Joan still in hospital

15 June 2013 Joan not at home

Off around the park listening to the Navy Lark, oh dear oh dear.
Lieutenant Murry has been sent off on a course to test out a new Navy uniform, Leslie has been promoted and undergoes a complete personality change, turning into Captain Bligh, Priceless.
Another quiet day Joan’s feet she is still in hospital she will be home very soon, I expect I go and tidy up her room.
We watch The Pallaisers Bye bye Mr Finn MP Hello again Mr Finn, Some hussy appears with diamonds they are stolen! Twice!
Mary wins at scrabble but I gets under 400 perhaps I can have my revenge tomorrow.


Oliver Bernard
Oliver Bernard, who has died aged 87, was, variously, a Communist book-packer, an RAF pilot, a gasworks fireman, a tramlines repairer, a kitchen porter, a male prostitute, a rider of freight cars in Canada, a prize-winning advertising copywriter, a drama teacher, a CND campaigner, a prisoner, a patient on the analyst’s couch and a convert to Roman Catholicism.

Image 1 of 2
Oliver Bernard, c1952 Photo: JOHN DEAKIN
6:03PM BST 14 Jun 2013
He was, though, better known as a poet, a published translator of Apollinaire and Rimbaud, and as the eldest brother of Jeffrey Bernard, the dissolute late Spectator columnist who inspired the Keith Waterhouse play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell.
Like Jeffrey and the middle brother, the photographer Bruce Bernard, Oliver Bernard became a habitué of post-war Soho, with which he had fallen in love as a teenager while doing errands for his mother. “In the course of one of these errands,” he recalled in his memoirs Getting Over It (1992), “I must have looked about me. People stood on the pavement and talked outside the Bar Italia and outside Parmigiana’s on the corner of Frith Street and Old Compton Street. There were still yellow horse-drawn Carlo and Gatti ice-carts, traces of straw, nosebags and horse-dung”. During the war the population was swelled by Free French and Canadians, Poles and Australians, while clubs appeared on “unlikely” first floors.
Oliver Bernard soon came to regard the area as “home … a village where I was known”, and a refuge from his dysfunctional family. Tony’s, the Greek Cypriot café in Charlotte Street, the Colony Room, “run by the unforgettable and unspeakable Muriel Belcher”, and Soho pubs like the York Minster (aka “The French”) became his “university” .
Ricard was his favourite tipple and, like his brothers, he got to know everyone — the painters Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, John Minton and the Roberts (Colquhoun and MacBryde), exotics like Quentin Crisp and writers and poets such as Julian MacLaren-Ross, Dan Farson and Dylan Thomas, whose wife Caitlin once slapped Bernard’s face, though he recalled that “I had the last word, and a nasty one it was”.
John Heath-Stubbs described post-war Soho as “not so much geography as anthropology”, and it was the lesser-known hominids that Bernard evoked affectionately in a passage which displayed his playful mastery of words: “deaf Ronny, who talked by means of slips of paper; Mac the Busker, with his generosity and his rasping voice; Jimmy Telfer with his poor-Scots humour and slight desperation; Lily Heidsieck and Michael Piper, a wonderful pair of anguished lovers whom Peter Brook once called ‘Bed and Breakfast’… ; and bitterly funny Alan Stokes, who saw sometimes distorted, sometimes cruelly clearly through his spectacles with one cracked lens”.
It was Oliver and Bruce who first introduced the 14-year old Jeffrey to the area, taking him to a meal at Bianchi’s, then on to Ruh’s Cafe. But unlike Jeffrey, who never really left Soho, Oliver remained in touch, but found other things to do in life.
Oliver Owen Bernard was born in London on December 6 1925, the second of four children and the oldest of three sons of Oliver Bernard, designer of the 1930s Lyon Corner Houses and the entrance to the Strand Palace Hotel, and his wife Dora Hodges, better known as the actress and singer Fedora Roselli.
The marriage was not happy and the prevailing atmosphere at home was fraught: “squabbles at mealtimes, my mother’s overriding voice, my sister’s wail” . Only outings to the Ninth Church of Christ Scientist in Marsham Street (his mother was a Christian Scientist), where “richly dressed American ladies with bosoms would bend to kiss us”, kindled any spark of youthful solidarity.
The family moved frequently from house to house, and from London to the country and back. It was during a stint in Oxshott, Surrey, that Oliver “put into words the thought that it would be better if both my parents were dead”. His father would oblige in 1939, but his beautiful, difficult mother remained a destructive force in her children’s lives until 1950.
Oliver described her as someone who alternated “between intense affection and a kind of fury”, at her worst “capable of exploding into nightmare”. He hated the way she would ask him “in a theatrical way, so that I knew she wasn’t being herself, ‘Do you love me, darling?’ (Do you LOHVE meh?)”. At school he was “always afraid she was going to say something very loud and clear which would have exposed her and me to ridicule”. He admired but did not trust her. Sometimes he hated her more than he could “conveniently express”.
The destabilising effects of such animosity were accentuated by Oliver’s own moves from school to school. By the time he left Westminster School in 1940, after confessing to stealing a 10 shilling note (“I was never quite sure whether I’d been expelled or asked to leave”), he had attended six different establishments. He then briefly attended a tutorial college in London, though he was “pretty sure” that he had never sat School Certificate.
By this time he had begun frequenting Soho and, in the summer of 1940, aged 14, was seduced by an “attractive, French-speaking widow”, in whose home he had taken refuge during an air raid. Aged 15 he worked as a kitchen porter at Chez Filliez in Frith Street, and at around the same time had a “brief and unsuccessful career” as a rent boy (“eight or ten men and boys may have been involved”).
But the Germans’ arrival at Leningrad convinced Oliver Bernard that he had to do something for the war effort. In 1942 he joined the Air Training Corps and soon afterwards volunteered for aircrew training in the RAFVR. The same week he joined the Communist Party and, while waiting to be called up for training, worked as a packer at Central Books, a party enterprise off Red Lion Square .
He went on to train as a pilot in Canada where, in between flying courses, he “rode the rods” in boxcars, and worked as a trimmer in the dark hold of a coal boat at St John’s, New Brunswick. He never saw active service and by the end of the war had begun to feel “a bit ashamed” of his communism.
After the war, Bernard spent some time in Paris and in Corsica teaching conversational English, and in the early 1950s took a teaching course at Goldsmith’s College in London, paying some of his way by working, variously, as a tramlines repairer; as a fireman at gasworks in East Greenwich and Kensal Green, for the GPO at Paddington, as an “extra electrician” at the Fortune Theatre and as an accounts clerk at a shirtmakers in Rathbone Place. Later he worked as a copywriter for a Mayfair advertising agency, where he won a prize for an advert for a self-tapping screw.
It was in Canada that Bernard first had the idea of becoming a writer and in 1946 he sent a short story to Men Only: “It came back with a kind and encouraging letter: ‘The great thing is to stick at writing and in 12 months you’ll laugh at this early effort’.” In the 1950s he became friends with Joyce Grenfell, who gave him cherries, strawberries and tea in her King’s Road kitchen. She showed some of his verses to Walter de la Mare, who said they were “real poems” and invited them both to tea .
Oliver Bernard’s first book of poems, Country Matters, was published by Puttnam in 1961. He went on to publish several more books of poetry and translations of Rimbaud, Apollinaire and other French writers. His luminous bilingual edition of Rimbaud’s Collected Poems, published in 1962 by Penguin, became a classic and an enlarged edition of his complete poems was published by Anvil last year. Bernard’s collected poetry was published as Verse &c in 2001.
Blessed with a clear, melancholic voice, Bernard regularly gave performances of Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell and in 1982 won the Gold Medal of the Poetry Society for verse reading. Later he recorded Walt Whitman and some of his own poetry.
In his memoirs Bernard admitted that he had fantasised “fairly continuously” about women ever since the age of 13 and confessed to devoting much of early adulthood to “a more or less uninterrupted series of sexual and emotional adventures with women, including adultery, fornication, unsuccessful love affairs, betrayals of friends and multiple infidelities” .
An early marriage ended after two years, and in 1959 he married his second wife, Jackie, an actress and model with whom he moved to Norfolk. They had a son and two daughters, but Oliver Bernard found that not even a spell of psychoanalysis at the Tavistock Clinic could turn him into a “normal person”. He and his wife eventually parted “because she was — quite reasonably — anxious about what I at first might be, and eventually was, up to with other women”. They remained friends, however. In the 1980s Bernard had another son by another relationship.
Bernard became a teacher of English and Drama at schools around East Anglia, a job from which he was once suspended for several months after being caught in possession of cannabis. In the 1980s he became actively involved in CND and in 1984 spent three weeks as a “peace prisoner” in Norwich jail , after being found guilty of causing criminal damage to the perimeter fences of airbases around East Anglia.
In 1985 he converted to Roman Catholicism, attracted by its claim to be a “church for sinners”, and in later life lived in a tiny cottage in Kenninghall, Norfolk, where an open fire provided the only heating and where he rustled up meals in a lean-to kitchen. He was as attentive and dexterous in peeling a potato or lighting his pipe, which he smoked steadily, as he was in typing a letter on a manual typewriter. After the last bitter winter he had double glazing fitted.
Bernard remained remarkably fit, despite injuring his legs a few years ago in a motor accident, and enjoyed his daily walk to the Carmelite convent at Quidenham for morning Mass.
His children survive him.
Oliver Bernard, born December 6 1925, died June 1 2013


