time.
Brian Beeley, Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Israel doesn’t “just happen to be Jewish”, Howard Jacobson. In fact the current demography of Israel results from its policy of replacing Palestinian society with people from a Jewish background.
The building and expansion of Jewish-only illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank is a continuation of this policy.
Janet Green, London NW5
Howard Jacobson is absolutely right that the Palestinian movement has always had its anti-Semitic infiltrators. It is deeply dispiriting because it utterly contradicts the principal motive that drives the movement: the injustice implicit in the progressive dispossession and lockdown of a defenceless people.
A growing number of young Jews support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign as a vehicle for getting Israel to disgorge the occupied territories, since the US and its allies are so disinclined to compel Israel to respect international humanitarian law.
They seem to do this for a number of reasons ranging from the pragmatic – Israel has swallowed more than it can digest – to the moral – the violation of Judaic morality in which, contrary to Mr Jacobson’s take, they identify the Palestinians as the persecuted party.
David McDowall, Richmond,  Surrey
Howard Jacobson has had the courage to expose the hypocritical anti-Semitism at the heart of the Israel boycott campaign of the University and College Union.
This will no doubt result in hate mail and worse, but may stimulate some academics to re-examine this highly selective boycott and instead support dialogue with Israeli counterparts, many of whom voice valid criticism of some Israeli government policies.
Ben Marshall, London N11
You report that Lord Ahmed “resigned from the Labour Party on Monday evening over allegations that he made anti-Semitic comments in a television interview”.
If, as he claims, he  “was not anti-Semitic” and had not “blamed his 2009 prison sentence … on pressure placed on the courts by Jews ‘who own newspapers and TV channels’ ”, he should have welcomed the opportunity to clear his name before Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee rather than aborting their investigation by leaving the party.
Martin D Stern, Salford, Greater Manchester
May flirts with cruel US ‘justice’
I am writing in response to Theresa May’s appalling and draconian assertion that police killers should be given life in prison without parole. Her argument that “to attack and kill a police officer is to attack the fundamental basis of our society” is thin on philosophical truth to say the least.  
Since when does the life of a police officer, who voluntarily partakes in an inherently hazardous occupation, out-value the life of a defenceless child, tortured for months until death, as in the case of Baby P to name just one? 
Do we expect a misguided 18-year-old who, during a heated confrontation, kills a police officer, to understand the importance of the idea that a society is held together by laws and that the police are there to defend those laws? Should such a person be condemned to 70-80 years in prison for a momentary act of foolishness?
Of course police defend the laws which prevent our society descending into chaos, but it is to our credit as a developed nation that we allow wrongdoers a second chance; this is essential to the deep psychological wellbeing of all members of society.
If we are not careful we may find we are moving towards a system of “justice” similar to that of the United States, limitlessly unforgiving and cruel.
The potential severity of punishment does not prevent people from committing crime, it is the fear of getting caught. So although it may satisfy the desires of the sadists who want to punish, punish and punish again, it will do nothing to stop crimes of this nature occurring.
Paul Thwaites, Derby
Flood of nonsense
You report “Sea levels rising so fast, London faces significant risk of flooding without Thames Barrier upgrade” (15 May). Unless London’s flood defences are reinforced, storm surges could regularly overwhelm the Thames Barrier by the end of the century according to latest research.
The Mayor of London must urgently revise his flood-defence policies which currently rank tidal flooding as a low risk, and thereby underestimate this looming threat from the sea.
However, given Boris Johnson’s personal views that sunspots and not human activity are the main cause of climate change, and  that we are heading towards a mini ice age, despite overwhelming scientific consensus showing the exact opposite, this may prove to be a major obstacle to the scale of action that is required to safeguard London and its inhabitants.
Jenny Jones AM , Green Party Group, London Assembly
Retirement suits me fine
One of the benefits of retirement is having the time to read reports such as that by the Institute of Economic Affairs (16 May), which tells me how bad retirement is for my health.
I found it hugely unconvincing. So many other factors apply – financial status, education, diet, personal relationships, location, interests, social activity. Of course, we have health issues – we are getting older. Of course, these health issues are likely to increase the longer we live.
But speaking as someone whose lifestyle is immeasurably healthier, more fulfilling and fun since retirement, even from a job I loved, I am definitely of the school of “don’t knock it till you’ve tried it”.
Carolyn Slater, Lucca, Tuscany, Italy
The victims  of sex abuse
The most serious question to be asked about the Oxford and other sex-grooming cases, is how our society continues to produce the prey for these sex predators in such numbers and then leaves them exposed. The fact that so many girls are in such need of love and attention that they turn to dubious males is surely a huge indictment.   
Our traditional values must be sadly wanting if these girls are brought up with so little self-esteem that they are seduced by trinkets and drinks.
P A Reid, Wantage, Oxfordshire
What is a lobbyist?
Your leading article “Where’s the register of lobbyists?” (14 May) is right. The Queen’s Speech should have included legislation to bring the lobbying industry under control. Self-regulation has clearly failed.
We need an agreed definition of what constitutes a lobbyist. Too many so-called think-tanks, for example, are really lobbyists. There is nothing innately dishonourable about lobbying, you say, provided it’s done openly. Yes, but the services of such people aren’t usually available to all of us, only those with funds.
Dr Alex May, Manchester
Make room!
“Breakthrough in IVF treatment could triple number of births” (17 May). There’s a spot of good news for an underpopulated planet.
Peter Forster, London N

