23 July 2013 Hospital

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark Dear old Troutbridge is excluded one again from the Naval fleet exercises but Captain Povey has a plan. Priceless
Cooler today off to hospital to see Mary’s consultant two and a half hour wait and its come back next week
We watch Are you being served not bad
Scrabble today I win and I get over 400 perhaps Mary will get her revenge tomorrow?


Wilfred Proudfoot
Wilfred Proudfoot, who has died aged 91, was a larger-than-life Scarborough grocer who built his own supermarket chain, served two spells as a Conservative MP (earning the nickname “Decimal Proudfoot” by campaigning for currency reform), ran a North Sea pirate radio station and enjoyed a final career as a hypnotherapist.

Wilfred Proudfoot Photo: PA
6:51PM BST 22 Jul 2013
The epitome of the self-made man, the sharp-suited Proudfoot started his first shop with £125 from his RAF gratuity and over 30 years built up a chain of 15. He claimed to have started Britain’s first independent supermarket, visiting America in 1958 to learn the latest techniques. He revelled in politics, and after losing his second seat had a facelift in the hope — unfulfilled — of finding another.
While the decision to go decimal was taken by the Labour Chancellor Roy Jenkins, Proudfoot had a sizeable hand in its adoption — though his preferred unit was 10 shillings, not the pound. After two years’ research with his colleague Sir Donald Kaberry, he introduced a Decimal Coinage Bill in 1961, pointing out that only 28 countries out of 231 had a non-decimal system. The ensuing debate led to the Treasury setting up the Halsbury Committee, which in 1963 recommended a decimal system based on the pound, a minority favouring the smaller unit.
George Wilfred Proudfoot was born in Co Durham on December 19 1921. His grandfather was a miner; his father killed 13 Germans single-handed in the First World War and told his alcoholic CO: “Throw that whisky bottle away or I’ll shoot you.” Wilfred was educated at Crook council school and Scarborough College. As a boy he revelled in tales of the French Foreign Legion and longed to see the Sahara; when he finally got there, in 1966, it was raining.
He served throughout the war as an NCO fitter in the RAF, then returned to Scarborough to become a grocer and newsagent. He was elected a councillor in 1950, despite urging his supporters to vote Liberal to keep out the Labour candidate, and became chairman of Scarborough health committee. To highlight anomalies in the trading laws, he invited a weights and measures inspector to witness him serving customers on his early-closing afternoon and on a Sunday so he could make his point in court.
Proudfoot fought strongly-Labour Hemsworth in 1951, then in 1955 contested Cleveland, covering industry and moorland to the south-east of Middlesbrough. He fell short by 181 votes, but tried again in 1959, when he ousted Labour’s Arthur Palmer by 1,655 votes. In his maiden speech he forecast a “retailing revolution” that would close 50,000 grocers’ shops in a decade, with greengrocers disappearing altogether.
Though Proudfoot would have made an unlikely minister, Sir Keith Joseph made him his Parliamentary Private Secretary. And when Harold Wilson took the Labour leadership, extolling “the white heat of technology”, Proudfoot’s similar tone — calling for Britain to “accept the technological revolution and tap the reservoir of untrained people” — struck a chord with Tory strategists.
Campaigning in Cleveland during the 1964 election, he travelled with a wooden rostrum he made to fit in the boot of his car; it had blown-up, cut-out pictures of himself on either side and could be floodlit at night. But he could not stem a swing to Labour which sank him by 4,472 votes.
Instead he became managing director of Radio 270, broadcasting from international waters off the Yorkshire coast. Lamenting that its output was not more “intellectually satisfying” than pop music, he started a series of political programmes and invited speakers from all parties to contribute; the only taker was his former colleague Patrick Wall, from the safety of a recording booth in York.
When Labour passed the Marine Offences Act outlawing the pirates, Proudfoot closed down Radio 270 at 11.59pm on August 14 1967, saying wistfully: “If we’d had another year we would have made a profit.” He was left with the station’s ship, Ocean Seven, on his hands, the likely buyers all having been put out of business.
Proudfoot returned to the Commons in 1970 for Brighouse and Spenborough, ousting Labour’s Colin Jackson by just 59 votes. He became PPS to Paul Bryan at the Department of Employment, and asked Willie Whitelaw as Leader of the House to allow television cameras into proceedings on the Industrial Relations Bill .
He now concentrated on broadcasting issues, reporting the BBC to the Race Relations Board for broadcasting fewer programmes for immigrants than for the Welsh, and urging it to end radio broadcasts to schools now that cheap cassette machines for classroom use were available. But his main interest was commercial radio, and the government’s legislation to allow local stations, which he considered disappointingly modest.
In 1972 he forced through, with John Gorst and Ray Mawby, an amendment preventing London’s news radio station from supplying stations elsewhere. The trio also managed to bar newspapers from taking a stake in their local station, only for the sponsoring minister, Chris Chataway, to overrule them, saying that otherwise papers’ advertising revenues would be threatened.
That year Proudfoot lost his secretary Christine Holman (the future Christine Hamilton) to Sir Gerald Nabarro, complaining that he had poached her by offering her £20 more a week. “There are gentlemen and gentlemen,” he commented. “I must say that the gentleman of the two in this case is the one without the title.”
In the snap February 1974 election, Proudfoot lost Brighouse and Spenborough to Jackson by 1,546 votes. He fought it again that October, without success. Looking for a safer seat, he had a facelift in California, the cost of more than £1,000 covered by a legacy from an aunt. He had already lost four stone from dieting , but conceded: “I am 56, which is a damn nuisance.” No seat was forthcoming; he chaired Scarborough Conservatives from 1978 to 1980, and the Cleveland European constituency.
Proudfoot embarked on a new career as a hypnotist, declaring: “Hypnosis can cure anything from nail-biting to tennis elbow.” Alongside his supermarkets and a distribution consultancy business, he started the Proudfoot School of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy, published The Consumer Guide to Hypnosis, and from 1983 chaired the British Council of Hypnotist Examiners.
Wilfred Proudfoot married, in 1950, Peggy Jackson, who survives him with their two sons and one daughter.
Wilfred Proudfoot, born December 19 1921, died July 19 2013