As academics at the University of Oxford, we would like to express our deep concern about the events taking place in Turkey. In response to the protests in Istanbul, as well as in other towns and cities in the country, rights and freedoms are being severely curtailed. In addition to what seems to be the deployment of excessive police force, we are witnessing a large number of arbitrary arrests, undue pressure being brought to bear on the Turkish media and, in a more general sense, serious infringements on the rights of assembly and free speech. While we recognise that the Justice and Development Party is the elected government and possesses a strong popular mandate, we also believe that, as a democratic government, it should seek to guarantee the civil liberties of all Turkey’s citizens.
We are particularly concerned with the uncompromising stance of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which will inevitably further inflame a volatile situation. Several leading academics and intellectuals in Turkey have already signalled their fears at the response to these protests and expressed their solidarity with those on the streets, many of whom are university students. We join our colleagues in Turkey in calling on the government to respect basic freedoms and to resolve the impasse through dialogue and consensual politics rather than force and violence. We believe only a peaceful resolution of the standoff can pave the way for the strengthening of Turkey’s democracy.
Dr Reem Abou-El-Fadl Department of Politics and International Relations
Dr Evrim Altıntaş Department of Sociology
Dr Christian Arnold Department of Politics and International Relations
Dr Miryam Asfar Faculty of Oriental Studies
Professor Andrew Barry School of Geography and the Environment
Dr Mette Louise Berg Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology
Professor Paul Betts Faculty of Modern History
Professor Francesco Billari Head of Department of Sociology
Professor Julia Bray Faculty of Oriental Studies
Professor Richard Caplan Department of Politics and International Relations
Dr Emine Çakır Faculty of Oriental Studies
Dr Igor Calzada School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography
Dr Gregory JH Deacon African Studies Centre
Dr Neli Demireva Department of Sociology
Dr Faisal Devji Faculty of Modern History
Dr Evelyn Ersanilli School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography
Dr Kimberly Fisher Centre For Time Use Research
Professor Sudhir Hazareesingh Department of Politics and International Relations
Dr Peter Healey School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography
Dr Clare Heyward School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography
Dr Francisco Herreros European Studies Centre
Dr Renee Hirschon St Peter’s College
Dr Hande Inanç Department of Sociology
Professor Jeremy Johns Director of the Khalili Research Centre for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East
Dr Man-Yee Kan Department of Sociology
Dr Celia Kerslake St Antony’s College
Professor Theo van Lint Faculty of Oriental Studies
Professor Margaret Macmillan Faculty of Modern History
Dr Adam Mestyan Faculty of Oriental Studies
Dr Laurent Mignon Faculty of Oriental Studies
Professor Kalypso Nicolaidis Department of Politics and International Relations
Androulla Kaminara European Studies Centre
Dr Kerem Öktem European Studies Centre
Professor Leigh A Payne Director of Latin American Centre
Dr Lauge Poulsen Department of Politics and International Relations
Dr Jerome Ravetz School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography
Professor Steve Rayner School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography
Professor Simon Saunders Faculty of Philosophy
Dr Nicolai Sinai Faculty of Oriental Studies
Dr Ebru Soytemel School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography
Dr Vaclav Stetka European Studies Centre
Professor Oriel Sullivan Department of Sociology
Professor Catherine de Vries Department of Politics and International Relations
Dr Robert De Vries Department of Sociology
Dr Bryan Ward-Perkins Director of Ertegun House
Professor Laurence Whitehead Department of Politics and International Relations

The chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies says Atoc had no time to comment on our report on rail privatisation (Letters, 13 June). The TUC arranged to meet with an Atoc representative before the embargo on our report was lifted. Atoc had three days in which to read and form a view of our report prior to the meeting. The meeting lasted for more than an hour and included a TUC officer. Atoc’s head of strategic policy then challenged our argument about the connection between GDP growth and passenger numbers and disputed some of our policy conclusions, including the abolition of train operating companies. But their policy head did not dispute the accuracy of our evidence nor did he allege selective use of evidence. Atoc’s chief executive now raises this issue without providing any specifics.
Karel Williams and Sukhdev Johal
Centre for Research on Socio Cultural Change, University of Manchester