Times:

The question of legalising assisted suicide for terminally ill people is very complex and can arouse strong feelings
Sir, I commend your leading article “Death and the Law” (May 18). The question of legalising assisted suicide for terminally ill people is very complex and can arouse strong feelings. The implications need to be thought through carefully and responsible judgments made.
I believe you are right when you say that the present law is able to deal adequately with the handful of cases of assisted suicide that occur. You are also right to draw attention to the rising death rates in those few jurisdictions that have chosen to go down the assisted-dying road.
There can be no doubt that this is a difficult issue. But the evidence does not point towards legalisation. A study a few years ago found that doctors caring for terminally ill people rarely felt that the law posed problems for the care of their patients or that new laws were desirable.
Baroness Cumberlege
Former Junior Minister of Health, House of Lords
Sir, I think it most unlikely that a change in the law will bring about a significant increase in the number of people making the decision to commit suicide, as that is a decision based on a number of causal factors, of which legality is not one. There will be no headlong rush, lemming-like, towards the precipice.
What will change, however, is the method of suicide, with people able to choose a calmer, more controlled, and above all more dignified way of ending their lives, rather than being driven to an act of desperation as many are at the moment. If we can prevent people from throwing themselves in front of trains, for example, and thereby avoid the additional distress to their families, railway staff and the emergency services, that must be a desirable goal, which, as a serving police officer, I most certainly welcome.
David Green
South Brent, Devon
Sir, I am sure that Professor Rosen (letter, May 18) means well in his support for assisted dying for the terminally ill. However, as a Fellow of the same college, a medical ethicist, a consultant in pain medicine and someone who has been diagnosed as terminally ill (six years ago), I disagree.
My objection is to past presidents using their royal colleges’ names to give their views more credibility. I cannot recall the Royal College of Anaesthetists balloting its members on the issue, nor indeed can I find a policy statement. I imagine that the same goes for the royal colleges of pathologists and radiologists. The views expressed are not the collective views of many specialisms as implied, rather they are those of the undersigned individuals alone.
Dr Andrew D. Lawson
Specialist in Pain Medicine
Warborough, Oxon
Sir, My first wife, whose overdose became something of a cause célèbre when you published a letter from me about it a few years ago, had Parkinson’s, which in no way meets these “terminal” criteria.
I still think she was right. I still think I was right to “assist” to the extent of going out and leaving her to get on with it. I still think they were right not to prosecute me. And I still think that the doctors who hedge assisted dying about with 100 restrictions have got it wrong. Let them wait until it’s their beloved who can’t bear what a progressively degenerative but non-terminal disease is doing to her.
Michael Grosvenor Myer
Haddenham, Cambs

