Visiting Joan

2 August 2013 Joan

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark Leslie I back with Heather but Pertwee has the consolation of Fatso and his mum Min and floggle-toggle cake. Priceless
We are both tired but we go and see Joan I get Mary’s prescription
We watch Yes Minister quite good
Scrabble today Mary wins but gets over 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Mick Farren
Mick Farren, who has died aged 69, was a prolific writer, leader of the rock band The Deviants, and a prominent figure of the British counterculture in the 1960s.

Mick Farren Photo: REDFERNS
6:38PM BST 01 Aug 2013
As an organiser of what he later termed the Psychedelic Left, Farren led the group of hippies which, in 1970, took over the television studio when the American Yippie Jerry Rubin was appearing live on David Frost’s show. As Rubin rolled and smoked a joint, Farren harangued Frost from the audience while the Oz magazine editor and future media mogul Felix Dennis squirted the enraged television host with a water pistol.
A leader of the British wing of the White Panther Party (a white collective founded in America in 1968 to support the Black Panthers), Farren was also an editor of the oft-raided underground fortnightly IT (or International Times). In 1970 he promoted the free festival Phun City, where participants included the author William Burroughs and Detroit rock band The MC5, and in the same year helped to “liberate” Britain’s first large-scale commercial music event — on the Isle of Wight — by advocating tearing down the fences to allow free entry to performances by Bob Dylan and The Who.
Farren had already established himself as frontman of The Deviants, a proto-garage punk outfit whose song titles included Let’s Raid the Supermarket and whose third album cover featured a model in a nun’s habit suggestively eating an ice lolly.
Unusually for figures in the counterculture, Farren remained visible as the Seventies progressed. He represented himself at the Old Bailey when the adult comic Nasty Tales, of which he was a co-publisher, faced an obscenity charge. Despite an appetite for drink and drugs, he maintained a disciplined work ethic, over the course of his life publishing 36 books, 11 of them non-fiction and several reflecting his obsession with Elvis Presley. He also had a prodigious output as a journalist, writing for a wide range of titles including New Musical Express, Village Voice and LA Reader. Latterly he had been a loquacious and opinionated blogger.
Michael Anthony Farren was born at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on September 3 1943. His father, Eric, an RAF bomber pilot, was killed during a raid on Cologne — an event which Farren later used to justify his opposition to “censorship” of underground publications. In his autobiography, Give The Anarchist a Cigarette (2001), Farren wrote: “My father and thousands of others had gone to war against Nazi Germany among other reasons to prevent the world from being run by a power structure that could send in the goon squad any time it wanted to close down a nonconformist publication.”
After the war Mick’s mother remarried and moved to Worthing in Sussex. He attended the local grammar school there and went on to St Martin’s School of Art, where he trained as a graphic designer. Lodging in the then-unfashionable Notting Hill, he discovered a taste for marijuana and lived with Joy Hebditch, whom he later married.
Farren mixed with figures such as the Scottish beat writer Alexander Trocchi and the black power advocate Michael de Freitas (later to style himself “Michael X”), and set about challenging the status quo. “I spent a good deal of my life being exceedingly angry,” he later admitted, attributing this to the early loss of his father and a poor relationship with his stepfather. “I was constantly looking for trouble and hoping I’d come to the right place.”
In 1972 he published (with Ed Barker) his first book, the polemical Watch Out Kids, tracing the development of youth culture from the 1950s. Meanwhile, he was writing lyrics for the space-rock band Hawkwind.
In 1974 Farren joined other émigrés from the underground press, including Nick Kent from Frendz magazine and Charles Shaar Murray from Oz, at IPC’s New Musical Express.
Allowed free rein to explore the outer reaches of popular culture by its editor, Nick Logan, Farren turned in a series of memorable pieces on people such as the motorbike stunt-rider Evel Knievel and the avant-garde film director Kenneth Anger.
In the summer of 1976, by which time The Sex Pistols were introducing Britain to punk, Farren’s NME piece headlined “The Titanic Sails At Dawn” was judged to have caught the mood among the generation of teenagers disaffected by giant stadium acts like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. The writer Julie Burchill, as a rookie reporter on NME, had an affair with Farren, who was physically attacked in his office by Burchill’s partner, the author and columnist Tony Parsons.
In America on assignment for his music paper, Farren connected with the new wave scene incubating at Manhattan clubs such as CBGB. His marriage to Joy Hebditch was dissolved, and he moved to New York, where he married Elisabeth Volk and wrote for The Village Voice. He continued to publish books, including a well-received history of the garment which most symbolises rock and roll rebellion, The Black Leather Jacket (for which he scripted a companion documentary for Channel 4).
His marriage to Elisabeth Volk ended in the 1980s, and Farren moved to Los Angeles, where he adopted the role of the eminence grise of Western alternative culture, contributing to the local weekly LA Reader and attempting to gain a toehold as a screenwriter .
Farren had suffered from asthma all his life, and after the millennium he developed emphysema; furthermore his partner, Susan Slater, committed suicide. Yet he released records and toured Japan with the re-formed Deviants, and also published his Zones Of Chaos collection of writings and a quartet of novels based on the character Victor Renquist. He built a faithful international following for his blog Doc 40 .
In 2010 Farren returned to Britain, where he settled on the south coast with a new partner and continued to write. Against medical advice, he performed occasionally with The Deviants, though he often had to sit down and breathe from an oxygen tank between numbers.
He collapsed and died as the band was playing Cocaine & Gunpowder at The Borderline in Soho.
Mick Farren, born September 3 1943, died June 27 2013