The warning of care minister Norman Lamb that the next great scandal could come in domestic-care sector is well founded (Tagged, harassed, underpaid, 13 June). The sector is dominated by low-paid and sometimes untrained staff on zero-hour contracts doing a vital caring job. Regulation in the area is virtually non-existent. What is required to improve the situation is not more ministerial hand-wringing while handing out more care and health service contracts to the private sector. There has to be a recognition that profit and care do not mix. Until our society recognises that every public service cannot be predicated according to how much money can be made out it by the private sector, then there will be little progress made. Care staff do a vital job of work, so should be rewarded accordingly. The companies should be made to put their staff on proper salaried contracts with decent pay and conditions, not zero-hour contracts paying the minimum wage, while the company grabs ever bigger profits. Then we might see care improve in the home.
Paul Donovan
• Columnists like Polly Toynbee and Zoe Williams have been doing a fine job anticipating the impact of cuts to the welfare state, but one crucial change has passed even these sentinels by. Recent guidance from the Department of Work and Pensions means that disabled people will no longer be able to claim for the cost of maintaining or repairing adaptations installed in their homes. These adaptations could be stair-lifts, hoists to lift people out of bed or baths, warden-call systems or other equipment essential to independent living for many disabled people. Such equipment has to be kept in safe working order and, until now, service charges for this purpose were recouped through housing benefit. Incoming universal credit regulations render such charges ineligible.
Habinteg manages more than 3,300 homes, of which 1,427 stand to be affected by this rule. Service charges range from 0.55p to £31.33 a week. Higher costs reflect more complex individual needs. These charges will compound the impact of other benefit cuts such as bedroom tax that disabled tenants may already be facing. Housing providers are also put in an impossible position: we would have to foot an annual bill approaching £250,000. If tenants are unable to pay to keep equipment safe, arrears will result. Disabled people may be forced to try to live without the equipment, meaning at best greater risk of falls or injury, and at worst a forced move from their home – very possibly at greater expense to their local authority. What price independent living indeed?
Paul Gamble
Chief executive, Habinteg

In defence of Michael Wilshaw (Schools failing to nurture the brightest, 13 June), I would like to quote the following statistics. In 2012, at Mossbourne, where Sir Michael was headmaster until December 2011, 89% of all pupils achieved five subjects at A*-C (including maths and English) at GCSE. I live in a very affluent area where many of the parents are graduates and we have three excellent comprehensive schools. For these three schools the comparative figures are: 55%, 77% and 74%. Perhaps Sir Michael has a point.
Ann Kinsler
Winchester, Hampshire
• Suzanne Moore asserts that (G2, 13 June) “… we all know the standards that need raising are basic literacy and numeracy at primary level. This is the appalling failure of our educational system.” I would like her to expand upon this please. What is her evidence for this statement so that we could possibly have a reasoned debate?
Sue Bailey
Retired primary headteacher, Fareham, Hampshire
• Gove’s new exams (Report, 12 June) are sexist. I’m sure any women who have struggled through finals with menstrual cramps, a blinding headache, bloated, bloody and out-of-sorts will agree that female candidates are going suffer from this latest idiocy most.
Olivia Byard
Witney, Oxfordshire
• Pushed out of his job for whatever reason, Stephen Hester receives £5.6m (Report, 13 June). This may seem like not a huge amount of money if said quickly. But it would take the average worker 448 years to earn that. Which would mean starting work in 1565, the same year Mary Queen of Scots married Henry Stuart. Maybe this information should be added to all future bonus payment stories?
Malcolm Severn
Belper, Derbyshire
• I would have thought Wendi Deng’s skill in dealing with the Murdoch pie thrower would have put an end to the “periodic rumours of martial (sic) difficulties” you refer to (From serenade to separation: Murdoch splits from wife, 14 June)
David Griffiths
Claygate, Surrey

If it has been accepted since Gleneagles that Africans should determine their own future (Promise of aid, 13 June), then why has the EU has been trying to impose on them for more than 10 years a trade deal which is not in their interest? Instead of responding to the concerns raised, two months ago Europe said: take the deal or lose your preferential access to the EU. For African countries, the message seems to be: supply us with your raw materials, give us access to your vast natural resources, allow us to cater to your consumers – we’ll even throw in a bit of aid to ensure that our subsided goods cross the region’s borders more quickly.
This is all too familiar. Trade is the elephant in the room. Make Poverty History failed to persuade the G8 to deliver anything meaningful on trade, and the 2013 G8 leadership is ignoring the role of trade for development. Having moved far beyond discussions of imports and exports, bilateral trade deals are now determining who gets what piece of the global value chain. Change will come from African leaders who will ensure that regional trade, contributing to domestic development, comes before any trade deal with G8 countries.
Paul Spray
Director, policy and programmes,
Traidcraft, Gateshead
• G8 leaders must find a solution to the Syria crisis when they meet in Northern Ireland next week (Report, 14 June). Instead of fanning the flames of the conflict by sending more weapons to Syria and risking an arms race, leaders should be prioritising the pursuit of a political solution and making the proposed Geneva peace conference a reality. A staggering 5,000 people a month are dying. More than 8 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, many out of reach of help because of the fighting. Sending more arms to either side will only increase the bloodshed.
When Presidents Obama and Putin meet at the G8 they will have an opportunity to make the Geneva conference a reality and have a genuine impact on the lives of ordinary Syrians.
Mark Goldring
Chief executive, Oxfam
• Colombia is a country rich in natural resources but we are aware of the increasing need the world has for energy and raw materials. The recent mining boom here has brought with it a web of payments (Report, 12 June) to government and local authorities that are difficult to trace and often bring no benefits to the local communities.
My country has already suffered from more than 50 years of conflict. The secrecy surrounding mining deals creates more uncertainty, especially in the most vulnerable communities whose lands and homes are often under threat and who continue to live in poverty despite the enormous wealth of resources around them.
The EU’s new transparency legislation, requiring extractive companies to publish details of payments they make to national governments is a great victory, not just for our communities but for civil society partners such as Cafod which fought to deliver it. Transparency can now become a tool in fighting for justice, reducing conflict and offering a more stable environment for business.
We now need the G8 leaders to go further and make progress towards a global standard on transparency in the extractives sector. Only effective legislation of this industry can start our journey of hope to flourish as a people and a nation.
Hector Fabio
Director, Caritas Colombia, Bogota, Colombia
• Congratulations to the UK for taking the lead in urging the G8 to tackle the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (Report, 12 June). We urge the G8 to recognise the need to phase out the regular prophylactic use of antibiotics in healthy animals and to minimise the use of those antibiotics classified by the World Health Organisation as “critically important” for human medicine. Instead, disease should be prevented by good hygiene, husbandry and housing. Good health should be promoted by avoiding overcrowding and excessive herd and flock sizes.
Peter Stevenson
Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics

The US government now “assesses” with “high confidence” that the Assad government has used chemical weapons in Syria, and Obama has therefore decided that he will provide “military support” to the rebels.
This basically means that America is abandoning, and therefore wrecking, any attempt to end the Syrian catastrophe by peaceful means, and is going to wage proxy war on the Syrian government, something which America has done in many countries in the past. Will this make things better for the people of Syria? Have all peaceful means to end this catastrophe been exhausted?
The US gave its backing to Islamist rebels in Afghanistan and the outcome has been 25 years of suffering for the people of that country, and also people in America, the UK and elsewhere.
Regarding peaceful methods to end the Syria bloodbath, America has not acted in good faith. It has never tried to use its phenomenal soft power in this matter. Obama does not need the G8 summit to give him an opportunity to talk to Putin. If Obama wanted to he could in a very short time be sitting down with Putin, Assad, the leader of Iran and others in an attempt to end this disaster peacefully. If the rebels cannot send representatives to negotiations they should be warned that their inability to form a coherent unit makes it difficult for the West to give them any support. 
The US should be doing all in its power to cut off the flow of weapons to Islamist extremists.
The British government, given its own power and the high level of influence it has with America, has grave responsibilities in this matter. Our government must do everything in its power to persuade America not to abandon diplomacy. If Mr Cameron and his backers start pumping more weaponry into Syria, or support others in doing so, before peaceful means to end this tragedy have been exhausted, they will have blood on their hands.
Brendan O’Brien
London N21
Disturbing news that both the British and American intelligence organisations are agreed that the Syrian government has been using chemical weapons against those opposing it.
These are the two organizations who at the insistence of their respective leaders agreed with them that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, which of course turned out to be without foundation.
Brian Button
Gillingham, Dorset
Educated  for a life  of no work
After less than two months my small timber business has added to the growing pile of NEETs.  Our initially enthusiastic, qualificationless, young, male, 17-year-old employee, with the possibility of a modern trade apprenticeship to look forward to, could not be bothered by his own admission to get out of bed to come to work. He missed his mates, fellow NEETs.
Clearly abandoned by the educational system long before his earliest leaving date, our NEET expressed his absolute preference for this deeply rooted workless sub-culture.
We have tried for many years to recruit at this level, always with the same outcome. When are we going to realise that in our efforts to create greater educational access, the many that fall out of the bottom far outweigh the successes of such a system?
I do not recall my school friends in the 1970s who opted out of formal education at the earliest opportunity to pursue, long, well-structured apprenticeship schemes complaining of their lack of opportunity. Education  that prepares our young people for meaningful employment, irrespective of attainment, is the only outcome that really matters.
Meanwhile, we’ll probably try again.
Gary Howse
Reddish, Greater Manchester
Immigrant scrounger myth
Immigration is a very inflammatory area, and is one where myths are easily peddled for populist political ends, since most people are ignorant of the real situation. But I don’t expect The Independent to help spread such myths as the migrant welfare scrounger, which Mary Dejevsky inadvertently does (“Of course immigrants have the right to family reunion, but don’t expect others to pay for it”, 12 June).
For the best part of 30 years until my retirement in 2008 I represented immigrants, many seeking to bring loved ones to Britain for family reunion. And for as long as I can remember, Home Office officials were refusing visas on the ground that the sponsoring family member had not proved that they could support their family members “without recourse to public funds”. On appeal, we had to submit detailed budgets which were scrutinised very carefully by immigration judges.
The scrutiny did not end there. Spouses were admitted for a probationary period (which has since risen to five years), and if at any time there was recourse to public funds, including welfare benefits and emergency housing, that was a ground for refusal of further stay, and removal. Sponsors who had signed sponsorship undertakings could be prosecuted if they failed to perform them. And since 1999, those “subject to immigration control”, including spouses and other relatives on “probationary” leave, have been ineligible for welfare benefits and all social housing.
The Coalition’s introduction of a minimum income requirement on top of the “no recourse” test was a crude way of cutting numbers, and had nothing to do with saving public money.
As for state schools and health care, migrants pay tax, National Insurance and council tax like everybody else, so why shouldn’t they get these public goods, which ensure that settlers are healthy and educated?
Frances Webber
Retired barrister
Charlbury, Oxfordshire
Smug and stupid in the middle lane
Highways are shared social spaces the purpose of which is to ensure the safe and efficient  flow of vehicles. Lane hoggers impede both, potentially endangering life.
Fast-lane hoggers are an established species, inevitably men with their right elbow on the windowsill of their 4×4. They are particularly dangerous as they create mounting frustration in the drivers behind and there is no resolution but to undertake.
Middle-lane hogging is a mindset of the smug, the inept and the stupid. The smug have revealed themselves in your recent correspondence as self-appointed road police; they have no right to prevent others from law-breaking by exceeding the speed limit. The smug are themselves breaking the highway code.
The inept: if you cannot safely and often change lanes you shouldn’t be on a multi-lane highway.
The stupid are incomprehensible drivers who automatically site themselves in a middle lane regardless of traffic conditions. As a frequent driver on the southern 50 miles of the M1, I regularly come across vehicles in the middle lane with nothing in sight in the “slow” lane, or, often, in front of or behind the offending drivers.
If the proposed fines re-educate drivers to the responsibilities of sharing the highway they will be doing a vital job.
Jackie Hawkins
I don’t see how we can possibly enforce the rules on middle-lane driving until Debrett’s has defined how one should notify a driver in front to move over. Are flashing lights too vulgar?
Ashley Herbert
What about the bank customer?
Your eulogy of Stephen Hester (14 June ) gives no recognition of the fact that banks have a clearing bank function to provide a service for customers. Since the arrival of Mr Hester, I have had my banking functions at NatWest cut to nothing. I have no manager, no branch and if I wish to inquire about anything on my statements I am expected to email someone in Birmingham.
It would be helpful if The Independent could review services of clearing banks so that I may flee as quickly as possible from all the excellent things done by Mr Hester and his staff, on behalf of – I am not quite sure. Like so many customers my loyalty goes back 25 years.
Arnold Rosen
London SW1
Happy cycling in the Netherlands
Your otherwise excellent article comparing cycle provision in Holland and the UK (13 June) omitted the most telling difference.
Consider a cycle lane which tracks close to a major road, and both meeting a side-road. In Holland the cyclists have priority over cars coming out of the side road to join the major road. In the UK cyclists have to give way each time; little wonder they prefer to take their chances by mixing with the traffic on the main road.
John W Bailey
Royal hat mystery
Watching the Duchess of Cambridge’s face launch a single cruise liner on Thursday, I wondered – by no means for the first time – why she always wears frisbees on her head like the ones I throw for my collie, Millie. Is she perhaps related to that Bond character Odd Job, he of the deadly bowler hat, and is she ready at a moment’s notice to whisk off her circular millinery and decapitate some vulgar tabloid hack?
Peter Dunn
Bridport,  Dorset
Joke column
It is absurd to sack Deborah Ross to replace her with an untested Pippa Middleton. You have an outstanding replacement already on your staff: Fiona Sturges. Her review this week of the Rihanna stadium concert was funnier than anything I’ve read by Ms Middleton. I concede that she lacks the Jewish wryness of Howard Jacobson, but surely he could provide some coaching?
Jon Summers
Tiverton, Devon
Telegram tyranny
The passing of the telegraph service in Delhi (report, 14 June) is not to be lamented. Telegrams were the nervous system of colonial empire, allowing troops to be quickly moved to crush rebellion and vast territories to be ruled. Telegrams are not a romantic holdover from a bygone era, but a tool of exploitation.
Ian McKenzie
Time check
As David Hewitt (letter, 14 June) implies, the world has changed a fair bit since 1955. For one thing, in 1955 he wouldn’t have gone down a list saying “check”; he’d have said “tick”.
Mark Redhead


