24 July 2013 Rain
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark Captain Povey’s pen has fallen in Troutbridge’s floggletoggle box and its suspects sabotage. Priceless
Cooler today thunder storms put money in bank shop at the co-op, buy stamps and make an appointment to see the Doctor
We watch Are you being served not bad
Scrabble today Mary wins and she gets over 400 perhaps I will get my revenge tomorrow?
Henri Alleg, who has died aged 91, was a British-born French-Algerian journalist whose La Question, a vivid account of his arrest and torture at the hands of French paratroopers during the Algerian War of Independence, aroused heated public debate in France, where it became a bestseller and was subsequently banned by the authorities.
Henri Alleg Photo: AFP/GETTY
6:39PM BST 23 Jul 2013
Brought up in Paris, Alleg was a member of the Algerian Communist Party (PCA) and, as editor-in-chief of the nationalist paper Alger Républican from the early 1950s until it was forced to disband in 1955, a prominent anticolonial voice. Following the example of his Algerian counterparts, he went into hiding in November 1956 and was finally captured seven months later by members of the 10th Parachute Division, under the command of the French general Jacques Massu.
Alleg was charged with publishing contraband material and spent a month imprisoned in an unfinished block of flats at El Biar, a suburb of Algiers, where officials began to “interrogate” him. He was beaten, stripped naked and tied to a plank; his captors used hand generators to pass electric currents through his body. Later they forced him to drink sodium thiopental, known as a “truth serum”, and subjected him to a form of waterboarding. This last experience was the foundation for a particularly searing passage in La Question, as Alleg detailed the physical and mental anguish it evoked: “I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. In spite of myself, all the muscles of my body struggled uselessly to save me from suffocation. ”
He began writing La Question as a letter to the chief prosecutor while awaiting sentence at a detention camp in Lodi. Its title had a specific historical meaning in the French: early modern thought referred to the use of torture to obtain a confession as “la question”. His account also described the brutal treatment of Muslim prisoners at El Biar, particularly women, who were often raped in addition to the tortures inflicted by waterboarding and electric shock. Part of the paratroopers’ justification for the treatment meted out to Alleg, who might otherwise be regarded as a fellow Frenchman, lay in his decision to ally himself with Muslim Algerians, whom they termed “rats”.
The PCA smuggled two copies of La Question into France where they reached Jérôme Lindon, an editor at Editions de Minuit . The book went on public sale in February 1958. By the time police raided the publisher’s offices on March 27 – thus imposing the first official ban on a French publication since the 18th century – 65,000 copies were already in circulation.
La Question generated a storm of public condemnation and denial. The French army openly refuted all allegations of torture, while right-wing publications denounced Alleg as a traitor and a liar. Alleg’s supporters included the Nobel laureates Roger Martin du Gard and François Mauriac, who, together with the author Jean-Paul Sartre, wrote a letter of protest to the President.
Sartre’s polemical essay on Alleg, published in L’Express on March 6, drew explicit parallels between French action in Algeria and the activities of the Gestapo during the Second World War. It was confiscated in turn, but extracts resurfaced in The Observer and other foreign newspapers. Meanwhile, the original continued to circulate in scroll form, printed in such tiny characters that the reader needed a magnifying glass to decipher it. That same year an English-language edition of La Question included Sartre’s article as the introduction. Translations started appearing in numerous languages, among them Czech, Russian, Japanese and Dutch.
As the protest campaign against Alleg’s imprisonment gathered force, he was brought to trial before a military court in Algiers and sentenced to 10 years of hard labour. But in October 1961 he escaped from a Breton prison with the aid of the local Communist Party and took refuge in Czechoslovakia, where he remained until the formal conclusion of the Algerian conflict five months later. Then, determined to resume his career in Algeria, he made his way back to his old prison and knocked on the door. Telling a surprised guard that he had come to collect his things, he surrendered to police custody until the case against him was dropped.
Henri Alleg was born Henri Jean Salem in London on July 20 1921, to Jewish parents of Russian and Polish origins. He became a French citizen when the family emigrated to Paris in his infancy. Though his father, a tailor, envisioned a career for him as a pharmacist, the young Henri chose to study Literature at the Sorbonne and at 19 departed alone for Algiers, where he soon became involved with the underground communist movement, joining the PCA in 1942. Under the name Alleg, he began writing for Alger Républican, becoming editor-in-chief in 1951.
On his return to Algeria he helped relaunch the newspaper, continuing to work there until 1965, when the army officer Houari Boumedienne led a coup against the government and took control via a revolutionary council. Finding himself persona non grata once more, Alleg left for France. There he remained an active member of the Communist Party, working as a journalist for L’Humanité from 1966 to 1980 and writing several more books, including a three-volume history of the Algerian War of Independence. His Algerian Memoirs were published in 2005.
In November 2001 Alleg served as a witness for the prosecution in the trial of General Paul Aussaresses, General Massu’s right-hand man, for his complicity in justifying war crimes, as expressed in a book about his role during the Algerian conflict. Facing him in the court room, nearly 50 years on, Alleg spoke at length about his time in captivity. “I heard screaming, I heard the cries of men and women for nights,” he said. Aussaresses was convicted.
Henri Alleg married, in 1946, Gilberte Serfaty, with whom he had two children. She predeceased him in 2011.
Henri Alleg, born July 20 1921, died July 17 2013
I share just one part of Oliver Wainwright’s assessment (London’s Olympics legacy faces early disqualification, 22 July) and that is that there are reasons to be optimistic. The communities within the park could yet be successful. One year later, we at the Newham charity Community Links are relentlessly optimistic about the legacy of the Games. However, our interest is to the people who will occupy, use and work in the new spaces: the “living legacy”.
We are pleased at the commitment London Legacy Development Corporation has shown so far to the neighbourhoods and communities that surround the park. However, there is a risk that austerity and budget pressures will force that wider vision to shrink to focus purely on the park infrastructure. Oliver Wainwright’s comparison with the Canary Wharf development of the 1980s is instructive: the last thing we wish is for the park to become an island of prosperity in a sea of poverty.
The Olympics investment has already made a genuine difference for many people. We will do all we can to ensure that the benefit is shared by local communities, people seeking work, enterprising start-up businesses, young people with aspirations for a better life and local families for whom the park will be part of their local landscape.
We are not sitting back and waiting for legacy to arrive. It is unrealistic to expect it to have happened in a year. And the media have a crucial role to play here. If the story is that legacy hasn’t worked and won’t work, you are sending the young people of east London a message of hopelessness; only by working together can we make the legacy live.
Chief executive, Community Links
Jonathan Freedland (This summer Labour cannot rest, 20 July) offers an excellent analysis of Labour’s woes but fails to identify the key problem – Labour still has no core message to deliver to voters as to what the party stands for and its fundamental principles. The contrast with the Tories is stark. Freedland highlights how the Tory message is being honed. But whether on welfare, immigration or other policy areas, core Tory principles, such as belief in the superiority of the market over public provision, are abundantly clear.
Ed Miliband faces a formidable task in defining Labour’s core message. He has posited the potentially fruitful idea of One Nation, but to move forward he needs urgently to develop that soundbite into a statement of purpose and principle to match the certainty and clarity of Conservative ideology. What is required is not lengthy speeches nor policy minutiae, more a tweet.
Dr Michael Orton
• You report (Ed Miliband to put Labour union reforms to vote, 23 July) that the Labour leader has appointed Phil Wilson MP to lead the effort to win support for his “reforms”. Wilson is the man behind the abandonment of the original clause IV, cementing the perception that Miliband sees this as his “clause IV moment”, where he picks a fight with core party supporters. Does he, or anyone else in the shadow cabinet, actually know what Labour stands for any more? Can he explain why he is following a Tory agenda? Are we, in fact, seeing the Strange Death of the Labour Party?
Crowborough, East Sussex
• So almost half a million Unite members opted out of the political levy. Many thousands of those are likely to be hostile to some of their union subs going to the Labour party. The only option at present open for those who oppose Labour is to opt out completely from paying a political levy. It may be that once the proposed change is made, so that members have to opt in to association with the Labour party to enable the union to hand over funds, the result could be in an increase in those paying the political levy. Unions will be able to give greater political expression to those members who want a political voice, but don’t want to fund a party that failed to repeal the anti-trade union laws, and want to support a party opposed to austerity.
• Ed Miliband’s declaration that Labour’s affiliated membership should “have a real voice inside the party” is warmly to be applauded. The best way of ensuring an effective voice for Labour’s affiliated and individual membership, however, is surely not to reduce its existing voice (eg, by the introduction of “primaries” giving candidate-selection rights to people who are not Labour members), but to respect and promote their party conference’s decisions on key policy areas such as housing, the NHS, Royal Mail and Britain’s railways.
• The Tories’ gutter politics resonate for want of a positive alternative. What is Labour offering? Continuing austerity and a 5% VAT cut. That’ll fire up the troops.
Dr Tony Jewell clearly doesn’t know his cycle racing (Letters, 23 July) if he was “astonished” to see photographs of Froome and other Tour de France winners with cigars. Once upon a time, many a top rider could be seen smoking a pipe during the early part of a long stage. When the speed picked up, he’d call up one of his domestiques and hand his pipe over for safe keeping. The domestique would knock out the pipe on his handlebars before putting it in his jersey pocket. The downside was a dirty brown stain on the handlebar tape.
• The riders pictured were the first three in the race. On the right was Joaquim Rodríguez, known as purito, or little cigar. His nickname stems from his ability to ride away explosively from other riders on short, very steep climbs as though propelled by dynamite lit, as in westerns, by… a cigar.
Recollections of Dennis Howell’s memory, far from unkind, cannot be other than full of admiration (Letters, 23 July). Howell must surely rank as one of the most successful achievers in the history of politics. Practically the minute he was appointed minister for drought in the scorching summer of 1976 it poured down solidly for six months.
• Peter Bradshaw asks who would win between the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader (Batman v Superman: sequel sets up face-off fantasy, 22 July). Film director Zack Snyder, quoted by Bradshaw, also seems to be keenly anticipating something new, describing the meeting as “beyond mythological”. But it’s already happened. As anyone will know who has read Frank Miller’s masterwork, The Dark Knight Returns, or who has watched the excellent animated two-part adaptation, directed by Jay Oliva, the answer is that they both win – sort of.
• Doesn’t Hadley Freeman (Ask Hadley, G2, 23 July) realise that real Guardian men wear socks with their sandals?
• Tim Jones states “There are only 10 kinds of people – those that understand binary and those that don’t” (Letters, 23 July). Actually, there are 11 kinds. You need to add those people who think they understand binary.
• Plain fag packets would provide more space for the government to draft policies (PM would have discussed tobacco with Crosby – aide, 23 July).
• Amusing as Tony Cabourn-Smith’s suggestion is (Letters, 23 July) – and surely the best is Gove Hurts – it can only be a matter of time before Tory Central Office come up with such gems as All You Need is Gove.
Paul Noel Wilson
• In the Mood for Gove? Not me.
What a milestone day (A birth, a boy, a prince, a king, 23 July). In which decade did we last see the Tory press united in giving positive space to labour?
Shoreham, West Sussex
• How depressing that the Guardian should have joined in the media frenzy over the royal baby. Or do its editors believe that the anxiety experienced by large numbers of ordinary people over benefit cuts and part-privatisation of the NHS will be relieved by the new arrival?
• I assume there were some midwives present during the royal labour? How good it would have been for the profession for their involvement to have been recognised, with their names being given as well as the consultants.
• My favourite telegram, sent by the peerless Dorothy Parker, to Mary Sherwood, who had exhausted friends’ patience with continual details of her pregnancy. “Dear Mary, we all knew you had it in you.”
• Congratulations on the online republican edition. Much appreciated. Unfortunately, I also have the print edition and was assailed by pages of royalist propaganda. Would it be too much to ask for a republican print edition, or even redacted pages?
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
• What a marvellous idea the republican button is. It is possible to read news without having to wade through articles of royalist gush. Even better if you could extend the concept. A celebrity button? A fashionisata button? A Tory button (with added Osborne key) … ?
My experience over 40 years in secondary education has led me to believe that most students are more capable than they think they are, mainly because they accept and internalise other peoples’ perception of their limitation – whether this comes from their parents, teachers or peers (Primary school tests follow the Piccadilly Circus rule, 18 July).
In my first headship I inherited a school that was organised in 10 rigid streams, based on “academic” ability. The result was a pervasive labelling culture: it was normal for students to introduce themselves to me or to visitors by telling us their name and their stream. A rather good display at the back of the hall carried the proud caption “this display is the work of our less able students”. Unsurprisingly, this labelling resulted in a culture of low teacher expectation, and it lowered students’ expectations of themselves.
The government’s latest proposal to assign students to one of 10 ability percentiles runs the real risk of creating a similar labelling culture with similar consequences. The argument that it will raise standards is difficult to comprehend. Nick Clegg has stated that 14% of boys leaving primary school have a reading age of seven or less. Therefore we already know who those students are: what they need is additional targeted support – not a lowering of self- esteem by being told that they are in the two bottom percentiles nationally.
And from a statistical point of view there will always be a “bottom” percentile whatever standards are achieved. Do we really want to inflict such damage on the generation that will shape Britain’s future?
Sir Dexter Hutt
• I am sure a number of teachers and ex-teachers will permit themselves a little smile when they read Estelle Morris’s article on Ofsted inspectors (Someone needs to inspect the inspectors, 23 July). While the challenge of consistency of the Ofsted workforce is a genuine concern, there are other equally important issues that taint the whole Ofsted regime. How about the constantly changing inspection frameworks? The nakedly political agenda of this sop to the rightwing press? And, most recently, the head of Ofsted claiming that if teachers’ morale was low then he considered he was doing his job?
I worked under 13 different ministers during my teaching career and not once did I feel that a single one – including Morris – had the courage to fight the incessant background propaganda of the press that somehow the nation’s teachers were not doing a good enough job. And that what is needed is an intelligent, supportive inspection regime for this most under-appreciated profession. It is a shame that Morris was not more practically supportive when she was in a position to be so rather than now making noises from the comfort of the sidelines.
• While agreeing with Estelle Morris that the quality of inspection teams needs to be more consistent I cannot leave unchallenged her upbeat assessment of Ofsted as “a driver of change and a force for good”. From a political point of view her comment may well be justified. It is true that Ofsted has driven the kind of change both New Labour and coalition governments have wanted to impose. It is also true that Ofsted can be considered a force for good, but only if you accept politicians’ views as to what constitutes quality or goodness.
But education is a contentious area and from an educational point of view an alternative assessment can be offered. Ofsted’s punitive inspection regime has served to stifle criticism and innovation where these have run counter to the dirigisme of both New Labour and the coalition. A national inspection service worthy of its name ought to have been assessing and reporting on the effects (good and bad) of government policy “without fear or favour” rather than simply acting as the government’s educational police service to ensure those policies are put into effect.
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria
• The irony is that the number of Ofsted inspectors with recent senior management experience is likely to increase as good school leaders leave their schools in droves (often taking early retirement which they cannot in fact afford) because of their inability to withstand the relentless pressure of an inspection system which changes according to the latest political whim.
The answer to the question, “Can political Islam ever work?” (12 July) is an unequivocal “no”: the very idea of religious democracy is an oxymoron. No religion – Islam, Christianity or any other – can be the basis for democratic government. Religions are based on faith; government has to be based on reason.
Islam and Christianity are authoritarian and sectarian; they divide, they do not unite. This does not mean individual Muslims or Christians cannot group together through political parties with common aims to form democratic governments but they will only work within constitutions that provide for human rights as contained in the secular Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Islamist attempts to impose sharia law and Christian fundamentalist attempts to impose their dogma must be resisted; there has to be freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion.
Democratic government has to come from a consensus of all a nation’s citizens, men and women of all faiths and of no faith. This does not mean ‘majoritarianism’, the rule of the majority over the rest; minority and individual rights have to be protected and respected for all a nation’s citizens.
A truly democratic nation requires a balance between individual rights and societal needs, with freedom of speech an essential factor, including the right to denigrate, to shock and to offend any ideas, political or religious, so long as they do not preach hatred or violence.
If democracy is to work in Egypt, the Islamist-drafted constitution must be revised to include the foregoing tenets.
Escondido, California, US
• I was shocked by your front-page headline and for that matter I thought Jonathan Freedland’s accompanying article fell below the standard of analysis I have learnt to expect from him.
It has taken hundreds of years for Britain to evolve from the feudal system to a form of constitutional monarchy. During this time we have ceased burning witches, having public executions or having the death penalty. We are developing justice – in which democracy is mixed with hierarchy – still more readily accessible to the rich than the poor.
Rather gradually we have attained education for all. We have a National Health Service. Over the centuries we have fought for universal suffrage – but we could still learn from Turkey when it comes to the equality of women. There have been wars, massacres; passionate debate to rid ourselves of slavery.
Just as Freedland tells us that the US provides the Egyptian military with $1.3bn, we have a government that, proud of its work this year in generating an arms trade treaty, now boasts of a glamorous September arms fair in London to which all are invited to buy weapons. Would we do anything for money?
People in Northern lreland still enjoy killing each other. There is a long way to go, it will take decades; we are still striving.
• I am not clear what you mean by “political” and “Islam”. Any system of government is politics and in most Islamic countries, from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia, it works.
I suspect Freedland means democratic politics. This is held up as bring the zenith of political evolution. If the US is its greatest example then God help us. In almost every way, America is a disaster.
And yes democratic Islam does work in a number of states including Indonesia and Malaysia. Many Islamic states are autocracies but so were many European states a century ago. What does that prove?
• The problem with religious democracies, be they Christian, Islamist, capitalist or communist, is that there is a prior idea – God, money or class- which trumps human rights. A functional democracy is secular and requires an inviolate constitution, one you cannot go behind, to protect the rights of the minority. Otherwise, there will be repression and corruption on the one hand and revolt on the other. This was the gift to the world of those who drafted the constitution of the United States in the 1780s.
New Hamburg, Ontario, Canada
• Considering political Christianity didn’t exactly promote universal contentment back in the good old medieval days, I am not holding my breath.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
• “Can political Islam ever work?” brought to mind Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, concerning hypocrites, eyes, motes and beams. I look forward to the GW headline “Can capitalist democracy ever work?”
Outremont, Quebec, Canada
Sympathy for Snowden
I take Peter Beaumont’s point that it is not ideal for transparency advocates like Edward Snowden to praise the record of countries like Russia and leaders like Putin (Snowden wrong to embrace Putin, 19 July). But to be consistent, he surely must also condemn those ransom hostages who convert to Islam and criticise the west in order to escape. Also in the same situation were the US servicemen captured by North Koreans and Chinese back in the day, who consented to being filmed condemning US imperialism in order to escape.
Snowden is doing the same. He will be looking around his corridor in the airport, wondering whether his life might be all downhill from here. Although his is not being tortured (yet), nevertheless I forgive him and wish him all the best.
S W Davey
Torrens, ACT, Australia
Remember the Monroe Doctrine?
The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 repudiated interference in the Americas by outside “imperialists” (When will they ever learn?, 12 July). Unfortunately, the US has overlooked the possibility that this principle might apply to the other Americas. One example will suffice to illustrate this, namely, the US’s undermining of the democratically elected government of Chile in 1973.
US citizens should ask themselves why they fought their war of independence, and if the answer might also apply to the other Americas.
Donvale, Victoria, Australia
Portugal’s people problem
The fall in the birthrate in European countries, which may lead to the populations of some falling, is often described as though it is a disaster, and this is what Anthony Faiola’s article on Portugal does (Portugal suffers as birthrate plummets, 5 July). The problem is that there will be a growing percentage of elderly people to be supported by a young working population, according to this line of reasoning.
Portugal has an unemployment rate of 18%. Most other European countries suffer from high unemployment rates, particularly among young people. As long as this continues, not only will the young unemployed be in no position to support the elderly financially, but they will need support themselves. Trying to encourage people to have more children will only make things worse.
A fall in population should be grasped as an opportunity: it is a chance to counter urban sprawl, cut the production of greenhouse gases by reducing demand for road vehicles and consumer goods whose production pollutes air and land, ease the problem of responding to the threat of rising sea levels, ensure adequate water supplies, and protect the natural environment.
If a labour shortage eventually results, it may also allow workers to press for improved wages and secure a redistribution of wealth, in a system in which the few prosper at the expense of the many when there is a plentiful supply of labour.
In short, many of the ills of the modern world might be countered more effectively with a falling population than one that is growing and putting an ever-increasing strain on the environment.
• Over half of the “37 thoughts on turning 37” (12 July) that Sophie Heawood listed were summed up by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore 100 years ago when he turned 50: “Youth is a horse and maturity a charioteer.” Indeed, Heawood herself uses a similar metaphor when she advises us to “stop blaming” our parents and says, “You’re a planet now, not a satellite.”
• Surely it’s no surprise that the wine “experts” cannot tell good wine from bad (July 5). I have always understood that wine critics habitually write, as their aficionados speak, nonsense whose meaning, if any, is usually incomprehensible. From an industry willing to accept that and treat it seriously, could normal standards of product judgment be expected? The whole thing is a citadel of baloney.
• On 15 July my credit card company called to tell me that my account had been blocked because of a recent payment to The Guardian Weekly (28 June). It was for renewal of my subscription, which I confirmed. The block was removed. I suppose that anyone having any contact with the Guardian is now in the US government’s Prism or whatever they call it because it published the Snowden secrets.
Aaron M Fine
Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, US
• Why does Starbucks want to continue running at a loss in the UK (28 June)? And anyway can’t auditors clearly see what’s going on in their books?
• Good for you, Kate, to hold that baby until after 14 July, an ominous date for Royals. The tumbrils came and got the Bourbons, but Windsors on polo ponies are harder to catch!
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
At times like this many otherwise seemingly normal people descend into the realms of magic and superstition. Will someone please explain to me just what it is that makes them believe that the “royal” baby is different from the thousands of others who share his birthday?
I am not asking if he will be treated differently, that goes without saying, but why will this be so?
Bill Fletcher, Cirencester, Gloucestershire
Well done, Independent, for your modest coverage of the royal infant’s birth.
The arrival of any wanted baby brings joy to its relatives, and it would be churlish not to wish this family well. But for the sake of this child and all others of his age we need to consider the effects of monarchy on us all.
This poor scrap will have no chance of a normal existence, though his life will be one of privilege of a sort. And a society that permits hereditary privilege is in danger of condoning hereditary deprivation.
Susan Alexanderm Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire
There are those complaining that we now know that our next three heads of state, probably stretching into the next century, will all be white males. Well, they would all have been white males, anyway.
The present one is not male. But any elected head of this state always would be. And white. And quite or very posh. So why bother changing the present arrangements?
No one with anything like the Royal Family’s foreign background would ever stand a hope of becoming the President of Britain. Nor would anyone aged 26, as the present Queen was when she came to the throne. Nor would anyone aged 87, as she is now.
David Lindsay, Lanchester, Co Durham
The birth of royal baby would, at one time, have sent a buzz of excitement throughout the Royal Navy as the announcement would be followed by the time-honoured signal, “Splice the Mainbrace!”
This signified that all those sailors eligible to receive one daily tot of rum would now be entitled to have two. For officers, it would be the only occasion when they too were allowed to have an official tot. As a young sailor, I was fortunate to enjoy “splicers” for the arrival of Princes Andrew and Edward. Two tots, drunk one after the other, was a wonderful way to celebrate!
But since the issue of rum ceased in 1970, it will be interesting to see how the Senior Service, now obsessed with political correctness, intends, if at all, to “splice the mainbrace” for the arrival of the new third in line to the throne.
Cdr Roger Paine RN, Hellingly, East Sussex
It has been most gratifying and appropriate to see the BBC announce the 8lb 6oz weight of the royal baby in imperial units. Sadly, the BBC seems to have such a love affair with metric units that they are normally used even when public safety is at stake – as with the recent warnings of over-hot weather given repeatedly in Celsius when those most likely to be affected better understand Fahrenheit.
If the royal birth has made the BBC reconsider its position on this, then it may well be time for cynical republicans like myself to reconsider our stance on the monarchy.
John Eoin Douglas, Edinburgh
After the death of Margaret Thatcher your letters page was entirely devoted to her for many days. Right now there is civil war in Syria, North Korea has nuclear weapons, the UK and EU economies are in dire straits with debt, and scandals in every walk of life are queuing up to be revealed.
Please leave half the letters page for topics other than the birth of a boy whose life will be determined by privilege and patronage, even if it means not printing this.
Peter Slessenger, Reading
Public services sold off for private profit
The headlines, “G4S and Serco face £50m fraud inquiry” (12 July) and “The great outsourcing scandal as firms ‘cut corners’ to cream profits off public” (18 July) don’t make very good reading.
Yet still successive governments, particularly the Tories, have been obsessed with selling off or outsourcing all our public services to the private sector, where they are run for profit and ripping off the taxpayer appears to be common practice.
After the privatisation of essential services such as gas, electricity, rail and water, where there is no competition whatsoever, and with Royal Mail being the next in line, the cheaper prices and more competition we were assured of have clearly not happened.
Privatisation is the biggest confidence trick politicians have ever played on the public, yet none of them has ever been held to account.
Michael W Cook, Soulbury, Buckinghamshire
It’s long been an open secret that outsourcing of services is a huge rip-off, with the public suffering from worse services at increased cost.
But national government is not alone in wanting to shed their responsibility for the day-to-day running of public services: our Tory county council here in Suffolk, emboldened by the 2010 election result, and encouraged by Eric Pickles, planned to outsource all their public services. This madness only collapsed under the weight of opposition and the concurrent controversy over council executives’ salaries and councillors’ behaviour.
Just how corrupt do companies have to be before they are sacked, regardless of patsy contracts (let them put their cases in court) and barred from future contracts? A change in management, the usual response to failings or profiteering, is not good enough, with no one ever held personally responsible or relieved of their ill-gotten gains.
Eddie Dougall, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Labour’s other voting scandal
The alleged “fixing” of election candidates via block vote is not unique to Falkirk (“Labour hands evidence of Falkirk ballot-rigging by Unite to police”, 6 July): Ethnic minority activists have been employing similar tactics in areas with high immigrant population for years.
The “block vote” involves building election campaigns around ethnicity or religion. Prospective ethnic minority candidates for council elections visit places of worship and try to convince voters to vote for them on the basis of their ethnicity and religion rather than personal qualities or political experience.
This strategy seems to have worked well in some London boroughs. In one of these boroughs, for example, the ruling Labour group on the council are overwhelmingly one ethnic group, although this group constitutes only 30 per cent of the borough’s population.
If white candidates were to choose such a strategy, they would immediately be branded as racists, and expelled from the party.
Since ethnic/religious block voting is quintessentially a Labour problem, perhaps it is time the Labour leadership, took note of ethnic minority vote block scandal too.
Randhit Singh Bains, Gants Hill, Essex
Pathway to a peaceful death
I share the disappointment of Karen Phillips (letter, 17 July) that the Liverpool Care Pathway is to be phased out.
Four years ago my husband was placed on the pathway at the Royal Berkshire Hospital. I already knew about the pathway and remember my relief that this was available when nothing more could be done for him medically. When active treatment was ended we were treated with great consideration and sympathy. My husband was still aware that his family were with him in his last few hours of life, and we were comforted by the fact that he died peacefully and without pain.
I am sure Karen Phillips is right in pointing to the need to address poor practice, and this should include ensuring that families are consulted and involved and that they understand the purpose of the pathway. Much of the opposition that has been reported stems I suspect from insufficient training of staff and lack of understanding by families.
Angela Crum Ewing, Reading
Spirit of cricket not out yet
In response to Robin Wright (letter, 17 July), as a recreational umpire I would expect a batsman to walk if he knew the ball hit his bat or glove and was legitimately caught. I would not expect him to walk, nor would I give him out if the ball merely struck his lower arm. Law 32 states that what constitutes the bat is the bat itself or the whole of the glove on the hand holding the bat. The lower arm is not part of the bat.
Although they do not stand their ground, batsmen do protest when they know the ball hit the bat before pad and were given out LBW. We all make mistakes, and I have had a case where the opposing team agreed with the batsman, resulting in their captain asking to rescind his appeal, and I reversed my decision. This is what is meant by “the spirit of cricket”, something that is lacking in Test cricket.
Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey
In 1979, after constant trouncings at the hands of US in the Ryder Cup, Great Britain decided to play under the banner of Europe, and recruited all those marvellous Spanish golfers to play for us. Since then, Team Europe and USA have provided a succession of marvellous and closely contested competitions.
Now, with Australia in apparent terminal cricketing decline, largely due to their prioritising T20 cricket, has the time come for us to tactfully suggest that they should extend the hand of friendship to their brothers across the Tasman Sea and henceforward contest the Ashes as a joint Australian-Kiwi team, perhaps as The Southern All-Stars?
Anthony Bramley-Harker, Watford
Terence Blacker says that to believe in angels is “delusional” (23 July). Science tells us that once energy is created it cannot be destroyed, and because we are energy, I and many, many perfectly sane people believe that when our body dies, the energy that we are takes on another form. Also I have met many “living angels”, maybe not with wings but loving and caring none the less. What a harsh, two-dimensional life Terence Blacker must inhabit.
Penny Joseph, Shoreham-by-sea, West Sussex
Mark Patel wonders about the status of golf as a religion (letter, 23 July). Are golf courses closing at the same rate as churches? Perhaps drinking is a religion too, for the demise of the public house is equally worrying.
Chris Harding, Parkstone, Dorset
‘More than 100 countries, including those responsible for over 80 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, have pledged measures to tackle climate change’
Sir, Tim Montgomerie (“The greens can’t defy gravity. They’re finished”, July 22) overlooks a crucial reality: climate change will cause economic and social injustice on a huge scale.
The scientific evidence shows that we risk seeing global temperatures rise by more than 2°C, which will bring huge economic and social consequences, especially for the poorest countries which are least able to deal with a changing climate.
We can’t negotiate with physics. Delaying action would also be a false economy; as the International Energy Agency recently pointed out, “for every $1 of investment avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.3 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”
Mr Montgomerie is selective in the political and economic developments he highlights. Mexico is introducing climate change legislation; China is introducing emissions trading while at the same time being the world’s largest investor in renewable energy. Money is also flowing into the green economy, with $269 billion invested in the renewable energy sector worldwide in 2012, some five times what was invested back in 2004.
This is not to understate the scale of the challenge. Emissions are, as Mr Montgomerie notes, still increasing; the world is still warming. But to abandon those people who can least afford the consequences of climate change is simply not an option.
Sir, Tim Montgomerie overlooks some facts in his polemic. Since the UN summit in Copenhagen in 2009, more than 100 countries, including those responsible for over 80 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, have pledged measures to tackle climate change. Many have now enshrined these in law. Far from abandoning climate policy, Australia has advanced its plans for an emissions trading system to replace its carbon tax.
Montgomerie also failed to acknowledge that climate change is the result of numerous market failures, including the fact that the price charged for emitting greenhouse gas pollution does not reflect the costs created through climate change impacts. His opposition to climate policies that correct these failures betrays an ideology that is essentially anti-markets.
Most importantly of all, Montgomerie neglected to mention the risks of climate change which people and governments around the world can already see. Developing countries recognise that the struggle to reduce poverty is undermined by droughts, floods and other extreme weather events. If Montgomerie really cares about poor people in this country and abroad, he should be promoting stronger action to tackle climate change.
Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
Sir, Tim Montgomerie made three killer points that supporters of emissions-reduction policies cannot abide hearing.
First, that the policies have not worked; second, that no Indian or Chinese politician will delay economic progress by embracing expensive energy sources; and third, that there are many better ways to spend the money that has been (and will be) spent on improving the lot of mankind, especially the poor, from malaria to water and electricity provision.
The British government should acknowledge the richness of its linguistic heritage by granting official recognition to Romani as a minority language
Sir, This year is the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Romanies in Britain. Over half a millennium the Romani language and people have survived deportation and execution under Henry VIII and Mary I, enslavement under Oliver Cromwell, and successive waves of modern anti-Gypsy legislation.
Yet the only Indic language spoken here since early modern times has no official status in the UK, and Romani children have no proper access to learning materials in their ancestral tongue. The 2011 census showed 629 speakers in England and Wales: while this figure may testify to the tenacity of the few, it represents a tiny fraction of the estimated 300,000 Gypsies in Great Britain.
We believe the British government should acknowledge the richness of its linguistic heritage by granting official recognition to Romani as a minority language of the United Kingdom, and seeking its inclusion on the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
Baroness Whitaker, Chair, Department for Education Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Education Stakeholder group; Joseph P. Jones, Gypsy Council; Damian Le Bas, Editor, Travellers’ Times; Tom Mccready, National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups; Yvonne Macnamara, Irish Traveller Movement in Britain
‘Immigration is not merely an exercise in economics; it has profound long-term political and social implications that cannot be ignored’
Sir, Contrary to Oliver Kamm’s claim (“Why Europe needs 1.3 billion immigrants”, July 23), the Office for Budget Responsibility reasoning on immigration is not sound. Immigration is not merely an exercise in economics; it has profound long-term political and social implications that cannot be ignored.
India witnessed three waves of Muslim migration. The first wave came as traders and settled in South India. They adopted Indian culture and attached themselves emotionally to their new country. The second and third waves, by contrast, came as adventurers, and had no time for integration. Their “isolation” paved the way for a permanent religious conflict on the subcontinent, which has continued unabated.
It is a pity that debate on immigration tends to focus almost entirely on its economic costs and benefits, while its impact on Britain’s future stability and demographic balance are largely ignored, although they constitute an integral part of the immigration equation.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex
To reduce the cost to the NHS, the Government should effectively nationalise the PFIs, paying a fair level of compensation to the companies that provided them
Sir, As a way of financing the NHS PFI schemes have proved a disaster. Inexperienced NHS staff negotiated against experienced private sector companies, with the result that the deals generally favour the private sector company. This is true not only to the capital costs but also of the infamous £180 cost to change a lightbulb. The London Hospital PFI seems to be committing the Trust to paying £113 million a year for 30 years, for an approximate £1 billion development. An additional incentive to address this issue is that most PFI companies are based in favourable tax environments so pay no tax on profits.
To reduce the cost to the NHS, the Government should effectively nationalise the PFIs, paying a fair level of compensation to the companies that provided them. The Treasury would be able to finance the debt at a far lower cost than the Trusts are paying. This alone should give a considerable financial benefit to the NHS as a whole.
If the hugely expensive and inefficient PFI overburden is not addressed the NHS will never be able to address the future successfully.
St John Brown
East Grinstead, W Sussex
A national memorial would balance the treatment received by Alan Turing, and perhaps the award of a medal from one of the royal societies
Sir, The efforts to arrange a pardon or “expression of regret” for Alan Turing (letter, July 22) are misguided. The State has done many things in the past for which we all are ashamed and would not repeat. We are not responsible for the past, and to apologise for others is too easy and meaningless.
A national memorial would balance the rough treatment he received. Perhaps the annual award of a gold medal for achievement in computing, by the Royal Society would recognise and recall his greatness.
J. M. Carder
SIR – I recently bought some onions from my local supermarket that were grown in New Zealand. It amazes me that it can make economic sense to transport such a staple British dietary component some 12,000 miles for sale here.
I wonder how many other basic food products, which are produced widely by growers in Britain, have competition from so far away?
Horsham, West Sussex
SIR – The withdrawal of the Liverpool Care Pathway highlights a problem in the NHS that also applies to the Mid-Staffordshire debacle.
The Liverpool Care Pathway was introduced to create better quality end-of-life care compared with often unstructured methods previously used.
Because it was considered to be an improvement, health professionals were judged by the degree to which they adopted it, which was why hospitals were rewarded for a high uptake.
Unfortunately, behind the tick-box process lay a minefield: problems of diagnosis, the importance of tailoring treatment to the individual patient within a tick-box protocol, and the difficulty of monitoring and measuring “care”.
As a GP, I have always maintained that a profession, by definition, cannot be monitored using simplistic targets.
Must we buy onions from distant New Zealand?
23 Jul 2013
This creates three problems. How can the NHS assess good quality in hospitals without using targets and tick-boxes?
How can NHS managers truly manage those under their control without creating perverse incentives or appearing to reward inappropriate activity?
Finally, how can central managers enforce the intentions of the politicians without being accused of bullying or target-chasing?
The observations of managers working outside the NHS would be appreciated.
Dr John Lockley
SIR – Many seemed shocked by the malign metamorphosis of the Liverpool Care Pathway. An attempt to standardise compassionate care for the terminally ill was contorted into a designed absence of care with chilling indifference to the suffering of the dying and their relatives.
I am not shocked, but wearily despondent. As a GP, I work in a health service where “progress” is increasingly defined as displacement of discriminating personal health-care by systems generated by expert committees that attempt to command quality by prescribing some kind of uniform plan.
Industrialisation of dying sounds stark. It is. The story of the Liverpool Care Pathway is an example of what can happen if we do not take care. For, in the care of the dying each encounter calls on any practitioner’s capacities of empathic imagination quite as much as technical knowledge. The discriminating weaving of these makes up the art of medicine. With the characteristic folly of our time we have largely crushed that art in an attempt to get factory-like efficiency, compliance and uniformity.
Healing and palliation are complex interactions that arise from human kinship, not object-like management. Mindsets from industry or commerce have very limited contributions to make.
In areas of great human complexity, ideas that seem easy usually have a large and horrible price.
Dr David Zigmond
SIR – Is there to be no respite from heatwave hysteria?
I perspire with anxiety lest I succumb to the endless warnings of sunburn and goodness knows what awful consequences from working in over 35-degree heat.
I’m deafened by the laughter of tourists from genuinely hot countries at the incessant Underground announcements to “carry a bottle of water with you”. I’m overcome at the terrible tales of heat-induced natural disasters, from the worm-starved animals unable to burrow into the hard ground to the parched perches of the River Teme.
Can’t we all just get a grip?
SIR – The heatwave has brought a blissful relief from garden noise.
Straw lawns have silenced the weekend plague of decibel-defying petrol mowers and strimmers.
SIR – Now that the countryside has become a tinderbox, is it not time for Chinese lanterns to be banned with immediate effect?
SIR – For cool sleeping, use your hot-water bottles as “cold-water bottles”. For best results, place by the feet.
Not for country-folk
SIR – “Go digital or you will miss even more drama,” says the BBC commissioner Jeremy Howe about the digital spin-off series of The Archers (Letters, July 17).
Is he unaware that many parts of the United Kingdom cannot get a DAB signal? I live in a market town 10 miles south of Exeter; hardly deep rural England, but there is no DAB coverage.
I suggest a cameo appearance on The Archers for Mr Howe – a plot line involving the silage clamp springs to mind.
Children in Ramadan
SIR – During a career in export sales I spent 25 years travelling throughout the Middle East, and by necessity some trips were made during Ramadan.
It is my understanding that every adult Muslim must fast during Ramadan, but those excused include children, nursing mothers, the sick, the elderly, the mentally ill and travellers.
One can only assume that the primary-school boy mentioned in your report (July 13) was fasting through choice.
Long Sutton, Somerset
Now you see me…
SIR – Unhappily, I can report that the habit of saying, “See you later,” instead of a simple thank you (Letters, July 22) has spread as far north as Wilmslow.
I have to restrain myself from replying curtly, “No you won’t,” or even, “Not if I can help it.”
SIR – Why do presenters on ITV say, “Welcome back,” after a commercial break? Back from where? We haven’t been anywhere. They are the ones who are back on the screen!
SIR – With David Cameron abandoning plans to arm the Syrian opposition (report, July 16), it is no wonder that the rebels feel utterly betrayed. With the conflict turning in President Bashar al-Assad’s favour, due to the massive Russian-supplied firepower at his disposal, it is unbelievable that Britain seems willing to turn a blind eye to the even greater slaughter that will follow.
It is a disgrace that we are unwilling to back like-minded states such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in a limited no-fly zone but then deny the rebels the means to defend themselves against Assad’s aircraft. The rhetorical posturing of the Western world, and Britain in particular, will be long remembered in the Middle East.
B J Colby
Cricket out of bounds
SIR – Cricket was always on free-to-air television, until the rights were sold to Sky (Letters, July 22). Now that has happened, how can schoolchildren experience the thrill and expertise of our players?
The same applies to all sport. Apart from Wimbledon, top tennis tournaments are on Sky or Eurosport only; even coverage of live Grand Prix events is shared.
If we want our children to become seriously interested in any sport, they need to be able to watch it, as well as being nurtured at school by keen PE teachers.
SIR – For many years, I have suffered from a back problem that necessitates the wearing of a “lift” in my right shoe.
I recently searched on the internet for “self adhesive gel inserts to use in sandals”, but when I attempted to access the one site that looked promising, I was informed by my provider that it was blocked owing to pornographic content.
SIR – Mumbling actors are annoying (Comment, July 17); but I wish the sound of distant, barking dogs, so often used to create atmosphere in films and drama, was restricted. All this does is to prompt my dog to start barking, making it even more difficult to understand the actors.
Portstewart, Co Londonderry
SIR – Isn’t it time we dropped the unhelpful language of “due date” and “overdue”. Fewer than one tenth of births occur on the due date; nearly a half are more than a week away from that date; yet parents-to-be feel disappointed when the due date slips past with no baby, and worry that it is in some sense “late”.
Far more informative, surely, if the medical profession were simply to give a one month date range.
New Malden, Surrey
SIR – Babies born on the same day as the royal baby are to receive a specially minted penny. I was born on the day of the coronation of King George VI (May 12, 1937) and received a teaspoon-sized replica of the anointing spoon, while my mother was given a brooch and £5.
I still have the spoon, and the brooch – but not the £5.
SIR – If it is not impertinent to suggest it, I would be delighted if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge named their firstborn son George. It would honour the Queen’s admirable father, George VI, and it bears none of the awkward politico-religious baggage of either the names Charles or William.
SIR – Anna Maxted (telegraph.co.uk; July 22) describes her experience of giving birth in the private Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. To me the level of care, the monitoring and the basic, but pleasant room were familiar.
The only difference was that I gave birth at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, and the cost was nothing.
SIR – The two eminent obstetric surgeons who have contributed to the royal birth have been named, but no mention has been made of the midwife or the anaesthetist, who might have needed to administer the pain-killing epidural. I am, not surprisingly, a former anaesthetist.
Dr Bill de Bass
Sir, – The so-called triple lock, referred to by Joe Ahern (July 20th) would be an important element of Irish positive neutrality and active support for the United Nations, if properly applied. However, this triple lock mechanism has already been “picked” by the device of only applying it to units of Irish soldiers in excess of 12 individuals, thereby allowing the inappropriate sending of seven Irish soldiers to serve with the Nato ISAF force in Afghanistan.
Mr Ahern argues that the “triple-lock procedure gives any one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council . . . a veto on when or where we deploy our troops on international missions”. This abuse of their veto by the UN permanent members does not justify the use of a scatter-gun approach by sending small numbers of Irish troops to too many diverse missions with the UN, the EU, OSCE and Nato.
Other inappropriate missions were those organised at the behest of France for neo-colonial reasons in Chad and Mali. Such missions have more to do with keeping corrupt minority regimes in power rather than genuine peacekeeping. The decisions to send Irish troops to genuine UN peacekeeping missions, such as Undof in Golan Heights and Unifil in Lebanon, were well justified.
Mr Ahern calls for the “redefinition or abandonment [of Irish neutrality] in the light of a hugely changed and volatile international security environment”.
These international security changes are not changes for the better, but involved pre-emptive wars in breach of international laws in Afghanistan and Iraq, resource wars in Africa, and the use of torture and extra-judicial targeted assassinations. These crimes are facilitated by permitting US military use of Shannon airport. Irish troops should only be sent on genuine UN peacekeeping missions and Irish neutrality must not be abandoned for Redmondite concepts of imperialist wars. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Now that the way has been paved for a referendum to abolish the Seanad, I am left wondering why on earth anybody would accept a nomination for the seat left vacant by Martin McAleese (“Hildegarde Naughton appointed to Seanad”, Home News, July 19th)?
Why would somebody accept a job in an organisation which may well soon be history? Why would somebody accept a job from the person who made the decision to abolish the Seanad in the first place?
The nominee must either have a very low opinion of the value of the Seanad, or perhaps a misguided opinion on the value of the Dáil, to which she no doubt aspires to join after the next general election. – Is mise,
SEÁN Ó KIERSEY,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Martin Krasa (July 20th) argues that it is the models of Denmark and Sweden that are “trotted out by the abolitionists” as illustrating countries that have only one chamber of parliament, and then, as an implied counter-argument, he goes on to list (mostly) non-democracies that also use the same model.
But this is only a partial picture. For not only did he neglect to point out that around half of the world’s countries employ one chamber, but he also failed to mention that there are many other representative liberal democratic countries that use it, for example, New Zealand, Portugal, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Cyprus, Greece, Singapore, Turkey, Peru, South Korea and Malta.
It should also be pointed out that all of the devolved governments closer to home – the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, and the National Assembly for Wales – also have adopted only one parliamentary chamber. – Yours, etc,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.
Sir, – I note with interest the coverage of the Young Fine Gael summer school (Home News, July 22nd), in particular that group’s stance, or lack thereof, on the Seanad abolition referendum. The decision of the Young Fine Gael executive to take a neutral stance following the divided outcome of their motion, actually overturns a standing 2009 decision from its national council that favoured a reformed Seanad. While Young Fine Gael was discussing the issue this weekend, Ógra Fianna Fáil similarly had the issue on its agenda at the George Colley Summer School in Waterford.
The Ógra Fianna Fáil position on this issue has been clear, since members adopted the view that the Seanad should be reformed instead of abolished at our national youth conference held in Sligo in February of this year. I look forward to campaigning in the referendum for a No vote to retain and reform an integral feature of Irish democracy. – Yours, etc,
St Laurence’s Road,
Sir, – In Christopher McKinley’s article (“Genealogy service angry at move to ‘dreadful’ former dole office”, Home News, July 20th), the OPW defends the General Register Office’s move by saying that “several alternative locations were examined but the Werburgh Street premises were deemed the most suitable. This is seen as a temporary move until more suitable accommodation is identified in the long term.”
This prompts the question of just how more unsuitable were these “other premises” given that those in Werburgh Street are completely and utterly unsuitable? And if the move is only to be temporary, then why bother at all?
Unfortunately, I have a sinking feeling that “temporary” will prove to be a very long time indeed. – Yours, etc,
STEVEN C SMYRL,
Sir, – The threatened move of Dublin’s General Register Office (GRO) to the former labour exchange at Werburgh Street reflects poorly on the Government’s commitment to enhance the delivery of our heritage services. While online facilities such as the 1901 and 1911 censuses from the National Archives of Ireland, plus the digitisation of parish records via the Irish Genealogy website project, have rightly been praised and have been hugely popular, delivery on the ground to personal visitors has lagged far behind.
The GRO has notably lacked even one PC so that visitors consulting the record books there do not have the ability to cross-check their data with that on the Government’s own websites mentioned above. Even if a customer brings a personal computer, there is no Wi-Fi service. This compares very badly with the facilities available at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland and the UK National Archives at Kew in London.
If the GRO must move, should not the Minister responsible direct OPW to provide a home more in keeping with the importance of this priceless heritage? One site comes immediately to mind: the Central Bank is to move in the short term from Dame Street to the former Anglo Irish Bank HQ building on Dublin’s quays. Not long ago ideas were being sought for a future use for the Dame Street building. Why not house GRO here and even the National Archives itself since it is so short of space? This could be a prestigious venue and a learning and resource centre for future generations, as well as a centralised “home” for the Irish diaspora researching its roots. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Ann Marie Hourihane’s genteel rant (“Banks want you at home doing all their work for them online”, Opinion & Analysis, July 22nd) highlights the demise of branch banking and customer service, and is aptly summed up in her concluding comment, “the banks’ live customers are being hunted down like dogs”. I understand our so-called pillar banks are under huge pressure to cut their costs, but this should not be at the inconvenience of their customer base. The mantra in branch banking used to be “know your customers – listen to them and speak to them”. When all decision-making was centralised at head office, these skills were lost, with horrendous results for the banking sector. The solution to attracting more deposits is for the banks to offer enhanced personal customer service. For example, when I phone my branch I want to speak to my account manager or adviser, not some call centre, which is probably staffed by personnel without banking qualifications. There has to be an opening for a bank which can offer such a service. An Post with its wide branch network might be the answer. – Yours, etc,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I have been a customer of the Bank of Ireland for many years. Recently I went there to get a sterling draft for £47. I was refused this and was told I could only get a draft for £500. I was told to try the post office. – Yours, etc,
Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
Sir, – What an excellent article by Ann Marie Hourihane on the attitude of the banks to their customers. How can we ordinary clients make the banks realise it is our money they have, and that we deserve some respect? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Could it be that the alleged disrespect of some cyclists for the rules of the road is part of a two-way process? Those responsible for managing road works are required to have a traffic plan in place for all road users. This appears not to apply to the current roadworks in Dublin between Mount Merrion Avenue and Fosters Avenue on the N11, a stretch of cycle track renowned worldwide for its poor design. The signage reads “Cycle track closed – cyclists dismount”. One remains curious as to the reception that a sign reading “Motorists get out – walk and push the darn thing” might receive. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The Government will need to ponder on how young children (say up to 12 years old) are to be taught how to ride in some comfort and safety if on-pavement riding is now to attract a fixed-charge notice. Most parents won’t permit their children to cycle on our cycling-hostile roads and a lot of adults are pavement riders simply because they are too terrified to cycle in traffic on our roads. This will do nothing to solve that or get more commuters (10 per cent by 2020) cycling to work, school or college, which is a stated government aim in the National Cycling Policy Framework (2009). – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In response to Patrick Judge’s concern (July 23rd), allow me to assure him that Dublin City Council did indeed evaluate the risks involved in having many people dancing on the Samuel Beckett Bridge for Sunday’s successful record-breaking attempt and passed the bridge as being well able to withstand the simultaneous pounding of Irish dance shoes. We decided ourselves not to even suggest using the Sean O’Casey bridge, so that was never an issue.
Everyone involved in planning this highly successful event took every possible precaution to safeguard all the participants and viewers, and to make sure that any “Riverdancing” took place anywhere but on (or in) the river itself. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It is good to know, 25 years on, that the church of San Carlos Boromeo, Madrid, continues its remarkable work among the marginalised of all faiths and none in that city (“Rebel priests bring kingdom of heaven down to earth”, World News, July 20th).
In 1987, as a freelance journalist, I spent a day with worker priest Fr Enrique de Castro, whose fight at the time was against the scourge of drugs. In particular, he was the driving force in a campaign through the national media to expose alleged police connivance in drug-dealing. Seven young men, all former heroin addicts, shared his modest house in El Pozo del Tío Raimondo, one of the poorest suburbs of Madrid.
His position was the same then as now. “As a priest,” he told me, “it makes no difference to me what religion people adhere to, or whether they believe or not. My aim, my only ambition, is to give these people some hope in a world where so much is against them. For me, the example of Christ’s life and the message of the gospel are the bases of this action.”
As a person of no belief, it always strikes me as strange that the very priests who live out the teaching of the founder of the Christian faith are invariably labelled “rebel” and “maverick”, when surely the very opposite is the case. Or am I missing something? – Yours, etc,
Wed, Jul 24, 2013, 01:04
First published: Wed, Jul 24, 2013, 01:04
Sir, – As a follow-up to Rosita Boland’s feature on the pattern of Kilmakilloge, Co Kerry (“Repeating pattern: A tradition carved in stone”, Weekend Review, July 20th), it may be of some interest to point out that at least two other places trace their origins to Mocheallog. One of them is the town of Kilmallock, Co Limerick, and Kilmallock, Co Wexford.
Mainchín Seoighe in his comprehensive history of the Co Limerick town refers to Mocheallog Mac Uibhleain as a possible source for that town, but leans more towards Cillianus (the Latin form of the name) Mac Tulodhrain whose feast day was March 26th. This man was also associated with Lismore, Co Waterford. Perhaps someone from Wexford might have something to say about their Mocheallog? The remains of an early Christian church is to be seen on Kilmallock Hill just outside the Limerick town but alas, there is no memory of a pattern day. – Yours, etc,
NOEL Ó COILEAIN,
Kilmallock, Co Limerick.
Sir, – In my letter of July 20th, I refer to the birthplace of St Kilian of Würzburg as Rathmullen, Co Cavan. This should have read Mullagh, Co Cavan. – Yours, etc,
GERARD J LYNE,
Whitehall Road West,
* I have listened and read the continuing debate about gender balance and gender quotas in the Dail, and have agreed with a majority of the arguments to see more women in politics.
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Saved by Prof Browne
I disagree with the issue of family being used as an excuse as to why women are being deterred from entering politics in this country. I have heard many a commentator say that “it is easy for men” to swan in and out of the Dail, including on occasions like the recent all-nighter for the abortion legislation.
May I remind anyone offering this fodder in debate that men, too, love their families, and can ill-afford to lose out on quality time with their children and spouses.
The 2011 elections saw a swell of young TDs enter the lower house, many of whom have young families.
Is it legitimate to say that men can be absent from their homes until 5am?
So the next time someone feels the need to throw this nonsense into the gender-equality debate, think about a small child who may have waited up to see their father, but he is held up in an absolutely farcical Dail debate in the middle of the night.
Justin Kelly Edenderry, Co Offaly
SEANAD MUST BE SAVED
* The Seanad faces extinction at the hands of the largest majority Government in this State’s history and it is probably the most vital referendum that ordinary people will ever vote in.
The countless hardships imposed on the citizens of Ireland to save bankers and to appease our European masters may tempt people to vote in favour of abolition because it will save some small amount of money.
But the upshot of no Seanad is that our sacred Constitution would be dismantled and this and every future generation would be left vulnerable to the tyranny of unaccountable parties who get elected by telling untruths.
A reformed upper house, directly elected from the people and by the people with no political parties allowed, is the only way to keep this, and any other lunatic government in check.
Clonmacnoise Road, Crumlin, Dublin 12
QUESTIONS OF MORALITY
* In the recent abortion debate, we were all overcome by a rush of outrage. One can only hope that such debates in future will yield a more refined sense of how to conduct moral discussion.
In this respect, what needs to be addressed urgently is the poverty of moral education in schools. Students often come to university ill-equipped to engage confidently with the variety of moral views they encounter.
One of the difficulties is the confusion in the minds of many between the concerns of moral theology and those of moral philosophy. Moral theology purports to be concerned with articulating the church’s teaching on matters of morals; whilst moral philosophy has no religious axe to grind, working with a more open agenda.
Unfortunately, essential to Catholicism in the minds of many is opposition to abortion in all its forms and the prohibition of the use of contraceptives.
Questions of justice, political and fiscal probity by the machinery of state and the crying shame of urban poverty seem to be peripheral to matters that bring some Catholics on to the streets. Yet it was these issues that lay at the heart of the mission of Christ and drive the sensibilities of our young people today.
Every generation seeks to work out the concrete implications of meeting the demands for consistency between what we know about the world and what we do about it. There is rarely clear agreement about where to focus our outrage.
Edith Road, Oxford, England
* I am at a loss to understand the reaction of Miriam Donohue to the Seanad debate on the Abortion Bill, (Irish Independent, July 19). Two senators gave detailed descriptions of the effect of the abortion procedure on the foetus. Ms Donohue described these as inappropriate and graphic, and these senators as ‘extremists’.
Either the foetus is an innocent human being, or it isn’t. Either a human life is destroyed in an abortion procedure, in a way that would normally be considered bloody and violent, or it isn’t.
Either way, to call factual statements inappropriate because they make some people uncomfortable is surely delusional.
Name and address with editor
THE REAL IRELAND
* To round off a lovely weekend my husband and I took our three-year-old daughter for an ice cream. As I queued for our 99s, my husband followed me into the shop to say that we had a flat tyre and he was going to change it.
This proved to be more difficult than usual as the tyre was wedged on and he couldn’t dislodge it.
Within five minutes, at least six kind people had stopped to offer us help and we finally loosened the tyre.
Irish people are sometimes accused of losing their friendly, helpful nature. Well, my experience proves the opposite.
Name and address with editor
* U2’s Bono said: “Transparency is one of the best vaccines against corruption” when he praised the recent Irish Presidency for getting agreement on an EU accountancy directive.
The same insight led to the 1997 Freedom of Information (FoI) Act being passed here in response to abuse of power.
The President, Taoiseach, Tanaiste, Ceann Comhairle and seven other members of the current government were ministers in the Rainbow coalition that introduced the FoI Act. The aim was to give the public free access to official information to the greatest extent possible, consistent with the public interest and the right to personal privacy.
In 2003, the Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrats government limited this anti-corruption measure. It also decided to charge fees for FoI requests.
The current Government’s programme promised to “… restore the Freedom of Information Act to what it was before it was undermined by the outgoing government”. Minister Brendan Howlin has now said the Government will keep upfront fees for FoI requests at the same level as that brought by the FF/PD government, in forthcoming legislation (Irish Independent, July 17 last).
Nearly 250 years ago, a new Swedish government was convinced that only transparency could deal with the corruption that had eaten away at the State and society. It passed the first Freedom of Information law and made it part of the Swedish constitution. This was about 40 years after Gulliver (Jonathan Swift) had noted that “Providence never intended to make the management of public affairs a mystery to be comprehended by a few persons of sublime genius.”
Is it too much to expect that Bono will use his energy, access and influence to get our Government to simply do what it said it would do to make it more open?
Donal O Brolcain
Griffith Avenue, Dublin 9