John Harris makes some good points about the double standards of government politicians in celebrating the success of the multicultural Olympics whilst introducing draconian measures against immigrants (London – the most diverse, tolerant, open city. Really?, 22 July). Indeed, the Office for Budget Responsibility claims that Britain will need to welcome hundreds of thousands more migrant workers over the coming years to prevent total economic collapse (Report, 18 July). This is in recognition of the fact that the migrants tend to be of working age and, far from being a drain on resources, contribute disproportionately to the economy through taxes and spending, while being less likely to claim benefits. In the face of this evidence it would be nice to see all the major parties welcome migrants and recognise their contribution to society. Alas, I suspect Cameron, Miliband et al will continue to talk ambiguously about “recognising voters’ legitimate concerns about immigration”.
Tim Matthews
Luton, Bedfordshire
•  The Office of Budget Responsibility’s report saying that Britain needs to have a sustained immigration rate of 150,000 a year is effectively a call for us to run the country as a giant Ponzi scheme. It argues that immigrants tend to be of working age and therefore contribute more in taxes. But they too grow old, retire and develop illnesses. It is difficult to imagine a proposal less compatible with the words “budget responsibility”. How much more logical it would be to find work for the large pool of unemployed, of all ages, that we already have.
Chris Padley

We’ve already done as Elaine Stringer suggests (Letters, 20 July). Following the Keogh review (Reports, 17 July), and the poor quality of political debate that engulfed it, we emailed our thanks to our local hospital for its excellent care over decades, copied to our [Conservative] MP, Gordon Henderson. We were later delighted when he notified us that he had tabled an early day motion reading: “That this House believes the National Health Service is a great national asset and is very important to the many millions of people who use it annually; further believes the NHS should no longer be used as a political football and calls on all the political parties represented in this House, and the other place, to set up a cross-party national commission to develop a plan of action that will ensure the long term future of the NHS; and believes such a plan should be followed by whichever political party, or, combination of parties, is in power after all subsequent general elections.”
The motion was supported by 216 MPs. Readers can study the results to discover how highly their MP values our NHS and contact him/her accordingly.
Kay Murphy
Sittingbourne, Kent
• I’m 17 and haven’t had much experience of the NHS, until I fractured my hand and it started to swell severely the following week. Starting at my local GP, then Barnet hospital, I received tremendous care as different professionals tried to work out the cause. Eventually it was discovered I had had a serious allergic reaction to the tape on my fracture, and I was seamlessly sent to the specialist hand plastics team at the Royal Free in Hampstead. Seeing my fingers change colour, shape and texture was a deeply unsettling experience, but was made so much easier by the staff’s determination to improve my condition. I couldn’t help but be moved by the empathy that complete strangers had given me, but also how lucky we are to have the NHS. It’s sad that many may not come to appreciate it properly until it is altered beyond repair (unlike my hand).
Joe Headland
• Polly Toynbee is right (A scrap over dead bodies, but the privatising gallops on, 19 July) that the government is using the failings of the NHS to support its privatisation agenda. But the key lesson of both Francis and Keogh is that a management culture of command and control – strengthened under Labour – has pushed staff towards doing and measuring the wrong things and undermined their capacity to raise concerns about the consequences.
Polly is right that targets can play a part, but the crucial questions are: what targets, how are they generated and how is progress towards them measured? Successive inquiry reports, annual NHS staff surveys and much other evidence show that productivity and quality improve, fewer errors are made, and those that are made are corrected and learned from sooner when local communities and staff are more involved. It follows that targets and metrics should focus on increasing capacity for community and staff involvement.
Brendan Martin
Managing director,
• The sale of Plasma Resources, UK owned, to a private equity firm, well explained by Jennifer Rankin, but in the Financial section (Report, 19 July), is a disaster. The department supposed to look after our health made no health or safety assessment, obscured as it was by commercial confidentiality. This is a health not a business issue. Safety is paramount, both of the product and the security of supply. Testing cannot detect and eliminate all known diseases; new ones will emerge. The effects of past scandals of contaminated products are still felt, and the record of private companies gives no confidence. Whose interests does this sale really serve?
Dr Pam Zinkin
• While the nation is told to cringe and gasp at new blue blood being delivered in a private hospital, the nation’s red blood, in the form of NHS Plasma Services Ltd, is being delivered to Bain Capital, run by a US hedge fund, there to be traded like share options. Extensive coverage of that would be genuine patriotism. Hence, hardly a flicker.
John Medhurst
Hove, East Sussex

Ian Simmons (Letters, 22 July) rightly objects to sexualised magazine cover headlines at the supermarket. The solution is in his own hands: find the managers, say the title is against government guidelines on the sexualisation of childhood and ask them to remove it. As a member of the Mothers’ Union, I have done this several times – and it works. See
Felicity Randall
Fakenham, Norfolk
• Well at least we can be sure that Lynton Crosby has no connections with the pornography industry (Cameron pledges to ban ‘extreme porn’, 22 July).
Richard Stainer
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
• Will the 11 hospital trusts placed in special measures be treated like schools (Reports, 16 July)? Will private providers take them over and call them infirmaries, just as schools became academies?
Hugh Betterton
• As I reflected on Simon Hoggart’s pleasure in the impact of substituting ‘Hove’ for ‘love’ in song titles (20 July), it occurred to me that “Gove” could be even more enjoyable. My favourite so far is Neil Young’s poignant Only Gove Can Break Your Heart.
Tony Cabourn-Smith
• As the heatwave continues (Reports, 22 July), it is surely time to appoint a weather minister. While it may be unkind to the memory of Denis Howell, who did the job in 1976, Michael Gove seems just the man. He can issue orders and diktats demanding that temperatures drop, even if, in reality, they don’t.
Keith Flett
• Let’s hope the Duchess of Cambridge has had the benefit of heir conditioning.
Russell Read
Penn, Buckinghamshire
• There is only one possible response to Jonathan Yarwood’s assertion (Letters, 20 July) that scales of 10 are better divisible because of the decimal point: “There are only 10 kinds of people – those that understand binary and those that don’t.”
Tim Jones
Hoylake, Merseyside