‘Party manifestos spoke of the right of free access to our national heritage but it is an empty right if the museum concerned has closed’
Sir, We are former directors of the national museums currently under threat of possible closure because of budget problems within their parent organisation — the Science Museum Group. We believe there are powerful reasons why the National Media Museum (Bradford), National Railway Museum (York and Shildon) and the Museum of Science and Industry (Manchester) must stay open.
First, all are success stories. They hold collections of genuine international significance, have expertise which is respected worldwide, and are immensely popular — with more than two million visitors a year.
Second, they are vital to their host cities, providing cultural, educational and economic benefit across their regions. All three are crucial components of their local and regional economies, attracting tourists and prestige, and supporting jobs.
Third, and most importantly, they are examples of an important political principle — that the benefits of tax revenue gathered nationally should be spread nationally. Everyone from Islington to Inverness and from Camden to Camborne pays taxes and it is morally and politically right that the benefits of that tax revenue should be spread as far as is possible around the country. The BBC has demonstrated this by the excellent move of a large part of its operation from London to Salford, spreading more of its economic impact outside the M25. Surely, at least some of our national museums should operate on the same principle?
Although the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) describes this issue as merely an operational matter for the Science Museum Trustees, the Government cannot shirk its responsibility. Party manifestos spoke of the right of free access to our national heritage but it is an empty right if the museum concerned has closed. To insist on further deep budget cuts and to maintain a policy of free entry, even though free entry might be a good idea in principle, feels like an untenable position.
Moreover, the Secretary of State has responsibility for tourism. What organisation charged with enhancing our national income from tourists can regard the closure of one of the North of England’s premier visitor attractions as a sensible way out of recession?
We urge the trustees of the Science Museum Group and DCMS to consider the track record and value of these museums to the North of England and to ensure that a solution is found to enable them all to stay open.
Colin Ford, Director, National Media Museum, 1983-93; Dr J. Patrick Greene, Director, Museum of Science and Industry Manchester, 1983-2002; Colin Philpott, Director, National Media Museum, 2004-12; Andrew Scott, Director, National Railway Museum, 1994-2010

The Conversative Party is betraying the trust of the British people by selling the legal system to the lowest bidder
Sir, The congratulations from Kerim Fuad, QC, to Chris Grayling for uniting 150,000 lawyers against the Government’s Legal Aid proposals (letter, June 11) is, alas, only a small part of the opposition that the Conservatives in government are building up. I have been in Conservative politics for 55 years, 23 of them as an MP. We Conservatives are now proposing to betray the trust that the British people have always placed in us to uphold the rule of law by selling the system to the lowest bidder.
The proposals will prevent people on low incomes from getting access to justice in our courts to defend themselves or to challenge government decisions; will slash already inadequate fees, ensuring that few leaving university will want to work in criminal or publicly funded courts that cannot guarantee them a living. So our courts will clog up with litigants in person, and advocacy standards are certain to fall.
If our Conservative leaders want to know why nearly a quarter of voters are leaving the party for UKIP, and by splitting the Conservative vote will lose us many seats and the next election, do they have far to look?
Sir Ivan Lawrence, QC
Temple EC4

There might be rooom for complaint if a quizmaster presented questions such as were used to illustrate our piece today
Sir, It certainly would be a very bad pub quiz (report, June 14) if the answer to the question on the great composer Handel’s birthplace was indeed, as you suggested, Iceland.
Anthony Fry
London W11

It is difficult to ‘fight the misconception’ that gardeners deserve to make a decent living when institutions such as the National Trust preserve it
Sir, As a young person and trainee gardener, I agree to an extent with Stephen Anderton (letter, June 8). Indeed it is an important job and although I entered horticulture because I love it, I have also seen fellow trainees struggle with the challenging role of professional gardener and eventually find jobs elsewhere. However, I find it hard to see how we can “fight the misconception” when major institutions such as the National Trust and Buckingham Palace appear to base their payment structure on the idea that becoming a gardener is a lifestyle choice.
They have a moral obligation to set an example, and if the RHS wants to invest £1 million to safeguard our gardening heritage, surely it should reconsider paying fully trained staff more generously. Perhaps also professionals in positions of public influence have louder voices than mine to make this point to a wider audience?
Amanda Dennis
London SE15

The security services are seeking a blanket power for live monitoring of our communications without evidence that a crime has been committed
Sir, Former Home Secretaries and others (letter, June 13) underestimate the public’s ability to grasp the detail of the Communications Data Bill. There are three key legal issues over powers to expand the use of communications data.
First is whether the communications data that service providers are required to store has had the content completely removed. Second is whether the communications data can be accessed without a warrant. Third is the threshold that would have to be met before the warrant is granted.
The threshold for access to communications data is key and the letter suggests this is set at a “proportionate” level for “serious criminal conduct”. But that is a threshold and open to interpretation. The letter implies these powers are benign because the content of communications would remain subject to judicial oversight. But a detailed record of our communications could be more intrusive than listening to conversations or reading emails.
The default powers being sought are warrant-less access to real-time data. This means that the security services are seeking a blanket power for live monitoring of our communications and for data mining our communications without evidence that a crime has been committed. If the security services seek a warrant for communications data, on the premise that an individual might be a terrorist, then that is fair enough.
But any more permissive, warrant-less powers should rightly be resisted. Once granted, they would never be redacted.
Tristram C. Llewellyn Jones
Ramsey, Isle of Man


SIR – Christine Keeler should not reproach herself unduly for having “betrayed her country” (report, June 10) 50 years ago.
Unwittingly she probably served the country’s interests when she left an envelope at the Soviet Embassy addressed to Captain Ivanov, who enjoyed her favours at the same time as John Profumo.
The notorious osteopath, Stephen Ward, who committed suicide in 1963 after being convicted of having profited from her immoral earnings, was used by the Foreign Office to transmit secret messages to the Soviet Embassy via Ivanov with the aim of calming East-West tensions.
It is likely that her envelope contained information provided by the Foreign Office.
Lord Lexden
London SWI