We are dismayed by Lord Howell’s comments that the north-east is “desolate” (Report, 31 July). It is a region of profound contrasts: bustling cities and stunning rural areas; picturesque villages and historic towns. Far from being “desolate” and “uninhabited”, it is teeming with life and vibrancy. We accept the region has its problems, particularly since the government’s vindictive onslaught against north-east public services has seen unemployment rise to over 10%. Howell’s remarks are characteristic of Tory nimbyism – when it comes to wind and nuclear power as well as fracking – and also show the party’s utter contempt for the north-east. He has managed the most egregious insult from a Tory politician since Boris Johnson managed to offend all of Merseyside. If the Conservative party hope to achieve any credibility in its claims to support regional rebalancing, it will issue a swift apology and retraction.
Chi Onwurah MP Newcastle Central, Grahame Morris MP Easington, Dave Anderson MP Blaydon, Andy McDonald MP Middlesbrough, Ian Lavery MP Wansbeck, Ian Mearns MP Gateshead, Mary Glindon MP North Tyneside, Pat Glass MP North West Durham, Sharon Hodgson MP Washington and Sunderland West, Alex Cunningham MP Stockton North, Ronnie Campbell MP Blyth Valley, Cllr Nick Forbes Leader of Newcastle city council, Cllr Martin Gannon Deputy leader, Gateshead council, Cllr David Stockdale Newcastle city councillor, Louise Baldock Labour PPC, Stockton South
• Lord Howell’s attitude is consistent with the disregard shown by Westminster to our beautiful corner of the UK by the previous administration who, despite much local opposition, waived through the planning permission for the 29 inappropriately situated wind turbines at Middlemoor and Wandylaw, just north of Alnwick. We now have an application for a further nine turbines at Belford Burn with an expected further submission for 16 at Middleton Burn. Does anyone care that these would be in touching distance of Holy Island and St Cuthbert’s Way? Of course not. It’s the north-east, who needs it? Does it matter that the historic, unbroken views from the Northumberland coastal area of outstanding natural beauty to the Northumberland National Park has been destroyed to the detriment of thousands and benefit of the few? Of course not. It’s the north-east. Who cares?
Tourism is one of Northumberland’s main industries. People come here for the stunning, unspoilt landscapes and those are now being vandalised by carbuncles that benefit no one other than the energy companies, landowners and the agents who, in the grab for fees, lack any conscience about the destruction that is being wreaked on the environment, the division of communities or the fracturing of lifelong friendships. It is so, so sad.
Elizabeth Robertson
Alnwick, Northumberland
• The non-geologist wonders why this form of gas extraction could not take place under the sea (as previously) instead of this fracking about under people’s houses.
DBC Reed
• It was interesting to read that George Osborne’s father-in-law believes that fracking should occur in the wastelands of the north-east. May I suggest that gas exploration starts immediately, a little further south-west, in Tatton?
Paul Hogg

co.’ Photograph: Jim Wileman
It was encouraging to see John Harris (The biggest company you’ve never heard of, G2, 30 July) tackle the scandal of public-sector outsourcing and hopefully a sign that a wider public critique may at last be stirring: one that recognises that public and private are different moral spheres with different ethics and values towards notions of what public service means. With the support of all main political parties over the past 30 years, society has largely chosen to be deaf to voices challenging this political embrace of neoliberal thinking now rapidly hollowing out our public-sector services. We are witnessing aggressive moves by corporate public service suppliers into health, social services and education and are heading towards control of public provision by a handful of private monopolies.
One area not mentioned by Harris is the voluntary sector. Parts of this sector became a significant subcontractor to the corporate sector with the award of the DWP welfare-to-work contracts in March 2012 and this model will soon extend into the justice sector and beyond. The leadership of parts of the voluntary sector have been willing partners in the coalition’s raft of new legislation which consistently refers to the “voluntary and private sector” as an assumed alternative to a public sector. Choosing “to get into bed” with these companies is about choosing survival over development and it has compromised the voice of wider civil society. The voluntary sector prides itself on its ethical stance but large parts of it now appear unable to join up the ethical dots. The second area not mentioned by Harris is the role of the media, including the Guardian, which has largely been co-opted into this agenda and failed to articulate the need for a wide social solidarity in direct opposition to what is happening.
Ursula Murray
• In John Harris’s article, Margaret Hodge made two vital points. The “inability of government to contract out in a way that protects the taxpayers’ interest” and the “inability of the public sector to monitor effectively” are indeed huge issues at a time when more and more public money is spent on private contracts. I’d only correct Hodge on one word: it is citizens’ interests that need protecting, not just taxpayers’. In fact, people’s interests need protecting, even when they are unlicensed immigrants, or needy children, and not, or not yet, citizens. If government, which passes the legislation that leads to public money being spent on private contracts, can’t get such contracts right, or monitor what happens during the contract, how much less can small local authority departments or trusts be expected to do so?
A few weeks ago, when overcharging on tagging contracts first came up, there was a suggestion in the Guardian that any private company that accepts a public contract should be subject to freedom of information laws. Isn’t this the least we should expect of politicians and big business as they work ever closer together? Any company that doesn’t like this condition would, after all, be at liberty to refuse the contract. Citizens and others harmed by the way a public-private contract operates don’t have the corresponding freedom. We rely on government to protect us, and pay it to do so.
Jan Dubé
Gwyddgrug, Carmarthenshire
• John Harris does an admirable job of getting across the sheer scale and monstrous power that is held by outsourcing giants such as Serco, as well as the huge risks successive governments have taken in relying on a handful of companies to maintain national security and an increasing number of public services.Our Shadow State report last year uncovered some deeply ominous facts, and proposed a series of practical steps that government can take to clean up toxic outsourced markets, and win back its own spending power.
But what he doesn’t touch on is the profound effect outsourcing has on the economy overall. Outsourcing to for-shareholder-profit companies erodes wages and conditions, forcing the taxpayer to maintain great swaths of the workforce through in-work benefits. These workers are also impoverished in later life through inadequate pensions, while taxpayer money is transferred to wealthy people in the form of dividends. With a great proportion of this money leaving the UK economy permanently, we are all being beggared by the outsourcing giants. With a government spend of £236bn a year at stake, and in the run-up to a general election, it’s time one of our main political parties nailed its electoral colours to this important mast.
Peter Holbrook
Chief executive, Social Enterprise UK
• It is disappointing that only now does Margaret Hodge realise that private contractors like Serco are “good at winning contracts, but too often they are bad at running services”. The upsurge in outsourcing and privatisation over the last three decades is about creating outlets for surplus capital and has nothing to do with better service provision, value for money or any other of the ludicrous slogans used to justify handing over large amounts of taxpayers’ money to joint-stock companies intent on sweating their newly acquired public assets. Aided and abetted by rightwing governments with vested interests in maintaining the neoliberal status quo, regardless of the misery being heaped upon their citizenry, Serco and the other giant corporate vultures are finding easy pickings throughout Europe.
Privatisation has the added benefit of weakening trade unions, many of whom have their core membership in public services and utilities. Incomprehensibly, some of them call for more investment as the answer to their woes, thus demonstrating that they are on a par with Hodge in their understanding of how capitalism works.
Bert Schouwenburg
International officer, GMB
• Margaret Hodge says “I think we were as bad at managing this diversity of providers”. Not “we made a mistake and will bring them back into the NHS”. This is why the Labour party is collapsing and people like me have resigned our membership.
Terry Quinn
• If organisations contracted to the NHS like Serco and Harmoni are permitted to withdraw from contracts they regard as financially unsustainable, shouldn’t hospitals collapsing under the weight of PFI similarly be allowed to withdraw from unsustainable debt?
David Margolies

