Hospital 31 st May 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Troutbridge is taking the Todd Hunter Browns off again to some remote spot. The are a terribly nice couple but they only seem to last a couple of week in any diplomatic position and no one will say why. Priceless.
A quiet day off out to the hospital Mary is to have a test, not quite as bad as expected but what a morning.
We watch The Fast Lady dear Leslie Phillips a wonderful old film
Mary wins at Scrabble today, just and gets just over 400, I might get my revenge tomorrow, I hope.


Frederic Franklin
Frederic Franklin, who has died aged 98, was a Liverpool boy who rose to partner the starriest ballerinas of ballet’s golden age, outlived them all and – thanks to his exceptional memory – became a priceless historical link to the Ballets Russes period.

Frederic Franklin and Agnes de Mille in ‘Rodeo’ (1942), a ballet scored by Aaron Copland  Photo: HULTON/ GETTY
6:47PM BST 30 May 2013
Exuberant by nature, he was described by the American choreographer Agnes de Mille as “strong as a mustang, as sudden, as direct and as inexhaustible”. She cast him as the Champion Roper in her pioneering cowboy ballet Rodeo, and he was a favourite leading man too in creations of the 1940s by Léonide Massine and George Balanchine.
His remarkably eclectic career, performing with the Ballet Russe companies in America and Europe, gave him access to a very large repertory, which he remembered in astonishing detail. As a result he was a pivotal resource for biographers, stagers and historians of the ballet explosion of the early 20th century, particularly in America.
He was also a vivid raconteur of the early days of British dance. He recalled his first touring job, at the age of 18, on a northern England circuit: “We used to follow a comedian called Billy Bennett, who was billed ‘Almost A Gentleman’ and told lewd stories. I would stand in the wings, terrified. At the weekends the audience was always drunk. ‘Look at him!’ they’d shout. ‘Here, you’ve got your knickers on, mate!’ I’d be doing my big jetés around the stage — oh, terrified. We used to dread it. They’d never seen ballet before, let alone a man in tights… We were followed by a lady snake charmer.”
Thanks to his outstanding musicality, dramatic personality and athletic deftness, Franklin’s career rapidly improved; he would go on to become a favourite partner of the era’s greatest ballerinas, such as Alicia Markova and Alexandra Danilova.
Fred Franklin (he would rename himself Frederic) was born on June 13 1914 in Liverpool, the eldest of three children of Mabel and Fred Franklin, a refreshments caterer.
His imagination was fired when his parents bought a Victrola gramophone, and he asked to take dancing lessons, turning up to his first class aged six with a pair of girls’ pointe shoes. He found himself the only boy in his class at Shelagh Elliott-Clarke’s dance school — one of the first such institutions in the country — but disarmed potential bullies at his normal school by showing off medals won at dance competitions.
His mother took him to the Liverpool Empire to see Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and Anna Pavlova, and at 17 he answered an advertisement in Variety that read: “Wanted: A Boy”. It turned out to be for a tap-dancing troupe, the Jackson Boys, hired for a Josephine Baker revue at the Casino de Paris .
Franklin had an uncanny ability to pick up steps. After showing himself an exceptional tap-dancer, he became a more than competent ballet dancer, able to perform with virtually no rehearsal. He was also a useful standby pianist, playing entirely by ear.
Having danced with Josephine Baker’s pet leopard, he moved back to England to dance with elephants and Peggy Ashcroft in a revue, The Golden Toy, at the London Coliseum. He got his longed-for ballet break when he was hired by Markova, Britain’s prodigious young star, as she launched her own touring company with Anton Dolin in 1935 . Franklin recalled: “I would say to her, ‘We’re the pioneers of ballet, like the early settlers. We’re the covered wagons.’”
In 1938 Massine signed him up for his Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and cast him in his hugely popular Gaîeté Parisienne as the romantic Baron who wins the favours of the flighty Glove-seller, played by Alexandra Danilova.
Massine also gave Franklin leading roles alongside Markova in his new Seventh Symphony (to Beethoven) and Le rouge et le noir (which had costumes by Henri Matisse); but it was for Franklin’s tap-dancing bravura that Agnes de Mille cast him alongside herself as the Champion Roper in her iconoclastic cowboy ballet Rodeo (1942).
Frederick Ashton made Franklin the romantic lead in his ballet for the Ballet Russe, Devil’s Holiday, intended to premiere in London in 1939 but, because of the outbreak of war, given an unsatisfactory opening in New York instead (from which the ballet’s reputation could not recover).
At Balanchine’s instigation, Franklin became the Ballet Russe’s ballet master in 1944 as well as principal dancer. Danilova looked at him warily and said: “So, young man, you are going to be my boss.” But their dancing partnership endured, with a global tour in the mid-Fifties.
In 1952 Franklin broke away from his usual light-hearted roles to score a critical success as Stanley Kowalski in Valerie Bettis’s ballet version of A Streetcar Named Desire, with Mia Slavenska as Blanche Dubois.
His undying popularity with the colourful refugee ballerinas of the post-Diaghilev decades was recorded in the 2006 documentary Ballets Russes, in which he and other almost equally aged legends of dance recalled their picturesque lives on the road.
After quitting leading roles, Franklin continued to perform character roles while moving into management, as director or choreographer for several American companies — Washington DC Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Cincinnati Ballet, Tulsa Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem (for which he staged an acclaimed Creole Giselle in 1984, transplanting the tragedy to a sugar plantation in Louisiana).
Remarkably, Franklin joined American Ballet Theatre at the age of 80, performing veteran character roles such as the Tutor in Swan Lake — which he performed on ABT’s London tour in 2009 aged 94.
He was appointed CBE in 2004, and in 2011 won a Bessie Award for Lifetime Achievement, America’s highest cultural accolade.
He is survived by his partner of 48 years, William Ausman.
Frederic Franklin, born June 13 1914, died May 4 2013


Your editorial and Tom Clark’s article on 28 May highlight round two of the failure of the Private Finance Initiative, imaginatively called PFI2 by Cameron, but fails to mention just how disastrous PFI1 continues to be for the NHS, schools and the police. The Tories introduced this financial strategy to build public buildings with private finance and thereby avoid the debt appearing in the overall government borrowing figures; Labour picked up the baton with enthusiasm and is now embarrassed to mention the word. PFI contracts meant finance was raised at higher interest rates than those the government itself would need to pay. Hospitals and NHS trusts, such as the South London Health Care Trust, are lumbered for years with outrageous interest repayments following the building completion.
The Commons Treasury committee noted: “The cost of capital for a typical PFI project is currently over 8% – double the long-term government gilt rate of approximately 4%. The difference in finance costs means that PFI projects are significantly more expensive to fund over the life of a project. This represents a significant cost to taxpayers.”
The committee saw no evidence of other savings or benefits, despite claims that major infrastructure projects were completed more timely. The PFI provider, be it Barclays or Innisfree or Taylor Woodrow, benefits from a long future stream of interest income.
It’s surely time for political parties of all hues to commit to halt the destruction being wrought in the NHS. It is one simple step: cancelling the debts – Barclays et al have already had their financial outlay paid back several times over.
Martin Allen
Lewisham People Before Profit