In your excellent coverage of the Tour de France (Reports, 22 July) you highlight the international mix of Chris Froome’s cycling team. This is a common feature of modern sport, but recognising its significance subverts the validity of claiming any national superiority. The desire to feel pride in the exploits of “plucky Brits” is further undermined by the nature of sponsorship. Over the past three weeks was I really supporting the Kenyan-born Chris Froome or, heaven forbid, Sky?
Sport is so dominated by international corporations that perhaps we should first decide which companies to support, and then work backwards to the stars they fund? Alternatively, it is often more enjoyable to witness success at the amateur level, as I did this weekend when 18-year-old golfer Matt Fitzpatrick from Sheffield won the silver medal at Muirfield (Fitzpatrick hits gold to win silver, 22 July).
John Kirkwood
• I was astonished to see photos of Froome and the other Tour de France winners with cigars in their mouths (22 July). You compounded the error by having an editorial on “the science of success” that supports riders’ performance (22 July). This science would explain the seriously damaging effects on performance from smoking.
Dr Tony Jewell
• These wouldn’t be the same sports science degrees (Editorial, 22 July) derided as Mickey Mouse by the saloon bar tendency, would they?
Roy Boffy
•  While I salute the achievements of Chris Froome, might we dispense with the accompanying women, please? Next year might be time to concentrate on restoring the women’s Tour de France, which I presume never witnesses the female winner being surrounded by two smartly dressed men. Simples.
Professor Klaus Dodds
Royal Holloway, University of London
• Why no “Froome at the Top” on Monday?
Colin Shone
Menai Bridge, Anglesey
• Fantastic GB results in the European Junior Athletics Championships. Best ever by far, with the basis of a great team for the future in the No 1 Olympic sport and some positive 2012 legacy at last. No coverage at all on Monday. Two pages of football, however, even though they don’t play for another month. You’re not really a comprehensive sports paper, are you, despite some brilliant reporters and writers: Richard Williams, Vic Marks, Mike Selvey, William Fotheringham, Anna Kessel, Barney Ronay? Such a pity: you have the basis to be great.
Jan Wiczkowski
• Sad to read Stephen Moss’s article on the demise of the corn bunting (Birdwatch, 22 July). The same lack of concern appears to be present in Guardian Sport. Endless pages of golf, cycling, cricket and football but not a mention (as usual) of any of the two rugby league divisions. You really have become a true southern paper, and after 50 years of taking the (Manchester) Guardian I think it may be time for a change.
G Blackburn
Leigh, Lancashire

The news that Alan Turing is to be “pardoned” for consensual adult homosexual acts (Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing to be given posthumous pardon; 17 July) engenders mixed feelings among his many admirers. His conviction was, in reality, a government crime. The UK government should be confessing that his chemical castration was actually a crime against humanity. A memorial to Turing and other gay victims of this state-sponsored persecution would be a more appropriate response because one can only be pardoned for a crime. Turing was not a criminal but a very distinguished victim of a legal witchhunt against adult homosexuals that showed no mercy – even to a national hero.
Geoffrey McDade
Montreal, Canada
•  How about a pardon for the 48,999 other gay men, now dead, who were convicted under the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act? Pardoning just one man because of his “outstanding achievements” implies that the others are not worthy of a pardon. Surely the rationale is that the act was unjust and that gay men were inappropriately criminalised. This was true for all the men and not just for Alan Turing.
Rosetta Delisle
• A simple amendment to the Alan Turing (statutory pardon) bill could extend it to all those traduced by the 1885 legislation. I’m not normally in favour of rewriting history, but this is surely one occasion when justice should be comprehensively done.
Henry Malt
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
•  You report that the government is allowing parliament to decide on Alan Turing’s pardon “in whatever way its conscience dictates”. Interesting to note that the dictates of conscience are an exception in parliament, and then only with permission.
Donald Simpson

The fact that moving schools has a negative effect on student achievement (Report, 22 July) will come as no surprise to those who have read Visible Learning by Professor John Hattie. In this work, which should be compulsory reading for Michael Gove and those at the Department for Education, Hattie looks at more than 50,000 research studies worldwide and analyses 138 factors that influence student achievement.
He found that the biggest negative factor is mobility between schools. The reasons for this are varied but a major factor was problems with friendship patterns. The key success factor is whether a child makes a friend in the first month. Good schools can do much to counter this problem, by ensuring newcomers are welcomed and friendships nurtured by a buddy system.
If policymakers used research rather than dogma to guide them, as in New Zealand, student achievement in the UK would rise steadily.
Gerry Miller
Ingoe, Northumberland