You claim that the Labour party is engaged in a race to the bottom with the Conservatives on immigration (Editorial, 1 August). Such loose and inaccurate allegations do not enable a sane discussion of an issue that tops many voters’ concerns. Yes,
Labour has admitted that we made mistakes on immigration. We should have introduced transitional controls on workers from the new EU countries in 2004, as France and Germany did. That’s why we think it is vital that we tackle the unscrupulous employers whose only interest is finding the cheapest labour possible and who effectively traffic people from poorer countries to the UK, charge the cost of their travel and their substandard housing to their wages, and pay them less than the minimum wage. That means a double unfairness – foreign workers are exploited and local wages are undercut.
That dual concern about fairness stems from precisely the same set of longstanding Labour values as the minimum wage itself, which we introduced and the Tories and Lib Dems opposed. So we will listen to voters’ concerns on the immigration system and seek to rebuild it and the labour market so that they work in the interests of everyone. What we will not do is engage in overblown rhetoric or a xenophobic race to the bottom.
Chris Bryant MP
Shadow immigration minister

Harriet Sherwood (Middle East talks begin, but few are daring to hope, 30 July) says one critical question is whether Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas are willing to compromise. What more compromise might be asked of the Palestinians, who lost 78% of their land in 1948 and have lost, and are still losing, massive swaths of the most valuable parts of the remainder since 1967? Neither have the British media remarked that the diplomat chosen by the US to take charge of the talks, Martin Indyk, is a committed Zionist, formerly an official of both the passionately pro-Israeli lobby group the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee and its closely associated thinktank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
As to the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, far from being a gesture to the Palestinians, as Sherwood implies, a kind of hopeful precedent, the unilateral Israeli departure was admitted by Dov Weisglas, the senior adviser of the plan’s architect, then prime minister Ariel Sharon, to have been aimed at “freezing” the peace process and sabotaging any moves towards the establishment of a Palestinian state. It worked well, for Israel.
The chances of Netanyahu and Barack Obama adding their names to the history books (as if this were the main consideration) with a just and fair settlement of the Israel/Palestine impasse are as slim as – even slimmer than – President Clinton’s and Ehud Barak’s in 2000, with probably even direr consequences.
Tim Llewellyn
• John Kerry’s reference to “perpetual war” disqualifies him from participation in the new round of negotiations. There is no “war”. There is an illegal (by international law) military occupation of Palestinian territory by the Israeli state.
Dervla Murphy
Lismore, Co Waterford
• If the stakes weren’t so high, I would say it doesn’t matter if the talks collapse as we have the saviour of the Middle East, Tony Blair, waiting in the wings to ride to the rescue.
Fr Julian Dunn
Great Hasely, Oxfordshire

Robert Booth writes (Failure to warn of Grenada invasion humiliated UK, 1 August) that “the marines attacked the island which had been taken over in a military coup led by Cuban-linked Marxists”. It was not a military coup and certainly not Cuban linked. It was a civilian internal government coup against the prime minister Maurice Bishop. Bishop had an intimate friendship with Fidel Castro, who condemned the coup immediately and in no uncertain terms. The coup, led by deputy prime minister, Bernard Coard, was over ideological differences with Bishop. The US used the coup as an excuse to invade the island and topple the socialist New Jewel government. The Cubans were building a new airport to help boost the island’s tourist industry, but described by the US as a military undertaking.
John Green
• It is hardly surprising to read Charles Rowbotham congratulating Melissa Kite advocating “going private” (Letters, 1 August). As a retired consultant working in the NHS, it is a fair bet that he did not work full-time for that organisation and derived a significant proportion of his income from seeing private patients.
Dr John Davies, retired NHS GP
Kirkby in Cleveland, North Yorkshire
• Not only has Vicky Pryce ruined her own life but now has to put up with a vengeful MP stripping her of a properly earned honour (Report, 31 July). Does her crime, for which she has been punished, negate her previous achievements? And if so, why does this not apply to all convicted criminals, particularly Jeffrey Archer, who continues to hold court in the Lords.
Gillian Gadsby
• Salmon Dave didn’t split from Chas (Letters, 31 July). They recorded Soul Man all on their own.
Bob Connolly
Oslo, Norway
• St Paul took the opposite view (Letters, 1 August): Gove is patient, Gove is kind. Gove never fails.
Chris Hickey
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire
• Tennis players have got it right. To them, Gove means nothing.
Peter Ferguson