SIR – One reason why able comprehensive school students are not pushed as much as they should be is the result of the perverse effects of the previous government’s policy specifying the A* to C grade range as the yardstick against which the performance of schools should be measured.
Teachers have been incentivised to concentrate their efforts on students who would normally obtain a D grade in the hope that they could obtain a C and thus enhance the school’s statistical performance, rather than trying to ensure that an A-grade student obtained an A*.
The Government must take a share of the responsibility for limited ambition as well as teachers.
Alexander Johnston
Syston, Leicestershire
SIR – To link primary school exit grades and supposedly low performance by pupils at GCSE (report, June 13) is a nonsense.
Related Articles
Christine Keeler wasn’t the spy that she thought
14 Jun 2013
Level 5 is the mid-point of the secondary curriculum (which covers levels 3-7) and if primary teachers were able to teach their own curriculum with depth rather than sample the tested aspects, the achievement of Level 5 would be creditable.
However, primary teachers are mandated to achieve Level 5 through scores on a Year 6 test – not on a pupil’s continuously assessed progress over the primary stage.
As this test is based on identifiable testable items it is prepared for meticulously, rigorously and, sadly, to the detriment of the breadth of experience to which pupils were expected to be exposed during their primary years. Level 5 performance is being used by Michael Gove and Sir Michael Wilshaw as the stick to beat schools with, but it is a chimera.
Professor Bill Boyle
University of Manchester
SIR – Our three sons attended our local state comprehensive school with the older two progressing to read medicine and dentistry at top Russell Group universities.
Our youngest and most intellectually gifted son requested advice on a good career and was guided towards plumbing. He is now reading genetics at a Russell Group university. I am relieved that Ofsted has found it “shocking” that “a large number of teachers had not even identified who their most able pupils were”. I am hopeful that this will lead to ways of identifying the brightest pupils and supporting them into the best universities.
Mary Jeremiah
Swansea, Glamorgan
SIR – Throughout the extensive discussions regarding levels of expectation and attainment in comprehensive schools, I have yet to hear a single reference to the “elephants in the room”, namely excessive class sizes and abysmal classroom discipline. So long as these matters are ignored, the debate is facile and members of the teaching profession will remain in an impossible situation.
Martin Ray
Swanbourne, Buckinghamshire
The Ashcroft touch
SIR – Peter Oborne accuses me of waging a “menacing” public campaign against David Cameron (Comment, June 13). May I respectfully point out that this is nonsense?
He cites a number of tweets in which I make comments or link to articles of which he disapproves. These are occasionally mischievous, but hardly “menacing”. The idea that Ukip might win next year’s European elections, for example, is widely accepted; agreeing with it is hardly treachery. If I sometimes highlight things that make unhappy reading in Downing Street – well, I’m not a Tory press officer.
As Mr Oborne says, Twitter is not the ideal medium for complex arguments – which is why I write at greater length elsewhere, especially on Conservative Home and my own site, Though I certainly say where I think things are going wrong, nobody reading my wider observations on politics and polling could conclude that I was pursuing an anti-Cameron crusade.
Since stepping down as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party in 2010 I have used my more independent position to conduct large-scale political research, recognised as objective and professional. This does not always flatter the party, but far from “denouncing” the Prime Minister, I have often pointed out that it shows Cameron to be the Tories’ biggest asset.
Overall, my commentary amounts to a prolonged reminder that the winning party will be the one that pays attention to the voters and their priorities. I hope it will be the Conservative Party – but I think I am more use to them as a truth-teller than a cheerleader.
Lord Ashcroft
London SW1
SIR – In the past, much polling has been conducted by parties and kept private. That Lord Ashcroft has published his research findings openly is a public good.
An important example has been ethnic minority attitudes, an under-researched area because conducting large-enough surveys for meaningful comparisons is expensive. Simon Hughes of the Lib Dems told a recent, cross-party Runnymede Trust seminar that all parties were now considerably better informed on this topic, thanks to Lord Ashcroft’s study.
Sunder Katwala
Director, British Future
London WC2
Romanian night out
SIR – A trip to Bulgaria can cost less than a night in London (report, June 11). I have recently made three trips to Bucharest in Romania to see performances at their wonderful opera house – La Traviata, Don Giovanni and La Bohème.
The most expensive tickets cost 55 RON (£10), compared with £169 at Covent Garden, and the standards are comparable. Throw in a flight, a hotel and great dining, all at less than half the price in Britain, and you wonder that the Romanians are not worried about a flood of Brits taking advantage of their publicly funded culture scene. Thank goodness they are not insisting on a one-year residency criterion.
Patrick Maddams
London EC4
Archers impostors
SIR – I am so angry that you published a picture of Matt and Lilian from The Archers with Gillian Reynolds’s article (Television & Radio, June 12). I am an Archers addict, and they are clear in my mind. Tiger is definitely not tall and skinny, and Pussycat is tall and very stylish. The people in the photograph must be impostors.
Amanda Allen
Cley next the Sea, Norfolk
Blood while you wait
SIR – We value, above all, the generosity of blood donors and are sorry when our service falls below the desired standard.
We are constantly looking at ways of improving the donation process – we agree long delays are simply not acceptable. Unfortunately, if the session is much busier than expected, it can lead to an unusually long waiting time and our staff will try to do everything they can to prevent this from happening. The challenge we face is striking a balance between the number of appointments we make available for booking and actual attendance on the day.
We appreciate we don’t always get it right and we are currently in the process of making changes to the appointments and walk-in slots we offer, to make things easier for donors regardless of whether they prefer to make an appointment in advance or walk in and donate.
Every day 7,000 donations of blood are needed for life-saving operations and treatments for patients across England and north Wales. We are incredibly grateful for Simon Rutter’s dedication to donating blood (Letters, June 12) and ultimately saving the lives of others.
Clive Ronaldson
Director of Blood Supply
NHS Blood and Transplant
Watford, Hertfordshire
SIR – At my last donating session, despite having booked an appointment, a process that should have taken around half an hour took in excess of two hours.
The “apologies” I received admitted no fault, claimed the system runs as well as it can, and implied that my expectations were too high. With 40 years’ experience, I know this to be nonsense. I have an appointment in August; if there is still no recognition that donors’ patience is as finite as their blood supply, it will be my last.
Penelope Lenon
SIR – To those who give blood three or four times a year, a half-hour wait is a small price to pay for the chance to save a life.
Colin Frith
Hythe, Kent
Scone’s stone’s gone
SIR – Following the splendid service to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation, I wondered why the Stone of Scone was not placed in the Coronation Chair – as on the Coronation day itself. It would have been as beautiful a gesture as St Edward’s crown on the high altar.
John Hatswell
Canterbury, Kent
The best bits of Britten for the proficient whistler
SIR – I have been a proficient whistler all my life (Letters, June 13) and recommend to others the beautiful melodies in Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, his songs from Friday Afternoons, as well as his masterly French and English folk song arrangements.
Elizabeth Hogg
London SW13
SIR – Last week, sitting on the sea wall at Aldeburgh, on a bright blue, sun-filled but utterly freezing day, eating fish and chips (is there a better place in the whole world?) we watched incredulously as set designers built a “realistic” backdrop for Peter Grimes next to the real set that is Aldeburgh Beach. It was the oddest thing.
My advice would be that, if you are going to watch this, then, along with the picnic hamper and cushion, you should take the thickest blanket you possess and a vacuum flask.
Heather M Tanner
Earl Soham, Suffolk
SIR – Personally I place Britten and Brahms in the same category as Oscar Hammerstein’s King of Siam: “He may not always say, what you would have him say, then all at once he’ll say Something Wonderful.”
Christine Le Poidevin
St Martin, Guernsey