Drip by drip this pernicious policy of privatisation is being foisted upon us by the Conservatives, with an acquiescent Coalition partner and a neutered opposition.
Each step has been disastrous for the public and a bonanza for the City. We have lost the railways, communications, all the public utilities, the police and prisons, and we have seen major inroads into our health services including, now, blood plasma supplies (“Blood money”, 19 July).
One slight hiccup occurred when they tried to steal our forests, but undaunted they are now attacking our postal service, the rescue services, and our schools. Where is the public debate on the transformation of our society? Once these changes have occurred they will be irreversible.
Pete Parkins, Lancaster
After over 50 years as a proud blood donor the news that part of the system is sold to an American private equity firm, driven exclusively by commercial considerations, has prompted my withdrawal. If they get their claws on the organ donor arrangements I’ll tear up my donor card too.
Denis Ahern, Stanford-le-Hope, Essex
Fears concerning Plamsa Resources (PRUK) following its acquisition by Bain Capital are misplaced.
Far from “gambling with the UK’s blood supply” this deal guarantees a financially secure future for the company. At a time of severe public-spending constraints, private financing in our health services is essential in order to maintain standards of care. The point has been raised that we may see the emergence of another blood-borne illness in the future. In such circumstances PRUK would need sufficient financing to perform extensive research and testing. 
In regards to accountability, given the Government is to hold a 20 per cent stake it will be subject to public scrutiny via select committees and wider government oversight. The private-equity industry has made great strides in recent years to improve its levels of transparency and disclosure, and many of the largest private equity-backed companies now have reporting standards on a par with the FTSE350 and in some cases even better.
Private-equity ownership brings many benefits, not least of which is engaged shareholders who work closely with the management team to ensure the company performs.
Tim Hames, Director General, The British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association, London WC2
Palestinian exiles’ hopes dashed again
An Israeli friend sent me a message telling me that things looked hopeful with the Kerry peace talks plan.
Despite 65 years of hopes arising only to be dashed by unscrupulous leaders on both sides, I allowed myself the luxury of feeling hopeful. I felt a twinge of excitement at a solution to our Palestinian diaspora. I imagined myself walking the “corniche” in Haifa in search of a good fish restaurant. I visualised myself visiting my father’s home and breathing the same air that he breathed so long ago.
Then Prime Minister Netanyahu denied that the talks would  be based on a return to the 1967 borders with land swaps to accommodate Jewish settlements. This morning (19 July) I read in The Independent that the meeting of Palestinian politicians broke up without agreement, yet another missed opportunity.
Peace is too precious to be put in the hands of irresponsible and self-seeking politicians like Abbas, Kerry and Netanyahu. Let the ordinary Palestinians and Israelis meet face to face, talk and get to know each other. Then we may have peace.
Meanwhile, we Palestinian refugees undergo yet another dashed hope because of our leaders’ incompetence, cruelty and lack of vision. And the majority of Israelis wanting peace are, yet again, marginalised by stupid and short-sighted politicians.
Dr Faysal Mikdadi, Dorchester, Dorset
Two cheers for the EU’s decision to ban the funding of projects in illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. But these settlements should never have been tolerated from the outset.
Yet, this could be the beginning of long-overdue steps by the EU to encourage Israel into international lawfulness. The EU’s preferential trade “Association” agreement with Israel is contingent on the latter’s respect for human rights. The indefinite siege of Gaza is an act of collective punishment, strictly forbidden by the laws of war. It should be the next issue on the road to lawfulness.
David McDowall, Richmond, Surrey
The refusal of the EU to fund projects in the exclusive Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank is a welcome development for those concerned with justice and peace in the region.
However, one wonders how the new EU policy is viewed by the Representative of the Quartet, Tony Blair. The EU is one of the four whom he represents. So far he has avoided even mild criticism of the occupation, and he appears never to have referred to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which outlaws the building of settlements on occupied land.
How does he now reconcile the views of the EU with those of the US (whom he also represents), which has never criticised the West Bank settlements, nor apparently would ever do so, viewing them rather in much the same way as the Israeli government does?
Christopher Walker, London W14
Social enterprise can flourish
Arguing for a “new form of democratic, social ownership” is nothing new for the UK’s burgeoning social-enterprise sector (“Privatisation for Tories is still a matter of blind dogma”, 15 July). Across the country social enterprises are springing up quickly. Co-operatives, community interest companies, and trading charities are working to ensure that taxpayers’ money is reinvested in public services. 
Winning contracts as a social enterprise is not without its challenges – many are squeezed out when contending with mega-corps like G4S. The Public Services (Social Value) Act – a new law which requires commissioners to consider the social value created by each provider – must be fully embraced by local and national government if more social enterprises are to deliver services. The Act provides a solid opportunity in the social ownership debate, but the public needs to be made aware of it to ensure they can get the best deals for their communities – so that wealth stays there and isn’t funnelled out to company shareholders.
Peter Holbrook, Social Enterprise UK, London SE1
Few British speak Brussels
While very much agreeing with the points made by Dr Corner (letter, 16 July) about the UK’s longstanding semi-detached attitude towards the EU and the lack of UK nationals working in EU institutions, language is an issue.
It is well known that otherwise well-qualified UK nationals do not qualify for EU posts because they fail the basic requirement to have a working knowledge of a EU language other than their own. As English is already one of the three working languages of the Commission with French or German, one of those other two would normally be seen as most useful. All this should not, of course, exclude any of the 23 official EU languages!
This is sad testimony to the woeful British attitude to foreign language learning, as exemplified by the decision to remove a language as a compulsory GCSE subject in 2004.
John Whitton, Exeter
Chaps worship at shrine of golf
The Supreme Court’s deliberations as to whether or not Scientology is a religion may provide Peter Dawson and his all-male cohort at the Royal & Ancient with a way of fending off the criticism that has come their way in recent days. 
Dawson et al should argue that their passionate belief in golf and all that it represents, a belief system which they share and indeed practise together every Saturday morning (so Dawson tells us), is a form of religious worship.
If this argument were accepted and golf were accorded the status of a religion, all the discriminatory practices and other odd rituals performed in the name of golf (described by Chris Blackhurst on 18 July) would suddenly be OK.
Marc Patel, London SE21
Gay marriage: the next challenge
We now have same-sex marriage in England and Wales, after the legislation received Royal Assent last week, and I want to express some thanks.
Thanks to the campaigners who fought tirelessly for this important social change. Thanks to the people of this country who have shown such heart-warming acceptance of their gay and lesbian friends and family. But also thanks to the press.
The Independent has resolutely stood behind the campaign, giving lots of excellent coverage, and stiffening the resolve of ministers when the going got tough. The lives of many people in England and Wales will be better as a result, and that is a welcome achievement. Now let’s turn to Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Michael Contaldo, Manchester
American dream falters in Detroit
In his landmark Great Society speech of 1964, President Lyndon B Johnson said: “Our society will never be great until our cities are great. Today the frontier of imagination and innovation is inside those cities and not beyond their borders.”
If he was right, Detroit’s decision to file for bankruptcy suggests that the US is further than ever from achieving the Great Society vision. It is certainly no longer a model for other countries to follow.
Professor David Head, Navenby, Lincolnshire
Those who support the Coalition’s market economy strategy and capitalism American- style might like to ponder on the fate of Detroit. How many of our cities could go bankrupt and become wastelands?
R E Hooper, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Cash at the food bank?
On a recent visit to our link community of Gunjur in The Gambia I discovered that Oxfam America and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation had changed their policy of giving food to the poorest people and instead were giving cash; they felt it was patronising to suggest to people that “what you need is food”, whereas if they were given money, they were given choice. They could spend it on food, but might need shoes or education for their children.
I wonder what the food bank movement feels about this?
Nick Maurice, Marlborough, Wiltshire


We should allow those who have the expertise in religious education — which can include those with religious convictions — to be our teachers
Sir, Greg Hurst’s interview with the Bishop of Oxford (“Religious education ‘wrecked by Gove’ ”, July 20) contains a quote from Stephen Evans, the campaign manager for the National Secular Society, where he claims that “pupils and parents will be far better served by the Government taking education about religion out of the hands of vested interests”.
This statement seeks the give the impression that some interests are biased while others are somehow neutral. This of course is simply not the case. The secularist view of religion is no less biased than that of the Christian, the Jew, the Muslim, the agnostic or even the Secretary of State for Education. Everyone of us brings our presuppositions and world view to bear on all that we are aware of and observe. If Mr Evans was to be consistent in his position he should be asking, for instance, that the teaching of chemistry and mathematics be taken out of the hands of those whose interests are vested in a full understanding of and commitment to those subjects. There is no neutrality in such things, and instead of pursuing a nonexistent position we should allow those who have the expertise in religious education — which can and should include those with religious convictions — to be our teachers.
Leonard Browne
Headmaster, Dean Close Preparatory School, Cheltenham
Sir, We share the concerns expressed by the Bishop of Oxford, and welcome any initiative which seeks to renew and revitalise the place of RE within the curriculum of all state-funded schools.
The great strength of the local authority committees or SACREs (Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education) is that they represent all the key stakeholders in the subject, including not only representatives of the Church of England, other Christian denominations and other principal world faiths and secular world views, but also teachers and elected councillors in their areas. With the support of professional advisers, inspectors and consultants, they operate in a collegial and democratic way in the best interests of all the pupils that they serve. SACRES can do the job entrusted to them by law if they are properly funded and resourced and they are best placed to ensure that all pupils receive the high quality, balanced and inclusive RE to which they are entitled.
Lesley Prior, Chair, the National Association of Standing Advisory Councils on RE; Joy Schmack, Chair, the Association of RE Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants; Roger Butler, Chair, the Shap Working Party on Education in World Religions

Access charges are critical in making rail travel more competitive, as they represent a sizeable part of an operator’s fixed costs
Sir, Robert Lea’s article “Anglo-French regulator ‘should be replaced’ ” (July 15), reporting on Eurotunnel’s call for a new Channel Tunnel regulator, diverts attention from the key point of the European Commission’s recent action — namely the fees levied by Eurotunnel on any rail operator transporting passengers and freight through the tunnel and the barrier this presents to increasing traffic.
Access charges are critical in making rail travel more competitive, as they represent a sizeable part of an operator’s fixed costs. This is why Eurotunnel’s charges must be transparent and in line with EU and national regulations. As such, the European Commission’s action on charges is welcome and should pave the way for lower fares for passengers.
Eurotunnel continues to charge for access to the tunnel under a framework designed when its original debt still existed. This debt was halved in 2007, yet charges remain at the same levels. As the European Commission has observed, this is to the detriment of passengers and freight and cannot be sustained.
I also cannot understand Eurotunnel’s argument that it should be exempt from legislation because it is in the private sector. We would all like to be in that position.
The potential of international rail travel has increased significantly in recent years as the European high-speed network has expanded. Lower charges are key to the development of new routes and the arrival of new operators between the UK and continental Europe. Surely, this has to be the focus if we are to realise the EU’s vision of promoting modal shift and offering a wider range of transport options to passengers and freight customers across Europe.
Lord Berkeley
House of Lords

Britain’s new homes are the smallest in Western Europe, even though it has been shown that family space is essential for health and wellbeing
Sir, Within the next week the Government will publish its consultation into Housing Standards, which will look at the possibility of introducing mandatory national minimum standards for all new homes.
Homes that give families space to thrive are essential to their health and wellbeing, yet Britain’s new homes are the smallest in Western Europe. Space standards would ensure that new homes provide peace and privacy for children to study and play, room for families to grow and homes that are flexible enough to adapt to the needs of our ageing population.
The public want to see more good quality, family-sized homes being built. Research shows that four in ten people would be more likely to support new housing developments in their area if homes were larger, even if it means they take up more land. Introducing national minimum space standards would mean more homes built and a boost to our construction industry.
There would be no adverse impact on viability or affordability of housing sites, because mandatory standards would ensure that any additional development costs would be absorbed into land prices. Ultimately we would see a level playing field for all developers, creating greater competition, again promoting the delivery of desperately needed affordable homes.
Harry Rich, Royal Institute of British Architects; Campbell Robb, Shelter; Michelle Mitchell, Age UK; David Orr, National Housing Federation; John Mathers, Design Council; John Findlay, National Association of Local Councils; Duncan Stott, Priced Out!; Anne Longfield, 4Children; Kate Henderson, Town and Country Planning Association; Paul Gamble, Habinteg Housing Association

There where maps before there were roads, as shown by examples from Christopher Saxton and John Speed in the 16th and 17th centuries
Sir, Philip Howard (“English Explored”, Saturday Review, July 20) suggests that “road map” is a tautology. I believe him to be mistaken. Christopher Saxton, between 1573 and 1583, produced county maps of England and also a complete map of the country. He marked towns, rivers, churches and bridges, but no roads. John Speed completed his series of maps in the early 17th century, but again without roads. That these works were maps cannot be contested. It was not until Philip Lea published augmented versions of Saxton’s maps in the 1680s that maps with roads became available.
Martin Marix Evans
Blakesley, Northants

Asking a colleague to diagnose a mechanical problem with a car before taking it to the garage rather backfired for this reader
Sir, Many years ago, in an attempt to prevent being ripped off by a garage, I asked a colleague to diagnose a problem with my car (“Sexist rip-off garages and how the fair sex can get a fairer deal”, July 20). He took a look at it and wrote down the problem for me: “N/S wheel bearing”.
Full of confidence, I rang the garage and asked them if I could book in my car to have the wheel bearings fixed. “Do you know which one it is love?”, I was asked. “Yes,” I said proudly, “it’s the north-south.” There was a silence followed by raucous laughter.
I think I was probably overcharged.
Sue Rankine
Bowden Hill, Somerset

SIR – We are pleased to see Shakespeare having more space on the proposed national curriculum (report, July 9) not least because the thousands of teachers we work with every year tell us what a positive impact it can have on their students.
When young people get actively involved in exploring the plays, when they are up on their feet saying the words aloud and making choices about things like character, setting and motivation, they develop a love of the plays and an ownership of Shakespeare’s work that can last a lifetime.
We should not worry that young people will find it hard. It is the very fact that it is taxing that students enjoy and the reason they feel such a sense of achievement when they are given the tools to unlock it.
We want to make sure students can get the best introduction to Shakespeare’s plays and that is not solely through reading them. His work needs to be introduced in the classroom with the kinds of active approaches employed by actors and directors when they rehearse – saying it aloud, on your feet, seeing it live.
Gregory Doran
Artistic Director, Royal Shakespeare Company
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
SIR – Rupert Christiansen prefers to read Shakespeare rather than encounter him in the theatre (Arts, July 15). This is not a new reaction. Keats wrote a sonnet “On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again”. He preferred to experience “the fierce dispute/ Betwixt damnation and impassioned clay” on the page. Given the unsatisfactory state of the early-19th century theatre, when Shakespeare was atrociously mangled even more than now, this was hardly surprising.
Bernard Richards
Brasenose College, Oxford
SIR – The newly appointed NHS inspector wishes to recruit volunteer patients and carers to help him monitor NHS trusts (report, July 18). We have been here before.
In December 2003 the Labour government created the Patient and Public Involvement Forums; 500 of these were set up, one for each NHS trust, and nearly 6,000 unpaid volunteers joined. These forums amassed much knowledge and experience and were making a difference. They had access to all levels of trust management and had the right to inspect any NHS premises, without warning if necessary. Each forum’s annual report had to be included verbatim in the annual report of the NHS trust concerned.
Labour abolished the forums in December 2008 because it realised that it had given them too much power. Had they still been in existence some of the recent scandals might not have happened. The talents and experience of 6,000 volunteers from all walks of life were lost when the forums were abolished. Now it is suggested that we start all over again. We can only hope that this Government will not make the same mistakes.
Tony Carroll
Former chairman, Torbay and Aylesbury Primary Care Trusts
Steeple Claydon, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Earlier this year the Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath) and the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) assisted the Care Quality Commission in the investigation of a NHS hospital’s pathology department, which was thought to have compromised the care of breast cancer patients. This investigation suggested to us three things about the CQC and how it operates.
Related Articles
Why schoolchildren should act out Shakespeare
22 Jul 2013
First, the high level of regulatory skills and ethical integrity of the CQC’s operational staff were clear. There was no evidence during our collaboration to justify recent accusations of a lack of openness.
Second, the CQC may not have enough staff for all the work expected of it. The complexities of specialist care were not matched by the CQC staff’s more generic regulatory skills.
Third, the NHS organisations concerned were unclear about key issues of performance and its necessary critical scrutiny. This lack of clarity initially impeded progress to a rational conclusion.
RCPath and IBMS together provided the specialist skills needed to explain complex clinical, scientific and technical information underlying standards of care and levels of risks to patients. The CQC appreciated the value of this support and could not have concluded this investigation satisfactorily without this specialist input.
Our work with the CQC supports the view of the new Chief Inspector of Hospitals that the governance of health care can be improved if regulators work with the right mix of health professionals, patients and carers.
A G Prentice
President, Royal College of Pathologists
Derek Bishop
President, Institute of Biomedical Science
Sex-free schooling
SIR – Sex education is, and should remain, a non-compulsory subject in primary school (Letters, July 19). It should not be smuggled into science classes, depriving parents of the crucial legal right to withdraw their children.
Our campaign, Safe at School, is about supporting parents, as the primary educators of their children, in protecting their offspring from graphic sex education.
The new primary science curriculum recognises that introducing sexual issues into the lives of young children under the guise of science is inappropriate. It lists the body parts that children at Key Stage 1 should be able to identify and that list contains no sexual organs.
Teachers do not have to worry about giving the “correct names” for genitalia or otherwise. This supposed need for children aged five to seven to be able to name correctly their genitalia is not going to safeguard them. Quite the reverse, it will stimulate an unhealthy interest in their sexual organs and is a violation of their privacy. Most parents are not drawing their children’s attention to genital organs and schools shouldn’t either.
Antonia Tully
Society for the Protection of Unborn Children
London SE11
Go east for airport
SIR – We have major airports to the north, south and west of London, but nothing to the east. The eastern airport allows room for expansion, along with extra runways at Gatwick and Stansted. Heathrow can operate more comfortably at 90 per cent capacity and cope better with emergencies.
M J Lamprill
Windsor, Berkshire
Get Ashes off Sky
SIR – The only way to make the Ashes part of the nation’s culture again is to get it back on to free-to-air television where youngsters have some chance of becoming captivated and inspired by this historic sporting contest.
If the BBC and ITV can work together to create Freesat, how difficult would it be for all the free-to-air channels to get together and launch a sports channel to compete with the likes of Sky Sports for the right to broadcast Test cricket? The England and Wales Cricket Board can decide where the best interests of the sport lie, remembering that the highest bid is not always the best.
Major John Carter
Bream, Gloucestershire
To see or not to see
SIR – Patrick Williams (Letters, July 19) might be reassured (or not) to know that the whole of Britain is afflicted with the “see you later” farewell. When young foreign visitors come to stay, I always brief them that this usage does not mean that they have been invited on a date.
Janet Jackson
Parton, Kirkcudbrightshire
SIR – “Enjoy” is another irritation that has entered our vocabulary. I find that we are instructed to “enjoy” not only when eating out or making a purchase – I recently found it to be a final instruction on some food packaging!
Betty Byford
Worthing, West Sussex
SIR – Those strangers who do not say that they will “see me later” usually tell me to “take care”, as though I wouldn’t otherwise do so, or they are aware of some terrible catastrophe that awaits me.
Cyril Burton
Abbots Morton, Worcestershire
Railway ready to go
SIR – An alternative to HS2 would be to reinstate the Great Central Railway from Marylebone to Sheffield.
This route was laid without any level crossings to the Berne loading gauge, so it can already accommodate trains from the continent. The track bed is still largely in existence and crying out to be relaid. Some diversions would be required but the cost would be minimal compared with HS2.
Connection to Manchester would be by the Great Central Woodhead route which Arriva wanted to relay a few years ago. Leeds would need a new route, but the distance is comparatively short.
M L Simmons
Chepstow, Monmouthshire
SIR – The mistake was made when the west-coast mainline was rebuilt. It should have been rebuilt to Berne gauge and now we could be running Swiss-style 10-coach double-deck trains.
Dr Michael Ford
Villeneuve-sur-Lot, France
SIR – I am reminded of the golden days of the Southern Railway on which I commuted regularly before privatisation. At some time in the early/mid Fifties it experimented with a double-deck commuter train, increasing the payload. I used this several times and found it most satisfactory.
Dick Bizzey
Aldeburgh, Suffolk
Too long to fast
SIR – Dawn-to-dusk fasting for Ramadan was envisaged in areas where the days are much shorter than in England, where we currently have around 18 hours of daylight. Surely going without water for such long periods in the present heat is injurious to health, particularly if one is working and physically active? I hate to think what could happen to those who are fasting in Scotland or Scandinavia.
Gill Tweed
London SW18
One Foote first
SIR – Your obituary of the 7th Marquis of Anglesey (July 16) states that Lord Uxbridge was the first man to be fitted with a fully articulated prosthetic leg after the Battle of Waterloo. Some 50 years earlier, in 1766, a fully articulated leg was fitted by Mr Addison of Hanover Street to Samuel Foote, who had lost his leg following a riding accident.
Bryan Oates
London SW18

Irish Times:

Sir, –I wish to support strongly Prof Eunan O’Halpin’s call, in his fascinating article on Lemass (“Sean Lemass’s silent anguish”, Weekend, July 21st), for the immediate release of the military service pension archive.
Military service pensions were first introduced by Cumann na nGaedheal in 1924 and were blatantly partisan, with eligibility limited to those who could prove service in the National Army during the Civil War. This restriction was hardly surprising, coming so soon after the end of the Civil War. In 1934, Fianna Fáil, having decried the jobbery of the pensions for nearly a decade, extended pension eligibility to those who had taken the republican side in that fratricidal conflict. Pensions of varying value were awarded to all levels of personnel; by 1961 over half of the pensions still being paid were to the lowest grades. There was also a wide geographical scope in the award of pensions. For example, in 1956 there were 193 pensioners in Waterford city and county, which would not have been considered one of the more active parts of the country.
The military service pension archive will provide a truer picture of the role of women, youths, expatriates and trade unionists in the fighting of Easter Week, the War of Independence and the Civil War. We will have a different view of military and other actions from the perspective of the rank-and-file. The contribution of all parts of the country to the fight for independence will be well documented. It will also serve as an opportunity to examine how the Irish State treated the veterans of the revolution that led to its establishment.
The decision to release the archive was announced by the then taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 2006.
At the present lamentable rate of progress, the Irish public will be lucky to see it before the centenary of the Rising. – Yours, etc,
School of History
and Anthropology,
Queen’s University Belfast.
Sir, – The General Register Office, a repository vital to Irish genealogists and with records of birth marriage and death miraculously intact since 1845/1864, is to be moved from its central location in the Irish Life Centre to a former dole office in Werburgh Street (Home News, July 20th).
While most other Irish records of genealogical relevance are now digitised and available online, problems with the GRO digitisation programme mean that the database has not yet been released for the use of the public, who must continue to carry out research manually and at considerable expense. The GRO is an agency now under the Department of Social Protection and it surely does not make sense that the Minister involved, Joan Burton, should have to add genealogists’ needs to her concerns.
There is a solution, which only bureaucratic inertia opposes, and that is to allow competent voluntary and commercial organisations to undertake completion of the GRO digitisation project and place the birth, marriage and death records online, for free or a fee as appropriate.
This is the procedure which is now being followed by the National Archives in respect of prison, court, tithe and other records, and costs the taxpayer little or nothing. There would be an added bonus in relation to GRO records, in that as fees are currently charged to users, a revenue stream would continue via licensing and indeed would probably increase once the diaspora can access the records via the internet. – Yours, etc,
Cliff Road,

Sir, – I note with interest Prof Kevin Whelan’s comments (Front Page, July 19th) on our “old-fashioned and condescending” approach to Irish-America.
As a visiting academic in contact with Irish-American circles in the 1970s and 1980s, I was struck by the resentment felt by the descendants of the post-Famine Irish towards the ill-concealed supercilious and patronising approach of visitors from Ireland. We were disdainful of their perceived paddywhackery and biliously green leprechaunism ( what an ironical turnabout there has been here!). We sneered at their “stage-Irish” songs like Mother Machree and When Irish Eyes, and deplored their ignorance of the Ó Riada revival. We scorned their simplistic view of Irish history and berated them for their support for the Provos.
Yet our attitudes reflected our insularity rather than our sophistication. The distinguished musicologist Mick Moloney has uncovered for us a whole unguessed-at culture of popular song developed by post- Famine emigrants in response to the challenges of their New World urban experience. Politically, many Irish- Americans were certainly supportive of the ” armed struggle” (I often engaged them in robust debate) but the fussy concerns of Dublin governments were often misplaced.
When I watched St Patrick’s Day parades in New York or south Boston in those years, it was obvious that, for local Irish-Americans, giving a place to IRA representatives was very much secondary to asserting their own American identity against other comers.
At any rate, I would have thought that the changes of recent decades would have brought enlightenment all round in Irish/Irish-American relations. Regrettably, it would appear from Kevin Whelan’s comments, that this is not so. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Three years ago I decided to use my bicycle to get around Dublin instead of my car. I was immediately astounded by the total disrespect of many cyclists for the rules of the road and, critically, for other road users.
When I stopped at red lights, as I am supposed to, I was on more than one occasion verbally abused by other cyclists for disrupting their progress, with one particular gentleman being enraged for allowing an elderly pedestrian to cross the road when the light was red for us. I left Dublin a year later, but if I returned I wouldn’t go back on the bike.
Regarding Terry Moylan’s suggestion (July 22nd) that cyclists don’t need to observe the rules of the road or can do so according to their own judgment of what is right, I wonder how we would respond if car drivers argued that they should be allowed to determine when to cross red traffic lights.
In my experience, cyclists are often a menace to pedestrians and each other, and occasionally, through unpredictable behaviour, make cars swerve and thereby endanger other road users.
Many think nothing about riding on footpaths or the wrong way up one way streets. While I know that other cyclists adhere to the rules, it is time to take steps to ensure that all know they must do so.
And let’s have no more silly reasons why cyclists should be allowed to break the law. – Yours, etc,
First published: Tue, Jul 23, 2013, 01:06

A chara, – Patrick Basham (“Terror campaign directed at smoking applies a faulty logic”, Opinion & Analysis, July 20th) disapproves of the use of graphic pictorial warnings on cigarette packets. He laudably discloses that his scholarly institutions have received funding from the tobacco industry. He goes on to cherrypick data, selectively citing studies that support his position, offers no alternative strategy to promote smoking cessation and concludes with the trope that “consumers are capable of, and responsible for, shaping their own lives”.
If graphic warnings are so ineffective, I wonder why the tobacco industry is so opposed to their implementation. I also wonder why the World Health Organisation has seen fit to endorse graphic warnings as part of public health anti-smoking campaigns.
Rather than refer to carefully chosen studies that support my contrarian worldview, I can rely on all-encompassing, systematic reviews of all studies on this topic. The most recent review I could find was published in Tobacco Control (an imprint of the British Medical Journal) two years ago, analysing the cumulative data of 94 separate scientific studies.
The author found that, overall, graphic warnings can lead to increased rates of smoking cessation and may lead to reduced take-up of cigarette smoking among non-smokers. There is no evidence that these pictures lead to increased initiation of smoking. – Is mise,