The basis of the Nuremberg trials was that it is the duty of every soldier to refuse to condone or be complicit in murder.
Without the amazingly brave Bradley Manning, we would never have seen film of the wicked rejoicing of that American helicopter crew  as they brutally ended the  lives of two Reuters news  staff (among other innocents that day).
It is thus incumbent upon newspapers everywhere – as they depend on Reuters for much of their news – to lead the campaign for him to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr Obama.
Dai Woosnam, Scartho, Grimsby
In spite of Bradley Manning being referred to as a “whistleblower”, he passed to WikiLeaks for publication to the world no fewer than 700,000 pieces of information that he had taken an oath not to reveal.
It has not been suggested he read all these and assessed that they all had to be published for the good of humanity.
Why does the press apparently think that his abuse of his position of trust and his misuse of the internet is more defensible than what the hackers were guilty of when they tapped into and made use of people’s confidential information? 
Tony Pointon, Portsmouth
Judge Lind in the Bradley Manning case obviously thought the charge of “knowingly helping enemies of the United States” to be a nonsensical charge, as she knows America always helps its enemies – whether arming the Afghan Mujahideen in the 1980s, arming Saddam Hussein, bombing to power the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (al-Qa’ida) two years ago, or planning to arm Islamic extremists in Syria.
Bradley Manning’s conviction is an inversion of justice.
Mark Holt , Waterloo, Merseyside
The conviction of Bradley Manning was a travesty of justice, reminiscent of a Stalinist show trial.
His crime was to expose  the criminal nature of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US ruling elite were particularly affronted by the leaking of footage showing  US forces killing unarmed people in Iraq.
While proclaiming Manning’s guilt, Barack  Obama himself is guilty of numerous crimes. He has sent drones around the world to  kill people on the basis of suspicion. Some of these people were US citizens, and thousands of civilians have been killed in “collateral” damage.
Obama is presiding over the force-feeding of inmates at the US gulag of Guantanamo in Cuba, and he has instigated acts of aggression against Syria and Libya.
Bradley Manning did what he was supposed to do and exposed wrongdoing.  He will now spend the rest of his life in prison for daring to do what journalists do every day, namely hold the powerful to account.
He should be pardoned and released right away.
Alan Hinnrichs, Dundee
Whatever the rights or wrongs of what Bradley Manning did, it seems astonishing that a junior member of the US army in Iraq could have had access to such a wide range of information.
Whatever happened to the observation of the “need to know” principle? Have those who were responsible for the security of information been taken to task?
It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the US government’s internal security arrangements have been shown to be ludicrously lax.
Gordon Thynne, Coulsdon, Surrey
Fracking? How about Howell’s backyard
Does Lord Howell realise that there have been no applications for fracking licences in the North-east, as opposed to many other parts of England, and that this might suggest that there actually isn’t a lot of gas to be fracked in the region?
The fascinating aspect of the energy debate in the North-east is that the most rabid opposition to a few wind farms is from those local “grandees” whose inherited wealth trickled down from ancestors who exploited the region’s coal resources using the most appalling work practices, including child labour, with no thought for environmental considerations.
During the 1960s and 1970s, huge, toxic pit heaps of smouldering colliery waste created by their activity were eventually removed at the taxpayers’ expense.
In geological terms, the most attractive areas in the North for fracking are the beautiful Trough of Bowland and the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Using the US experience as a template, the exploitation of the gas across this area would involve the drilling of up to 30,000 gas wells. Each US fracked well can involve up to 1,200 heavy truck movements.
If we must frack, let’s do it on Lord Howell’s lawn.
Aidan Harrison, Rothbury, Northumberland
Being a southerner who has happily lived in the North-east for 40 years, I have personal evidence of the Lord Howell style of ignorance.
A question posed by a visitor planning a trip from London: “Do they have taxis in Bradford?”
A question from a business man in Brighton: “Do you have Thai food in the North?”
A question from a teenager: “Can you get EastEnders in the North?”
Can I ask a question: “How wide is the Watford Gap?”
Michael Gough, Sunderland
Having lived 40 of my 50 years in the North-east, I can attest that nowhere in the vicinity is quite as desolate as the space between Lord Howell’s ears.
Mark Robertson, East Boldon, Tyne and Wear
I’m led to believe that there are shale gas deposits in areas of Cheshire that are not to be blighted by HS2 – what’s the problem?
R P Wallen, Nottingham
The ultimate in doublespeak
A man opens the hole in his face and makes sounds using verbal and grammatical constructions that we all recognise.
Cleverly, he manages to convey the exact opposite meaning of those sounds.
How else can you interpret Grant Shapps’ refusal to apologise to Peter Cruddas after his victory in the High Court? – “I think Peter Cruddas did exactly the right thing. He has pursued this through the courts and got the outcome that he wanted.”
Sometimes the slipperiness  of political statements just makes you want to open the hole in your face.
James Vickers, Redcar
The truly fascinating and revealing thing about the Peter Cruddas case is that the Prime Minister appears to have immediately assumed the allegations were true.
Jim Bowman, South Harrow
No way to treat employees
Is Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps really saying that as the owner of a company he made up reasons to part company with his employees (“We need to make it easier for firms to sack workers”, 1 August)? And he thinks this is acceptable? Will people vote for him after this? No doubt they will.
Michael O’Hare, Northwood, Middlesex
Road to recovery?
My wife counted 64 “13” number plates on the drive from Oxford to London. An awful lot were Audis. Green shoots? Or is it just that Audi is doing something right?
AR Braithwaite, London NW3
Don’t cry for the past, Matthew
“Why bother about me? After all, I’m only a football fan?” (31 July) says Matthew Norman.
Matthew, do get a grip. It’s one thing to affect real tears for the thought of our fave player (Gareth Bale) leaving our fave team (Tottenham Hotspur FC) but please do not get carried away with phoney tears about money ruining today’s game. ’Twas always so.
Since 1885, when professional football came in, and even before that, when guineas were stuck in dressing-room boots to tempt star players away, money has dominated the game.
And do look up your history, pet, and stop repeating this myth that players weren’t mercenaries but “one-club servants “.
What about the Spurs cup-winning team of 1901? I always assumed you were there, as  someone who endlessly tells us he is a Spurs fan. How many in that team came from London or even the South-east? Come on, you have 10 seconds.
The answer is rien, nada, nowt. There were five Scots, two Welshmen and one Irish, while the three Englishmen came from Maryport, the Potteries and Grantham. Mercenaries all – in it for the money.
Hunter Davies, London NW5
Heathrow chaos
Having accompanied my daughter and two small children through Heathrow Terminal 3 recently, the only question that occurs to me is: why in God’s name are we considering a fourth runway at Heathrow when we have neither the expertise, the staff, the space nor the management skills competently to run an airport dealing with passengers from three runways?
April Beynon, Mumbles, South Wales
Worse than gulls
Pete Dorey (Letter, 1 August) prefers crickets to gulls. I prefer either to the endless droning (and accompanying vibrations) of our local police helicopter going round and round and round… sometimes at one in the morning. No doubt it is all in the good cause of catching criminals, but sometimes I do feel as if I’m living in a police state.
Garry Humphreys, London N13
Pete Dorey epitomises our depressing failure to coexist with nature’s other animals because they pose a slight inconvenience to us. Gulls are not the only “deafening, screeching and squawking” species whose numbers are increasing.
Kevin Mutimer, London SE6