Your report (Goldman Sachs and UBS to lead Royal Mail float, 30 May) stating that banks appointed by the government will receive £30m for their work on the sale of Royal Mail is misleading. We have agreed fees which are competitive compared with previous privatisations and which represent good value for taxpayers. No decision has been taken on what form a sale will take. The appointed banks will only be paid if the government decides that an IPO represents the best option. Should we proceed with an IPO, and in line with normal practice, these banks will receive a tiny percentage of the amount raised in the share offering, rather than a percentage of the overall market capitalisation of Royal Mail. Royal Mail’s market valuation is still to be determined, so any figures putting a value on either the company or an IPO are speculation. As is normal, full details of advisers’ fees will be published in any IPO prospectus and we expect the National Audit Office to scrutinise them.
Michael Fallon MP
Minister of state for business and enterprise

Google CEO Eric Schmidt says his company should “pay the taxes that are legally required” (Report, 27 May). In that case, Google should pay UK corporation tax on all its operations in the UK. That is what is legally required. It is not legally required for Google to route its income stream through low-tax jurisdictions such as Ireland. Google does indeed have a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders, but the laws governing this responsibility do not specifically state that companies should seek to avoid tax. That is merely Mr Schmidt’s own interpretation of those laws. Avoiding tax is legally possible, but we all know that doing what is legal and doing what is right are not always the same thing. Mr Schmidt needs to make up his mind. Will Google continue to be regarded as a company of high ethical and moral standards, one which does no harm? Or will it become just another profit-maximising multinational? Time to choose.
Morgen Witzel
Fellow, Centre for Leadership Studies, University of Exeter Business School
• As the unpaid volunteer treasurer of a village social club struggling to survive in a difficult economic climate and to provide a valuable amenity for a village community, I was upset to receive from HMRC a letter threatening a possible surcharge because payment of the club’s VAT was two days late. In view of the fact that many very rich multinational companies are avoiding some taxes altogether and other companies are able to negotiate cosy settlements of disputed bills, it does make me wonder where HMRC’s priorities lie.
David Robbie
• Dave Hartnett, formerly of HMRC, might have taken his generous public pension and gone to work with Tax Research UK, UK Uncut, or even Christian Aid. His unique expertise would have been welcomed and, I assume, he doesn’t want for much materially. Instead he prefers to advise overseas governments on tax “policy” for Deloitte (Report, 28 May). Is enough never enough for some?
Nigel Gann
Chiselborough, Somerset

Wildlife legislation provides for the protection of our wildlife. The licensing procedure, which has been prominent recently in this paper (Comment, 25 May), exists to allow, but only where there is a valid justification, an activity affecting a plant or animal which would otherwise be illegal. Natural England issues many individual licences each year for a number of different purposes which are set down in law and vary from the protection of wild flora and fauna, research and conservation surveys, to the prevention, in exceptional cases, of serious damage to livestock and crops, public health and air safety.
Two recent licences appear to have had thorough technical assessments, including detailed economic, commercial and welfare considerations. In the case of a single pheasant shoot it seems that a significant range of options were tried: the use of brash wigwams, car radios, gas guns, scarecrows, flashing lights, reflective tape and diversionary feeding included. The granting of licences to a free-range poultry producer and to a commercial shoot to remove (but not kill) buzzards predating on young reared birds was in response to exceptional but intractable problems. Without such a licencing system we risk consigning free-range chickens to sheds and the viability of responsible shooting, which can play a vital part in conservation of habitat and many species.
We need an informed debate on the role of licencing. We pledge our commitment to maintaining this debate with rational and evidence-based dialogue with all who care for wildlife.
Teresa Dent
Chief executive, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust
• We were horrified at the revelation that licences have been granted to destroy buzzard nests and kill or capture adult birds. We are shocked that this has happened without any reference to the public, who clearly expressed their opposition when plans to spend £375,000 on research that would have allowed similar activities were proposed last year. It is very concerning that this information was only released after invoking an application through the environmental information regulations. In short, we think that it is wrong for buzzard control licences to be issued to protect commercial shooting interests, especially as the full impact of the release of non-native gamebirds on England’s wildlife has not been properly established. It is wrong that there has been no public scrutiny of these decisions and it is wrong that we only heard of these decisions after the nests have been destroyed.
We urge the secretary of state, Owen Paterson, to issue a clear statement that licences will not be issued to kill a native bird of prey to protect commercial gamebirds. This is a simple step which could easily be taken, but it is vital to reassure stakeholders and the public that his department is acting in the public interest and standing up for wildlife. Nature is in crisis and Defra must focus its energies towards addressing this issue: we don’t believe destroying nests of one of our few success stories is the right way forward.
Mike Clarke Chief executive, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Stephanie Hilborne Chief executive, The Wildlife Trusts
Andy Atkins Executive director, Friends of the Earth
Debbie Pain Director of conservation, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
Tony Gent Chief executive, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
Gavin Grant Chief executive, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Barbara Handley Chair, Hawk and Owl Trust
Paul Irving Chairman, Northern England Raptor Forum
Mark Jones Executive director, Humane Society International/UK
Jennifer Lonsdale Director, Environmental Investigation Agency
Robbie Marsland UK director, International Fund for Animal Welfare
Suzi Morris UK Director, World Society for the Protection of Animals (UK)
Jill Nelson Chief executive, People’s Trust for Endangered Species
David Ramsden Head of conservation, Barn Owl Trust
Dave Williams Chair, Badger Trust
Chris Butler-Stroud Chief executive, Whale and Dolphin Conservation

The excellent articles by Simon Jenkins and Seumas Milne on ill-advised military involvement in Syria (May 29) bring to mind Cicero’s words: Parvi enim sunt foris arma, nisi et consilium domi (Armed forces abroad are of little value, unless there is prudent counsel at home).
Cal McCrystal
• Why such outrage about “secret” detentions in Afghanistan (British forces are detaining dozens in Afghanistan, 29 May)? We’re doing exactly the same in Northern Ireland. Martin Corey is now in his third year of detention without trial. Not even his lawyer has been told why he is considered to be a risk.
Moya St Leger
Twickenham, Middlesex
• Amir Ofek seems to forget (Letters, 30 May), that Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for the World Cup to come to South Africa after the ending of that country’s version of apartheid.
Brian Capaloff
• For a similar story, movingly told in verse, readers are advised to turn to Brecht’s 1922 poem On the Infanticide Marie Farrar, available on the internet (We’re all upset about baby 59. So what else do we agree on?, 30 May).
Nicholas Jacobs
• Joyce Hawthorn (Letters, 27 May) should not be too surprised to find toadstools sprouting at this time of year. I spotted my first Calocybe gambosa, commonly known as St George’s mushroom, on 13 April, a full 10 days before its “official” arrival time.
John Slater
• I enjoyed Stuart Jeffries’s account of his iPhone being stolen (G2, 29 May), but why does one buy a tin of rhubarb?
Igor Cusack
• I thought it was hypocrisy that was always “eye-watering” (Letters, 30 May).
John Shirley
• How many more times can we approach the absolute limit?
Mike Cooper
Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire

The charities which report that half-a-million people are now dependent on food banks seem to do so on the basis that if the government realises what is happening, it will reverse its welfare cuts (Welfare cuts have caused hunger and destitution, report charities, 30 May). On the contrary, we need to wake up to the fact that this is all part of Mr Cameron’s idea of the “big society” in which, just as in our Victorian past and beyond, welfare-funding for the lower orders was dependent on, and provided by, the discretion of their more-affluent neighbours.
There was no significant fiscal-based support for the poor, but merely an obligation on the part of the better-off to comply with the seven corporal works of mercy which required them, as Christians keen to enter heaven, to feed the hungry, tend the sick, house the homeless etc. It is this, the compassion of the giver, whether driven by religious duty or slick conscience-tugging TV adverts, that is to be the mainstay of our future welfare provision, with lower levels of provision coupled with planned lower direct taxation which will put available money into the donors’ pockets.
Cameron has stated that the increase in food banks is proof the big society is working and his government, with little opposition from Labour, is currently assessing, through trial and error, just how much state spending on welfare can be replaced by charitable giving. We can expect more alarm from charities as more and more responsibilities are pumped into them. This is the Tories’ brave new world, “compassionate” in giving, “conservative” in lowering taxes, a system that failed miserably in the past and will condemn millions to penury in the future.
Colin Burke
• It is time to question the sanity of running a benefit system which gives money with one hand and then takes it back with four more in the bedroom tax, the housing benefit cap, the £500 overall benefit cap and the council tax. It imposes homelessness because benefit claimants cannot pay the rent (Bedroom tax ‘will force tens of thousands on to the streets’, 27 May) and hunger because they run out of money and food banks cannot meet demand (Food banks struggle to meet demand, 28 May). 
When creating the monster with five hands the government knew there were not enough single-bedroom properties to accommodate people forced into downsizing. Lord Freud, minister for welfare reform, told peers: “I recognise that there is not the sufficient range of stock in many areas that would enable landlords always to suitably house people according to the size of their household.” (Hansard HL 14 December 2011. Welfare reform bill: column 1306.)
Meanwhile, the Treasury cut the funding of the council tax benefit by 10% and the secretary of state for communities and local government forced local authorities to charge benefits, already reduced by the bedroom tax and other imposts, between 8.5% to 30% of the council tax, knowing many cannot pay. Disabled people suffer from both taxed benefits and cut services.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
• We, the Quakers of Tottenham Meeting, have carefully considered the question of using our Sunday collections towards food banks. In an austerity-era approach to the problems faced by civil society, food banks and the volunteers that run them are filling a yawning gap created by frozen wages, rising food prices, and fuel bills. While we recognise the importance of emergency food aid, and the moral imperative behind the need to support it, in whatever way we can, we strongly believe that the access to food is a fundamental human right. We believe that this therefore is a social justice issue disguising itself in such a way as to allow government to ignore hunger and its obligation, committed to when the UK ratified the international covenant on economic social and cultural rights (ICESCR).
What is the right to food?: “States that sign the covenant agree to take steps to the maximum of their available resources to achieve progressively the full realisation of the right to adequate food, both nationally and internationally.” (ICESCR 1966: article 2(1), 11(1) and 23.; Ziegler 2012.)
We urge all, at the same time as supporting food banks, to remind the government of its own obligations.
Margaret Roe
Elder, Quakers of Tottenham Meeting


At the age of 55, in 2008, I chose to withdraw from complicity in the destruction of the NHS, as Charles Fletcher (letter, 29 May) indicates many others are planning to do.
Starting in 1981 I had been happy to provide one-in-two night and weekend cover, same-day appointments, minor injury management, minor surgery – all the things that people say they want. I would have been delighted to continue, in a fully integrated primary healthcare team, providing a full GP service, but successive governments all felt they knew better and incrementally destroyed the system.
You and many others have not yet fully grasped what is happening to the NHS. It is being intentionally destroyed in order that the sick and injured can be fully exploited for private profit. Doctors, nurses and even patients are being systematically demonised to facilitate the process and shift the blame from government.
Wake up! Get angry!
Steve Ford
Haydon Bridge, Northumberland
There has been considerable discussion about the rise in remuneration for GPs and the changes in out of hours services following the contract changes brought in by the previous government. However there were other changes that occurred including the relaxation of the requirement for GPs in full-time partnership to attend their surgery five days a week and a change in payments, making it less attractive financially to replace a partner than to hire a salaried doctor.
GPs are treated as independent contractors (if they are partners) and thus their income is a share of the profits of the practice even though most of their expenses are either fully paid or substantially subsidised by the monopoly of the NHS. Many younger doctors are trapped in practices run by older GPs and have little prospect of partnership or any meaningful role in practice development.
Surely now is the time to end the dominant role of the GP partners and oblige them to give a partnership after a certain period of time as a salaried doctor (they are all similarly qualified and have annual appraisals) when the doctor will have settled in to the practice and locality.
The NHS is in a powerful position to require this and I consider that patients would benefit from opening up general practice to make it a more attractive career. Too often one can only hear the voices of GP partners and their representatives, rather than of the considerable number of salaried GPs, let alone their patients.
Dr Bridget Burt
Yeovil, Somerset
The big problem is that these days if a GP works at night they will not work the next day as well. This is a “shift system” (letter, 24 May), unlike in the “old days” when we used to work both night and day (letter, 27 May).
Who will pay for extra GPs? I am sure there would be no problem with providing better GP access, day or night, if there were more of us.
Dr Pam Martin
GP, London SE14
Atos tests can slow veterans’ recovery
The news that disabled war veterans are being “humiliated” by the benefits crackdown (28 May) is distressing.
Combat Stress, like many charities working with injured military veterans, has heard stories from those we treat regarding the reassessment process. The veterans we work with are proud, brave, honourable men and women who are living with mental wounds as a result of their military service. They want to work but the trauma they have suffered prevents this, and they often find it difficult to reliably undertake even small everyday tasks. A trip to the shops or a knock at the door can raise anxiety levels and trigger flashbacks to their traumatic experiences.
Being reassessed by Atos could increase anxiety and can slow or even reverse the recovery process. All of our veterans have been in full-time employment but the journey back can be difficult and protracted.
Last week a High Court ruling stated that the reassessment process put those with mental health problems at a substantial disadvantage, and subsequently people could be unwilling to report their condition due to “shame or fear of discrimination”.
We ask Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that psychological injuries be given the same consideration as physical wounds. A lack of understanding can perpetuate the suffering of those brave veterans who have managed to seek help.
Commodore Andrew Cameron
Chief Executive, Combat Stress
Leatherhead, Surrey
As a disabled ex-serviceman, I was judged by Atos on three occasions to be fit for work (subsequently overturned by the appeals tribunal).
The assistance I received to find work took the form of being ordered to attend the offices of a private sector workplace supplier on pain of losing my benefits. The offices were on the first floor of a building with no disabled access,
I need to use a wheelchair. After my alleged failure to attend the interview, I received no more offers of help.
Robert Thomas
Botcheston, Leicestershire
Dawkins can  go to heaven
As a regular reader of The Independent and a life-long Catholic I would like to thank you for your coverage of my Church’s activities. However, the report on hell (29 May) left me wondering.
Cardinal Newman wrote a book called The Development of Christian Doctrine, a concept very difficult for many of us Catholics to take in, let alone our secularist friends. Our understanding of Christ’s teaching increases, hopefully, and therefore changes, and mistakes of the past are rejected, all of which can be very confusing to those of us who seek security in the frills of belief and piety rather than careful understanding.
Papal infallible pronouncements, for instance, are very rare and subject to interpretation and even reformulation; Pope John XXIII made it clear that he had no intention of being infallible. As for the pronouncements of minor Vatican officials, the less said the better.
I have come to the conclusion that the most important thing to understand about Our Lord’s life and teaching is that the Almighty loves everyone, even Richard Dawkins whom I hope to meet in heaven when all shall be clear and we shall have passed (Newman again) “ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem” – from shadows and images into the truth.
Kevin Dean
Blackburn, Lancashire
Do Catholics go to an Islamic, Protestant, or Buddhist hell? If we’re to consider such nonsense, at least let’s have a level playing-field.
D W Evans
Diabetes and Tesco partnership
Joanna Blythman (Voices, 29 May) suggests that our work with food and pharmaceutical companies may be influencing our “interpretation of data and policy goals”.
It doesn’t. Diabetes UK has a long history of providing evidence-based advice to people with diabetes and those at risk of type 2 diabetes.
Take Tesco, the subject of Ms Blythman’s article. Yes, we are pleased to have been chosen as its national charity partner because it means we will be able to spend £10m on research into a vaccine for type 1 diabetes and on supporting those who have diabetes or are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
But this has zero influence on what we think about the issues relating to type 2 diabetes prevention and the facts on this speak for themselves. We took a strong stand on food policy when we decided not to sign up for the Responsibility Deal. We also have a track record of advising people to maintain a healthy weight to reduce risk of type 2 diabetes.
Barbara Young
Chief Executive, Diabetes UK
London NW1
Why I won’t  vote on Europe
I voted against the Common Market in 1975 and am still an instinctive anti. I believe that most people, like me, will not have the time, knowledge or inclination to research the economic questions involved.
I have gone to the polls in every village, district, county, Westminster and European election for 52 years. A question as involved as whether we should leave the EU is best left to the MPs we elected for that purpose. 
If it is decided by referendum, the result will depend on how much money firms and individuals put into the campaigns, the wording of the question, and prejudice. I will not be voting in any referendum. 
R F Stearn
Old Newton, Suffolk
Blamed for all  the world’s ills
I am one of those 1947 baby- boomers on whose watch, according to Michael McCarthy, “the Earth went wrong” (“The life that disappeared while boomers had their fun”, 30 May).
Having been blamed for everything else in sight, I suppose it was only a matter of time before we got it in the neck for the end of the world. Mr McCarthy acknowledges that some baby-boomers may actually have done some good in their time, but that is not enough: we are all, yet again, to be personally responsible for everything that has gone wrong in the last 65 years.
I’m sorry, but I just did not have enough time to fit it all in.
Patricia Lloyd
No joke
If the word “actress” is no longer permitted (letter, 30 May), what happens to our treasured “as the bishop said to the actress” double-entendres? “As the bishop said to the actor” is out of the question, if we accept the Church of England’s word that there can be no gay bishops.
Peter Forster
London N4
End this scourge
Many of your correspondents blame religion for the outrage perpetrated at Woolwich, perhaps rightly so. Will they therefore join with me in calling for our withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights so that we may legislate away this scourge on our national life? Presumably at gunpoint, and with much use of re-education camps…?
Thought not.
R S Foster
Nicky Fraser (letter, 30 May), discussing lineside flora on the railways, says that weeds are unlucky flowers that have landed in the wrong place. I shall now be more appreciative of the acres of Japanese knotweed and parrot’s feather.
Adrian Durrant
Eastbourne, East Sussex
And the rest
Your poll about the effect on voters of Boris Johnson’s extra-marital activities (30 May) unaccountably omitted the option: “I would never have voted for this self-serving right-wing narcissist anyway, so the question is redundant”.
Michael McCarthy
London W13