Sir, – Over the last week certain media reports, following a recent Oireachtas Health Committee meeting, have incorrectly asserted that only patients with terminal cancer have an entitlement to a medical card. It has further been suggested that this reflects a change of policy by the health services, thereby making it more onerous to get a medical card. Such reports are not correct and may have caused distress to some people who have been diagnosed with cancer.
I wish to make it clear that there has been no change to the eligibility criteria for the provision of medical cards to people with cancer or any other specific medical condition.
Patients whose income falls below the designated income threshold and who meet the guidelines are entitled to a medical card. For patients who are terminally ill, an emergency medical card can be provided within a 24-hour period for a period of six months. A discretionary medical card (which provides the same level of cover as a full medical card) is available to those patients who are suffering a non-terminal illness but whose income may be above the designated income threshold – but who may be suffering hardship due to particular medical or social issues. In order to ensure greater fairness in the issuing of discretionary medical cards, at Minister for Health James Reilly’s request, the HSE put in place a process whereby a doctor-chaired panel assesses applicants for a discretionary medical card. Over 96 per cent of all properly completed applications for medical cards are now issued within 15 days of receipt. At the end of May 2013, over two million people are in possession of a medical card or a GP visit card. The HSE’s overarching goal is to ensure that medical cards are issued to people who need them most. – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:

Every week in the new Ireland, we have more nonsense put in front of us which we are told is vital to our standing in world affairs.
Also in this section
Now is time to fight back
Presidency and Dail need reform
Awareness vital in suicide fight
We even allow ourselves to be seen as pioneers in the progression of politics.
The latest example of path-finding is one for the ladies, especially.
The wholly undemocratic notion of a “gender quota” in our voting system is laughable.
To be told we can have a free vote as long as a quota of candidates must be female or male is an absurdity.
Are they not all citizens who, if they are good enough, will go forward for election? Why tell us we should vote for a woman because she is a woman chosen by her local branch over a capable man, possibly in order to comply with a cockeyed idea of “gender balance”.
Are we schoolchildren who need to be told it is best to vote for a woman because of men behaving badly, such as senator David Norris shooting from the lip with his “Fannygate” twaddle, or because a woman is pulled on to the lap of an idiot colleague in the Dail?
This is what is being said all over the place now.
If more women were elected, would it make for better politics? No, it would not.
Where is free choice? Such an ‘innovation’ will simply drive people away from the polling stations.
This is not because we do not like women, but because we are entitled to vote for whosoever we deem worthy, regardless of their sex.
Do we try to get the best to represent us, or do we have to settle for those who are put in front of us solely because of gender?
This most definitely will not be getting my vote.
Robert Sullivan
Bantry, Co Cork
* I think that the major problem with this and recent governments is roughly equivalent to Giovanni Trapattoni shouting encouraging team tactics from the dugout wearing a blindfold. If you have lost sight of the goal and the ball, the rest is pointless blather.
Is the current governmental drama group focused at all on the original goals of government – to provide all citizens with healthy food, drinking water, education, good health, a financially healthy environment to have a job and physical security?
And how about serious respect for the children who will keep the country going in 30 years’ time?
How about serious respect for the decent workers in the free market without whom the economy would have collapsed decades ago? Clearly, if hospitals are overflowing, there is little health. Many people are starving. Many are committing suicide.
Murderers, muggers and rapists walk free and laughing on our streets while many decent people are scared to leave their houses after dark. Our spiritual leaders have been abusing women and children for decades without ever being punished.
Pay and conditions are far better for the bureaucrats who produce nothing useful for the country than they are for people who get up at 5.30am to provide products or a much-needed service.
Now the bureaucrats even want to charge private people for a very basic human right – drinking water – solely to help fund their great lifestyles.
I think it is time for the politicrats to get out of the subsidised (by us), darkened corridors of the Dail dugout and take the blindfolds off. They might notice that decent people are getting really angry.
Dick Barton
Tinahely, Co Wicklow
* Energy versus clean water – a future conflict that will arise if the British government goes ahead with shale-gas mining, the highly controversial process otherwise known as fracking.
Once underground aquifiers are contaminated with fracking chemicals – and even the mining industry admits to accidents – there are no methods of decontamination.
Ireland is blessed with a bountiful supply of clean water, a diminishing priceless commodity in today’s world. Let us treasure our lakes and rivers and not go down the same road as a government that knows the “price of everything but the value of nothing” for an unsustainable quick fix.
John-Patrick Bell
Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim
* I have known David Norris from the time I joined the Department of English in Trinity College in 1968.
In all that time, I have known no occasion on which he has been publicly offensive to women, and consequently I was shocked to learn of his unseemly language in Seanad Eireann, no matter how angry he might have been at the prospect of its abolition (although that is for the plain people of Ireland to decide).
If he expects us (rightly) to extend equality to gays and lesbians, then we can surely expect that in his turn he will show a like respect for women. He simply cannot use the language of thugs and hooligans.
I suggest that he campaign with renewed vigour concerning the plight of the former slaves of the Magdalene Laundries who continue to lack mercy from the Sisters of Mercy and charity from the Sisters of Charity. If the senator can deliver justice on their behalf, he will surely have redeemed himself, and possibly also Seanad Eireann at the same time.
Gerald Morgan
Dublin 2
* Perhaps I am alone in this, but I believe that David Norris and Brian O Domhnaill are right not to apologise for certain comments made by them in the Seanad last week.
There seems to be a trend for various people to claim they are “offended” or “insulted” at the expression of views they do not agree with (even when those views are expressed in much more moderate terms than those used by Mr Norris) and expect to be apologised to for the expression of same.
This is a trend that needs to be resisted in the interests of legitimate freedom of expression and freedom of debate.
The fact that both Mr Norris and Mr O Domhnaill are men who have refused to apologise to women is irrelevant, even if some feminists think otherwise.
As for the so-called sexism of Mr Norris’s remarks, he has expressed his regret for the intemperate nature of his language, and that should be the end of the matter.
Hugh Gibney
Athboy, Co Meath
* The Leicester milkman being asked to refrain from whistling by some residents (‘Weekend Review’, July 20) is perhaps a case of his customers asking him to leave out notes for them?
Tom Gilsenan
Beaumont, Dublin
* I find it funny how, after 16 days without rain, Ireland is now officially suffering a drought.
Let us face it, for a country where it rains for roughly 11 months of the year, is it not somewhat strange that there is now a drought situation because of two weeks when it has not rained?
Are there reservoirs in the country? Are they big enough? What do they do in mainland Europe where temperatures are known to hit 40C? Do they have drought situations as well?
I doubt it, but then again, this is Ireland.
Maurice Sheehy
Address with Editor
Irish Independent

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