27 August 2013 Birthday cake
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble again with Heather forcing Leslie to get engaged . He hires Golstein’s Uncle to investigate if he can get out of it. Priceless.
We are both tired Sharland en fam come around with a birthday cake for Mary
Scrabble today Mary wins and gets just under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.
Regina Resnik, the American mezzo-soprano, who has died aged 90, became known as one of the great Carmens of Covent Garden.
Regina Resnik with Boris Christoff in 1958 during rehearsals of Boris Godunov at the Royal Opera House Photo: HULTON/GETTY
5:55PM BST 26 Aug 2013
She made her debut there in that role alongside Jon Vickers as Don José and Joan Sutherland (Micaela) under Rafael Kubelík in 1957, and was quickly described by the critics as “the real thing”. Her interpretation of Bizet’s heroine was passionate and down to earth. “She looks the part to the life, the lustrous, lustful gipsy girl, primitive in her responses but by no means unintelligent in her approach to the opposite sex,” wrote one London critic when she reprised the role, again with Sutherland, under John Matheson in 1958.
Regina Resnik’s career began in America during the Second World War, when she sang many of the leading soprano roles; but in the mid-1950s she realised that her voice was darkening, and retrained as a mezzo. In so doing she earned the distinction of being one of the few artists to have sung both Aida and Amneris in Aida, as well as both Mistress Ford and Mistress Quickly in Falstaff.
Much of her career was spent at the Metropolitan Opera, where among her 328 performances in 39 roles she sang Ellen Orford in the New York premiere of Britten’s Peter Grimes in 1948 and the Baroness in the world premiere of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa a decade later.
She later directed several productions, including Carmen at Hamburg (with Plácido Domingo), when she insisted on alternating casts singing in French and German; she also appeared in a number of hit musicals, notably as Mrs Schneider in Cabaret on Broadway in 1987, for which she won a Tony nomination.
Regina Resnick (she dropped the “c” at an early age) was born in the Bronx, New York, on August 30 1922, to impoverished Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants. At the age of 10 she volunteered to sing a solo in a concert at her local school. She was 13 when she took her first lessons, from Rosalie Miller, and soon afterwards won $10 appearing on Major Bowes’s Original Amateur Hour on public radio.
When she was 16 her parents insisted that she turn down a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music, choosing instead for her to study at Hunter College, where a degree in Music Education would provide an alternative income if her singing career faltered.
Miller, who always declined to charge her students for lessons, introduced Regina Resnik to the conductor Fritz Busch, and in 1942 he invited her to sing Lady Macbeth with the New York Opera Company. Two years later, after working with Erich Kleiber in Mexico, she triumphed at an audition with the Met. She soon made her debut with the company by stepping in at a day’s notice to sing Leonora in place of Zinka Milanov in Il Travatore. Before long she was touring America, appearing with choral societies and giving recitals.
It wasn’t until 1953 that she appeared in Europe, singing Sieglinde in Die Walküre at Bayreuth under Clemens Krauss, who first suggested that she might be more suited to the mezzo roles. Within two years she was seeking guidance from the Italian-born baritone Giuseppe Danise, an old friend, about making the vocal change, an exercise that resulted in a year away from the stage. Although the transition was traumatic, she was thrilled with the eventual results, as were audiences, though she would later jokingly refer to herself as a “freak”.
By the early 1960s Regina Resnik had appeared in all the world’s major opera houses — Berlin, Salzburg, Vienna, San Francisco and Buenos Aires included — while her repertoire expanded to include the Marquise in Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment (with Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti), Klytemnestra in Strauss’s Elektra (under Georg Solti) and the Countess in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades (under Rostropovich). When learning the part of Marina in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov (with which she marked her return to the Met as a mezzo under Dmitri Mitropoulos in 1957), she was able to practise the role with her parents, who advised her on the Russian pronunciation.
Meanwhile, demand for her to sing Carmen rarely faltered, and among her many performances were two seasons in Vienna for Herbert von Karajan in 1957 and in 1958, the same year in which she appeared in Verdi’s Requiem at the Proms in London under Malcolm Sargent.
Back in New York, Regina Resnik felt that Rudolf Bing, the Met’s director, was offering her only minor roles, and when the title role in Carmen was awarded to another singer in 1967 she resigned from the company in protest. They were reconciled not long afterwards and she continued singing there until 1981, giving classes at the house – and elsewhere – for many years.
Regina Resnik was as highly cultured offstage as she was on it. She purchased her own subscription to the opera and was an habitué of the New York theatre. Among her other interests were philately and Greek archaeology; she visited museums and galleries in every city in which she was performing.
She was very conscious of being an American abroad, and enjoyed the opportunities that were offered to American singers during the post-war reconstruction of Europe. She liked to recall how, on one occasion, she was at Bayreuth when Wieland Wagner walked into the rehearsals for his brother Wolfgang’s Ring and proclaimed: “Well, well, well, it still looks like the war. All the gods are Americans and the Nibelungs are Germans.”
On another occasion, while singing Carmen in Marseille in 1962, it seemed that the largely nationalist audience had come mostly to boo her and her Don José, who also happened to be American. After the audience expressed their displeasure with Don José at the end of the Flower Song, Regina Resnik stepped to the front of the stage. “Taisez-vous!” she demanded, ordering the public to desist from the protests and instead enjoy the marvellous show.
In 1983 she appeared in a television documentary, filmed in the Venetian ghetto, exploring her Jewish heritage. In 1991 the Mayor of New York City proclaimed “Regina Resnik Day”, which coincided with the award of an honorary doctorate from Hunter, her former college.
Regina Resnik married first, in 1947, Harry Davis, a New York lawyer, but that ended in divorce. Her second husband, whom she married in 1975, was Arbit Blatas, the Lithuanian-born painter and sculptor. They met when she was directing Carmen and together worked on several more operas – including Falstaff, The Queen of Spades and Salome – and kept a home in Venice. He died in 1999, and she is survived by a son of her first marriage.
Regina Resnik, born August 30 1922, died August 8 2013
To Australians the George Stubbs portrait of The Kongourou from New Holland is, as Donald Radford says, a national icon (Whose roo is it anyway? UK and Australia fight over Stubbs painting, 22 August). To us, in the UK, it is merely a painting of a kangaroo – I wonder how many even knew of its existence. Perhaps we should let it go to where it would be most welcome.
Dr Patrick Austin
Lewes, East Sussex
• I am puzzled by Jem Whiteley’s talk of a future Labour government wanting “to do something extreme, like renationalise the railways” (Letters, 26 August). Surely our railways, along with many other vital utilities, are already owned to a greater or lesser extent by national governments. Just not our national government.
• When I ask the time, people search for their mobiles or iPhones (Unthinkable? A clock tsar, 24 August). I wouldn’t know how to stop them.
Dr Graham Ullathorne
• Simon Hoggart’s advice on joke punchlines (24 August) was amusing. Presumably the one about crime in multistory (sic) car parks included homophone tapping as well as being wrong on many levels?
• If John Crace thought The Burrowers “fluffy and sweet” (Last Night’s Television, 24 August), perhaps he was behind the sofa when the stoat killed the rabbit, then made a nest in the carcass so that its own pups had food on hand.
Lynne Dyas Wolffdy
• I enjoyed the photograph of a small warbler placed in a 35mm film canister for weighing (Eyewitness, 23 August). I wonder if readers can think of any other uses for these handy containers?
• Thank you, Anne Watts (Letters, 26 August). I now understand why 37 is the number of radiotherapy sessions inflicted on men with certain manifestations of prostate cancer. A sophisticated calculation? No, just the perfect number!
The “third golden age” of television that Kevin Spacey proclaims is defined by his choice of examples: all American-made, all long-form dramas (Report, 23 August). As far as I and most of my contemporaries are concerned, there was only one golden age of British television and that was the 1960s, under shameless showmen and political operators at ITV and Hugh Carlton Greene (a bit of both) at the BBC. It’s true that much of the impetus of that period came (sometimes directly, as personnel) from US television in the 1950s, Spacey’s first golden age.
One of the defining characteristics of the 1950s/60s was the prevalence of one-off programmes, both dramas (“plays”) and documentaries. Such standalone projects are not wanted these days by schedulers, partly because of the channels’ dependence on a belief (blinkered, in my view) in serial audience loyalty and partly because one-offs allow access to unruly, opinionated outsiders, unwilling to be neutered by battalions of executive producers.
W Stephen Gilbert
• Kath Worrall’s article (Tony Hall should look back 40 years if he wants to restore the BBC’s ethos, 26 August) should be circulated in every government department and local authority and throughout the NHS as a reminder of what has been lost by governments since the late 1970s applying the blind belief that private sector attitudes and methods are superior. Even the most rightwing politico now accepts that public money has been frittered away in this process, and the golden age of the consultant is, one hopes, over – but there are still plenty of people who need an injection of the public service ethos that has so disastrously been sidelined.
• Kath Worrall’s article brought back longer memories for me – 62 years to be precise. That was the year the Light Programme broadcast a 15-minute excerpt from the first scene of Reluctant Heroes at the Whitehall theatre. A year later, came the phenomenally successful excerpt of the first act of the play, backed by the BBC Television’s deputy controller, Cecil Madden. This led to my first full-length television broadcast from the Whitehall, Postman’s Knock by Philip King, in October of the same year.
The success of this play resulted in the BBC offering me the chance of producing several televised farces annually, but as it only presented serious plays on Sunday, it could not offer me that slot. I had to decline – transmitting them live on weekdays after the theatre performance would have been too exhausting and complicated.
Then the arrival of ITV and Sunday Night at the London Palladium forced the BBC to change its Reithian policy on the Sabbath. I was invited to present five farces a year, live from the Whitehall.
My initial three-year contract was renewed for 17 years, and gave me total creative freedom. The layers of bureaucracy that have blighted the BBC since John Birt’s tenure would make such an arrangement unimaginable today.
The viewing figures for my farces were sensational. Alas, as I approach my 90th birthday, any memory loss suffered by me seems to be matched by the BBC’s commemorative programmes as far as the televised Whitehall farces are concerned.
I just hope Lord (Tony) Hall does follow Kath Worral’s advice – “public service and values are more important than pay bonuses and kudos”.
House of Lords
With reference to the Nasdaq crash triggering fear of data meltdown (Report, 24 August), in the early 1980s, pioneering safety thinker Charles Perrow devised normal accident theory. It argues that where a system exhibits key, specific characteristics, then that system will experience catastrophic collapses – not as failures of the system itself, but as a normal and unavoidable (if infrequent) feature of the system’s operation.
While normal accident theory pre-dated modern electronic IT systems, many such systems are likely to exhibit precisely the key features the theory highlighted. It may well be that recently experienced system collapses are, in Perrow’s terms, not failures at all but normal accidents. However, Perrow’s work has been given relatively little attention. Decision-makers found the theory too pessimistic. Academics, safety professionals and business leaders paid more attention to the optimistic high -reliability organisation (HRO) theory. While HRO theory has given us useful insights it does not address the fundamental problem normal accident theory identified.
Normal accident theory is pessimistic, but not entirely defeatist: it offers remedies, ways to modify our systems to make them more resilient; but we have not exploited these remedies. In time, we will wish we had not ignored Perrow and the inconvenient truth he tried to help us understand.
Let me own up: I coined the term “modern universities” for the re-designated polytechnics (Letters, 23 August). Before 1992, there were three groups of universities – ancient, old and new.
“Modern” seemed to complete the quartet and give a nice symmetry, a counterpoint to “ancient”. It also encapsulated my hopes for that group of higher education institutes, not dissimilar to those of Alan Bance, since the former colleges of advanced technology had not followed the strong European tradition of professional technological education and the Robbins report’s recommendation on the special institutions for scientific and technological education and research.
The cooling of the white heat of technology, the need to rescue teacher education after the James report and the 1972 education white paper, and to diversify to respond to increased demand for access after the 1980 cuts, meant that intent was lost. I saw them, more broadly anyway, responding to emergent (modern?) professions not sufficiently catered for by pre-92 institutions and to the changing needs of a slowly modernising society (though with low investment from employers), including a commitment to lifelong learning; and adopting modern approaches to teaching in higher education, including developing professional levels of teaching competence among lecturers.
So, not propaganda, but a distinctive identity, a brand image if you like, now being lost as vice-chancellors seek to imitate those with longer designation and to climb league tables based on values not shared previously, which produce a hierarchy, giving little recognition to diversity of access and contribution to social mobility, where their record is stronger than that of other groups.
Emeritus professor, higher education, University of Greenwich
Dr Peter Lyth is wrong to liken HS2 to Concorde, whose imagined market was the elite “jet set” (Letters, 23 August). HS2 has much more in common with the jumbo jet, with a mix of classes of travel, a wide range of fares, and high levels of capacity and demand on each train. It will provide extra capacity on some of the highest-demand journeys in the country, and free up capacity on the existing network for local and regional services. Upgrading an existing route is more expensive and disruptive than building a new route (cf the last west coast upgrade). The commercial and economic benefits are substantial, though whether they will provide an adequate return on the rapidly escalating costs remains to be seen.
• To compare HS2 with Concorde shows a lack of understanding of both projects. Concorde was originally designed with a military as well as civilian role and lumbered with military research and development costs, and hence given a high sales price. The rise in oil prices made it expensive to run, and attempts at a passenger service without a subsidy became impossible. The current retired fleet has only used half of its service life.
HS2 is a proposal to increase capacity of our railways to meet growing need. Whether HS2 is the best solution is debatable, but it’s the only viable one. The railways are a vital part of our national infrastructure. To cost the railways as a standalone business is to miss the bigger picture. The levels of subsidy to the privatised railways are greater than in the days of British Rail in order to put profit into the companies that run the services, particularly the banks, which own the companies that own the rolling stock.
These two projects cannot therefore be sensibly compared unless you take a blinkered view of considering them solely in terms of money-making businesses.
Colin Ledsome, chartered engineer
• Lynsey Hanley is right that we need better train services between northern towns (Comment, 26 August). But she is wrong if she thinks that improving northern rail services is not already taking place, not least in the “densely populated urban corridor lying between Liverpool and Hull” where the modern diesel trains on the trans-Pennine express services are already a great improvement on those they replaced.
As I write, the mainline from Manchester to Liverpool (and Preston) is being electrified, the first phase of a programme that will go on to include the mainline between Manchester and Bradford/Leeds/York. A new commuter service from East Lancashire (Burnley) to‑Manchester is due to start next year following the instalment of track at Todmorden. All due to the pro-rail policies of the present government.
The proposed devolution of control of northern services to “Rail North” would help to focus investment here. HS2 will, among other benefits, connect cities such as Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and Leeds, none of which are served directly by the existing east and west coast mainlines.
Liberal Democrat, House of Lords
• The problem with HS2 is that the present proposal does not integrate its services properly with existing stations and services. What is the point of saving 15 minutes between London and Birmingham and then having to walk 15 minutes to New Street station to connect to Wolverhampton, which at present enjoys through services to London? Why not run the HS2 services into New Street, with some, as now, continuing to other destinations? Similarly, in London, Lord Bradshaw and I have proposed an alternative to demolishing a large part of Camden to build an HS2 station: run the trains into the present station to start with, and study an alternative underground link to HS2 with a station linking Euston and King’s Cross. These two alternatives could save £2bn for Phase 1 of HS2.
I believe that HS2 is the best solution to meeting the increasing demand for rail services on the route between London and northern cities. There is a strong argument for reviewing the stations and links proposed so that its services are integrated with others to the greatest extent, and for starting by using existing stations and conventional rather than double deck high speed rolling stock.
Labour, House of Lords
• Upgrading northern regional railways rather than investing in HS2 would help alleviate the desperate need for jobs in the north. However, reversing the phasing of HS2 would bring jobs to the north much sooner, attracting business to these areas. Together with the planned upgrade to the northern trans-Pennine route, the phase 2 impact on journey times between Newcastle, Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow would be much more significant than the marginal reductions in times to London under phase 1.
• Alongside our present main direct rail lines to the UK’s major cities, north, south, west and east, there are continuous miles of multiple tracks. Surely the slow tracks could be updated for existing passenger trains, and the two lengths of rail in the middle converted to super train speed, at a minimal cost to the taxpayer. If not, let’s scrap the millions of miles of unused iron work and recover the land for housing development.
Bridlington, East Yorkshire
• It is worth remembering that the claim that HS2 will cost £80bn is unverified; that the project will still generate a positive rate of return – ie taxpayers will get more benefit out in terms of jobs and growth etc than the money they put in; and that a link to HS1 and the Channel tunnel will open up the possibility of Ms Hanley being able to travel not from Liverpool to London but, say, Liverpool to Paris, or even Liverpool to Marseille.
Thornton-le-Dale, North Yorkshire
• Nineteenth-century technology – iron wheels on iron rails embedded in stones – demands 19th-century maintenance, costly in time, materials and labour. There has been little talk about using magnetic levitation, a technology that is well tested in China and Japan, which could be as fast as, or faster than, HS2.
David J Hurry
Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex
The Government called for a UN inspection team to be allowed to visit the site of a suspected chemical attack in Syria, but now that Syria has agreed to that request they have apparently decided to go ahead and bomb the country as the permission to inspect came too late. However, when they called for inspectors to be allowed in they did not give any deadline.
It seems the UK, and of course the US, make up the rules as they go along. They took no action when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Kurds in Iraq, and actually helped him to use them against front-line troops in Iran.
The UK/US are, to say no more, fundamentally inconsistent and that inconsistency is a major factor in the chaos and bloodshed so many people have suffered over the past 30 years.
Dr Brendan O’Brien, London N21
What you say in your leading article is true (“Western leaders seem worryingly unaware of the risks of military intervention in Syria”, 26 August), but there is a further point which should be made.
There is a real world interest in maintaining the posture that use of chemical weapons is beyond the pale, and anyone who uses them, whoever it is, should face a fierce international reaction. This prohibition dates from what happened in the First World War, and has somehow held for a century since, albeit only just and with a number of defiances being ignored. Drop all attempt to maintain it and they will soon become a routine weapon of war.
The trouble is that the world powers have behaved in exactly the way not to do it. Instead of agreeing on action that is irrespective of who used chemical weapons, and even agreeing to disagree on who that was, they have backed opposing sides from the start and are making their response an integral part of their support for opposing sides, and also part of their rivalries with one another. That is what is so deeply wrong.
Roger Schafir, London N21
I would be quite happy to see President Assad ousted from power in Syria. However the usual suspects currently agitating for intervention in that country aren’t able to explain how potential replacements in the “opposition” are a better alternative. The experience of Iraq and Libya suggests they very probably aren’t.
In all the warmongering talk I find no explanation of how it is planned to help ordinary people in Syria – those who originally took to the streets peacefully against Assad. I suspect that is because those who want intervention are interested purely in that, not what happens afterwards
keith Flett, London N17
Neo-liberals are banging the drum for war again because there is a suspicion of a chemical weapon incident in Syria. Britain’s professional political classes are suggesting sending in the US Military, who have relied on napalm, Agent Orange and depleted uranium ammunition. This has caused tens of thousands of birth deformities in babies in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Isn’t this like sending the Yorkshire Ripper round to a household already suffering domestic violence and expecting a positive outcome?
Gavin Lewis, Manchester
HS2 is the best way to avoid a rail disaster
The economic case for HS2 may be weak, as you suggest (leading article, 26 August); but if you don’t build it, what do you do instead? The West Coast Main Line is full, so doing nothing is not really an option unless we’re happy to see more freight using the roads.
Or do we build another non-high-speed railway just for freight at a somewhat lower cost, and if so where? Through the Chilterns, or the old Great Central Line through Rugby and Leicester?
Any economic evaluation of HS2 ought to include the costs of (a) doing nothing and (b) alternative railway projects.
Ian K Watson, Carlisle
The growing campaign to discredit the HS2 high-speed rail link between London and the North ignores the disastrous consequences if we do nothing.
The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) claimed that costs would soar by £30bn and that a swathe of countryside would be blighted by convoys of trucks rumbling through peaceful towns during the seven-year construction phase. And now there are reports that “upper echelons” in the Treasury are having doubt on projected costs – the same department which opposed building the M25.
Of course costs must be kept in check, and I have every faith that they will be following in our new-found ability to deliver projects like HS1 and London 2012 within budget. Britain desperately needs a new railway and HS2 is the right project at the right time.
In 2012 1.5bn train journeys were made, double the number of 20 years before. The West Coast Main Line will be full in a little over 10 years. A third of the most crowded trains in Britain depart from Euston; growth in passengers from London to Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester is predicted to be up by 36 per cent, 44 per cent and 50 per cent respectively by 2026. Long-distance and commuter services are competing for space on the West Coast Main Line. Crowding is acute.
Taking significant inter-city traffic off the existing network, HS2 will free the existing lines to run more local and regional services. Space for freight will also be increased.
Birmingham’s position in the heart of the country will be strengthened, linking it directly with seven of Britain’s other 10 biggest cities. HS2 will provide a fast and direct connection from the North to the West Midlands, London and on to Europe.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England has expressed concern about how HS2 plans to transport excavated material during construction, and one report said it would cause “environmental havoc” along a 40-mile corridor. HS2 is working to ensure that over 95 per cent of excavated material is beneficially reused for the construction of the railway, including noise and visual screening.
Jerry Blackett, Chief Executive, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group
It seems that most of the noises about HS2 come from people who would not benefit from it. One of the present “reasons” not to invest is that time spent on trains is productive. In my experience, and that of people I have spoken to, that is approximately 80 per cent nonsense.
As someone who spends a lot of time on trains I can tell you that a 45-minute journey from London would be a dream come true. Especially in the evening, when I have been up since 04:30, I am on the 19:00, and just want to get home to my family and a decent meal. Work? I’ve done enough, thanks.
There is so much capacity and potential once you get over 100 miles from London – people; natural resources; lower-cost land; lower prices generally. Fifty billion pounds is a “poor investment” only if you lack vision and imagination.
Michael Mann, Worcester
One state is the only solution
Alan Halibard’s letter (22 August) stating the settlers want to stay on the West Bank, as do the Palestinians there and in Israel, seems to me to lead to the most obvious solution to whole problem. There should be one state, not Jewish or Muslim or Christian, but one where all have the same rights before the law.
One problem is the name of such a country from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. No agreement could be expected for Israel or Palestine, but a name that both should be able to accept is Canaan. Sharing the Land of Canaan is great idea, one that could solve the current problem. And sharing power is tried and tested, as shown by the Rev Ian Paisley who ruled with Martin McGuinness in Northern Ireland and Mandela with De Klerk in South Africa.
Peter Downey, Bath
Alan Halibard complains that the Israeli settlers in Palestine “simply want to continue to live in their historical homeland” . The problem, with the 120-odd settlements (which keep expanding) is that they put the kibosh on any hope of a two-state solution. It would mean Israeli troops surrounding the settlements, hundreds of road blocks, continuing Israeli control of water supplies, air space, borders etc.
The right to vote for no one
Whether or not voting should be compulsory, as the Institute for Public Policy Research suggests, I heartily welcome its other recommendation that a “none of the above” option should be included on ballot papers.
I first had the opportunity to vote in 1945, have lived in seven different constituencies as well as abroad for some years, and have yet to vote for a successful parliamentary candidate.
The suffrage was extended to all women aged 21 and over in 1928, and I remember the fuss and excitement when my working-class mother went to exercise her right that year, although being only six at the time it was not until many years later that I appreciated the importance of the occasion.
I have in consequence never regarded not voting as an option, even when I do not like any of the names on offer. Nor is spoiling your ballot paper a solution, as they are not, so far as I know, subject to any statistical analysis.
PHYLLIS NYE, Bournemouth
From MASH to Manning
Being old enough to remember the Seventies TV series M.A.S.H, I find the resemblance between Private Bradley Manning and Corporal Walter “Radar” O’Reilly remarkable. Even more intriguing is Manning’s revelation that he wants henceforth to be known as Chelsea.
Could he (sorry, she) be trying the same gambit as another M.A.S.H. character, Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger, who frequently dressed as a woman in an attempt to gain a Section 8 psychiatric discharge from the army? These M.A.S.H. connections cannot be simply ascribed to coincidence.
Keith Giles, Middlesbrough
You so nearly got it right in your report on the smaller of the Irish Sea earthquakes (26 August): “Its epicentre was about 25km west of Fleetwood in Lancashire at a depth of about 3km.” So close – the epicentre is the point on the earth’s surface above the centre of the quake, so its depth is always 0km.
Colin Standfield, London W7
It is tragic enough that the swan died (letter, 26 August), but to die as a possession of the Crown? These birds are glorious enough without having to lend lustre to our Ruritanian monarchy.
Such structures corral one segment of the population, and they are especially selfish in the land area consumed, often in cul-de-sacs
Sir, The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is a bit off the mark as far as my friends and erstwhile colleagues are concerned, although downsizing is a regular topic of conversation (“Bungalows are back as Pickles plots a revolution”, Aug 26). Many of us have happily done so but many, frustrated at the lack of choice, are yet to do so. Yet the word bungalow has never cropped up.
What we want is three-bedroom apartments with plenty of storage. We would happily forsake the ensuite for more cupboards. Finding a three-bedroomed flat in this area is hard, and in our age group there is a scramble whenever one comes up for sale. We are surrounded by two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments built mostly for investors to rent out, and they appeal to a completely different market.
We do want some attractive outside space but a balcony would do. We don’t want to be burgled and we don’t want to be responsible for outside maintenance or gardening. We are either too frail or too busy.
Bungalows don’t fit the bill.
Oh, and we want to be near a station or at least a bus stop. Unless of course we lose our bus passes. In that case we will need somewhere to put the car.
Sir, You report the Planning Minister, Nick Boles, saying that pensioners want to move to bungalows. I can assure him that many — maybe the majority of — pensioners have no wish at all to live in bungalows. I am one of them.
Sir, Eric Pickles and your leader writer need to look further than the conventional bungalow to solve the demographic problem. The attraction of a bungalow is the absence of stairs and the small garden. One of these needs can be supplied, and the other in part, by low-rise housing with lifts and large balconies or elevated patios. Privacy can be designed into the layout. The constraints of landscape conservation and economics will no longer allow bunglaloid splurges like those of the 1930s. As is often the case there is a design solution.
Sir, When we were preparing for retirement we moved from a bungalow in the green belt to a centrally located townhouse, and I must disagree with the latest “Pickles principle” that swathes of bungalows are an ideal solution to our ageing population.
Such structures generally corral one segment of the population, and they are especially selfish in the land area consumed, often in cul-de-sacs. These invariably take on a ghostly, lifeless aura for much of the day — which might mean a welcome peace but which inevitably limits the social interactivity which is essential for one’s wellbeing.
The street we moved to has families, retired folk, newlyweds, single mums and professional couples, all of whom nourish our lives and happily engage in conversations on our short easy walks to our town centre, and never begin with comments such as “in the old days”. The prospect of living and ageing in a net-curtained world on the edge of town with poor and inconvenient transport links simply should fill one with horror.
Saffron Walden, Essex
Getting rid of a dictatorial but secular regime and replacing it with an Islamist would create another support network for terrorists
Sir, Your leading article (“A duty to protect”, Aug 26) supports a military action against Syria, but fails to spell out how the ousting of Assad will be in Britain’s national interest.
Syria’s civil war is no longer about the restoration of democracy or getting rid of a dictator. On the same day the US announced its decision to arm the rebels, a conclave of Sunni clerics in Cairo sanctified jihad against the Shias and the Hezbollah, thereby turning the Syrian conflict from a war of liberation into a war between Muslim sects.
If the West chooses to strike Syria at this critical juncture, it will be entering the Syrian conflict on the side of the Sunnis, although it was Sunnis, not Shias, who carried out the 9/11 and subsequent acts of terrorism against the West.
Since getting rid of a dictatorial but secular regime and replacing it with an Islamist one would create another support network for terrorists, it is difficult to see how such an outcome could possibly serve Britain’s long-term interests in the region.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex
As well as providing a belief system about the ultimate questions, the really important point about faith is that it builds community
Sir, Professor John Cottingham is right that we need to increase religious literacy, but we must not overlook the social capital provided by faith (Credo, Aug 24). As well as providing a belief system about the ultimate questions, the really important point about faith is that it builds community.
Research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2010 showed that being surrounded by like-minded people in a congregation is more important to happiness than prayer. The US sociologist Robert Putnam has shown that people in faith communities are more likely to be active citizens than those who are not, leading to more volunteering and charitable giving. Belonging helps to build the common good as much as believing, therefore.
Sir, Zaki Cooper (letter, Aug 24) makes much sense. Contributions from faith groups and faith leaders deserve to be taken seriously only if they are both politically and theologically sound.
He attributes much of their value as contributors to their freedom from the pressure of re-election. Unfortunately, clergy in the Church of England, with the virtual disappearance of freehold in favour of leasehold, have largely lost their freedom to be prophetic (in its true sense). They may not be subject to re-election but they are now subject to re-appointment, often on the recommendation, or otherwise, of their Parochial Church Council.
The Rev John Hawthorne
There are no spare minutes in a GP consultation: what should GPs to stop doing in order to include a discussion about obesity?
Sir, Baroness Young and others underestimate the cost and overestimate the benefits of intervening in obesity (“NHS health checks will save lives and money”, letter, Aug 22).
This is not to recommend that we should do nothing, simply that their analysis is naive. There are no spare minutes or free time in a GP consultation. We have to ask what we would like our GPs to stop doing, in order to include a discussion about obesity — and likely to be a long conversation, too.
Whereas we might talk about “opportunistic lifestyle interventions”, patients prefer to express these as “not what I came for and frankly none of your business anyway”. The experience at the sharp end is that the investment of time is formidable and the rewards are almost always disappointing and/or short-lived.
Dr Lester Russell
Waterside Medical Centre,
After the publication of unflattering pictures of the Prime Minister, perhaps the coalition should promote clothing-optional beaches
Sir, To publish a photo of David Cameron changing on the beach (Aug 23) was less than kind — none of us looks our best removing a sticky wet costume while preserving the necessary modesty. Hopefully, the coalition will bring forward legislation to promote clothing-optional beaches to match those enjoyed abroad.
SIR – During the past 20 years I have observed a steady decline in the role of small bundles of carpet to assist in directing the flow of water in the daily sluicing of the streets of Paris.
On a recent visit to that city I did not see a single piece of carpet.
Does this mark the end of an era?
SIR – After being saved from serious head injuries by a cycle helmet, I wholeheartedly support Mark Smith, the father of Ryan, the teenager in a coma after deciding not to wear a helmet (Harry Wallop, Features, August 23).
In my case, after sudden braking and going over the handlebars, I was told by the paramedics in the ambulance that I wouldn’t be sitting there talking to them if I hadn’t worn my helmet.
Cycle helmets are not the most attractive of headwear – but flattened hair is a small price to pay. The compulsory wearing of cycle helmets could be complemented by greater provision of safe cycle paths, as found in Europe.
Disappearing carpet in the gutters of Paris
26 Aug 2013
SIR – According to the Department of Transport 6 to 10 per cent of cycling deaths could have been prevented had the cyclists been wearing a helmet. The same could doubtless be said about car drivers or even pedestrians hit by vehicles. There are also reports of serious neck injuries, resulting from helmets getting caught on things, especially moving vehicles.
Cycle helmets have their place, such as in racing and mountain biking, but to suggest that they should be worn whenever one mounts a bicycle, for a quiet ride in the countryside or to fetch one’s Daily Telegraph, is scaremongering. I am aware of the increase in motor traffic, so I choose my routes accordingly.
Should people prefer to wear a helmet when cycling, that is their prerogative, just as not wearing a helmet is mine.
Horsham, West Sussex
SIR – After reading the article about Ryan Smith, I drove into the centre of Oxford – a very cycle-friendly city.
I saw probably 20 cyclists without helmets. When I stopped at pedestrian lights, a cyclist on my near side went straight through red. Another at a crossroads mounted the pavement to get across the junction without having to stop. A third was actually cycling with one arm, while using his mobile with the other. None of them was wearing a helmet.
It’s sad to think we need a law to protect them from themselves. Perhaps our top cyclists could do more to promote helmets.
SIR – Serious and fatal cycling injuries are mercifully rare. As Harry Wallop pointed out, compulsion could lead to a reduction in the numbers of people cycling. Fewer people cycling would shorten more lives through obesity and heart disease than helmets could possibly save.
We should focus on reducing the risk of a crash, rather than reducing injuries in the aftermath. Helmets do nothing to protect legs, arms and vital organs. But I shall continue to wear a helmet to cycle.
Stamp duty paralysis
SIR – Lower rates of stamp duty (Leading article, August 24) would encourage more housing market activity and increase the efficient distribution of houses.
Families could more easily trade up (or down) to a house of the size they need. Current policy means that many people enlarge the house they have, rather than moving, as it is cheaper. More (but smaller) households were predicted, yet the unintended consequence of stamp-duty arrangements is that the average size of houses gets larger.
Stamp duty is easily avoidable by many – they simply don’t move. This might be fine if you have already got the family house you need. But it disproportionately affects younger families who are at an expensive stage of raising growing families.
M J Angel
SIR –Stamp duty discourages residential mobility, and encourages long-distance travel to a new job. The tax is bad for the environment and adds to road and rail congestion, particularly at peak times.
Risk of flooding
Sir – Apparently we are all going to pay more for house insurance to subsidise the premiums for people living in areas subject to flooding (report, August 24).
This is, of course, a return to the original principle of insurance: spreading risks among policyholders. Will my increased inner-city premiums for house (and car) also be shared by the wider community?
SIR – The entire population may have to bear the cost of flood insurance for those foolish enough to buy houses built in areas at known risk of flooding.
Surely it would be more equitable if the extra cost were borne by the developers who built on such land and the planning authorities that gave permission without taking regard of the risks involved.
Cherry Burton, East Yorkshire
SIR – I too enjoy a herring (Letters, August 24). However, on Saturday I took advantage of the rained-off fourth day of the Fifth Test to go brambling in fields near my home.
I have never seen such a heavy crop. Huge, tasty, sweet, juicy berries hung like bunches of black grapes. The occasional nettle sting and prickly thorn did not deter my pursuit of something so wonderfully free. Later in the day it meant a delightfully welcome bramble pie for my pains.
Nothing to lose
SIR – We had a pair of public lavatories on the sea-front (Letters, August 24) which were closed and then redeveloped as a restaurant, called the Toulouse.
Westcliff on Sea, Essex
Of Tunbridge Wells
SIR – While chatting to a young man working in a local restaurant, we were told that he originated from Tunbridge Wells. My husband asked if he was disgusted.
He just looked at us blankly and somewhat pityingly.
We carried on eating our soup.
Reality of Syrian war
SIR – In 1994 the US government infamously avoided calling the events in Rwanda by their proper name – genocide. Instead they spoke of “acts of genocide”, which led the Reuters correspondent Alan Elsner to ask: “How many acts of genocide does it take to make a genocide?”
It seems we are in a similar situation in Syria. Maybe it is now appropriate to ask: How many chemical attacks does it take to make a crime against humanity?
If Barack Obama fails to call the crisis in Syria by its proper name publicly, his Nobel Peace Prize might start looking awfully hollow.
Dr Dean White
SIR – I think that it would be madness for the West to engage militarily in Syria (Letters, August 24). It is not our fight. Who are we to police or take sides in any feuding Arab state, no matter how ghastly its civil war may appear to be?
There would also seem to be a continuing battle between Shia and Sunni that is not confined to any one state.
Henge ’n’ drivers
SIR – With predicted costs of HS2 continually rising, would an odd billion pounds be better spent putting the A303 in a tunnel at Stonehenge?
Flag flying made easy
SIR – You lament the flying of our national flag upside down (Leading article, August 23). I have come to the conclusion that the only remedy for this is to make all the white stripes the same width.
SIR – When I was living in Bahrain, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited and were having a walkabout. Like many British expats, I had taken a paper Union flag from the English-language newspaper and pinned it to my sunhat.
As the Duke was working the crowd, exchanging jokes so naturally, he spotted me and my beflagged hat and commented with a grin: “Look , here’s another one with his Union flag the wrong way up!”
Since that correction, I have never made the mistake again.
Proverbial woman without a husband
SIR – Juliet Dettmer (Letters, August 24) quotes a Xhosa proverb, “A man without a wife is like a vase without flowers,” and wonders what the equivalent would be for a woman without a husband.
May I suggest: “A woman without a husband is like a garden without a compost heap.”
There it is, quietly mouldering in a corner, but nevertheless doing a useful job.
Little Wymondley, Hertfordshire
SIR – A woman without a husband? A rose without a thorn.
SIR – A woman without a man is a vase of flowers without water.
SIR – I suggest, if it is not too neat: “like flowers unencumbered by a vase”.
SIR – A woman without a husband? Pat, my dear wife, had a one-word answer: “Happy”.
Richard J C English
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
SIR – After 42 happy years of marriage, I would suggest that the answer is: “A woman without a husband is like a motor-bike without an ashtray.”
SIR – A tooth without the ache!
Heather M Tanner
Earl Soham, Suffolk
SIR – Like a possessive without an apostrophe.
SIR – A sentence that has been used to improve care in the use of punctuation is: “A woman without her man is a savage.”
Where should the commas be placed?
SIR – A woman without a husband can always ask for directions.
Sir, – There has been significant comment and speculation in the media recently including an Irish Times Editorial (August 26th) regarding the amount of commercial rates likely to be payable by businesses in Dublin city in 2014 and beyond.
The total rates sum raised by Dublin City Council in 2013 was €341 million approximately, paid for by all rateable businesses in the city. The total annual cost of running the city is €811 million approximately; the balance is covered by earned income such as fees, rents and other charges, along with a central government grant of €50 million approximately.
There is a legal prohibition in the Valuation Acts precluding all local authorities from generating additional rates income in the year following the revaluation over and or above the figure generated in the previous year; Dublin City rates income is effectively capped at €341 million for 2014 and if matters follow the same pattern as our sister Dublin counties we can expect to lose a few million in 2014. As a result of this independent revaluation there will of course be some properties that pay more rates and some that pay less rates; again the experience in the surrounding Dublin counties was that between 50 per cent and 65 per cent of businesses paid less.
The rates payable by any business is calculated by multiplying two variables: 1. the rateable valuation of the individual property. 2. The annual rate in the euro set by the council for a specific year.
The rateable valuation of all commercial properties is set by the valuation office in a process that is totally independent of the City Council.
Over the past few years the Valuation Office updated the valuations of all commercial properties in the three surrounding Dublin county councils, Fingal, South Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, and this year it is the turn of Dublin City Council to be re-valued.
The current 2013 total valuation of the city is €5.6 million approximately and the rate in the euro is €60.88, which multiplied gives the total rates yield of €341 million approximately.
So contrary to the assertion in the Irish Times Editorial that “certainly it will raise significant revenue for the council”, it certainly will not raise a single extra euro and almost certainly there will be a material loss of income to the city of at least at few millions..
No calculations are yet done for the 2014 Budget and the rate in the euro has not been determined yet and it cannot be for 2014 until the Valuation Office completes its task; any suggested increases in rates bills can only be speculative, particularly as with the total revaluation of the city, all valuation are expected to increase, but as stated above there must be a compensating reduction in the rate in the euro so that the City only gets (at most) the same rates income as in 2013.
Finally, to answer the question posed at the start of your Editorial, City Council has a Jobs Strategy for the city. We have successively cut our rate in the euro for each of the last four years with the specific intention of reducing the burden on business.
However, the city must continue to be invested in if it is to be attractive to visit, work in and live in. The retail and hospitality sectors are particularly important to the city, but continued spend and investment such as the €10 million refurbishment of Grafton Street is required if the city is to prosper and the region is to continue to attract foreign direct investment.
With the imminent inclusion of the Local Enterprise Offices into City Council, we will be expanding our activity in the employment sphere. We are already working through the Creative Dublin Alliance with the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, government agencies and academia on promoting business enterprise including streamlining the start-up scenario for new businesses; and working with Google, Facebook and Paypal helping businesses have an effective online marketing presence; it is intended that this initiative will be mainstreamed across the country in the coming months.
Dublin City Council will continue to work with business to foster growth in employment and enterprise; without such growth the social, cultural, sporting and family life of the city can only suffer with stagnation and emigration. – Yours, etc,
Dublin City Manager,
Wood Quay, Dublin 8.
Sir, – Two nations, Ireland and Poland, failed to provide a dignified life for Henryk Piotrowski, a Polish man who came to Ireland hoping to find a better life for himself but instead ended up alone, homeless and finally crushed to death in a commercial waste pick-up truck (Home News, August 24th & 26th).
It is another moral scar on our society when such a preventable horrific death occurs while developers and bankers responsible for the strangulation of our economy still retain their high standards of living, even as they declare themselves technically “bankrupt”.
As a sign of respect, even in death, the Polish embassy should open a book of condolences for Henryk and our President and Taoiseach should be the first to sign, leading us all in mourning for a man who died without respect in life. – Yours, etc,
Malahide, Co Dublin.
Sir, – A bin for shelter in a European capital city, following millions spent over the past few years on numerous reports, conferences and strategies (Home News, August 24th & 26th).
Last week you reminded us of the death of Kevin Fitzpatrick at a waste recycling facility in Limerick in 2007 (Weekend Review, August 17th). Kevin was known to us, as you then reported. This week Henryk Piotrowski from Poland, also known to us, died in a bin – a bin full of trash. This happened in Dublin, Ireland’s capital city.
For too long now we in Trust have witnessed the plight of so many people from Eastern Europe, like our own people of a generation ago who sought work, shelter and hospitality around the world. The situation is now worse than it was when Trust (a social and health service for people who are homeless) was founded in 1975. The frustration and despair is tangible.
We meet on average people from 15-20 different countries, many of these people have made headlines because of the circumstances of their death. A facility, on the northside of Dublin city, however basic, offered accommodation to people for one week dependent on linking in to services to enable them return home. A letter from Dublin City Council was circulated on July 1st, 2013 to residents advising them that they could no longer stay for more than one night. Since then, they told us they sleep out, ringing the freefone constantly to access a bed – a “waste of time”. City councillors contacted didn’t even know of this facility or its rules.
We should bear in mind that people are entitled to shelter, even if not to social welfare.
The situation will continue while more planning takes place, far removed from suffering human beings. Planners can hide behind spin, satisfied with reports full of statistics (behind each one a human being) – not having to experience the pain, filth and despair.
Planners manage successfully to isolate, ignore and dismiss those who continue to say it as it is. No amount of spin can hide the fact that a young Polish man living in our country sought shelter in a bin in 2013. We should hang our heads in shame. Our thoughts too are with the Panda staff who made the shocking discovery. – Yours, etc,
Director & Co-Founder
Bride Road, Dublin 8.
Sir, – While citing many valid reasons for reforming Seanad Éireann (August 24th), Kieran Mulvey’s tipping point for abolition appears to be the 25 per cent rate of absenteeism in the hurriedly recalled Seanad chamber last week. Anyone familiar with Dáil debates seen on Oireachtas TV, or with their coverage on Irish TV news broadcasts, will know that the Dáil chamber is frequently almost empty, with absenteeism rates of 80 per cent or even more, to judge by appearances.
Applying the rationale of your letter writer, he should also be calling for the abolition of what seems to be a highly dysfunctional Dáil. It is becoming increasingly clear to many people that the whole Oireachtas is outmoded and outdated and needs radical reform. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I was chatting to God the other night and he asked me to confirm what Fr Con McGillicuddy wrote in his letter (August 26th).
He does indeed love those students who are too engrossed in their iPhones to believe in his existence. He also asked me to tell Fr McGillicuddy that He is actually a She and She loves gay people, divorcees, women who have terminations due to a threat to their lives and even Protestants as well. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I read Stephen Collins’s Opinion piece (August 24th) with increasing bafflement. Mr Collins wants the Irish people to honour the RIC and DMP who “guarded” the same people for a century. He suggests the RIC was on a par with current police forces as we know them today. Nothing could be further from the truth. The RIC had nothing in common with any other police force within the UK (as it was then constituted). It was the only armed police force and was more akin to a paramilitary force.
The list of atrocities carried out by the RIC/DMP include mass evictions; the murder of civilians in the Dublin Lockout; the shooting dead of the mayors of Cork and Limerick; the selection of the 1916 leaders for execution; and the shooting of prisoners. In my native Galway they are particularly remembered for the killing of Fr Michael Griffin, who they summoned on a fake mission of mercy before killing him and burying him in a bog. Also the murder of two brothers, Patrick and Harry Loughnane, who were dragged for miles behind lorries until they were unrecognisable.
And if we do commemorate this body we also include in this the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries who both served within the RIC as additional man power to suppress the insurgents. The figure of 500-plus RIC dead includes the numerous Black and Tans and Auxiliaries who were killed during the War of Independence. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It is not every week I get to read Stephen Collins’s column. I did however get to see his latest paean to “national reconciliation” and the desirability, as he would have it, to kiss and make up with the Royal Irish Constabulary, and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (Opinion, August 24th).
He tells us these gallant bodies of men “guarded us for nearly a century”. Could this, per chance, be the same DMP that exactly 100 years ago engaged in murderous attacks on Dublin workers during the Great Lockout? Oh, yes it could! In this month in 1913, at the beginning of that titanic struggle by the worker class to wrest a civilised living from the employers, our guardians launched an unprovoked attack on people heading to O’Connell Street from a meeting at Liberty Hall. This attack left 200 injured and James Nolan and John Byrne, both members of ITGWU, SIPTU’s predecessor, dead.
Ireland’s first Bloody Sunday followed, demonstrating another example of the DMP as our guardians. Mr Collins really should cop on and see that his Hobbesian view of society, and the role of the police in it, is codology of the purest water.
Police forces exist to guard the property and wealth of the ruling elite from encroachment by the rest of us, anything else they do is incidental to this. On the other hand, maybe I should stop reading Mr Collins’s drivel. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – On August 23rd my wife and I drove to Westport, Co Mayo, to cycle the very scenic Great Western Greenway route from Westport to Achill bridge. The warmth of interactions with those working in the tourism and hospitality sector is alive and well in the west, judging from our weekend visit. Our experience in Westport, and north of there, stands out from the patently mercenary hospitality we experience in our frequent foreign travels.
While cycling on Saturday we were soaked to the skin when persistent rain arrived halfway into our cycle journey. We, among other cyclists who stopped at the Dánlann Yawl Art Gallery cafe in Tóin re Gaoith, were handed clean towels to make our stop more comfortable. When my wife and I later arrived at the end of the cycle route at 3pm, she telephoned Clew Bay Bike Hire in Westport, explaining how she was wet and cold, and asking if there was any chance of being collected ahead of its shuttle bus at 5pm. Dave, a co-owner of the cycle hire company, suggested we enjoy a warm cup of coffee while he would immediately drive his car from Westport to collect us.
On the mainland side of the bridge to Achill Island we stepped in from the rain, in to the foyer of Óstán Oileán Acla. The owner of the hotel, Úna, on seeing how cold and wet my wife was, insisted we take a shower in a room of her hotel while she collected our soaked clothes and put them in a clothes dryer. May, a neighbour helping her on the day, “mothered” us and would not hand back our clothes until they were warm and dry. She protested we “would get pneumonia”, and insisted I take a warm sports shirt she had washed after some guest left it behind in the hotel. Warm and dried, we left the room that had to be prepared again for guests (in a hotel we were not even staying in!) – before being collected in a car driven specially 42 km from Westport to pick us up, at no charge.
My wife and I could not help contrasting the prevailing culture of spontaneous generosity we experienced in Mayo in one weekend with the impersonal and just-adequate service we have grown used to expect over many weeks abroad. Ireland of the Welcomes is alive and well in the west. – Is mise,
(Dr) SEÁN Ó MAOLÁIN,
* Has anybody ever thought that to the traditional string of political and economical doctrines and systems such as communism, socialism, Marxism, capitalism, etc, we may now add a new one – “bankism”?
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Child more than a digit
Tackle teen alcohol abuse
An opportunity for real reform
We are all the victims of those financial graphs they show us on the news on TV. All those graphs and set-ups behind them are the rulers of the world today, money being the supreme ruler.
We, in the so-called civilised western democracies, have become light years remote from the famous definition by German philosopher Immanuel Kant of democracy (and for that matter capitalism as its first hand-in-hand cousin) as “the summation of limitations of individual liberties for the common good”.
There is no more common good. There is only “my common good” or “my clique’s common good”.
The ordinary citizens – the little people, as it were – count for nothing in the big picture of banking, shareholders, bondholders, stock market, financial speculators and the likes.
Take Ireland, for example (and like Ireland a few other western democracies). The banks ruined the economy of this country and most of the perpetrators are still in office, still disproportionately remunerated and rewarded with end-of-the-year fat production bonuses, while we read in your paper that nearly 100,000 private households are at least three months behind with their mortgage repayments and that the amount of repossessions is significantly on the increase in spite of promises by the banks to meet these people half-way to solve their predicament and get a stagnating economy moving on.
Add this to the banks’ constipated lending attitudes and facilities, which are crippling private enterprise in an economy in need of growth, and you get the full picture of how banks are actually making the good and the bad weather in Ireland, the very same people who had a big part in the collapse of this economy.
One question should be asked. Weren’t the banks capitalised by the Government in 2008 with government, hence taxpayers’, money?
Therefore, shouldn’t the ordinary citizens, the taxpayers, have a say in all this? Why isn’t the Government seriously tackling what looks like bank despotism?
Concetto La Malfa Dublin 4
WELL SAID, MR O’DOHERTY
* Please allow me to congratulate Ian O’Doherty for his well-thought-out column in last Friday’s Irish Independent. Please allow me to add some comments regarding the subject, that Irish passports are not a get-out-of-jail card.
I would say that, by now, your correspondence falls clearly divided between those who feel he is the devil incarnate for even suggesting that some of those who apply for Irish citizenship or hold Irish passports may have these from expedience rather than any great wish to become citizens of this country, and those who will be inviting Mr O’Doherty to address the next meeting of the Irish version of the BNP.
But between these two extremes there exists those like myself who feel that maybe, just maybe, he is teasing a veritable hornets’ nest by even suggesting that a country like ours, with 400,000 unemployed, would not be the first choice for many of those who have the benefit of both Irish citizenship and Irish passports.
I am reminded of the lines from the D’Oyly Carte operetta ‘HMS Pinafore’, which goes: “For he might have been a Russian or French or Turk or Prussian or perhaps Italiannn . . . but in spite of all temptations to belong to other nations he remains an Englishman . . . ”
This was meant to be a send-up of the idea that somehow we had a choice in what nationality we have.
But fast-forward 100 years and the reality is that people can choose nationality, and Ireland would not be high on that menu of choices – but it is, it would seem, only insofar as it provides a stepping stone to more advantageous countries like Germany, the UK or France, and to some degree we are considered a softer touch when it comes to passports.
Which brings me to this point: if we are to go along with the fable that we are somehow an attractive option for asylum seekers, etc, then we have to lay out some very stark facts to those that we give the benefits of Irish nationality to. Nationality requires responsibility to one’s nation as well as access to its benefits.
The granting of Irish citizenship must mean more than the provision of mere travel documents. Irish citizens deserve to be treated equally, yes, but only if their allegiance is to this country and not to use Ireland as a safe haven from which to further political causes elsewhere.
* David Quinn’s column last Friday (‘West must stop ignoring the plight of persecuted Christians’) was worth the price of the Irish Independent alone. The issues raised in Mr Quinn’s pertinent piece beg the glaring question: why does our Taoiseach, allegedly a Christian himself, not speak out against the persecution and attacks against Coptic Christians that are taking place in Egypt?
Even if Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore is not inclined to speak out against Christian persecu-tion, I would expect Enda Kenny to speak out in the strongest terms.
John B Reid
Monkstown, Co Dublin
PICKING UP THE TAB
* In a recent issue of the Irish Independent, I noted that a bank lost €4m in repossessing and selling 17 houses. Following your revelations that 98,000 mortgages are in trouble, I set out to calculate the loss to the banks if they all dealt with the situation in this way. The result would be a loss of €23bn. Oh dear, who will pick up the tab? It will cast fear into the hearts of every taxpayer.
A SOLUTION IN SYRIA
* I believe one of the biggest steps forward in international relations has been the acceptance by Russia and Iran of the illegal use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil War.
I believe that their admissions and denunciations of the Syrian regime following the gas attacks have as much to do with getting revenge on a wayward “ally” as they have to do with simply admitting the truth of overwhelming evidence.
Yet I am not advocating that we beat our ploughshares into swords just yet. What we really need is to copy, effectively, how such regions were handled in the 1815-1914 period: great power diplomacy. Have the permanent members of the UN Security Council, regional powers like Turkey and Iran, members of the Assad regime and the opposition as well as representatives of the non-state actors like Hezbollah and al-Qa’ida, sit down in a room together and hammer out a solution.
If the great powers do not step in, who knows what kind of chilling acts will be committed.
* A couple of recent letters (Myles Duffy, August 22, and Desmond Fitzgerald, August 21) have emphasised the shortcomings of the Seanad as highlighted by its recent recall, citing these as reasons for justifying its abolition.
While the Seanad’s shortcomings can’t be denied, it needs to be stressed that the responsibility for these lies with the Government and the Dail, not with the Seanad itself.
Under the Constitution, the Seanad has no power to reform itself, only the Government and the Dail can do that.
More than a dozen proposals for Seanad reform have been put forward, all passed by the Seanad, but none has been acted upon by any Government. One can only ask, why?
Castletown, Co Meath