T. S. Eliot called Kipling a ‘great writer’ of hymns, ballads and epigraphs, possessed of ‘virtuosity’ and ‘a kind of second sight’
Sir, Orwell did indeed state of Kipling that “During five literary generations every enlightened figure has despised him … he is morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting” (“Kipling: I stole Jungle Book stories”, May 29). However, this was just the starting point of a largely defensive article on Kipling published in Horizon (February 1942), which finishes with: “Even his worst follies seem less shallow and less irritating than the ‘enlightened’ utterances of the same period.”
Perhaps Orwell summed up his attitude to Kipling on the latter’s death: “For my own part I worshipped Kipling at thirteen, loathed him at seventeen, enjoyed him at twenty, despised him at twenty-five, and now again rather admire him” (New English Weekly, January 1936.) It may be worth noting that just after the lines quoted in the first paragraph above, Orwell speaks of “the way in which quotations are parroted to and fro without any attempt to look up their context or discover their meaning”.
John McCart
Sir, Kipling’s admission that he used Inuit-related material in The Jungle Book should come as no surprise.
The World’s Classics edition of The Second Jungle Book long ago noted that he had to resort to a printed source for details of the geography of the NorthWest Passage in the Inuit story Quiquern, as the concentration of exotic place-names itself would suggest.
Kipling had no first-hand knowledge of the area around Baffin Island and did not hesitate to exploit those who had.
Graham Anderson
Sir, Your representation of Kipling offers a one-sided view of the writer, the man and his achievement. While Kipling describes the “stories I have stolen”, evidently that connecting the Law of the Jungle and the Inuit “rules for the division of spoils” would better be described as allusion than theft. Quite scholarly allusion, at that.
The ever incendiary George Orwell’s critique of Kipling is invoked — the poet is described in a more scholarly and less emotional way by T. S. Eliot, who calls Kipling a “great writer” of hymns, ballads and epigraphs, possessed of “virtuosity” and “a kind of second sight”.
Anthony Lazarus
London SW15
Sir, The statement by the seller of “Rudyard Kipling’s letter to an unknown woman” that “the document casts a shadow over one of the best-loved works of children’s fiction”, while correctly claiming that Kipling indulged in plagiarism, appears to imply that this revelation is something new.
If this is the case then it would seem that the seller is himself at best poorly conversant with the poet’s other works, for Kipling in his introduction to the Barrack-Room Ballads had already clearly and publicly acknowledged that he drew on other men’s work, as is quite explicit in “When ‘Omer smote ‘is bloomin’ lyre, / He’d ‘eard men sing by land an’ sea; / An’ what he thought ‘e might require, / ‘E went an’ took — the same as me.”
Whatever George Orwell’s five generations of “enlightened persons” might think, there are many who recognise Rudyard Kipling for the outstanding storyteller that he was.
Andrew Knox
Dunsford, Devon

What are the safeguards and mechanisms to ensure that any UK-supplied weaponry won’t be used to commit human rights abuses?
Sir, The Foreign Secretary William Hague talks of the “carefully controlled circumstances” under which the UK might send weapons to opposition forces in Syria.
What might these be? What are the credible safeguards and mechanisms which will ensure any UK-supplied weaponry won’t be used to commit human rights abuses by groups that already have a chequered record?
From a distance of several thousand miles, in what way is the UK able to monitor the use of its military equipment? In a month’s time? In six months’ time?
And how will the UK or any other EU country ensure that its weapons won’t be transferred from one opposition group to another — or even, indeed, that they won’t be forcibly seized by “less desirable” groups, even by fighters linked to al-Qaeda?
In the future, far from thanking countries such as Britain for its intervention, civilians in Syria may yet come to curse the ready availability of UK-supplied arms if those arms are being used by out-of-control opposition militia rampaging around a fast-disintegrating country.
Allan Hogarth
Head of Policy and Government Affairs, Amnesty International UK
London EC2

Rather than encouraging the fast-tempo music which many shops now play, research suggests that silence encourages more purchases
Sir, A factor in the decline in high street sales is loud piped music (Business, May 30). In 1982 Ronald Milliman showed how to manipulate shoppers’ behaviour by the type of music being played. The music industry seized on this, but what Milliman actually said was that sales were 38.2 per cent less when fast-tempo music, rather than slow tempo or no music, was played. Almost every shop now plays fast-tempo music.
In 1993 a paper by Yalch and Spangenberg showed that the average amount spent per person was highest when no music was playing.
Performing rights agencies encourage businesses to play music so that they can charge for licence fees and argue that music is essential for increased sales. But businesses that don’t play background music, such as John Lewis and Primark, are thriving. Many of us prefer to shop in peace.
D. Lewis

The description ‘Moonies’ may be colloquial but it is still a term of contempt for what is a bona fide religion and charity
Sir, Discussing radical Islam after the Woolwich murder, Janice Turner writes that “Like the Moonies or the Jonestown community, these groups are cults. Cults of hate from which young people should be protected and, if necessary, deprogrammed” (May 25) Such reference to the Unification Church is out of place and hatred is certainly not one of the Church’s hallmarks. Even the name “Moonie” is discriminatory. The Unification Church used to be referred to colloquially as the “Moonies” and it’s hardly surprising that the term is still around, but that doesn’t obscure the fact that it was, and still is, a term of contempt. Responsible media outlets should not use it.
Nor should they describe the Unification Church as a cult. A four-year investigation by the British government in the 1980s failed to substantiate allegations of brainwashing, breaking up of families and exploitation of members, and the Church was reinstated to the register of charities as a bona fide religion for public benefit and charitable in law.
The Unification Movement has for decades worked for greater understanding and unity between world religions in order to avoid bigoted and narrow-minded religious perspectives becoming influential in our society.
Simon Cooper
UK Press Officer, Unification Movement
London W2

A better understanding of the Data Communications Bill would ensure that the public’s natural opposition would diminish
Sir, The Government must get better at explaining the Data Communications bill. Opponents are happy to let the public conflate the retention of the fact of communication with the retention of the content. This naturally causes people to oppose the legislation.
Your opinion piece by Nick Herbert (May 29) did nothing to clarify the difference between the content and the data about a communication.
After an atrocity such as the murder in Woolwich the authorities would be able to look at the historical archive of communications data to and from the suspects to establish which others may have been involved. This would allow the security services to identify who should be subject to future attention and possibly stop any plot to commit similar attacks in the future.
Rob Allison
Stoke D’Abernon, Surrey


Dear Waheed,
Thank you for asking me to set out why I am sympathetic to the possibility of equal marriage and have a different view from that stated in the Church of England’s response to the Equal Civil Marriage consultation. That response from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in June 2012, written in consultation with the Archbishops’ Council and House of Bishops, was prepared under the pressure of the government’s absurdly short period for consultation on a major legislative social and legal change. The Archbishops affirmed what the Church has always taught (with Judaism and Islam) that marriage is a gift of God in creation, the lifelong union of a man and a woman. A subsequent document has been produced by the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission on ‘Men and Women in Marriage’. That this is ‘for study’ indicates a discussion continues to run within the Church of England. This was acknowledged in a recent briefing from the Church of England to MPs for the Commons Report stage which stated: “the Church of England recognises the evident growth in openness to and understanding of same sex relations in wider society. Within the membership of the Church there are a variety of views about the ethics of such relations, with a new appreciation of the need for, and value of faithful and committed lifelong relationships recognised by civil partnerships.”
You, as a gay Muslim, will not be surprised that there are a variety of views within the Church of England where we are experiencing rapid change similar to that in the wider society. This is complex to express, partly because there are those who see this issue as fundamental to the structure of Christian faith. It is also complex because of the worldwide nature of the Anglican Communion in which what might be said carefully in one cultural context (for example, the USA) can be deeply damaging in another (for example, parts of Africa). Change and development are essential in the Church, as they are in life, and part of the genius of a missionary Church is its ability to root the good news of Jesus Christ in varied cultures in every time and place. One of the difficulties now is that globalisation and communication mean it is much more difficult for Christianity to develop in this culturally sensitive way. There has been a very uncomfortable polarisation of views even in our own country.
Whilst marriage is robust and enduring, what is meant by marriage has developed and changed significantly. For example, the widespread availability of contraception from the mid- twentieth century onwards took several decades to gain acceptance for married couples by the Lambeth Conference in 1958. The newer forms of the Church of England’s marriage service have since recognised that the couple may have children. Over the last fifty years the Church of England has come to accept that marriages intended to be lifelong can break down and that on occasion marriage after divorce can be celebrated in the context of Church. It is also the case that most couples now live together before they marry. This happens without censure from the Church which continues to conduct these marriages joyfully even though the Church’s teaching is that sexual relationships are properly confined to marriage.
The desire for the public acknowledgement and support of stable, faithful, adult, loving same sex sexual relationships is not addressed by the six Biblical passages about homosexuality which are concerned with sexual immorality, promiscuity, idolatry, exploitation and abuse. The theological debate is properly located in the Biblical accounts of marriage, which is why so many Christians see marriage as essentially heterosexual. However, Christian morality comes from the mix of Bible, Christian tradition and our reasoned experience. Sometimes Christians have had to rethink the priorities of the Gospel in the light of experience. For example, before Wilberforce, Christians saw slavery as Biblical and part of the God-given ordering of creation. Similarly in South Africa the Dutch Reformed Church supported Apartheid because it was Biblical and part of the God-given order of creation. No one now supports either slavery or Apartheid. The Biblical texts have not changed; our interpretation has.
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The pace of change with regard to same sex relations has been considerable. The Wolfenden report (1957) and Sexual Offences Act (1967) decriminalised homosexual acts in private between men aged over 21 years in England and Wales. This received cautious support from the Church of England at the time. The changes they introduced are now unchallenged and wholly welcomed.
At the co-educational North London Grammar School I attended from 1965-72, there were 2 effeminate gay lads in my year who were no threat to the rest of us but who were regularly beaten up just for being different. At times school for them must have been a brutal experience. What they went through was unkind and unjust but I don’t remember a teacher intervening on their behalf. I am thankful things have changed and we now have a greater sense of equality and fairness. In the current debates it is striking that within the Anglican Communion one of the strongest supporters of same sex marriage is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. From his experience of the racism of Apartheid he sees same sex marriage as primarily a matter of justice.
When the proposal for civil partnerships was debated in 2004 the Church of England was largely hostile. I am grateful that in the Archbishops’ opposition to equal marriage they have expressed their support for civil partnerships and I hope this will help the Church of England towards affirming these relationships liturgically. Like the Archbishops now, I used to think that it was helpful to distinguish between same sex civil partnerships and heterosexual marriage. Many in the churches think the commonly used description of civil partnerships as ‘gay marriage’ is a category error. However, the relationships I know in civil partnerships seem to be either of the same nature as some marriages or so similar as to be indistinguishable. Indeed, the legal protection and public proclamation which civil partnership has afforded gay relationships appears to have strengthened their likeness to marriage in terms of increasing commitment to working on the relationship itself, to contributing to the wellbeing of both families of origin, and to acting as responsible and open members of society. Open recognition and public support have increased in civil partnerships those very qualities of life for which marriage itself is so highly celebrated. It is not surprising this now needs recognition in law.
The possibility of ‘gay marriage’ does not detract from heterosexual marriage unless we think that homosexuality is a choice rather than the given identity of a minority of people. Indeed the development of marriage for same sex couples is a very strong endorsement of the institution of marriage. The ‘quadruple locks’ contained in the Bill provide extraordinarily robust protection for those religious bodies, including the Church of England, unwilling or unable to conduct same sex marriage without accusation of being homophobic.
This subject provokes strong feelings but in most churches a variety of views will be found. I hope this letter helps to say briefly why there is a greater variety of views within the Church of England than can be expressed in the formal statements of the Church or House of Bishops. At its best the Church is committed to the Spirit of God leading us into all Truth in what is a complex period of social change.
The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam
The Bishop of Salisbury

SIR – Interpol’s secretary general has held up the handling of William Browder’s case as a shining example of how well Interpol works (“Interpol makes the world a safer place”,, May 28). Sadly, there are plenty of examples of Interpol failing to weed out attempts to use its global network against human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents.
Russia, for example, was able to use Interpol to pursue Petr Silaev, the recognised political refugee being prosecuted for “hooliganism” in Russia after his involvement in a demonstration against a motorway development. Mr Silaev has already been arrested and detained as a result. We asked Interpol to consider his case at the same time as Mr Browder’s but are still waiting for an answer.
Patricia Poleo, an award-winning Venezuelan journalist, had to wait 18 months for Interpol to recognise that her case was political despite the United States recognising her as a refugee. We have seen similar cases from countries including Sri Lanka, Iran and Indonesia.
Interpol was right to act quickly to stop Russia using it to disrupt Mr Browder’s global campaign for justice for his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. This level of responsiveness should not, though, be reserved for famous hedge-fund managers.
Jago Russell
Fair Trials International
London EC4
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SIR – Peter Oborne’s article (“Is Interpol fighting for truth and justice, or helping the villains?”, Comment, May 22) was probably instrumental in making Interpol remove William Browder from its list. But there are many other cases in which Interpol continues to act as an international department of the Russian secret police. One of the most appalling is that of Akhmed Zakaev, the exiled democratic prime minister of Chechnya, who has been given political asylum in this country. Moscow has sought his extradition from Britain, Denmark, and most recently from Poland; in all three cases, its outlandish charges of “terrorism” collapsed spectacularly in the courts.
The real reason why Mr Zakaev is wanted in Russia is his campaign to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes and genocide in Chechnya. It is a scandal that Interpol is willing to assist the attempts to silence him.
Vladimir Bukovsky
Vice President, The Freedom Association
SIR – Interpol should be given its due for removing Mr Browder from its list. But it should be doing a lot more to enforce its own constitution, which prohibits any involvement in political activities and obliges the organisation to act in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
My client Vitaly Arkhangelsky, once a highly successful businessman, had to flee Russia to save his life after his business was taken over by Putinist raiders. Mr Arkhangelsky brought a number of lawsuits in Western courts against his powerful enemies at the top of the Russian regime. The next thing he knew, he was wanted by Interpol on a Russian request, and arrested in France.
He has been given a form of protection in France called subsidiary protection. Mr Arkhangelsky’s Russian persecutors are currently under criminal investigation in France, but Interpol continues to help them to pursue him by keeping the Red Notice active and public. All our appeals to Interpol have fallen upon deaf ears.
William Bourdon
Former Secretary General, International Federation for Human Rights
Praising appearances
SIR – I am shocked to read that Jo Swinson (Comment, May 28) advises mothers not to tell their daughters that they look beautiful. The best way to enable young women to resist pressures from the media and celebrity culture is to help them develop a healthy self-confidence. This is done by encouraging girls to believe that they are good enough and attractive as they are.
If given enough positive feedback from both parents, girls will not grow up with a desperate need to pursue illusions of beauty and worth outside of themselves. Young women blessed with such early influences will be better able to go on to achieve more.
Susan Moses
Southwell, Nottinghamshire
SIR – I will continue to tell my children that they are beautiful. My daughters – one a successful grown-up woman, the other still a child, both adore it when I do, and as a proud and doting father, so do I.
I still find time to celebrate their achievements and chastise them for less worthy deeds and actions. I think this is what is called balanced parenting.
Ted Smith
Chippenham, Wiltshire
Disabled children
SIR – All children have hopes and dreams, but too many children around the world struggle to realise them. This year, Unicef’s flagship report, The State of the World’s Children, focuses on those with disabilities and finds that surviving and thriving, let alone achieving dreams, can be especially tough for them.
Last year’s Paralympic Games in London were a celebration of human strength and determination. They changed the way that people look at disability. But in too many places, children with disabilities are still last in line and discriminated against.
Unicef’s report finds that disabled children are more vulnerable to malnutrition, with certain conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, making it much harder for them to absorb the nutrients they need. Other children with disabilities are hidden away from community feeding initiatives because of prejudice, and their health suffers as a result. Poor nutrition in early childhood is also leading to preventable disabilities, for example, between 250,000 and 500,000 children are at risk of becoming blind each year from vitamin A deficiency, which can easily be treated if doctors are given the funds.
The Government has a chance to address this at the UK’s Nutrition for Growth event next week, which comes just before the G8 summit. By pledging funds to tackle malnutrition, Britain and other world powers can give all children the best start in life and a better chance of turning dreams into reality.
Baroness Grey-Thompson
Jonnie Peacock
Ade Adepitan
Stefanie Reid
Shelly Woods
Natasha Baker
Richard Whitehead
Marc Woods
Peak season
SIR – Your picture of the queue of climbers approaching the summit of Everest (Features, May 28) suggests the need for a mountain railway, with climate-controlled carriages of course, and a viewing platform, restaurant and souvenir shop at the summit.
I have recently enjoyed such an excursion by rail up the Zugspitz, the highest peak in Germany. The neglected tourist potential on Everest is clear.
Paul Corser
Selborne, Hampshire

SIR – You correctly make the case that feeding more arms from Britain into Syria can only make the situation worse (Leading article, May 29). Have we no shame in continuing to cause destabilisation and misery in Middle Eastern countries, especially since the invasion of Iraq in 2003?
The removal of despotic dictators is in itself admirable if the results can be calculated to unite rather than divide. In the case of Syria there is long-standing, active support for the existing regime by Russia and other major powers. The supply of arms by EU countries to the opposition will feed the flames of war in Syria and increase the possibility of extending the area of conflict. Inevitably, relations with Russia will begin to deteriorate towards Cold War conditions.
Can we concentrate instead on trying to save Britain from economic disaster?
Barry Bond
Leigh on Sea, Essex
SIR – One presumes that an estimate of the cost of the arms to be supplied to Syria will be made, and authorisation given for that expenditure. Would it not be in Britain’s best interests, at home and abroad, to use that money and more to relieve the plight of the refugees from the conflict?
Once again a British government is attempting to untie a Gordian knot of foreign politics, sectarian hatred, tribal malevolence and foreign sedition, for which it will receive thanks from some and hatred from many more. Why can’t this country be seen trying to heal the wounds of conflict instead of creating more?
John Hill
Maidstone, Kent
SIR – The latest opinion poll (from the Pew Research Centre) shows that nearly 60 per cent of the British population do not want to see arms supplied to Syrian rebels. It is about time the Government woke up to the reality of democratic society, and stopped pretending that it has an inherited right to do as it pleases.
Timothy Stroud
Salisbury, Wiltshire
SIR – Syria exposes the fiction that 27 nations of differing backgrounds and beliefs can have a viable, unified, foreign policy. While the mutual interests of 27 countries may be aligned on an economic basis, the differing approaches to intervention in cases of aggression, protection of vulnerable populations and prevention of atrocities are too fundamental to be compromised.
In this case the right to intervene when circumstances are beyond the tolerance of a nation has trumped the fiction of political unity and a common foreign policy.
Phil Coutie
Twickenham, Middlesex
SIR – One wonders if the United Nations Security Council has been disbanded. It has responsibility under the UN Charter for world peacekeeping and world security but that is lost amid the scramblings of self-appointed world policemen anxious to get involved in another country’s civil war.
Joe Emery
Standlake, Oxfordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I watched the Prime Time programme on creches with sadness. How have we moved so far from the needs of vulnerable infants and toddlers that we think it acceptable to have two/three adults trying to fulfil the many and varied needs of a roomful of children?
Learning to master and control so many new tasks is driven by a child’s natural curiosity. To stifle curiosity is a shame. The balance between allowing a child the freedom to explore while keeping them safe is a challenge parents have struggled with in every civilisation.
Ask any parent of even one child how demanding and exhausting this is! Part of the answer is effective childcare has to include real support and choice for parents. – Yours, etc,
St Bridget’s Terrace,
Co Wicklow.
Sir, – I agree with Darren Williams (May 30th). When did it become the accepted norm to pass the full-time care and development of our babies and toddlers on to complete strangers, and why are people surprised when this practice yields such shocking results? – Yours, etc,
Terenure Park,
Dublin 6W.
Sir, – I am delighted this investigation has exposed the failings in certain childcare settings. It is high time that parents and the wider society began to examine the environment our children are in for almost 9/10 hours a day.
As a working practitioner, I was never questioned on my qualifications by parents. It was just “accepted”.
As an early years practitioner with an educational background of a BA, early childhood care and education, and completing a MA in education, I feel the childcare system in Ireland is not valued. In comparison to our European counterparts, we lack support at governmental level and managerial level. There is not enough emphasis on qualifications. The Childcare Preschool Regulations 2006 insist only on a minimum level of standards regarding development, physical, social, and emotional. In the primary school sector, a degree is the minimum qualification deemed acceptable, why not in early childhood education also?
Childcare providers, especially in the private sector, are free to employ staff with the minimum level of qualifications to meet the job description, which is currently a minimum Fetac level 5 in childcare studies. In my professional opinion, people cannot be adequately trained with the knowledge of appropriate child development and child psychology to control various child behaviour in just nine months!
Children are a precious commodity and early years education should be a priority for our legislators. At the very minimum, childcare practitioners, should have attained a degree in early education and childcare
In many settings, practitioners are overworked, undervalued and underpaid. However, this does not excuse failings in childcare. International research has shown that the years from birth to age six are the most formative of a child’s education. We need action, not words and empty promises, from our Government for our most vulnerable citizens who are the future of our country. – Yours, etc,
Co Mayo.
Sir, – In regard to the horrific RTÉ Prime Time footage showing the deplorable treatment of children in the care of creches.
Why are politicians and commentators asking for additional inspections from the HSE?
This body is dysfunctional in its operation, with a level of inertia that is running off the scale. The HSE is not a capable body to marshal or oversee the regulation of childcare facilities and this has been demonstrated by the numerous scandals involving childcare facilities since 2006.
I would suggest that the competent authority to co-ordinate inspections and indeed the regulation of childcare facilities are the local authorities, as they are centrally based in counties and can control the registration of creches and can also bring in the necessary human resources required to ensure a high level of service provided for parents and children throughout the country.
If the one thing Minister for Health, James Reilly achieves during his term is to dismantle the HSE, it will be a job well done. – Yours, etc,
Park Road,
Co Dublin.

Sir, – Recent coverage regarding prophylactic mastectomy and breast reconstruction (Health + Family, May 21st) highlights some of the positive results regarding breast cancer treatment and prevention in Ireland. However, two points should be clarified. First, the article correctly highlights that the rate of post-mastectomy reconstruction during 2011 in the UK as 21 per cent, in Ireland during this period it was in fact significantly higher at 29 per cent; our current experience in 2013, with eight cancer centres treating breast disease complete with surgeons trained in both cancer and reconstructive surgery, is likely to be even higher.
Second, there is no “gold standard” in breast reconstruction. Recent research has shown that up to 90 per cent of women in the US have reconstruction primarily using breast implants; these patients can expect excellent results without the potential problems of moving tissue from other sites, as was the case for Angelina Jolie. There is no single best choice of breast reconstruction, the “gold standard” is to discuss all available options with patients and make sure that the type of reconstruction which best suits an individual patient is undertaken. – Yours, etc,
Consultant Breast Surgeon,

Sir, – The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2013 is a serious threat to trade union and democratic rights in this country. The Bill, if passed, will cut wages and pensions.
It also contains a coercive clause which threatens to freeze the increments due to workers in the public sector unless, as outlined in the explanation to the Bill, “they are covered by a collective agreement that modifies the terms of the incremental suspension and which has been registered with the Labour Relations Commission”.
The fundamental right of workers to vote on any proposal on the basis of its merit is being undermined completely. The right of trade unions to defend their members is being obliterated. At present the Government is attempting to intimidate workers into accepting the Haddington Road proposal. This legislation changes the landscape in Ireland. It is anti-worker, anti-trade union legislation.
We believe it must be opposed by all trade unions and by everyone that cares for democratic principles. We are, therefore, calling on all trade union leaders and TDs to immediately condemn the proposed legislation. To not do so is to stand against democracy and workers. – Yours, etc,
C/o Sutton Park,