‘Nurses want nothing more than to care for the sick and the dying, but are not allowed the time because of the vast amounts of administration’
Sir, John Williams (letter, July 31) is spot on when he says that nursing should be learnt on the job on a hospital ward and not in a lecture room. Having qualified as an SRN in 1971, I retired in 2008, disillusioned and saddened by the downward spiral in basic nursing standards.
The criteria to be accepted for nurse training in the 1960s and 1970s were simple. Nurses had to be compassionate, have common sense, be able to work hard, be committed to the patients at all times, and show an aptitude to study. Nursing was a vocation; pay was poor; hours were long and staff shortages were common but the hands-on care was excellent. Many of us may have been less highly educated than today’s graduate nurses, but patients were happier and complained less because they were warm, comfortable, fed, clean and were cared for promptly.
Towards the end of my career I wrote my memoirs highlighting the standards of care so lacking on our wards today. I have given talks around the country and have seen the number of student nurses who are fed up with the endless form filling they are expected to complete each day. They desperately want nothing more than to care for the sick and the dying, but are not allowed the luxury of time because of the vast amounts of administration they are expected to do.
The Department of Health and RCN need to wake up to what is happening on our wards. Patients need to feel safe but they don’t.
Joan Woodcock
Retired SRN & author of Matron Knows Best
Lytham, Lancs
Sir, John Williams blames poor nursing on the loss of hospital-based nurse training. However, feedback from nursing staff is that there are simply not enough nurses to perform the basic medical tasks, let alone providing compassionate care.
You quote (“Nurses are ‘too busy’ to provide basic care”, July 30) a Department of Health spokesman as saying that it is up to each hospital to decide how many staff they employ. To encapsulate the DoH’s position, each facility within the NHS is responsible for delivering the NHS Constitution, which calls for high standards of care and adequate staffing, meeting targets, satisfying CQC inspectors — and all this within a hopelessly inadequate budget.
Nick Gamble
Little Somerford, Wilts
Sir, It is time we stopped blaming the perceived lack of care in our hospital wards on Project 2000 nurses (letter, July 31), many of whom would have preferred to have trained in the traditional way. As a mother, sister and aunt of nurses I regularly hear from all three that the lack of adequate staffing at the ward level is what causes the problems.
I have seen my daughter, a ward manager sister, exhausted and in tears due to the lack of staff, having to take paperwork home, leave work late and be distressed because she doesn’t have enough time to spend with patients because of the non-nursing calls on her time.
Nursing in the modern world with more complex drugs and equipment needs more than bedside management. Were we to invest in more staff, revert to the three-tier system of SRN, SEN and Auxiliary there would be enough time for nurses to support the patients and allow for the non-nursing work to be done. Reduce the paperwork and give the many non-nursing staff in hospitals more of the clerical and support work.
Lyn Harper
Woodcroft, Glos

While the elderly should not be denied effective treatments, they are at higher risk of side-effects and this may partly explain the death rates
Sir, The unexpectedly high rate of death among older people in recent years (report, July 25, letters, July 29) may be partly explained by iatrogenesis — harm caused by doctors.
Drug trials that show real but small benefits of new medicines in various long-term conditions (like heart failure, hypertension and diabetes) are carried out in tightly selected populations and routinely exclude frail older people with multiple medical problems. However, results are extrapolated from the selected groups and applied to everybody, regardless of age and situation.
While the frail elderly should not be denied effective treatments, they are at much higher risk of side-effects. Medications are responsible for at least 10 per cent of emergency hospital admissions in older people, and the number of items prescribed to the elderly per annum more than doubled between 1998 and 2008.
Many GPs find that they are pushed, by a combination of centralised targets and relentless marketing, into prescribing patterns that don’t meet the needs of the individual patient, and geriatricians like myself spend our days rationalising drug charts, stopping medicines that are implicated in falls, loss of appetite, confusion and despondency, and that bring no tangible benefit to quality of life.
It may be that the increase in prescriptions, rather than improving outcomes in the very frail, has actually had the opposite effect.
Dr Lucy Pollock
Consultant Geriatrician Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton

It is sensible to suggest that fracking take place in the more sparsely people areas, such as the North East, where there are shale reserves
Sir, The reactions to Lord Howell’s proposals for fracking to take place in the “desolate” North East of England are preposterous (report, July 30 and letters, July 31). He is clearly making a sensible suggestion that this activity should be confined to more sparsely populated areas of Britain, rather than in the densely populated South East of England. There are sparsely peopled areas in the North East, and your map indicates that there are also shale reserves there.
Having hiked across this region on the Hadrian’s Wall route many moons ago, I know that much of the region is indeed fairly desolate. Perhaps Howell’s critics should get out of their cars a bit more.
Gareth Bennett

The Mayor has submitted detailed proposals for three sites for a new airport, rather than two — the Isle of Grain, Boris Island, and Stansted
Sir, Further to your report (“My way or no runway, says Boris”, July 31), the Mayor believes there are three optimal locations for a new airport, not two. These are on the Isle of Grain in north Kent, on an artificial island in the middle of the Thames estuary and also at Stansted.
The Mayor has submitted detailed proposals for all three sites to the Davies Commission, and he is confident the Government will be persuaded of the case for a new hub airport to the east of London, which would be able to support more than 375,000 new jobs by 2050 and add £742 billion to the value of goods and services produced in the UK.
Daniel Moylan
Chief adviser to the Mayor of London on aviation

2 2013

There has been a big reaction to a letter from an 18-year-old girl, defending the use of make-up, and asking that we refrain from stereotyping
Sir, I agree with Lucy Stewart’s reply (letter, July 31) to “Living Dolls” (July 27) and her contention that girls have the individuality and intelligence to be whatever they want.
They compose 50 per cent of the workforce of MI5 and MI6 in successfully protecting us from terrorism. Thank you.
David Bickford
Former Legal Director Intelligence Agencies
Weymouth, Dorset
Sir, Lucy Stewart’s spirited defence of the use of make-up brings to mind the words of the fictional headmistress in Winifred Holtby’s novel South Riding: “If I had two candidates before me, and they had equal qualifications, but one looked as though she washed her face in sunlight soap and dried it on the hockey field, and the other looked as though she could hold down the post of head mannequin at Molyneux’s, but had chosen to teach instead, I should take the mannequin every time. I should be sure that her influence on the girls would be far wider, more exhilarating and more healthy.”
Janet Wagon
Blewbury, Oxon

SIR – Only dairy products made in this country from milk produced by Britain’s dairy farmers should be labelled as British.
With an annual output of £3.8 billion and directly supporting more than 50,000 jobs, British farmers put their hard work and skill into supplying top-quality milk, which in turn produces fresh, healthy and natural dairy products.
At the moment, imported dairy products, in particular cheese, are given UK marks. We therefore ask the European Commission to introduce mandatory labelling for dairy products that states the country of origin of the milk and the place of manufacture of the product.
Mark Allen
Chief executive, Dairy Crest Ltd
Peter Kendall
President, National Farmers’ Union
SIR – However compelling the economic case may be for fracking in the North East, Lord Howell’s comments were ill-advised and have surely only alienated those he is seeking to convince (report, July 31).
If there are benefits to this region in undertaking fracking, accompanied by lucrative incentives, these should be made unequivocally clear to the people. I do not believe the situation is irretrievable for the Government if addressed properly.
Derek Graham
Whitwell, Hertfordshire
SIR – Oil and gas have been sought and produced, in many regions of Britain since the Forties. Many of these developments have reinjected “produced water” into the hydrocarbon formations, and I have never seen any reports of water table contamination.
The largest onshore development in Britain has been producing oil and gas for many years in one of the most beautiful and environmentally sensitive areas of Dorset. Wytch Farm produces oil and gas from structures onshore and under Poole Bay.
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Stephen Moorhouse
Auburn, Lincolnshire
SIR – Your picture of the “anti-frackers” at Balcombe (report, July 26) contrasts with my experience in overall charge of Wytch Farm, which was discovered and run by the “old” British Gas. I got few letters of complaint over the years, and they were mostly from fathers wanting to show their boys Britain’s one significant onshore oilfield and not being able to find it. It was well camouflaged by trees and caused no disturbance.
Dr Harold Hughes
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
SIR – There are proposals to build two nuclear power stations, one in the Lake District and one on Anglesey, in the near future. But would this be sensible, given the proximity of Morecambe Bay, where fracking is being undertaken, with the consequent likelihood of tremors and minor earthquakes? Does the Government appreciate the risks it is introducing by pursuing two different energy strategies without considering the implications of one for the other?
Mike Coughlin
Bromborough, Wirral
SIR – The Environment Agency’s approach is that fracking – provided it is done safely – can be a major part of Britain’s future energy needs. Lord Lawson is wrong (Interview, July 20) in saying that the agency’s view is anything other than this.
Lord Smith of Finsbury
Chairman, Environment Agency
London SW1
SIR – Fracking requires huge amounts of water. This may be the driver we need to create a decent water grid in Britain.
Charles D B Pugh
London SW10
Bad medicine
SIR – Positive discrimination has gone crazy if medical schools are made to lower grade requirements to accommodate poorer students (report, July 3). Medical schools must continue to admit the most able students, regardless of background, to preserve not only the ethics of the medical profession but patients’ lives. The Medical Schools Council project to look at more than students’ grades to see if those less privileged should be given preferential treatment may be well-meaning but it is ill thought-out. Money should be spent on promoting the chances of potential medical students by providing better access to the sciences to help them get better grades.
This is a matter of life or death, not political correctness.
Jo Heywood
Head, Heathfield School
Ascot, Berkshire
That’s rich
SIR – Fraser Nelson makes the common error in assuming that the fortunes of major corporations are defined by one or two executives at the top of the hierarchy (“Don’t blame the best-paid 1 per cent – they’re worth it”, Comment, July 26).
Executives are dependent on trusted advisers to inform their decisions; the wider employee base to implement them; and prevailing external conditions. Wealth is created collectively, and corporate pay structures should reflect this.
The huge difference in pay between the highest and lowest earners is not socially or economically sensible and is not sustainable in the long-term.
Luke Hildyard
Head of Research, High Pay Centre
London SE1
Sounding the alarm
SIR – Ronnie Horesh (Letters, July 29) writes that emergency service sirens were “designed to disturb and alarm”, and that he would not be surprised if they contributed to the accident rate by causing panic to drivers and people at home.
As a paramedic of more than 30 years’ service, I agree that the sirens we use now are probably louder and more frequent. The reason? Better insulated cars, and people on mobile phones or listening to earphones, oblivious to their immediate surroundings. Would Mr Horesh have us risk running them over, or should I slow down to walking pace as I drive past?
On a recent shift, I attended two unresponsive adults, one non-breathing baby and several other similar calls. Would those people have worried about the sound of an approaching ambulance?
Kevin Mead
Dunstable, Bedfordshire
Tagged for life
SIR – Woven name tags can be economical if you have two children: put the initials of both children either side of the surname and fold under the unwanted initials when sewing on a garment (Letters, July 30).
Jean Wheeler
Solihull, Warwickshire
SIR – I am still wearing my regulation school sun hat with its name tape firmly intact after 50 years.
Ros Mackay
Helston, Cornwall
SIR – My ex-mother-in-law, one of Yorkshire’s thriftiest, upon realising that she had over-ordered name tapes for her first child by some way, gave her second child the same initials.
Paul Catling
Grove, Bedfordshire
Double yellow parking
SIR – Although the idea of limited parking time on double yellow lines is likely to prove unworkable, the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, deserves credit for trying to make city and town centres more accessible to motorists.
Another approach would be for every local authority to examine critically every inch of double yellow lines and ask whether it is really necessary.
If parking were prohibited only where genuinely necessary to ensure reasonable traffic flow, we would soon see visits to town centres increasing, with retail and entertainment spending to match.
Graham Hoyle
Baildon, West Yorkshire
SIR – Allowing people to park on double yellow lines is a crazy backwards step that would create bigger traffic jams and even more dangerous spaces for cyclists and pedestrians.
How can drivers possibly judge what is a safe place to park? It might not be dangerous for the driver, but what if they are parked in a way that stops pedestrians being seen when they want to cross the road, or gets a cyclist squeezed at a pinch point between the car and a lorry? The Mayor of London and local authorities must resist this idea.
Jenny Jones
London Assembly (Green)
London SE1
A & E inefficiency
SIR – My husband has a failing heart. Every time he has a crisis and I have to call for paramedics, he has to go through A & E.
They have his notes and his entire medical history, but he has to be re-assessed every time. You would not believe it in our computerised age.
If the NHS were a business it would long since have gone into administration.
Doraine Potts
Woodmancote, Gloucestershire
Counting counties
SIR – Seeing seven counties from one house may be a rarity in England (report, July 31) but it is quite common in Scotland.
From one window I can see Berwickshire, Roxburghshire, East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian, Peeblesshire and Dumfriesshire, while a glance out of the opposite window reveals Northumberland.
Technically, though, the first six are “former counties”.
Alasdair Drysdale
Lantoncraigs, Roxburghshire
Cursive handwriting is making a comeback
SIR – Felicity Brown (Letters, July 30) expresses regret at the loss of handwriting skills and bemoans the “fact” that even in senior schools, students are given laptops for taking examinations.
As a long-standing special needs
co-ordinator and assessor of any special arrangements awarded to students for taking examinations, I can assure her that in most schools the situation she describes is the exception rather than the rule. Examination board rules are very strict and schools have to justify any special (“access”) arrangements with either medical reports or the outcomes of very structured testing.
Further, the tide is turning for the better with regard to handwriting: many schools, some senior as well as primary, certainly in the Leeds/Bradford area, are now teaching children “cursive handwriting” skills. I know of at least one school where the entire staff are learning cursive handwriting and the result is beautifully formed letters and writing across all ages in the school. At my own school in Leeds, we are guiding children in how to learn and apply cursive writing, a method almost identical to the way I learnt joined-up writing more than 50 years ago.
Garry Freeman
Leeds, West Yorkshire
SIR – The replacement of handwriting by the computer means we will no longer be able to analyse the thought processes of writers, in particular poets.
If we look at the early handwritten drafts of many writers, we can see crossings out, word substitutions and spelling corrections. These show how writers edited their work and how they changed their ideas as they looked back at what they had written. Now it is a simple matter of deleting what is to be changed and typing in the new word or phrase.
Dusty Roades
Towcester, Northamptonshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – The voices of Government backbenchers are rarely heard. In that context The Irish Times has done a service by allowing eight Fine Gael backbenchers to set out their view of budget options (Opinion, July 31st).
The message from the eight is forthright, but incomplete. They want more cuts in public spending, even if that is more than is necessary to meet the target agreed with our lenders, the troika. That much is clear.
What is not clear is where our Fine Gael colleagues want the cuts to fall. The bulk of public spending is on health, education and social protection. Would they cancel the recruitment of gardaí? Would they cut pensions? Would they reduce the number of people on medical cards? Would our Fine Gael colleagues have us sack public servants or cut their pay even further? Don’t they think that public servants have taken enough?
And, would they have us believe that any of the above could be done without adversely affecting patients, school children or pensioners?
In fairness to the Fine Gael TDs, they say that the scope acquired through additional cuts should be used for stimulus. This is a false choice. It ignores the fact that taking more than is needed out of the economy will itself have a deflationary effect. Moreover, the Government is already committed to a capital programme of €10 billion over the next three years. In addition, the €2.25 billion stimulus announced by Brendan Howlin in July 2012 will start to bear fruit next year. More stimulus will be made possible from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, and proceeds from the sale of non-strategic state assets.
As Labour backbenchers we have signed up to a Programme for Government to save the country from bankruptcy. This programme entails increases in tax and cuts in spending. We signed up to those in order to get our country out of a serious mess – not because we are against spending on public services. Tough decisions have been necessary to get the country to where it now is. Recovery is in sight, though not yet secure. But we are not austerity junkies. We will do as much austerity as is needed to secure the recovery. Not a cent more. – Yours, etc,
Labour Party,
Sir, – Eric Conway (August 1st) misses the significance of the words of Pope Francis on homosexuality. While it is true they do not represent a change in teaching, the completely different and new pastoral tone is very significant to gay Catholics everywhere. At long last gay Catholics do not need to hide at the back of our churches at Mass, just as once black Catholics did in the United Stares. Thank you, Francis! – Yours, etc,
The University of
Sir, – I note with interest that Minister for Health James Reilly, at the MacGill Summer School, has resurrected the promise of free GP visits for children. The genesis of such a scheme is in the Public Health Act of 1947 – those who would have benefited from such a scheme, if implemented, are the people who will be collecting their pensions for the first time this year, 66 years later.
Let’s hope it doesn’t take another lifetime to roll out the promise of a universal health care system that was also envisaged within the 1947 Act as the first step to such ambitions. Change seems to visit less regularly than promises at Hawkins House. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – One need go no further than Page 7 of The Irish Times (August 1st) to assess the state of this blighted nation. There is Moira Skelly facing into the “absolute nightmare” of caring for her profoundly disabled 18-year-old daughter Ciara in the absence of full-time care services, following the latest HSE cutbacks.
Just below is a report from the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, where the gathering is assessing whatever happened to the 1916 Proclamation.
I never thought I would see the day when I agreed with Gerry Adams, but when he focuses on the Proclamation’s concern for the wellbeing of our children, in particular that they be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training and then suggests we have failed those children . . . I have only to read Moira Skelly’s story again and say Mr Adams is right.
So we have dreamers in Donegal and the heart-breaking reality of a Dublin mother and daughter. There is no contest. There can be no contest. Either we put the Skellys and all the other struggling families at the top of the pyramid and give them all the support they need, unquestioningly (even if it means more taxation), or we declare ourselves a morally bankrupt and broken republic. – Yours etc,

Sir, – Steven Lydon’s article (Opinion, August 1st) in support of philosophy as a formal subject in our secondary schools is very much to be welcomed.
One definition of evil is absence of thought.Much of the injustice and corruption in society is the result of either lack of thought or woolly thinking. Mr Lydon mentions some European countries which have philosophy as a subject in their secondary schools. Personally, I admire Quebec, where philosophy is studied by all in the two years between secondary school and third-level. Discussions of the problems faced by Irish society, ranging from suicide to rampant individualism, point to a transcendental lack of direction and a consequent confusion of values.
While studying philosophy in itself will not solve our problems, it would at least provide some of the tools necessary for acquiring the wisdom we all need to understand life. I hope Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn does something to redeem this utilitarian Government by doing something unquantifiably imaginative: deciding to include philosophy as a subject in Irish secondary schools. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The usually sharp Martyn Turner casually misrepresents the Middle East “peace talks” in his cartoon (Opinion, July 31st). Your own Editorial (July 22nd) describes the “highly unequal power relationship between parties to the talks” and accurately points to “ ‘establishing facts on the ground’ as being a cardinal feature of Israeli policy towards the territories it captured in the 1967 war”. Israel’s actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal under international law, in particular the 4th Geneva Convention: settlement building (contrary to Article 49); demolition of Palestinian homes and other property (contrary to Article 33); deportation of Palestinians (contrary to Article 49) and collective punishment of Gazans (contrary to Article 53).
It is entirely within Israel’s power to halt settlement building and end the occupation, the obstacles to peace identified by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore. But it is difficult to believe it is going to do so voluntarily. No Israeli government has even been prepared to halt settlement-building temporarily while negotiations with Palestinians proceed. It is impossible for Palestinians to overcome these obstacles on their own through direct negotiations with Israel. They are an occupied people living under Israeli military rule. They are powerless to prevent Israel expanding settlements indefinitely, let alone to bring an end to Israeli military rule. Unless the international community weighs in on the side of Palestinians, far from the obstacles to peace being removed, they will continue to grow – and the possibility of a peaceful settlement will remain a distant dream. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I regret that Joe Corr (August 1st) experienced difficulties in regard to a pay and display machine in what I hope was otherwise an enjoyable recent visit to the East Pier in Dún Laoghaire Harbour.
Parking in the harbour area is operated by the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, and not the local authority.
All our machines take coins. Some take coins and (credit and debit) cards. If a machine becomes full of coins, or the coin mechanism breaks, then the option still remains to pay by card. All machines are linked to the internet and faults are reported to us immediately. I have checked the fault log and no machines reported any fault on the day Mr Corr and his family visited. We have such a proliferation of machines, particularly near the East Pier, that you would always be within 50 metres of two machines.
Dún Laoghaire Harbour is a wonderful public amenity with the East and West Piers already attracting an annual footfall of close to two million.
I hope that Mr Corr and his family, and others, will continue to visit Dún Laoghaire Harbour and enjoy the facilities and the sights – not least the visit next Wednesday (August 7th) of the Cunard Line’s newest cruise ship, the Queen Elizabeth. – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:

* Perhaps about 20 years ago I had my first thought about whether this country would be a better place if more women were in powerful positions in the courts and the Houses of the Oireachtas.
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Having grown up in an Ireland run by Charles Haughey, I recognised the fairness of my mother and other women I looked up to and was assured that they could do a better job.
Now I look at the increased number of women in influential positions and all I see is the same old system. Regarding Liz O’Donnell’s column (Irish Independent, July 30) pertaining to increasing the numbers of women in the legal profession and in politics, I would agree if it made Ireland a fairer society; but I fear it would not. I’d suggest it is not the gender involved that makes the system fairer, it’s the system itself that breeds unfairness. The bravery and selfless attitude of women was shown in London when the murderer of Lee Rigby was confronted by a woman who jumped off a bus to question the armed attacker.
More people like this in politics and the legal system would be a huge fillip to society. This lady probably didn’t go to the right college or rub shoulders with the right people, but they don’t hand out awards for what she did.
I am certain that it was core belief that she was acting on. It wasn’t something she picked up in law school or learnt in her fledgling career as a county councillor. If that’s the case Ms O’Donnell is making, then let’s fill Church Street and Kildare Street with Mna Na hEireann. But if it is just a blow for feminism, why bother?
Darren Williams
Sandyford View, Dublin
* The whole basis of the Nuremberg Trials was that it is the duty of every soldier to refuse to condone or be complicit in murder.
Without the amazingly brave Bradley Manning, we would never have seen film of the wicked rejoicing of that American helicopter crew as they brutally ended the lives of two Reuters news staff (amongst other innocents that day).
It is thus incumbent upon newspapers everywhere – as they depend on Reuters for much of their news – to lead the campaign for him to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Dai Woosnam
Scartho, Grimsby
* I wish to address the idea that an increase in Irish house prices, as reported by the CSO, would somehow provide a ‘real boost for the economy.’
In my view, the argument is wrong for two reasons. The first is that the drop in consumer spending is not fundamentally a result of a lack of confidence – it is a result of much more tangible indicators, such as high unemployment and mass emigration, both of which we are experiencing in this country.
The second reason is that any psychological boost will be very limited, given the majority of mortgage holders who may otherwise benefit from it are still in negative equity.
I suspect homeowners will not feel too much better off and, even if they did, their ability to act on their new-found confidence by remortgaging their houses to spend or invest is non-existent.
For those who are not yet in the property market increased house prices only means one thing – increased saving for a deposit and subsequent increased spending on a mortgage, if they are ‘lucky’ enough to have a mortgage approved.
More saving and mortgage spending results in less consumption in the real economy. As I see it, the sector which benefits the most from an increase in house prices is the banking sector.
Sean FitzSimons
London, UK
* It has been over a year since Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore described the deal they got on the banking debt as a ‘game changer’.
Michael Noonan also told us that the Irish economy could take off this year like a rocket. What has happened that rocket in the meantime? I wonder, due to the seismic shift, has it been knocked off its launch pad?
Christy Kelly
Templeglantine, Limerick
* I listened to Enda Kenny at the opening of the MacGill Summer School in Glenties last Sunday and was pleasantly surprised and impressed.
This praising has nothing whatsoever to do with my political persuasion, but Mr Kenny made an excellent speech on the many problems facing the country and how his Government are trying to do their best to deal with them. On a personal note, I would like to congratulate him on the apology in the Dail on February 19 to the wonderful Magdalene women.
This was a real first for this country, and gives us all hope that the powers that be will at last begin to care for the most vulnerable in our society.
I only hope he can now do something to make these religious orders pay their share of compensation to the women.
Brian McDevitt
Glenties, Co Donegal
* Pope Francis covered a wide range of subjects on his recent trip to Brazil. But as ever the media’s obsession with sex meant a very brief few words in relation to homosexuality were given disproportionate attention. But a cursory reading of his actual speech revealed he never even mentioned the subject.
Pope Francis has been adopted as the media’s honorary good guy, which is quite bizarre, as he is doctrinally ad idem with his predecessor. The irony again is that on this occasion the Pope has merely reiterated timeless Catholic teaching: “Love the sinner, hate the sin”.
Eric Conway
Navan, Co Meath
* I just returned from my first holiday abroad in many years.
I left an Ireland under a sun-drenched blanket of blue and returned to a place of exploding rain storms and thunderous-looking heavens. Dejection began to grab a hold of me, until I was given a much-needed kick by one of my children, who said: “Da, why are you looking so fed up? This is the way it always is at home, and we all love Ireland.”
What chance have we got if we don’t get down and cosy with change, and why are we so eager to make something as changeable as the weather the custodian of our moods?
We really are a right shower!
TG Gavin
Galway City
* While ‘We are Church Ireland’ is very supportive of Pope Francis’s fresh pastoral approach, as Bishop of Rome we are very disappointed with his words of July 28 2013 at an impromptu press conference en route from Rio to Rome, that the ‘door is closed’ on the ordination of women in the Catholic Church.
He cited Pope John Paul II’s ban on women priests from 1994 but omitted to mention that the Vatican Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1976 could find no scriptural or theological basis against the inclusion of women.
Pope Francis has called for a “deeper theology of women” but what is needed is a renewed theology of sexuality and human rights within the Catholic Church, which emphasises the equality and rights of all the people of God to participate in all ministries and positions of authority and service within the Catholic Church.
Brendan Butler
We are Church Ireland
Irish Independent


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