Irish Times:

Sir, – If The Taoiseach and the Government believe that it is right that “no medical practitioner will be obliged to carry out a termination if they have a conscientious objection to the procedure”, as proposed in the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill then why should our elected representatives not enjoy the same right and freedom in this instance when they have a conscientious objection to voting for the proposals contained in the said Bill? – Yours, etc,
St Josephs,
Boyle, Co Roscommon.
Sir, – Fr Kevin Doran states “They [Catholic Voluntary Hospitals as a group] will uphold their ethos and will never facilitate or tolerate the deliberate termination of human life, at any stage” (June 14th). This seems to me a clear restatement of no termination while there is a heartbeat, and a narrowing of the “this is a Catholic country” to this is a medical institution with an ethos that amounts to the same thing.
He also states, “Nobody, of course, is talking about refusing medical treatment. Catholic hospitals must, however, refuse abortion, which is not medical treatment.” I would ask him to clearly state for staff of hospitals with a Catholic ethos if the termination recently refused in Galway, which caused this legislation to be brought forward, was: a) medical treatment permissible within the ethos, or b) abortion which would be refused within the ethos. Anything other than a clear A or B demonstrates exactly why this legislation is needed. – Yours, etc,
Birchfield Park,
Goatstown, Dublin 14.
Sir, – I read the letter from concerned experts (Ruth Fletcher et al, June 13th) regarding their worry at the inability of women to terminate their “unviable unborns” in Ireland. Having worked with one such “unviable” aged 21, I’d be loath to decide on the supposed viability of either the born or the unborn. Bearing in mind the jurisdiction in which a significant number of these concerned experts operate, I would venture to suggest they might also direct their attention to the innumerable “viables” terminated therein on a daily basis. – Yours, etc,
Norseman Place,
Stoneybatter, Dublin 7.
Sir, – I have never regarded myself as a fan of Enda Kenny, but I am bound to say that he has acted admirably in the church-state conflicts on the child sex abuse scandals and now on the legislation to enforce the X case judgment by the Supreme Court.
When you compare his statements on these issues with the embarrassing grovelling of one of his predecessors, John A Costello, it clearly shows how far this country has come in the past 50 to 60 years. Any day now we’ll be just like a normal western European democracy with tolerance for all beliefs and understanding that the law cannot reflect just one philosophical school of thought.
Bravo Enda Kenny – June 12th, 2013 was a great day for Ireland. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – So Fintan O’Toole is human (Opinion, June 11th). When he is pricked, doth he not bleed; when cyclists annoy him in the course of his daily constitutional, doth he not rant? How different from his usual opinion pieces with their views from the cosy ivory tower. Blessed are those whose wisdom, serenity, common sense and good humour survive the daily struggles of a practical life in a messy world. – Yours, etc,
Mount Avenue,
Co Louth.
Sir, – Like Dr John Doherty (June 14th), I too often sit overlooking a busy traffic junction, this one in Dublin, by Busáras, where the Luas tracks cross Amiens Street.
Virtually every red light at rush hour witnesses at least one motorist sitting in the yellow box or on the pedestrian crossing, and frequently the Luas driver is driven to toot their horn. At this, the offending driver usually reverses onto the pedestrian crossing, while people scatter from his path.
Perhaps this proves that every mode of transport has its share of idiots, and I wonder if your paper could downplay the motorist-versus-cyclist attitude and instead promote a message to share the roads? Though I realise that won’t sell as many copies as Fintan O’Toole’s populist rant. – Yours, etc,
St Alphonsus Road Upper,
Dublin 9.
Sir, – May I propose that you buy Fintan O’Toole a bike – there’s great tax relief – or else sign him up to the Dublin Cycling Scheme.
Give him a few months to learn how to cycle, send him off, with a helmet, of course, and then ask him to write another Opinion piece on the same subject.
I can’t wait! – Yours, etc,
Mount Merrion,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – I have enjoyed the responses to Fintan O’ Toole’s recent tongue-in-cheek article and the various efforts to lay claim to the road – using the moral high ground. But there is a darker side to this subject.
In recent years, cyclists in Dublin have been experiencing an epidemic of bicycle theft. The explosion in the number of bikes along with their increased value (fuelled in part by the Bike to Work scheme) has proved a major temptation to thieves and rumours abound of organised gangs selling container-loads of Irish bikes abroad. But hard figures are hard to come by, as we cyclists rarely report these thefts, expecting nothing to be done. A joint initiative is required, from both the Garda and cycling community. The former needs to be seen to be doing something to address the problem, while the latter must assist by reporting all thefts. Once the size of the problem is appreciated it will increase the need to address it. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – While it is wonderful to note your enthusiasm for women’s stories, past and present, in this week’s Irish Times series, Women at Work, it is surely worth noting that those battles go on and on for women, even today.
Perhaps The Irish Times might also like to hail a victory for women brought about by using the mechanism of introducing amendments to proposed legislation to Seanad Éireann which happened earlier this year.
This small victory, detailed below, happened thanks to having a Senate chamber; that second chamber where proposed legislation is scrutinised and amended. The VECs are, as we know them, about to be morphed into a new being on July 1st next. From this year the old deliverer of our local techs will be replaced by education and training boards (ETBs). While the existing amended VEC Acts included the need for gender representation for councillors on VEC boards, a new broom at Department of Education and Science, saw fit to use the opportunity of new legislation to remove that requirement on the flimsiest of excuses that women can be difficult to find!
Thanks to the good offices of Senator Ivana Bacik and her colleagues in Seanad Éireann, the offending section was amended and now there will be a requirement to reflect the number of women and male councillors on local ETBs.
Given what I learnt and experienced when Minister for Education and the certainty that women are still being discriminated against in the quietest of our legislative corners, I intend to vote No in the coming referendum and Yes to gender politics for the foreseeable future. – Is mise,
(Minister for Education 1993

Sir, – What a sign of the times to see the advertisement for Paddy Power (Page 3, June 12th). So disappointing to see Jesus Christ mocked in such a way in a so-called Christian country. Thousands of Christians in this country would voice a protest but other religions could be more physical in their protest if their leader was so mocked.  
We who believe what Jesus said about His return in judgment know that all people, which will include you and Paddy Power, will have to give account to the Man appointed, and in view of the upheaval going on in this world, many, including unbelievers, would feel we are heading towards heavenly intervention. – Yours, etc,