Sir, – I would suggest to Anthony Murphy (Rite and Reason, May 28th) that if he wishes to influence Catholic legislators then persuasion and dialogue – not silencing, excommunication and a refusal to be allowed to partake in the Eucharist and other remnants of the age of the Inquisition – are the ways forward for a Catholic. This is so not just in the 21st century, but should always have been the hallmark of a Communion based on the Gospel. – Yours, etc,
The Moorings,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – It is interesting to note that 12 non-Irish medical personnel called for the inclusion of abortion for “fatal foetal abnormalities” in the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill, 2013 while referring to Dr Ruth Fletcher’s submission to the Joint Committee on Health and Children that “the unborn should be defined not to mean those foetuses which have lethal abnormalities and will not have a futute independent life” (May 29th).  
A further irony is the later reference to “the return of their child’s remains to Ireland”.  Despite the many heartfelt stories of those women who proceeded with their pregnancies and gave life, however short, to their babies, it seems that we are being urged, mainly by those outside Ireland, not to do so.           
What a contrast with the over 50 Irish medical personnel with their life affirming views.   At our peril we will ignore their warming of no second chance if this Bill is passed.  We have only to look to Britain where efforts to reduce the limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks last year were unsuccessful.  
It is surprising that the World Health Organisation’s placing of Ireland among the top 25 countries for women’s safety in pregnancy is so little recognised and appreciated, and without abortion being legal here. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Seán Byrne’s article (Rite & Reason, April 30th) gives a very unbalanced view of community schools.
Parents of the 60,000 young people who attend our schools are generally very happy with the ethos and the inclusiveness that they experience there, as our parents’ organisation, Parents Association of Community & Comprehensive Schools, will attest.
Comprehensive schools, and later community schools, are rightly credited with bridging the gap between a highly academic and a strong vocational system. We were very innovative in having parents on our representative boards over 40 years ago. This model is proven and now the norm.
Mr Byrne alleges, without supporting evidence, that parents have little influence on key decisions in our schools, being outnumbered by all other nominees. I work with boards every day and I believe this not to be the case. Our boards operate as a local management team, a corporate entity, making important decisions for the school together. Boards can have members nominated by teachers who are parents, and vice-versa, similarly for other nominees, so simplistic labelling can be misleading.
Mr Byrne is dismissive of some of the first teachers and principals of the new schools as former members of religious orders. Our principals and teachers have a proud leadership record in the field of education, a cursory glance at Whole School Evaluation and Management, Leadership and Learning reports can testify to this continuing exemplary leadership.
Our statutory instrument makes provision for both religious instruction and worship but it is “in accordance with the rites, practice and teaching of the religious denomination to which the pupil belongs”. This respectful multidenominational aspect is very important to us. Mr Byrne states, without evidence, that in Protestant schools “whatever religion is taught is broad and uncontentious”. Are we to take from this that where there is Catholic patronage it is therefore narrow and contentious?
In our schools I am happy to agree with Mr Byrne that religion “is taught to those who wish to learn the answers to those questions provided by Christianity and other faiths”. The religion syllabus is knowledge-based rather than faith based, and looks at a broad range of religions, for those participating. Those who choose not to can be withdrawn. It is very challenging in multi-denominational schools to cater adequately and equally for all faiths and none, requiring additional resources and resourcefulness. Our paid school chaplains support us in meeting these challenges and organise religious worship appropriate to pupil needs. Mr Byrne is also wrong in his assertion that in VEC-managed community colleges chaplains are not paid by the State, they are.
Our sector has always been innovative in its thinking. We will shortly have our first community school without religious patrons. We are now reviewing our deed of trust to meet the diverse students’ needs as we have proudly and effectively done since our foundation more than 40 years ago. – Yours, etc,
General Secretary,
Association of Community

Irish Independent:

* My heart goes out to the parents and families of the children who featured in the RTE ‘Prime Time’ programme about the treatment of children in some creches.
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Watching what happened to the young children in these creches makes me wonder what life is really all about.
The sadness of what happened to the children is unbearable for me and for so many parents, as I’m sure it is for everybody who watched the programme. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.
I remember three years ago being in Ethiopia adopting our second little girl. The tragedy, sadness and suffering I saw in some parts of that country was so sad. The people, especially the children there and in other countries such as Somalia, Kenya, Niger, Burkina Faso and our own country of Ireland, need plenty of our help, support, love and prayers. Let’s not forget that 196 children died needlessly in state care in Ireland in the past.
Also, spare a thought for the nine million children who die globally each year in often horrendous circumstances. The discovery of a newborn baby boy in a sewer pipe in China makes you wonder what we really think about caring for our children. We all should be ashamed.
To live without hope is the most crushing of all burdens. Everywhere I travelled over the past 20 years with my work in the developing world, I saw children with a look of despair. I was reminded of the words of the American writer James Agee who said: “In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and of no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again: and in him too, once more, and in each of us, our terrific responsibility towards human life; towards the utmost idea of goodness, of the horror of error, and of God.”
I remember the poem by Sally Meyer called ‘To My Child’ on the wall of a children’s hospice I visited:
“Just for this morning, I am going to smile when I see your face and laugh when I feel like crying. Just for this morning, I will let you choose what you want to wear, and smile and say how perfect it is.
“Just for this morning, I am going to step over the laundry, and pick you up and take you to the park and play. Just for this morning, I will leave the dishes in the sink, and let you teach me how to put that puzzle of yours together.
“Just for this afternoon, I will unplug the telephone and keep the computer off, and sit with you in the backyard and blow bubbles. Just for this afternoon, I will not yell once, not even a tiny grumble when you scream and whine for the ice cream truck, and I will buy you one if he comes by.
“Just for this afternoon, I will let you help me bake cakes, and I won’t stand over you trying to fix them.
“Just for this evening, I will hold you in my arms and tell you a story about how you were born and how much I love you. Just for this evening, I will let you splash in the tub and not get angry.
“Just for this evening, I will let you stay up late while we sit on the porch and count all the stars. Just for this evening, I will snuggle beside you for hours, and miss my favourite TV shows.
“Just for this evening, when I run my fingers through your hair as you pray, I will simply be grateful that God has given me the greatest gift ever given.
“I will think about the mothers and fathers who are searching for their missing children, the mothers and fathers who are visiting their children’s graves instead of their bedrooms, and mothers and fathers who are in hospital rooms watching their children suffer senselessly, and screaming inside that they can’t handle it any more.
“And when I kiss you goodnight, I will hold you a little tighter, a little longer. It is then that I will thank God for you, and ask him for nothing, except one more day.”
Ronan Scully
Knocknacarra, Co Galway
* I cried myself to sleep after witnessing on ‘Prime Time’ the emotional abuse doled out by expensive creches.
The sight of a teething child, which often is symptomatic of pain and fever, being punished for being in distress was, quite frankly, appalling.
There has to be a way that, as a society, either a mam or dad can stay at home and still keep the domestic ship afloat.
Eileen O’Sullivan
Vevay Road, Bray, Co Wicklow
* As a childcare professional and montessori pre-school teacher, I was sickened and horrified to see how the children featured in the ‘Prime Time’ programme were treated.
These people should be held accountable and never ever be allowed to work with children in any capacity whatsoever.
They should be put on a register that is available to all in the childcare sector to ensure they never work with children again.
I am sickened and so very sad that the children featured in the programme had to endure this abuse, both emotional and physical. My thoughts go out to the parents of the children.
To the Government I say: please, never let this happen again, please put finance into childcare so the people working in the sector can be valued for their work and make the children of Ireland’s welfare a priority and ensure they are nurtured.
To the ‘Prime Time’ investigation team I say, this was an extremely difficult and upsetting programme to watch – it must have been so horrific to have to witness such treatment of our young children while making this programme.
May we never have to see anything like it ever again.
Ann O’Neill
* When I was growing up in Crumlin, my dad worked and my mum stayed at home and raised the children.
The entire neighbourhood was similar, and the only time we were aware of the phenomenon of parents leaving their children in the care of nannies or childminders was when we read or watched a film about the upper classes who seemed to bear their children simply to give them a name and then hand the duty of caring for them over to others paid to carry out this fundamental task.
Now we live in a society where, when it comes to caring for our children, we are all viewed as upper class.
Parents bring children into the world only to be forced to neglect the essential rearing of them through those first years of formation and trust.
Never mind what television reports tell us about what happens to Irish toddlers when they are in these creches.
Instead, ask why they are placed in there every day at all.
Darren Williams
Sandyford, Dublin
* Having recently qualified in childcare after years as a childminder, I applied for a job in a big creche.
Though I had loads of experience. my qualification was not to the level required by the HSE.
No matter how many more qualifications I might acquire the bottom line remains the same – I am a kind, gentle, understanding, patient and tolerant person who loves children.
I am full of common sense with good instincts and two eyes and two ears to see and hear what’s going on and react with empathy and loving care. Shame on those involved and those that put text book qualifications above human qualities when dealing with people. Children and old people should not be big business.
Geraldine O’Kane
Irish Independent


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