The delays in showing a Channel 4 documentary demonstrate the lengths the police must go to in order to secure convictions of this type
Sir, In your excellent leading article (“A Shameful Betrayal”, May 16) you stated: “A decade ago Channel 4 made a documentary on Asian men grooming white girls for sex in Bradford but withdrew it at the request of police.”
Ten years ago the film-maker Anna Hall did indeed make a film, Edge of the City, for Channel 4 which first highlighted this phenomenon. With a local council election just a few weeks away, with the BNP threatening to gain significant support, and after race riots elsewhere in the north earlier in the year, the Chief Constable wrote to Channel 4 requesting that, in the interests of avoiding violence, the broadcast be postponed.
Channel 4 agreed to postpone broadcast until after the election. The film was then shown some weeks later, to widespread critical acclaim. At the time Channel 4 was the only national media outlet willing to confront this heinous crime, and remained a lone voice until Andrew Norfolk’s superb coverage of the issue began in The Times some years later.
In 2010 Anna Hall gained access to Operation Chalice in Telford. True Vision was then commissioned by Channel 4 to make a film following the investigation, but with the collapse of the main Chalice case in 2011, all the material we had filmed had to remain sub judice. The film, The Hunt for Britain’s Sex Gangs, can now be shown after the completion of the Chalice cases as reported last week.
It demonstrates the extraordinary lengths the police must go to in order to secure convictions of this type.
The Times, and Andrew Norfolk in particular, should be applauded. However, you will no doubt also wish to credit Anna Hall, who first highlighted this issues in 2004, and has now made three films on the subject, and Channel 4 for broadcasting them.
Brian Woods
Executive Producer, Britain’s Sex Gangs, The Hunt for Britain’s Sex Gangs (9pm, Thursday, Channel Four)
London W4

‘Culture and civilisation are the means whereby humanity can live creatively in society and see beyond itself’
Sir, Michael Bird (letter, May 18) asserts that great art is amoral and that culture and civilisation are not the same thing. I disagree profoundly: art in itself is the transmission of value, and its interpretation echoes this. Moreover, culture and civilisation are the means whereby humanity can live creatively in society and see beyond itself for inspiration and meaning.
Civis, the citizen and city dweller, is the sign of being able to live under the rule of law and in peaceful relationship with those who are different; culture may well test and question this but in a safe and sometimes thrilling way.
Wagner may be wrong in his personal views but his art is sublimely beautiful and far from devoid of truth.
The Rev Canon Neil Thompson
Rochester, Kent
Sir, Mr Bird asserts that “great art is amoral”. But art at the very highest level is essentially moral, as is proved by the cantatas and Passions of Johann Sebastian Bach, arguably the greatest artist of all time.
Professor Sir Bryan Thwaites
Fishbourne, W Sussex

All the faiths offer salvation, community, discipline and self-knowledge, but the perception of these ‘selling points’ differs
Sir, The census highlights which faiths in Britain are growing and declining overall (report, May 17), but what is equally significant is that all of them are gaining adherents — albeit at different rates compared to their losses — because of the contrasting appeals they hold. Christianity is seen as offering salvation, Judaism community, Islam discipline and Buddhism self-knowledge. In reality, all the faiths contain all these characteristics, and share a common code of ethics, but the perception of their key “selling points” differs markedly.
What is striking about Islam today is that, unlike other faiths, it manages to attract converts from both sexes in equal numbers, appealing to males as strong and females as protective.
Those who do not belong to any faith group are not necessarily non-religious, but often do not care for worship. Until now, the attempted solution has been to change services to attract them back (using modern music or inclusive language); but maybe it would be better to concentrate less on prayers and more on the characteristics above, turning religious buildings into centres with a holistic approach to faith and where God can be met in non-liturgical ways.
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain
Maidenhead Synagogue, Berks

The companies delivering the Work Programme often do not have the required expertise to help the most vulnerable into employment
Sir, We work with and represent homeless people, people with mental health problems and those battling addiction — people too often pushed to the fringes of society, for whom a job could offer a way back in; people who could benefit the most from an effective Work Programme. We strongly agree, however, with the findings of the Work and Pensions Select Committee that the Work Programme is not working for many.
Our charities, members and many others in the sector have helped thousands of people into work, identifying the barriers they face, and over the years we have learnt how to successfully overcome them.
The experiences of our clients is that companies delivering the Work Programme too often do not have this expertise. They are failing to provide the tailored support needed to find work, often pushing people into inappropriate activities or barely providing any assistance at all.
On top of this many charities are effectively subsidising the Work Programme when there has been little or no effort from Work Programme providers. The Work Programme is an opportunity to provide a much-needed road back to work. Instead, in far too many cases it is leaving the people we represent no closer to what many of them really want: a better life through work. We strongly urge the Government to design a new approach.
Leslie Morphy
CEO Crisis
Martin Barnes
CEO Drugscope
Paul Farmer
CEO Mind

Telegraph:

SIR – The Blackthorn came out in full bloom two to three weeks ago. People who live in the country say that this will give an accurate forecast of cold and wet weather for the following six to eight weeks – but there will also be the odd warm day.
Pat Russell
Henham, Essex
SIR – Paul Harrison (Letters, May 13) comments on how few swooping swallows he has seen this year. The swallows that fly above our house arrived 10 days later than usual. Once the birds complete their crossing from Africa, should the weather be bad in Britain they travel to their home sites in slow stages.
There have also been very few bees or butterflies in our garden, as a result of the increasing rainfall and cold snaps.
Judy Potter
Sedbergh, Cumbria

SIR – Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, says that the countryside should not be considered sacred when it comes to building new homes (report, May 17).
Perhaps ministers should encourage the building of model villages? As a result of the Government reducing the range of “valid” categories of objection to the expansion of existing villages, the number of planning applications is running at unprecedented levels. There is a danger that the essence of village life will be lost in limitless expansion.
Creating a village from scratch might well raise the standard of architecture. Elsewhere in rural Europe diversity within development appears to be prized, yet here builders seem addicted to sameness.
Houses with inspired and intriguing designs within new model villages would sell more readily than estates that are often architectural abominations. Perhaps we need a little euro-vision after all.
Nigel Holmes
Great Corby, Cumbria
Related Articles
When flowering Blackthorn heralds a cold snap
20 May 2013
SIR – Mr Gove tells us country dwellers not to be Nimbys, and that a building like Chatsworth adds to the beauty of the countryside. I agree, and would be happy to see a single dwelling go up in the area, surrounded by a well managed estate, with a single access road for a couple of cars.
What we object to is an estate of, say, 50 houses sited at the edge of a small village, bringing with it about 75 extra cars which would be using the narrow country roads to get to work or to go shopping.
We appreciate the need for accommodating our growing population, but extra housing should be incorporated into area development plans that are sympathetic to the needs of communities.
James Bacon
Evesham, Worcestershire
SIR – The Government’s proposed relaxation of the planning laws is a mistake. Property values in provincial Britain are underpinned by restrictive planning laws which keep the price of building land high. Banks and building societies have acted in the expectation that land for building on will remain scarce, and property prices will continue to rise.
Surely the value of existing property will inevitably fall if the planning laws are relaxed? Is this what our high street banks need right now?
Nigel F Boddy
Darlington, Co Durham
SIR – I agree with Mr Gove, and disagree with Griff Rhys Jones, who is opposing a solar farm development – we need to generate electricity and build houses.
I live near two nuclear reactors, and hope that the third will eventually be built, despite the fact that the buildings are an eyesore. Solar farms are not even unappealing to view.
If we spend all our time arguing with Nimbys, we shall find ourselves in a serious crisis 15 years from now.
John R Cherry
Caton, Lancashire
Swivel-eyed Tories
SIR – David Cameron’s adviser is correct that grass-root Conservative activists are “mad, swivel-eyed loons” (report, May 18).
We are swivel-eyed from looking with increasing desperation for any sign that the Prime Minister is sticking to the Coalition agreement to strengthen the economy, instead of promoting irrelevant, non-mandated issues such as gay marriage and ring-fencing overseas aid spending.
J R Ball
Altrincham, Cheshire
SIR – It is important to remind the Tory party leadership that the grass roots pound the streets, regardless of the weather, delivering leaflets and canvassing at election time to increase the chances of electing a Conservative government.
Calling core supporters “mad, swivel-eyed loons” just demotivates the very people that the leadership needs at elections, as the number of party members falls through the floor.
James A Paton
Billericay, Essex
Short-sighted Burke
SIR – Laurence Gretton (Letters, May 13) is right to highlight the 18th-century caricaturists’ use of spectacles to identify Edmund Burke, the Whig politician.
In the days before cameras and film imagery such tags were commonplace. But they operate on several levels, moral as well as descriptive. Thus Burke’s spectacles also hint at academic pettifoggery and lack of political vision, and his tricorn hat and cassock at politically damaging allegations that he was a Jesuit. Charles James Fox, also a prominent Whig spokesman, has a monobrow, paunch and a five o’clock shadow, all references to his supposed lack of self-control and fondness for the card table and the bedchamber.
Modern technology would have freed Edmund Burke from these slurs. Not so Charles James Fox.
Jesse Norman MP (Con)
London SW1
God save the soloist
SIR – Why is the public no longer trusted to sing our national anthem without the assistance of celebrities, who then perform descants not designed for the anthem? The voice of the public may be audible within the crowd itself, but they often cannot be heard by television viewers, who then miss out on the wonderful atmosphere.
Jean Birch
Rayleigh, Essex
Gay marriage Bill
SIR – The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill is set to isolate hundreds of thousands of young students and workers across the country who hold a fuller view of marriage based on religion or a traditional view. These young people, from teenagers to
30-year-olds, will suffer discrimination and face new risks to their careers, and futures, if the Bill passes in its present form.
We are a diverse group of church leaders; each week, our congregations number 150,000, of whom 50,000 are aged between 13 and 30. For many in this rising generation, marriage is the union of sexual opposites, and the thread that binds generations. If the Bill passes into law without much clearer protections for freedom of speech and freedom of belief, teachers and public-sector workers will have to choose between their conscience and their career, as many will be deterred from a public-service career or from charity involvement.
The Bill is supposed to be pro-marriage, pro-equality and pro-diversity, yet, as drafted, it is none of those things. There will be anger and sadness, and this Bill will cause pain for many, without tackling prejudice against the few. We, and many young people in our congregations, are concerned about the consequences if it is passed in its current state.
The Rt Rev Peter Smith
Archbishop of Southwark
Rev John Stevens
National Director, Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches
Rev Vaughan Roberts
Rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford
Rev Richard Coekin
Director, Co-Mission
Rev David Barry
Free Church Minister, Market Harborough
Rev David Gibbs
Vicar of St Andrew’s Leyland
Rev Christopher Hobbs
Midland Gospel Partnership
Rev Andrew McKenna
Free Church Minister, Market Harborough
Rev Justin Mote
North Western Gospel Partnership
Rev Marcus Nodder
Vicar of St Peter’s Barge, Canary Wharf
Rev Hugh Palmer
Rector of All Souls, Langham Place, London W1
Rev Paul Perkin
Vicar of St Mark’s Battersea Rise
Rev Stephen Shaw
South Western Gospel Partnership
Rev Vaughan Roberts
Rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford
Rev John Ross
Minister of Farnham Baptist
Rev Will Stileman
Vicar of St Mary’s, Maidenhead
Rev William Taylor
Rector of St Helen, Bishopsgate
Rev Richard Underwood
Free Church Minister, Market Harborough
Olive oil off menu
SIR – This latest legislation, which will force olive oil to be served in tamper-proof containers, demonstrates the incompetent meddling of the European Commission (report, May 18). Such legislation will drive up the amount of packaging required, drive up costs, and inevitably drive down quality – the opposite of what it is trying to achieve. The eurozone is in crisis: have they really got nothing better to do?
Steve Willis
Olney, Buckinghamshire
SIR – There are several ways round the EU’s ban on serving olive oil in dipping bowls. First, restaurants could fill the bowls with an alternative, for example rape seed oil. Second, restaurants could deny that there is olive oil in the bowls and jugs, and state that it is ordinary vegetable oil.
Perhaps, though, I should put my hip flask to a new use, and fill it with olive oil.
Crispin Binder
Maldon, Essex
Unwatched cricket
SIR – The way to regenerate cricket’s niche in the sporting life of this country (Letters, May 14) is to get the home Test matches back on free-to-view television. We have just had the first Test against New Zealand, and the Ashes will be in July and August.
How can our youth be inspired to emulate our national team when only a minority will be able to watch?
Major John Carter
Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
Harrow versus Eton
SIR – Gareth Pryce (Letters, May 17) asks if anything of consequence happens to people who did not attend Eton, after four Etonians appeared on Tuesday’s front page.
Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Curtis and James Blunt, the musician, to name but a few, all went to Harrow.
Julian Pitcairn
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey
Local fire brigades will be the next service to go
SIR – My local fire station is earmarked for closure, my local accident and emergency is being downgraded and my local police station was closed some time ago. What am I paying my income and council tax for?
I would prefer to know that locally based firemen, emergency hospital workers and police are waiting for an emergency call, rather than an over-stretched, distant, centralised service which may be of no use to me in time of real need.
Fires, illness and crime do not only occur Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Greg Morris
London SE4
SIR – Sir Ken Knight, the former chief fire and rescue adviser for England, reports that call-outs have decreased by 40 per cent in the past decade (report, May 18), which I suspect is at least partly due to the number of people who have given up smoking. Sir Ken suggests a single fire and rescue service for the whole country, in place of the county and city brigades.
During the Second World War, we had such an organisation, called the National Fire Service. Significant increases in efficiency plus substantial savings would be achieved by a return to a single service.
Jack Warden
Former Chief Fire Officer, Lancashire
Ramsgate, Kent
SIR – Given that so many firefighters are well trained in emergency medicine, does it not make sense to merge the ambulance and fire services into one fire and emergency organisation?
There are many more fire stations than ambulance stations, so this would have a significant impact on the provision of both services, and would reduce costs by utilising one infrastructure, communication system and management structure.
James Crawley
Sevenoaks, Kent

Irish Times:
Sir, – With Government ministers and, indeed, the Taoiseach, coming out in support of Alan Shatter with depressing predictability, what better way for the Seanad to prove its worth than by passing a motion of no confidence in Mr Shatter? – Yours, etc,
IAN FOLEY,
Charlemont Avenue,
Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I note that Independent Wexford TD Mick Wallace has accused Minister for Justice Alan Shatter of trying to “discredit him” (Breaking News, May 19th). I don’t believe that Deputy Wallace needs any assistance in that endeavour. – Yours, etc,
GEOFF SCARGILL,
Loreto Grange,
Bray, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – I certainly feel there is a campaign to discredit Independents. The Movimento 5 Stelle in Italy has given established political parties cause for fear. I think it is a similar fear that is at the heart of the campaigns to discredit the likes of Mick Wallace, Clare Daly and Ming Flanagan.
A Dáil with more Independents properly representing their constituency can only be good for democracy. – Yours, etc,
LIZZIE FLEMING,
Kilmichael,
Macroom,
Co Cork.
Sir, – Alan Shatter has helpfully created the occasion for considering a disturbing question which has so far been ignored: is it appropriate that any single person – even Mr Shatter’s replacement – should simultaneously be minister both for Justice and for Defence – effectively a Minister for State Security? – Yours, etc,
JOHN MAGUIRE,
Friars’ Walk, Cork.
Sir, – The disclosure by the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, that an Opposition TD had escaped penalty points follows hard on the heels of the leaking that another opposition TD had been arrested and breathalysed following a minor motoring offence. It is beginning to look as though anybody opposing the Government is being singled out for “special treatment” and that a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” policy is operating between said Minister for Justice and Garda management.
  How many more “newsworthy snippets” does Mr Shatter have stored away in his little black book? Perhaps in recognition of Fine Gael’s pre-election promises about openness and honesty he should rename his department “The Stasi”? Incidentally, has Fine Gael’s 2011 election manifesto been “officially expunged” from public view given that there seems no trace of it on the party’s website? – Yours, etc,
ROGER A BLACKBURN,
Abbey Hill,
Naul,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – Alan Shatter has defended his pronouncements last week on the basis that it was “in the public interest”. And his colleagues in government have defended his comments by stating that they put “context” on the situation.
Given both of these points, I look forward to Mr Shatter either publishing or broadcasting over the airwaves the names of all the other TDs and senators who have received such “discretion” from the Garda Síochána. Now that he has shown us the public interest angle, surely he should finish the job? I won’t be holding my breath. – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL BARRY,
Hacketstown,
Co Carlow.

Sir, – It was enlightening to hear of the Constitutional Convention discussing political reform. What I find strange, however, is that it is doing so in the absence of any local government practitioner.
It is not possible to significantly reform national politics if we do not reform local government. In that context it is strange, for me, to see unelected Oireachtas members being able to participate in the convention and yet elected councillors from across Ireland have been excluded. Democracy is not a bad idea. Perhaps after all the hearings and tribunals and outcomes – we might try it. – Yours, etc,
Cllr DERMOT LACEY,
Beech hill Drive,
Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

Sir, – In response to the reported comments (Home News, May 11th) of Adrian Oughton’s presentation of the Church of Ireland’s Board of Education report at the General Synod that, “Trinity by its actions in effect refused to accept as undergraduates Protestant young men and women who wish to be primary teachers”, we wish to point out that there is deep concern Trinity College would be associated with such discriminatory practice. We believe our concerns are shared elsewhere, including among some members of the Church of Ireland community.
We have allowed some time to elapse before responding to such patently untrue allegations while we attempted to clarify matters with Archbishop Dr Michael Jackson and with Mr Oughton.
Trinity College Dublin is a pluralist university as evidenced by our student and staff profile.
We respect the ethos of Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE) and currently register CICE students. We will be pleased to continue registering such students this September and beyond, unless and until the CICE instructs us otherwise.
Trinity is also working with Marino Institute of Education, UCD, and NCAD in a partnership to provide a training programme for primary school teachers that is pluralist and open to all.
We will be responding directly to the Church of Ireland’s Board of Education in relation to its report. – Yours, etc,
JOHN COMAN,

Sir, – Jim O’Sullivan claims (May 18th) that testimonials at recent Oireachtas hearings prove abortion induces mental illnesses “in many cases”. They prove nothing of the sort. Women Hurt, who provided the testimonials, is a small group which consists only of women who regret their abortions. They represent a tiny proportion of women in Ireland.
Their inclusion in the hearings as the only women speaking about their experience of mental health post-abortion gives a lopsided perspective on the effects of abortion. It “proves” nothing except there are those who apparently do not wish to hear from women who felt relief and/or whose mental well-being was aided by abortion. They may not even realise they exist.
I propose a new group of women be brought together, for invitation to the hearings. It could include some of the 4,000 who have to “travel” annually, or the hundreds who can’t or won’t go through that farce and could now face 14 years in prison.
It could be called “Women Hurt (but only by Ireland’s ridiculous abortion regime)”. – Yours, etc,
CIARA GALVIN,

Sir, – Ireland’s result in the Eurovision was certainly disappointing, but what was more disappointing was the fact RTÉ and the Irish Eurovision team have not realised the current economic situation of our country.
To vote in the contest from Ireland cost either 60c or 61c (call/ text) while in the UK it cost a mere 15p (18c)! Rip-off Ireland alive and well. – Yours, etc,
GORDON McCABE,
Shanbally,
Co Limerick.
Sir, – It seems to me that Saturday night’s Eurofest was nothing more than a rerun of the Battle of Clontarf wherein this time the Danes won and we finished 26th. It shows how far we have slipped. Of course this time a mere 37 countries failed to come to our aid! – Yours, etc,
HUGH W McCORMACK,
Killiney Hill Road,
Killiney, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Ireland finishes last (with five votes) in the Eurovision Song Contest. That doesn’t bode well for a deal on our banking debt. – Yours, etc,
JOHN O’BYRNE,
Mount Argus Court,
Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W.
Sir, – Upon watching this year’s expensive waste of time which was the Eurovision Song Contest I was so angry I bit a hole in the carpet, tripped over the budgie and put my foot through the telly. I have emailed an invoice to the European Broadcasting Union.
It’s a disgrace. Somebody should do something about it. – Yours, etc,
CHRISTIAN MORRIS,
Claremont Road,
Howth, Dublin 13.

Sir, – We would just like to say a big merci to Dublin for hosting a great European Cup finals weekend! From the moment we arrived at the airport with all the helpful staff and the blue, white and red balloons, we felt welcomed.
Countless strangers yelled out a friendly bonjour , helped us find our way, and even commiserated with us when we lost. You should be proud of your city and its hospitable citizens. Thank you all from the bottom of our (slightly broken) hearts. – Yours, etc,
MARY & THIERRY
TREMBLAY,
(Clermont fans),
Route de Naz Dessus,
Le Châtelard,
Echenevex, France.

Irish Independent:
* “When the crop fails, the king dies” is an ancient rule of Ireland, and more than any other law I have read, it is, in my opinion, the finest encapsulation of what political duty entails. Last week, a king of our most important crop, the nation’s children, left this realm for the afterlife.
Also in this section
Government too weak with banks
High praise for Mr Kealy’s work
Labour has lost ability to oppose
As with the passing of all great people, the media have rightly given tribute and remembrance to the relatively short life of Donal Walsh.
Nobody voted for this young man, nobody carried him aloft on their shoulders after an election, nobody canvassed on his behalf, and yet, when this young man spoke, his words had an honesty and a compassion that greatly belied his tender years.
Fearlessly and unselfishly, this young lad faced his impending death, challenged it, accepted it and then asked himself the ultimate question: “What will be my legacy?”
He chose to help those most in need. He chose for his death to be an inspiration to his peers, who may also be facing their own dark nights of the soul, and spoke out against one of the greatest blights on our youth: suicide.
There is no doubt that his words will save lives among our teenagers, but what message do his words carry for the adults of the nation? I don’t know the answer to that question but if one considers that life carries such capacity for enjoyment then perhaps we should try, despite the seeming impossibility, given austerity, to be more positive. Perhaps we should attempt to be more positive for and to others.
Politicians tend to talk about heartless things such as economies, projections, percentages and other numerically based concepts.
Donal spoke about people, friendship and hope. These concepts are the antitheses of drudgery. Perhaps his impending death made him realise that it is our broken society that is destroying our economy and if we concentrate on people rather than economics, then Ireland will heal itself.
Then again, maybe he simply understood that the purpose of play is the generation of laughter and not some silver-coloured victory.
Dermot Ryan
Attymon, Athenry, Co Galway
PRAISE FOR HEALTH STAFF
* Our healthcare system gets no end of bad press but what my family and I experienced recently through a loved one’s illness has completely renewed my faith in the excellence and quality that exists within our healthcare system.
I observed nurses and a range of healthcare professionals attending to human life’s peaks and troughs as they cared for all manner of things. To patients’ chills and unsavoury spills, to all sorts of twinges, aches and coughs. I’ve seen the very caring kindness of the human soul in what might be said to be the very essence of a caring role.
These splendid healthcare professionals have cared for my mother as if she was their mother; these nurses and doctors treated mam as if she was a uniquely special gem. They comforted us so sensitively – it seemed as if nothing was a bother. I often just wonder who cares for them.
Time is so plentiful on this earth and yet when we are sick or ill, it’s only just a little time that we need. Somebody to ease our pain, someone to help us breathe. Just somebody to help us wash, a caring person to help us drink and help us feed, maybe just that someone who can meet our smallest need.
That is a really essential person in so many ways. They can ease us through life’s most difficult and toughest days. That somebody is a very exceptional human being – they can help us in our hearing and in our seeing.
These past few days, I observed that somebody and somebodies working at their very best. They’ve passed with flying colours their caring test. They’ve comforted us all at some time in life when we are sick and when it all goes wrong. Don’t you often wonder what makes them strong?
I’ve watched them weave their caring spells. Dealing with all sorts of difficult things and bodily smells, and it seems always with a smile on their faces, even in the most trying of illnesses and life’s most challenging spaces. I’m surer than ever now that some kind of heaven still really exists somewhere in this life. I’m convinced even now that nurses and doctors are the earth-angels sent here specially to helps us cope with life’s awful diseases and sickening strife.
These earth-angels simply care. More than ever, we need to value nurses and doctors and healthcare professionals extremely highly, time and again – because none of us could ever know when we’ll really need the care of one of them.
Paul Horan
Assistant Professor,
Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2
THE ABORTION QUESTION
* I write to question how, as a nation, we have become subtly distracted from an important national debate by the introduction of a word devised to cause distraction and discomfort. The word ‘abortion’ has been slowly and deliberately introduced to replace the ‘medical termination debate’.
The media, either deliberately or subconsciously, have taken the leading role in this mischievous deceit. The placing of the word abortion in all articles is assured to raise barriers to logical thinking and elicit the desired response of intransigence to the much-needed debate.
Media are in a powerful position to direct the moral compass of the masses, and I feel this compass has been misdirected.
Ray Dunne
Enfield, Co Meath
BANKRUPT NOTES
* Nul points. That is the gratitude we get for being “the perfect Europeans”.
Eamon Ward
Stillorgan, Dublin 14
* Even our musical notes are bankrupt.
Michael McCullagh
Mountpleasant, Ballinasloe, Co Galway
A TRUE SPORTSMAN
* Ronan O’Gara retires with 128 caps for Ireland, 1,083 international test points and three Lions tours; and he has won two European (Heineken) Cups with Munster and the Grand Slam with Ireland in 2009 – the second time Ireland won a Grand Slam in 50 years and, if memory serves me right, he kicked the final, crucial goal points in the closing minutes of that game against Wales.
He was, to my eyes, one of the best and elegant goal and penalty points kickers in an Ireland team and the best manager or director of a game for a team that I have seen.
Each person is different, as he wrote about the many players who played alongside him for Munster, but he is, I like to suggest, a bit like Roy Keane, in that both were one of the lynchpins in their teams. They both have, obviously, strong Cork ties as they were raised here.
Thanks, Ronan, for the memories of great playing days with Ireland.
Mary Sullivan
College Rd, Cork
HONOURING FRANK DUFF
* The Frank Duff Bridge would be my choice of name for the new Liffey bridge. Mr Duff’s name has been put on the shortlist of names for the much talked about new Luas railway bridge, by Dublin City Council. His book, ‘True Devotion to the Nation’, is a must-read for any person who truly loves their nation.
In addition to writing this book, the worldwide organisation that Mr Duff founded, the Legion of Mary, continues to do the most incredible work for some of the most troubled people in society, including those in Irish society.
John B Reid
Monkstown, Co Dublin
Irish Independent

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