First published: Sat, Jun 15, 2013, 00:04

Sir, – In a recent radio interview, Minister for Health, James Reilly proclaimed it was now time to introduce legislation on abortion because it was clearly evident from  (Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI) opinion polls that the Irish people have changed their minds on this particular matter and supported such legislation.
Given the latest Irish Times /Ipsos MRBI opinion poll on the state of the political parties (Home News, June 14th), can we now expect Mr Reilly to call for a general election? After all, it is now clearly evident that the Irish people have changed their minds on the Coalition partners and no longer offer them majority support! – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:
* Firstly, I would like to applaud Enda Kenny for being the first Taoiseach of this country to recognise and publicly announce that he is a Taoiseach for all the people of Ireland and not just the Catholics.
Also in this section
Time to slam the brakes on our errant cyclists
High time Swift was allowed to Bloom
Another great idea from Leinster House
* Firstly, I would like to applaud Enda Kenny for being the first Taoiseach of this country to recognise and publicly announce that he is a Taoiseach for all the people of Ireland and not just the Catholics.
Secondly, I would like to express my support for him and his Government in introducing this legislation, legislation that Fianna Fail, the political wing of the Catholic Church, was mandated to implement in a referendum but which refused to do so; legislation that is about saving the lives of women, and not, as the church would have us believe, about murder.
I sincerely hope that others will show the same courage as Mr Kenny and come out and support this legislation and not hide behind religious beliefs. You, all of you, have the duty to save the lives of all Irish citizens.
Thirdly, I would like to comment on the role of the Catholic Church in this affair. The Catholic Church represents a foreign state (Vatican City) – it does not represent Ireland, nor is it elected to speak on behalf of the Irish people. Ireland is a nation, not a religion.
The campaign of tyranny initiated by the bishops and clergy in this country against our Taoiseach and the democratically elected representatives of this State is tantamount to foreign interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state.
There should be a public inquiry into this matter; we cannot allow the church to interfere in state affairs in this fashion.
Lastly, I reiterate: Ireland is a nation, not a religion, and while you are free to practise your religion, you are not free to impose your will through the use of tyranny, coercion, bullying or threats. Democracy is about choice, not imposition.
Ray Behan
Clontarf, Dublin 3
* How appropriate that the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 was released under cover of darkness. Section 22 of the bill gives the game away.
It starts promisingly: “(1) It shall be an offence to intentionally destroy unborn human life,” and for a moment there was hope.
But then subsection (4) has: “For the avoidance of doubt, it is hereby declared that subsection (1) shall not apply to a medical practitioner who carries out a medical procedure referred to in section 7, 8 or 9 in accordance with that section.”
In other words, intentionally destroying life is banned except for all the cases mentioned in the bill, including suicide risk, which surely means that the intentional destruction of human life is envisaged in these cases. So much for government spokespersons trying to make out it’s a bill to save lives.
Brendan O’Regan
* As 90pc of us identified ourselves in the last census as Catholic, is it not unreasonable for the Catholic bishops to express a moral view on the proposed Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill?
While it may be easy to dismiss the messengers as a group of church men who made poor decisions in the past regarding child welfare, the message itself, while not a vote-winner, is that the bill, which allows a termination for a woman who feels suicidal because she is pregnant, even without any time limits, will have the consequence of ending the potential life of another person.
Frank Browne
Templeogue, Dublin 16
* I shall be forever grateful to John McGuinness for helping me to resolve the struggle I have had for years in deciding whether or not my wife should join me on holidays. (Irish Independent, June 11).
Mr McGuinness has invited us to read the works of Proust and Nietzsche in order to find a reason for taking our wives with us. The last time I read Proust was in the library in Lisdoonvarna. I found reading him a waste of time, or, as they say in Clare, a bit of temp perdu. I never finished the 1.25 million words of his ‘Search For Lost Time’ and, apparently, none of the wife-seeking farmers I met had done so either. This voluminous text now forms an elegant bar stool in one of my favourite Lisdoonvarna pubs.
Frustrated in deciding whether I should take my wife to Egypt, I sought illumination in Joyce’s ‘Finnegans Wake’. In an early version of the text I found, “Uxor to Luxor? Nein.” Not content with this level of assertiveness, I followed the example of Mr McGuinness and reached for the philosopher Nietzsche. If Nietzsche can’t reach you, nobody can.
Nietzsche, in ‘Beyond Good and Evil’, defended the view that morality makes us mentally ill. For example, agonising about whether our wives should share the warm proximity of bodies and the involuntary knees-up in economy air travel is not good for us. I found Nietzsche very convincing.
Enda went to Rome to investigate this issue for the people of Ireland and returned with the very helpful Roman suggestion that Caesar’s wife must be beyond reproach. I assume he is referring to the injunction, ‘Never take Calpurnia to California’. This piece of wisdom was worth every penny of the cost of his trip and left me in no doubt that I should continue camping on my own, or, as the Latin-speaking Romans called it, castrating.
I am convinced that a strong case could be made for a celibate Dail; celibacy is much cheaper to run than marriage, and could save the country a fortune in travel expenses.
Philip O’Neill
Edith Road, Oxford
* Back in the day, Ireland had an Irish/Italian Taoiseach, John A Costello – or Giovanni Antonio Costello – who declared during a Dail debate, ‘I’m a Catholic first and an Irishman second’. Fast forward to 2013 and our dear Taoiseach Enda Kenny proclaims, ‘I’m a Catholic who happens to be Taoiseach, not a Catholic Taoiseach,’ – that’s progress . . . going forward, of course.
Paddy O’Brien
Balbriggan, Co Dublin
* In the context of the government proposal to abolish the Seanad and the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention, there has been much discussion on Dail reform.
A measure fundamental to any real reform of the Dail would be a requirement that TDs attend at Leinster House and vote on legislation in order to draw salary. Yet no such requirement exists. Attendance at Leinster House is only required in order to draw down expenses.
Politicians usually respond to this issue by claiming that when they are not in the chamber, they are working in their room. This, of course, is not the point. It is true that a deputy who registers with the Clerk of the Dail after a general election will receive a cheque in the post every month until dissolution, irrespective of attendance at the workplace.
The first duty of a deputy is to represent constituents through voting on legislation or by introducing legislation. Yet a deputy, even when in attendance, has no obligation to vote or formally abstain on any measure whatever in order to draw salary.
It is not possible to have democratic accountability while these arrangements exist. Constituents may be unable to discern the position of their deputy on any issue.
The further requirement to ensure democratic accountability of deputies is that constituents are enabled to recall their deputy during a Dail term. This exists in other jurisdictions.
Paddy Healy
Fairview, Dublin 3
Irish Independent


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: