2 September 2013 Sorting books
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble there The admiral and Harold Wilson have come down to review the fleet but Captain Povey has forgotten to arrange it and do they review Nunky’s tug instead. Priceless.
I sort out Astrid and Micheals books, Shanti rings.
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and get just over 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.
Sir David Frost
Sir David Frost, who has died aged 74, began his career in television satirising the patrician Establishment and ended it with a knighthood, a duke as a father-in-law and a reputation as the television personality politicians on both sides of the Atlantic most wanted to be interviewed by.
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Sir David Frost Photo: ANDREW CROWLEY
12:10PM BST 01 Sep 2013
Frost made his name in the 1960s on the BBC’s late night satirical series That Was The Week That Was. With his sardonic manner, slurred diction, nasal voice and alarming surges in volume, he was the first to show that quirkiness and unnaturalness could work better on television than the “natural” but bland presentation that had been the norm.
He was also one of the first television presenters to recognise instinctively the value of a catchphrase as an indispensable prop in fixing a personality and establishing a rapport with television audiences. His tautological “Hello, good evening (or morning) and welcome” was delivered with a conscious air of self-parody long before he himself became a butt of the satirists.
Although Frost was only the link man to performers like Willie Rushton and John Bird, it was Frost, above all, who reaped the benefits of the programme’s notoriety.
From the early days of The Frost Report in the 1960s, and The Frost Programme in the 1970s, to Frost on Sunday in the 1990s, he was rarely off British television screens, appearing in everything from news and documentaries to chat shows, quiz shows and comedy. In total, Frost presented more than 20 television series, produced nine films, wrote 14 books, won numerous awards, and was a co-founder of London Weekend Television and TV-am. In 1969 a poll revealed that he was, after the Queen and the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, the best-known person in the country.
Frost had a genius for access, and he interviewed nearly everyone who was anyone, including six American Presidents, eight British Prime Ministers, several members of the Royal family and a galaxy of celebrities. He had a phenomenal memory and an instinctive understanding of the value of flattery; most of his interviewees considered themselves personal friends.
Frost ‘understood power and changing tastes’
01 Sep 2013
In Pictures: Sir David Frost
01 Sep 2013
Sir David Frost dies at the age of 74
01 Sep 2013
Frost extracts Nixon apology
01 Sep 2013
“The big names answer the phone to him”, observed an envious colleague. “Nobody else can phone the people he can and get through — and they’re pleased to talk to him.” “Now at last here’s someone I recognise” announced American President George HW Bush across a crowd of leading British public figures held at No 10 Downing Street. At the Frosts’ annual garden party, held in the second week of the Wimbledon championships, leading politicians would rub shoulders with showbusiness personalities, sports stars and minor royals.
Frost also had a Panglossian ability to look on the bright side. Though he had failures that might have sunk a more introspective personality, he was always able to put them behind him.
Both LWT and TV-am began with hopelessly unrealistic programming ambitions and both hit trouble soon after they were launched. Most of his books earned indifferent reviews and several business ventures failed. An attempt to open a chain of steak houses in Japan collapsed after it was calculated that he would need to fill every table six times a day to make it pay.
But unlike television figures such as Michael Parkinson or Russell Harty, Frost was never held in great affection by the British public, possibly because he always seemed so desperate to be liked. Even friends admitted that away from the cameras there was a strange insubstantiality about the man.
Kitty Muggeridge famously remarked that after That Was The Week That Was, Frost was expected to sink without trace; instead, he “rose without trace”. The phrase seemed to encapsulate both the suddenness of Frost’s rise and the lack of any obvious intellectual anchorage in his career.
For Frost never appeared to have any considered views about life. He was never heard to utter a political opinion and never voted in an election. Interviewers asking direct questions about his personal feelings on an issue would be fobbed off with anecdotes about what someone else had said. They were often left with the impression that Frost was not interested in anything other than his own career.
Not even in the lengthy first volume of his autobiography did Frost provide any insights. He knew the rich and famous, but had nothing interesting or original to say about them. He travelled the world, but his most interesting observations were that Americans eat hamburgers and call pavements “sidewalks”.
Christopher Booker, a Cambridge contemporary, saw him as an embodiment of all that was vacuous about the 1960s: “a hollow man in pursuit of fame for its own sake”. His most obvious quality, Booker observed in a savage profile in 1977, “was ambition of an all consuming and extraordinary kind. He simply wanted to be amazingly famous for being David Frost”.
Yet even Booker found him “impossible to dislike”. Though he had an insatiable appetite for celebrity, he was never arrogant or vain. Wholly devoid of rancour, he was never heard to voice a disparaging word about anyone, despite many attempts by interviewers to get him to do so. People in his estimation were usually “wonderful”, “lovely” “or “super”.
One person on whom Frost’s charm failed to work was the satirist and comedian Peter Cook. At Cook’s memorial service in 1995, Stephen Fry recalled an occasion when Frost rang Cook to invite him to dinner with Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson: “big fans … be super if you could make it — Wednesday the 12th”. “Hang on, I’ll check my diary,” said Cook, riffling through the pages. “Oh dear, I find I’m watching television that night.” Frost, who was in the congregation, laughed with the rest of them. Even for those who turned against him, Frost had only kind words in return.
David Paradine Frost was born on April 7 1939 at Tenterden, Kent, the son of a Methodist minister, the Rev WJ Paradine Frost. As his sisters were 14 and 16 years older, he was raised as an only child. There was no alcohol or swearing in the Frost household, and no Sunday newspapers or television.
The Frost family lived a peripatetic life, moving from Tenterden to Kempston, Bedford, then back to Kent, to Gillingham, then to Raunds, near Wellingborough. David attended Gillingham and Wellingborough grammar schools. His father would have liked him to follow him into the ministry, but David’s talents seemed destined to take him in other directions.
At school he excelled at sports and displayed an early talent for satire, selling his classmates bottles of soapy water labelled “Bill Haley’s Bathwater” and conducting pseudonymous campaigns through the letters column of the local paper, one of which called for all dogs to be shot.
Frost could have been a star striker for Nottingham Forest. A club scout was present when he scored eight goals with eight shots at a school match, and offered to sign him up. But Frost was determined to go to Cambridge, where he arrived in 1958 as an undergraduate at Gonville and Caius.
At Cambridge, Frost got to know Peter Cook, Eleanor Bron, John Bird, Jonathan Miller and other stars of what was to become the Sixties satire industry; but although he edited Granta and became secretary of Footlights, his contemporaries were baffled by his ability to rise above an apparent lack of comic talent and intellectual depth. “What the hell has he got?” Christopher Booker recalled asking.
One thing his contemporaries noticed was Frost’s utter imperviousness to disaster. Peter Cook once recalled seeing him dying on his feet at a club but remaining convinced his performance had been a great success.
Frost’s first screen appearance came during his student days on Anglia Television’s Town And Gown series, on which Frost, according to the local paper, made “unrestrained appearances as an explorer, Professor Nain, Lionel Sope, Goalie Finn and Ron Plindell”. But Frost immediately knew he had found his métier. “The first time I stepped into a television studio,” he recalled later, “it felt like home. It didn’t scare me. Talking to the camera seemed the most natural thing in the world”.
Down from Cambridge, he took job with Associated-Rediffusion, who marked him down as “totally unsuitable” to appear on screen, and supplemented his income by performing in nightclubs. In 1962, Frost was doing an impersonation of the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in a two-month stint at the Blue Angel in Upper Berkeley Street when he was spotted by Ned Sherrin, who was looking for a linkman for his new BBC series That Was The Week That Was, sometimes referred to as TW3. Sherrin decided that Frost was exactly the man to bring satire to the late night mass television audience, and signed him up there and then.
The first TW3 show went out in November 1962, and the series continued for just eight months. Condemned by Mary Whitehouse as “the epitome of what is wrong with the BBC”, by its peak, the show had become a ratings sensation, attracting more than 12 million viewers.
After his early success with TW3, Frost’s career seemed to falter. “David Frost: A short life and a sad decline” announced the Daily Express gleefully in 1964. But he soon demonstrated his extraordinary talent for bouncing back. In 1966, after being sacked from TW3’s lacklustre successor Not So Much A Programme, More A Way of Life, he sent out invitations to a totally pointless but ostentatious champagne breakfast at the Connaught to which he summoned most of the headline figures of the 1960s. Amazingly, many took the bait, among them Harold Wilson, the Bishop of Woolwich, the philosopher AJ Ayer, Lord Longford, and several newspaper proprietors. It was a brilliant publicity stroke which, while it left his guests baffled, catapulted the 26-year-old Frost from a face in the TW3 line-up to a marketable celebrity.
The following year he orchestrated and secured the franchise for LWT, of which The Frost Programme became a cornerstone. In 1968 he signed a £125,000 contract with an American network for a three-nights-a-week show, the biggest salary ever offered to a British broadcaster. So began three years of transatlantic to-ing and fro-ing, invariably on Concorde. Honours were heaped upon him. In one week in 1969 he was appointed OBE in Britain, made a Doctor of Laws in Boston and given a “Faith and Freedom” award for “communicating the relevance of Judaeo-Christian ethics to 20th century America”. In 1968 he set up his own company, David Paradine Productions, and by 1969 his salary was rumoured to be £500,000.
At the height of his fame during the 1960s, Frost enjoyed a reputation for aggressive and fearless interviewing. He eviscerated Rupert Murdoch on the subject of pornography in an interview so hostile that it was said to have contributed to Murdoch’s decision not to live in Britain. He stood his ground against the formidable Enoch Powell in an interview on the subject of racism.
In 1967 Frost conducted what was perhaps his most notorious interview with the disgraced insurance fraudster Emil Savundra. When Savundra’s trial began a week later, the phrase “trial by television” was used by Savundra’s defending counsel to excoriate Frost.
Frost became a symbol of Sixties glamour, dynamism and irreverence. In his survey of the decade, The Pendulum Years (1970), Bernard Levin anointed him “Man of the Sixties”. Frost, he said, “divined by a remarkable instinct what the age demanded and gave it”. Newspaper diarists delighted in documenting his dalliances with actresses and models He was engaged twice but dumped both times, virtually at the altar; all his girlfriends, he always insisted, were “ terrific” and “wonderful” and most remained friends.
During the Seventies his career seemed to falter again. His output remained copious, but in series such as David Frost Presents the Guinness Book of Records (he bought the television rights to the world’s bestselling book in 1973), he began to lose focus.
His appearances on British television became more sporadic. Then, in 1977, he secured perhaps the biggest coup of his career by signing up the disgraced former American President Richard Nixon to an exclusive contract to give a series of four interviews; it was the first time since his resignation that Nixon had agreed to answer questions on the record.
Deceptively easy-going at first, almost at the end Frost moved in for the kill, and Nixon found himself apologising to the American public for the first time for his role in the Watergate affair. Frost packaged and sold the interviews to nearly every country in the world, and the interviews achieved the largest audience for a news interview in the history of television.
Having established himself again at the centre of world affairs, in 1981 Frost married Lynne Frederick, the widow of the actor Peter Sellers, but the marriage ended in failure 18 months later. In 1984 he married Lady Carina Fitzalan-Howard, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk. It was, by all accounts, a conspicuously happy union.
Frost was one of the “famous five” who launched TV-am during the early 1980s, but the only one to survive the debacle when the other four were axed in March 1983. “He’s competent, he’s professional and he has the best address book in the world” enthused Bruce Gyngell, who took over as managing director. “ He’s always on the up, he’ll greet you positively and say: ‘Hello Sunshine, how are you going? Lovely to see you.’ He’s quite irresistible.”
In the 1990s Frost could be seen in Britain interviewing heads of state on TV-am’s Frost on Sunday, spying on the rich and not quite famous in Through the Keyhole, as well as chronicling the bizarre in The Spectacular World of Guinness Records. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, he could be seen quizzing more heads of state on Talking With Frost.
As Frost became more of an Establishment figure, opinions were divided on whether he offered television viewers anything more than the interviewing equivalent of Hello! magazine. “What is the real thing you want to get across?” and “How would you like to be remembered?” were typical of the sort of questions which politicians could expect to be asked. It was hardly surprising that they queued up to be on his shows.
Yet at the same time some politicians were said to view him as the most dangerous inquisitor of them all, a man who would lull the interviewee into a false sense of security before bowling a googly. In 1986, the Conservative Party chairman was coaxed into dismissing a riot at a boxing match as mere “exuberance”, undermining his government’s “get tough” policy on hooligans.
In 1987 the Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, dropped his guard when asked as a unilateralist whether he would be willing to send “our boys” into battle in an army equipped with short range tactical nuclear weapons. Kinnock thought not, on the whole, because Britain could always put up resistance on the home front. The press seized on this as Kinnock calling for a latter- day Dad’s’ Army to see off the nuclear threat.
Frost himself believed he got more out of his subjects by being nice to them and felt that the impact of interviews was more compelling and sometimes chilling done conversationally than as a courtroom confrontation: “There’s little point weighing into the interviewee from the start. Much better to let him damn himself out of his own mouth, then you’ve got the ammunition you need.”
David Frost was knighted in 1993.
He and his wife had three sons.
Sir David Frost, born April 7 1939, died August 31 2013
As a beekeeper of 11 years I was really worried to read your article about former Happy Mondays dancer Mark “Bez” Berry’s “embrace of apiarism” (Beekeeping: It’s a natural buzz for Bez, 29 August). It gives misleading information and encourages people to begin beekeeping without learning the basics first. It also implies that there is plenty of money to be made, which is rarely true – and never without a lot of time and hard work.
Berry is quoted as saying that “you don’t need to pay a fortune” – but to be successful, a beekeeper needs at least two hives and spare equipment too for coping with swarms etc. Has he studied the Defra info about diseases? Does he know which ones are notifiable, and how to sterilise equipment to avoid their spread? The spores of American foulbrood can survive in secondhand equipment for 20 years or more! How does he treat for varroa mites? If he doesn’t treat he could be a liability to other beekeepers in his area.
People who begin beekeeping in an impulsive way often give up after a year or two when their bees die out and they become disheartened. Experienced beekeepers are usually reluctant to give swarms or colonies to such people as we all want our bees to go to a good home. They end up buying bees unsuited to local conditions from disreputable importers, which makes their survival less likely.
It takes many years to learn the skills of beekeeping – to just start up is irresponsible and disastrous for the bees. Berry should join his local beekeeping association and register on Beebase.
Bromley Beekeepers Association (a Branch of Kent Beekeepers)
My husband and I arrived at the same conclusion simultaneously on Friday evening, that Cameron achieved exactly the outcome on Syria that he wanted: the appearance of moral probity and the desire to punish Assad together with the inability to proceed because of his apparent cack-handed handling of parliament.
• In a small town on the eastern coast of Northern Ireland is a painted clock face on a small tower (Letters, 29 August). I see it often enough to be quite sure that it is repainted twice yearly – when the clocks go back and when they go forward!
• The damning review “Biggest asp disaster in the world” was not Kenneth Tynan’s (Letter, 31 August). It was Derek Malcolm’s review and the catchy title was added by Guardian subeditor John Hull.
• As a long-term member of the Green party, I’ve always agreed with its policy to support local shops and businesses. What a disappointment then that the party’s leader, Natalie Bennett, allowed herself to be interviewed in Costa Coffee (Green dreaming, 31 August). Couldn’t she find a local independent coffee shop?
• When your great-granddaughter makes you a friendship bracelet, you are just the right age to wear one (Ask Hadley: ‘How old is too old to wear friendship bracelets?’, G2, 27 August).
Melissa Kite says that some people who argue against the badger cull are anthropomorphic, hypocritical, confused and naive (They’re killable and they’re cute, 29 August). Possibly, although Animal Aid’s experience is that they are motivated by compassion.
Instead of criticising the arguers, we should be looking at the arguments, and the main one is that the government’s own independent scientific group on bovine TB stated that badgers are not a significant cause of the problem. Therefore, the cull will not work, and may even make matters worse, as infected badgers in the culling area who are not killed may still be disturbed and therefore move to areas that had been disease-free.
Kite also suggests that animal campaigners should campaign against the huge amount of suffering caused by animal farming, instead of against the badger cull. At Animal Aid, we do both, and intend to carry on doing so.
Development manager, Animal Aid
• Between 1998 and 2005, 11,000 badgers were cage-trapped and killed in a series of scientific trials. A report submitted in 2007 to David Miliband, then secretary of state for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, concluded that “badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain”. Indeed, it warned that culling led to increased infection among badger colonies and the spread of the disease to previously uninfected areas.
The report also stated that a culling policy “would incur costs that were between four and five times higher than the economic benefits gained”, and concluded that it would be more cost-effective to improve cattle control measures. In the light of all this, shouldn’t our government to follow the example of the Welsh government and carry out a programme of vaccination, whatever the current uncertainties? Westminster’s policy is inhumane and ineffective.
• Whether Melissa Kite is right or wrong about the need to kill badgers, she has got organic farming completely wrong. Organic farming does not mean no antibiotics for animals that are sick, like a cow with mastitis, as she claims. Indeed, organic standards require organic farmers to treat animals quickly and effectively, including if necessary with antibiotics. What organic standards do not allow is the routine use of antibiotics on animals to try and stop them becoming ill because of the conditions they are kept in.
Policy director, Soil Association
• I am an 84-year-old retired veterinary surgeon who worked in an agricultural practice covering Somerset and Gloucestershire. The first five years of my professional life was spent helping to eradicate TB in cattle; hard, slogging work six days a week. The result was that by the late 1960s the disease had pretty well disappeared. But then two other factors came into play: first, the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food decided to increase the intervals between tests and, second, in 1973 badgers became protected.
I should point out that, though I was a country lad, the only badger I had ever seen was stuffed in a museum. But by the late 1970s badgers began to appear and the number seen dead on the road was significant. The badger population increased, and so did the number of tuberculous cows. And now we have this terrible situation.
Something has to be done; but first we have to persuade the Badger Trust and its allies that a cow’s life is at least as important as a badger’s, and that on the balance of probabilities badgers are a significant reservoir of infection and their numbers have to be greatly reduced if we are to control the disease in cattle.
Of course, we all enjoy the sight of badgers, but remember it’s not easy unless you spend time quietly watching a sett after dark or rely on TV footage, whereas with cows, a pleasant drive or walk in the country during summer allows us all to admire these patient animals grazing or chewing their cud.
Culling badgers will be a long, slow process, but I believe that attempting to vaccinate them will be almost impossible.
For once, I feel proud that the MPs have done the right thing and stopped Cameron’s lunatic proposed Syrian adventure. Hopefully the Commons vote will influence other Nato countries not to intervene in Syria as well – who knows, if we are lucky, maybe even the US?
A few USAF bombings in Syria now would be the start of yet another long US military escalation until, years down the line, the Americans finally give up and pull out, leaving the country – as in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan – in a worse shape than when they first went in. It is a recurring pattern. Why cannot the American ruling class see it?
I spent many years working with the American military in Europe and I was constantly appalled that so many ordinary Americans believe, deep in their psyche, that there is no problem, however fluid and complex, which cannot be solved by the simple application of sufficient American force.
This gunslinger mentality, so much a deep-rooted feature of American culture, is the fundamental cause of so many of the world’s problems.
Chris Payne, Lipa, The Philippines
Thanks to the white-flag wavers, Assad now has a licence to bomb and gas with impunity.
The white-feather brigade have let down our country and sentenced the children of Syria to further chemical warfare, at least for those unable to escape to a refugee camp over the border. I hope the likes of Diane Abbott and Nigel Farage are proud of themselves.
David Cameron and John Kerry are in the right, but the pause provides an opportunity to put the unavoidable intervention on a correct footing and seek UN ratification.
The only way to do so is to put forward a no-fly zone to lock down Syrian airspace, a solution that might prove amenable even to the Russians and Chinese. This time it must not be used as a facade for regime change and an oil grab. Let Syria’s future be shaped by its own people, not by the the cruise missile and the multinational.
Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Middlesex
So this craven British cop-out risks reducing us to the status of a minor power, a mere bit-player.
Exactly what we are, in fact, and have been for rather a long time. So let’s now major on our real strengths, as a rare example of a reasonably civilised, intelligent, non-hysterical, non-bomb-obsessed democracy.
Jim Bowman, South Harrow, Middlesex
Last Thursday’s vote on Syria in the Commons was a victory for democracy, good sense and the British people. Why is the Labour leader, who brought it about, not shouting this from the rooftops?
And why, please, is acting in accordance with the majority view of the electorate being described in some quarters as a “fiasco”? This is precisely the way in which Parliament should operate, yet so rarely does.
Mike Timms, Iver, Buckinghamshire
This country finally forgot the so-called special relationship. It reached a decision that was morally and politically correct. It reached that decision in the correct way. I am proud of my country.
Robert Davies, London SE3
David Cameron badly miscalculated; lack of preparation, lack of explanation of the post-intervention strategy, and not waiting for the UN inspectors to report (as in Iraq) sealed his shameful fate.
But governments are there to lead their people, not to follow; Paddy Ashdown is right that this was a shameful day for the UK’s standing in the world.
Ed Miliband speaks no more for me than he does for the victims of Assad; Miliband’s cynical politics will come back to haunt him in the long run.
S Carey, London SW16
We must stop pretending that the UN is capable of resolving Syria’s agony. The pattern of urgent declarations and no action while Assad slaughters thousands with impunity is shameful.
Have refugee cities and chemical massacres of children become so familiar that they seem acceptable now to preserve the Middle East’s “balance of power”?
Brian Devlin, Galashiels, Scottish Borders
Where do Thursday’s votes in Parliament on military intervention in Syria leave the British position in the UN Security Council? Do we now have to join Russia and China in voting against military intervention, leaving the US and France in a minority position?
Graham Rowlinson, Ryde, Isle of Wight
So now it’s the French and not the British who will be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Americans in their military adventures. Margaret Thatcher must be spinning in her grave.
Ivor Yeloff, Norwich
Cycling really is dangerous
It isn’t because I am a pedestrian first and motorist second that I think that your leader (31 August) is ridiculously complacent.
You say that cycling isn’t inherently dangerous. But in a busy metropolis where there is mingling of cycles with motor vehicles, I’m afraid it is. This is compounded by the way very many cyclists, as Laura Trott says, ignore traffic laws and not only put themselves in danger but forfeit the respect of other road users. This includes pedestrians who are put at risk by cyclists ignoring panda crossings.
A helmet law is, in principle, no different to a seat belt law. And a law that cyclists have to obey would be a welcome change.
Michael Dempsey, London E1
Mira Bar-Hillel’s column (26 August) was a refreshing bit of rational discourse, giving the lie to Lord Rogers’ previous tirade. The Taliban wing of the Modernist movement always gets hysterical whenever its hegemony is challenged.
As Ms Hillel correctly points out, the London skyline shows how little sway HRH actually has over what gets built in contemporary England. But just the fact that Prince Charles had a bit of input on merely a couple of projects where Rogers’ co-believers in Modernism lost out is enough to get Lord Rogers frothing at the mouth over Charles’s heresy. Religious fanaticism is a wonder to behold.
Clem Labine, Founding Editor, Traditional Building Magazine, Brooklyn, New York
When a burka is not acceptable
The judge who ruled against a young woman wearing a burka in court was simply treating her as he would anyone coming before him.
In our society religion does not hold sway either in politics or in the law, though it is rightly given due respect within a secular context. This means that there are limits on all our behaviours which from time to time might cut across a cherished belief or way of life.
Hiding one’s face in public is and always has been subject to question in this country. A person wearing a mask, motorcycle helmet, hoodie, or heavily veiled hat will be challenged in a variety of situations for reasons of openness, security or common courtesy. A burka is similarly unacceptable in certain circumstances, although it is generally tolerated in day-to-day life.
I don’t underestimate the pain it might cause a woman to remove it in public, and neither do I suggest that its removal is sought in an insensitive way, but I do suggest that respect within society is a two-way process. In this case, respect for the laws and customs of a free, open society which supports the right of veiled women to practise their faith unmolested, a right that comes not least from the openness of our courts.
Paula Jones, London SW20
How to revive the High Street
Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, is quite right to target parking as one of the main causes of the “death of the British High Street”. The solution that he and Mary Portas, David Cameron’s High Street rejuvenator, need has to be radical.
Parking should be free at all times. To compensate for the loss of revenue to councils, shopkeepers should pay something like a penny in the pound of their turnover to their local council. This they will not mind doing because of the dramatic increase in footfall and sales.
Let retail park businesses that have benefited from free parking and easy access locations pay two pence in the pound of their turnover to their local council.
Now we have a level playing field for all, and a rejuvenated high street economy, able to compete more reasonably with the internet and out-of-town retail parks.
Anthony Barnett, Kings Lynn, Norfolk
Women at work
In my beloved Catholic Church we women often call for a crack in the glass ceiling. As demonstrated in the picture of apple-picking at Ampleforth Abbey (30 August), we do expect to take our part in the work that needs to be done. However, your caption names only the three monks in the picture. Who is that shadowy figure in blue apparently picking apples? Women of the world call for their work to be recognised.
Dr Gemma Stockford, Hassocks, West Sussex
Obviously Roger Thomas (letter, 30 August) has never eaten in any hospital canteens. I have had the dubious pleasure of using several of these recently and was shocked at the very poor quality of the food. It seemed solely to consist of pasties, chips and pies, with no effort to serve anything remotely wholesome or healthy. Doctors and visitors alike deserve better than this.
Angela Robertson, Redhill, Surrey
So David Irving reaches martyr status (“The hate that dare not speak its name”, 31 August), It is sad to learn that he still enjoys the quiet life. He also overlooks the fact that the demented Nazis murdered not only Jews but more than a million non-Jewish Germans and Austrians, among them my father
Willem Jaspert, London W9
In the speculation about whether Britain’s standing in the world has been damaged we must not lose sight of the main objective
Sir, Your editorial “Lessons of Defeat” (Aug 31) was scathing of Parliament’s decision not to take military action against Syria, but ignored the fact that it was a fair reflection of the British people’s concern, as expressed through their MPs. There is probably no one in the country who would not condemn the use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians; the issue was whether raining missiles on Syria could in any way prevent this happening again and might actually make the situation even worse.
In the speculation about whether Britain’s standing in the world has been damaged by the decision we must not lose sight of the main objective: to end the suffering of the Syrian people. This could never be achieved by military intervention. The only way forward is painstaking diplomacy to isolate Russia and to try to bring China on-side. It is telling that the much-vaunted EU diplomatic service seems to have nothing worthwhile to say on the crisis, and Germany has expressly distanced itself from military action. If the French want to look tough it is probably for political reasons which have little to do with finding a long-term solution for Syria.
The coalition Government certainly mismanaged last week’s vote, but having made the right decision for the wrong reasons we should now take the lead in building the alliances and actions necessary to achieve a peaceful outcome in Syria which does not alienate large parts of the Middle East and unite disparate factions in condemnation of yet another ill-judged Western intervention.
Sir, In company with many others I find it very difficult to know what action Britain should take towards Syria, so I envy your leader writer’s absolute certainty about what is right and wrong. However, I cannot allow your leader writer’s primary concern for our reputation as “a reliable ally” to pass unchallenged. Is jumping into line with the Americans really more important than reaching a considered and independent view about taking military action?
Moreover, our “interventionist tradition” only started with Tony Blair; one of Harold Wilson’s most significant achievements was refusing the US request for British troops to join the war in Vietnam.
Sir, Might we ask Janice Turner (Notebook, Aug 29) whether she thinks that we should now “walk by on the other side” saying that it’s nothing to do with us? Or send a message to Assad telling him that he can go ahead and gas as many of his own children as he likes? Should we play it safe and continue our wailing as to how horrid it all is and that we wish the issue would go away and leave us in peace?
It’s a dreadful decision to have to take but take it we must; appeasement has a fearful history.
Rear Admiral Conrad Jenkin
West Meon, Hants
Sir, We are failing to tackle the real lesson of Syria, that of the failure of the UN. The UN should be the moral conscience of the world and be able to act decisively. It is high time that the veto of the five permanent members of the UN Secuity Council was dismantled. What right does a single country have to impose its national interest at the expense of the rights of humanity?
Sir, Like so many modern politicians, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, does not appreciate the implications of his lack of understanding of history. France might indeed be the “oldest ally” of the US but it hardly augurs well for the future (report, Aug 31). I seem to remember that the episode to which he refers led to our capture of Washington DC, the burning of The White House and our defeat of Napoleon.
Roger H. Vincent
Sir, John Kerry’s repeated use of rhetoric (“We know”) instead of giving hard evidence on Syria’s use of chemical weapons suggests that his interpretation of intelligence briefings may prove to be as partial and cavalier as his view of Franco-American history.
Professor David Thomas
The UK’s leadership helped to set down legal protections in the European Convention on Human Rights 60 years ago
Sir, Tomorrow will see an important anniversary in our country’s proud tradition of respecting the rule of law and fundamental rights, one which will be marked by the Law Society and the British Institute of Human Rights. Yet this “other jubilee” is one too few know about.
The European Convention on Human Rights is turning 60. We believe that six decades of ensuring respect for fundamental freedoms for more than 800 million people across 47 countries is an occasion to celebrate.
Rather than generating rafts of litigation against the UK, the very few cases that have reached the European Court of Human Rights have led to important and lasting changes: curbing stop and search powers, promoting equal treatment of same sex couples, regulating state surveillance, upholding the global prohibition on torture, limiting indefinite retention of biometric data and ensuring safeguards to protect children and vulnerable adults.
Beyond our borders, the convention has meant decriminalisation of homosexual acts in Ireland, measures to prohibit discrimination against children born outside marriage in Belgium and recognising freedom of religion in Moldova.
All too often the loudest voices in our debates focus on decrying the convention and its court. There is little recognition of the many ways in which the convention has helped to build fairer and more cohesive countries across Europe, including the UK.
The UK’s leadership helped to set down legal protections of our fundamental human rights and freedoms; UK lawyers were at the forefront of drafting the law, and the UK was the first country to ratify the convention. Rather than squandering the legacy our postwar leaders worked so hard to build, now is the time to recognise and secure our human rights heritage. We must celebrate the convention, including its British roots, and ensure it continues to exist to safeguard our rights and the rule of law.
President, the Law Society of England and Wales
Sir Nicolas Bratza
President, the British Institute of Human Rights; former president, the European Court of Human Rights
Focusing on the need for capacity would allow HS2 to follow existing transport corridors which proved to be the solution for HS1
Sir, Daniel Knowles (Thunderer, Aug 29) is correct in identifying that capacity is the best argument in support of HS2. Unfortunately the politicians and the engineers are pursuing other lines of thinking. Focusing on the need for capacity would allow HS2 to follow existing transport corridors which proved to be the solution for many of HS1’s early difficulties. Such a solution would remove much of the current opposition and reduce the cost by between 20 and 30 per cent.
The only downside is a reduction in speed from 350kph, but our country’s geography does not demand speeds in excess of 300kph.
Sir, I travelled on business from London Euston to Birmingham last week. On the way up, Virgin had substituted a five-carriage diesel train for the usual long Pendolino, but there were spare standard seats nonetheless. Returning in the early afternoon there were never more than ten passengers in first class, of which three carriages are usually provided.
I accept that the summer season thins business travel, but the West Coast Main Line is not “full”, as Peter Richardson (letter, Aug 29) correctly attests.
Seaford, E Sussex
In May it was reported that a third of government projects are late or over-budget and now it is revealed that the HS2 scheme will be too
Sir, It is disappointing to see Whitehall being again accused of poor performance and ineffective reforms (report, Aug 29). This highlights once more the need for a far stronger culture of performance management. Any successful organisation relies on a relentless focus on efficiency and effective decision-making — and the UK government should be no different.
In May it was reported that a third of government projects are late or over-budget. And now it is revealed that the HS2 scheme is expected to cost more than £70 billion. Improved performance management can be the remedy that reverses this trend and halts the spiralling costs.
Non-executive directors and professionally qualified accountants have been brought in to improve management information, and Whitehall must now listen to the “best practice” ideas on offer.
Chief executive, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
There is nothing thrifty in wearing the same clothes twice. Some people have to wear clothes more than once — and even have to launder them
Sir, In response to Laura Craik’s article (Aug 31), the Duchess of Cambridge should be commended for recycling her clothes. There is nothing thrifty in wearing the same clothes twice. How long before the press is wittering about how much the Duchess is spending? I’d remind the fashion press that some people have to wear clothes more than once . . . and even have to launder them.
Sir, Interesting as it is to welcome back the Duchess of Cambridge to public service, complete with descriptions and photos of her recycled wardrobe and its sources, it would perhaps also seem appropriate, in the interest of balance, to note that the Prince was attired with pre-worn beige corduroys, moccasin shoes, and a sky-blue sweater over some unidentifiable shirt. He too appears to have withstood the traumas of the birth and retained his figure.
Saffron Walden, Essex
SIR – David Cameron’s humiliating Parliamentary defeat over Syria should herald his resignation as Prime Minister. Mr Cameron is decent enough and right on many issues. However, his call to arms was flatly rejected, and by many of his own MPs – seriously undermining his and by dint Britain’s international standing.
Mr Cameron cast the political dice – and lost – on an all-important issue. His premiership now resembles that of Chamberlain’s and Eden’s, both of whom had the courage to do the right thing.
SIR – The purpose and objective of the limited strikes articulated by David Cameron displayed nothing but the qualities of true leadership. This was not another Iraq war. The national interests of Britain and the worthy reputation of its armed forces, as a force for good, would have been served much better had Parliament voted otherwise.
Either way, it remains a moral victory for Cameron for having the courage to spearhead the international efforts to stand up to Assad.
What’s happened to the radio station we listened to and loved?
01 Sep 2013
Dr Lu’ayy Minwer Al Rimawi
SIR – I would like to thank those brave Tory and Lib Dem MPs who stood up to the party machines and supported the public’s view over Syria. No matter how the vote is glossed over, this issue reveals that David Cameron and William Hague cannot be trusted to reflect the will of the people.
This latest debacle is one of many poor judgments that will destroy the Tories at the next election.
D M Watkins
SIR – When was the last time we had a Prime Minister who listened to the people and accepted their overwhelming desire not to be involved in another fiasco?
Far from losing face, Mr Cameron has shown a rare courage to do what he was elected to do – implement the wishes of the electorate. I, for one, commend him for it, and will remember this at the next election.
Brighton, East Sussex
SIR – The chemical weapons attack in Syria would never have happened had the UN stood up to Bashar al-Assad when he first started slaughtering his own people.
Time and time again, the UN has demonstrated its unwillingness to take any timely, meaningful action until small, manageable brush fires have grown into out-of-control forest fires.
Assad may have launched the chemical weapons attack but he did so assuming he had the green light from the rest of the world – once again proving the old adage that for evil to flourish it only requires good men to stand by and do nothing.
SIR – Our sound bite approach to politics, as always, fails to release mature and measured action. Yes, the country’s wish has prevailed – not to become embroiled in military action in the Middle East. But the country has not declared any lack of revulsion with the use of gas.
Rather than bewail the lack of military action, politicians – led by our Prime Minister – should now be seeking more humanitarian responses that make the unacceptability of the use of gas quite clear.
Power can be exercised in more ways than rattling sabres.
Lt Col Charles Holden (retd)
SIR – The House of Commons has taken leave of its senses by rejecting the Government’s proposed support for any US led strikes in Syria.
The damage caused to the special relationship with our most reliable ally, America, is incalculable.
SIR – We now need to determine what response there should really be to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Should it be proven that Assad’s forces acted illegally, then the case should be referred to the International Criminal Court.
And, to show that international law is not just something that we use on foreigners, we should send them Tony Blair as well.
Commemorating Britain’s war heroes
SIR – The idea that those born before the First World War in the British Empire but outside Britain should be regarded as “foreign born” is bizarre (“VC heroes snubbed by Whitehall”, report, August 25), but it is not the first time that those devising tests of British nationality have got it badly wrong.
Baroness Northchurch noted in 1971 that five generations of her family had been born successively in Madras, and as a result the latest in the line would forfeit British citizenship.
To brand those born to families serving in the Empire, but not rooted in this country, as “foreign” is an anachronism. That would be to brand Kipling as a “foreigner” and distinguished Cabinet ministers like Leo Amery and Rab Butler as men who should not be commemorated in Britain.
Etchingham, East Sussex
SIR – I am concerned to read about the lack of respect shown to our brave Victoria Cross heroes who were born abroad. Surely a place can be found, for example, round the Cenotaph, to place paving stones to overseas holders of this prestigious award.
SIR – Over the coming year we shall be treated to much moralistic hand-wringing over Britain’s role in the Great War, of which your correspondent, Nicholas Nelson (Letters, August 25), provides a good example. It is very apt that Matthew d’Ancona’s article (“The question Syria asks us: what sort of country are we?”, Opinion, August 25) appeared on the opposite page.
In August 1914, the German Empire asked our grandfathers this very question in regard to Belgium. They answered it; and they answered it again four years later, when the Germans, having conquered vast areas of eastern Europe, demanded the Low Countries be added to their empire as the price for peace.
We of our generation know that we could not face such a challenge, and rather than admit that we are lesser men, we prefer to dismiss our ancestors as fools.
Failing wind power
SIR – RWE, the renewable energy company, says it has the capacity to power 800,000 households (report, August 25). But what about hospitals, railways, schools, commerce and industry?
Not all of us think of energy supply solely in terms of our domestic appliances. I have yet to get a clear answer from the anti-fracking supporters on what sort of power they consider adequate for life in 2013. Derision, mockery and vagueness, as in “clean, renewable energy”, are all they can manage in response.
SIR – Jamie Oliver is right about poor diets being our national disease. When I taught home economics in the Sixties, my lessons lasted two and a half hours. Pupils left with a sound knowledge of nutrition, meal planning, and meal preparation.
Before retiring in the Nineties, I had less than half the time to teach a radically different syllabus called “food technology”. My pupils had to “design” a muesli bar.
What a waste of time.
SIR – David Whitaker’s letter (August 25) brought to mind my neighbour’s garden spade. As I was admiring it, he told me that it had been his grandfather’s. “My father put a new shaft on it”, he said, “and I had a new blade put on – it is as good as new”.
Thomas G Murphy
Predicting floods at Bodiam Castle
SIR – I cannot agree with J R G Edwards that the alarmist notice at Bodiam Castle, stating that “within 50 years this area will be under water due to global warming”, should be updated every year (Letters, August 25). If the word “in” had been used instead of “within”, then Mr Edwards’s logic would work.
I am more inclined to question the wisdom of the National Trust in deciding to enter the fortune-telling business. Does it know something we don’t?
K C Doherty
SIR – As a regular visitor to Bodiam Castle, I can confirm that the global warming sign is several years old. Unlike the surrounding low level countryside, which is well protected from flooding by the Environment Agency, Bodiam Castle car park has always flooded after every deluge and will certainly be “under water” again for many months this winter.
The National Trust clearly has a sense of humour by blaming global warming for its own ongoing reluctance to drain Bodiam Castle grounds.
Dr Adrian Greaves
SIR – Locals will know that in Roman times, Bodiam Castle would have been submerged in a huge river valley. Despite falling tides over the millennia, the valley was inundated nearly every winter until the Seventies, when the river banks were raised as a flood defence.
Man-made climate change, my soggy bottom!
Barry M Jones
Rye, East Sussex
SIR – Eric Pickles says he wishes to make high streets more car friendly. He should also stop local authorities issuing “permit holders only” signs for parking on the road in front of houses situated on public roads.
Buying a house does not, generally, include also acquiring the right to the sole usage of the public road (and sometimes the pavement) in front of the property.
As Mr Pickles says, parking problems drive motorists away from towns – and also from villages and suburban areas. Is it any wonder that people resort to postal shopping and the use of superstores with parking facilities?
S H Carpenter
Bradford, West Yorkshire
Green belt land
SIR – Shame on the Conservative party. It will not be forgotten at the ballot box that they flagrantly broke their promise to protect the green belt (“Green-belt housing doubles in a year”, report, August 25). Ukip has my vote at the election.
M A Draper
Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire
SIR – It is depressing that anyone, let alone policemen, is following Rihanna’s Twitter account (report, August 25). There must be a lot of people with utterly vacuous lives if they are remotely interested in the “thoughts” and routine of such individuals. Rarely has the injunction “get a life” had such relevance.
SIR – Upon reading Mik Shaw’s letter (August 18) on the subject of moving house in the dark, I was reminded of our move to Fareham, in Hampshire, many moons ago.
The removal men asked where we wanted the lawnmower put. “In the shed”, we told them. “What shed?” came the reply.
It had been removed along with all the light fittings!
P J Kelley
Sir, – My eight-month-old son, Hugh, died on August 17th, in Temple Street Hospital, after spending most of his short life in hospital.
With the help of the Jack & Jill Foundation, we were lucky enough to have him home for a few precious weeks in June and early July. Those six weeks were some of the best of my life – because we could be a normal family again. We have two other children, Theo (three) and Fred (two). We didn’t have to decide which child to hug – we could hug them all together.
Hugh was minded in hospital at a cost of more than €2,000 per day (€14,000 per week). He was well cared for in hospital but we wanted to bring him home so he could experience a normal life. Normal life is not having a TV constantly in the background. Normal life is being able to turn on and off the lights when you like. Normal life is being able to lie on the bed with your child and snuggle them – which is not possible in the hospital unless you lie on the floor.
There are children waiting for a hospital bed and having their surgery cancelled or delayed because children are lying in hospital, like my son was. Yet home care packages for children are on average nine times less expensive than keeping them in hospital.
If Hugh was 80 years old and needed support to leave hospital, it would have been approved in six to eight weeks and the HSE would have paid up to €2,000 per week to provide him with a home care package or allowed him to transfer to a long-term facility .
It is difficult to understand why it takes HSE six to eight weeks to approve the more appropriate and less expensive care for someone over 65 years through a national scheme: but there is no such national system for treating children. Many children are just stuck in hospital for months, even years. There is not a single cent of an assigned national budget to allow sick children to go home.
Even if you don’t care about children like my son Hugh, from an economic point of view the current system is outrageous.
Many other parents who we met in our months in Temple Street are still there today and just want to go home with their children. They don’t want to be there, not because it isn’t a great place, but because their children would do better at home and the cost to the State would be a fraction of staying in hospital.
Why is there such help when you are 65 years old, but not when you are six months old? Children need a fair deal too. Does anyone care? – Yours, etc,
Kinsealy, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Seamus Heaney: “His coffin as befits a Giant seventy-four foot long. A foot for every year”. – Yours, etc,
Portobello, Dublin 8.
Sir, – I was reading James Harpur’s wonderful article (“Romantic Ireland: poetry on newsprint”, August 30th) when I heard the sad news of the death of a genius, Seamus Heaney, and I too “coughed out angry, tearless sighs”.
Only two weeks ago, our visiting son was helping me change the sheets for his bed and our hands touched. He looked at me and said “Seamus Heaney”. It was a magic moment.
May he rest in peace. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – My secondary school going children arrived home on Wednesday with their new homework journals. Hard-backed books with pages to write down their homework on (fair enough) and even more pages filled with pictures and “information” (is there not enough “information” in the other 15 kilos of books they have?). Each journal weighed in at a grand total of 900g! My primary school child’s journal, (a simpler little book) weighed in at less than 400g, a more reasonable weight.
There is a lot of talk these days of heavy school bags and maybe replacing books with tablets and technology. In the meantime, could I suggest they stop over engineering the books, and print them on lighter, cheaper paper with fewer coloured pages and pictures. Surely this way, a couple of kilos could be knocked off the average schoolbag?
Also, there is no need for such fancy publishing, as all the books have a short shelf life and cannot be passed on as each new student will require the latest edition! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I am an observer of Denis O’Brien’s extraordinary career over the past 25 years.
Denis O’Brien has not taken over Independent News and Media, as Jim Harkin states (August 23rd). He is simply a large shareholder with all the editorial influence of any minor shareholder, which is very little, as anyone in the newsroom can verify.
Mr Harkin informs us that Mr O’Brien is trying to “muzzle the freedom of the press” without giving us one single example of this supposed media fabrication and the reason is simple, there is none. In fact Mr O’Brien is for many years a staunch advocate and supporter of Front Line, an organisation that defends journalists and human rights defenders in more than 100 countries. – Yours, etc,
JOHN J MAY,
Sir, – There is an inadvertent irony in your lovely picture of the six members of the Moore family cycling to school along the promenade at Sandymount Strand (Frank Miller, Home News, August 30th). Your photographer has captured them as they ride over one of the many petulant signs that Dublin City Council has laid down, stating “No cycling or skating”. The promenade is 22 metres wide, of which the tarmacadam path is four metres wide. There is a vast and generous amount of grass for picnickers, ball-players, dog walkers, etc. A simple white line, dividing the tarmac for cyclists and walkers, could leave everyone happy. This is what has been done on the Clontarf to Sutton promenade, a much narrower strip. Surely our council engineers could consider this positive and welcoming strategy, instead of the negative and unwelcoming message we receive at the moment? Long may the Moore family, and the rest of us, continue to cycle happily and legally along this wonderful amenity. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – I found it very difficult to read Stephanie Meehan’s heartbreaking letter (which everyone must read), to our Taoiseach Enda Kenny about the loss of her partner to suicide due to the ongoing shameful Priory Hall situation (Home News, August 30th).
It would be sad, yet unsurprising to think that Mr Kenny would only act now because her letter has gone viral, but why has this Government continued to do nothing to help her and her fellow ex-residents? If we abolish the Seanad we could give the €20 million annual savings to the Priory Hall ex-residents until each of them secured a new debt-free home. Or why not use these savings to hire the under-worked construction companies to build something spectacular on the Priory Hall site?
We are supposed to be a compassionate nation, so I would urge, even beg our Government to use the resources available to it to help these people today, before another ex-resident of Priory Hall loses their partner they love to suicide. – Is mise,
Madam – How long are we going to have to wait before the Catholic Church in particular, as the dominant church in Ireland, addresses this phenomenon of Sinn Fein and its relationship with Christianity?
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Stuck in austerity
Creighton’s ‘brass neck’ astonishes
A truly remarkable man
For many Irish people, the parable of the talents comes to mind when we think of the weak leadership in this field by the church.
It’s a legitimate question as we note the increasing support for Sinn Fein among young people, many of whom – we are given to believe – are attracted to the party because of the “successful” campaign of the IRA during the Troubles and the domination since then of the peace process.
There has been no repentance for IRA violence and so all Sinn Fein voters are effectively retrospectively endorsing IRA violence. Indeed in recent weeks Sinn Fein have glorified IRA violence in Castlederg with little or no response from Catholic clergy.
A Sinn Fein voter recently retorted to me that he saw the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams as “Jesus Christ with an Armalite”. This mockery of Christ is alarming to me and will be to many Christians.
This pseudo-religion has been mocking Christ for a long time. In recent times, it was Gerry Adams using Clonard Monastery for a Sinn Fein meeting while the party position effectively rejected Christ and Christianity.
Have these republicans not “ruptured”, to use Archbishop Martin’s term, their relationship with Christ, and therefore with the church, by supporting violence? Or does the church only threaten to excommunicate political leaders who address the issue of abortion in a reasonable way?
In recent weeks Pope Francis has indicated that he believes that “faith and violence are incompatible”. Pope John Paul II was against all violence including the concept of a just war, believing what was actually true of the IRA campaign, that war always comes too late to resolve any injustice.
The hierarchy is increasingly looking like a twisted and disfigured shadow, unable to move for fear of people noticing its deficiencies and unwilling to straighten itself out for fear that they might get more criticism for not doing it long ago. However, they are at high risk of promoting Sinn Fein’s populist superficial values and undermining their own eternal ones if they don’t act.
Madam – I was taken back in time by the obituary printed in your paper in honour of Tom Christian. I had a brief meeting with him in 1989.
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Church vs Sinn Fein
We mustn’t make mess of Budget
Stuck in austerity
I was serving as a marine engineer on board a British merchant vessel, the MV Trudy. We were on a voyage from New Zealand to the US. The island teacher named James Buckley (he was also the British government representative to the islanders) had been taken off Pitcairn due to appendicitis and was trying to get back to his family on the island.
As our route passed close by, our company gave permission for a short stop to allow his return. We were met with the sight nine days later of a lush green island in a vast blue ocean. The island only had a slipway for whaler-style boats, so we anchored and waited for the islanders to come out to us.
A large party of islanders came out, and set up shop to trade with us.
We purchased carvings of the Bounty and other items. They were particularly interested in any paperback books or videos.
In the midst of the group, Tom stood out as an imposing figure. I took the opportunity to engage him in conversation about his famous ancestor and the life he led on the island. He recognised my Irish accent. As a result, I was on the receiving end of a string of questions. He was particularly interested in the Troubles in the North, and had a keen interest in the history of our island.
He expressed the hope that people who shared the same Christian heritage would find peace. Tom struck me as being a remarkable person who, though isolated physically to a remote part of the world, had a mind that could embrace and understand the ideas and experiences of a people from the other side of the world.
Malahide, Co Dublin
Madam – Your gallant and persistent efforts to persuade us all to change our politics might just be about to bear fruit.
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Stuck in austerity
Creighton’s ‘brass neck’ astonishes
Church vs Sinn Fein
But do not hold your breath just yet! Irish skulls are thick, though what they have inside is as good as anybody else’s – if not better.
September/October 2013 may yet prove to be a watershed in the history of this country.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s current mantra is that we must ‘hold the line’ on the financial ‘adjustments’ to be presented in the Budget statement on October 15.
However, he and his colleagues know very well that in the world of real politics that may be impossible to do.
A fierce wind is blowing, demanding an end – or at least a significant ‘easing’ – of austerity.
The Opposition is playing that card. Worse, a desperate Eamon Gilmore knows that the trend in the opinion polls points, at best, towards a massive ‘trimming’ of Labour representation in next year’s local and European elections and the possible elimination of his party as a serious player after the next General Election – which could come in 2015, if not before.
Objectively, a significant easing in the ‘adjustment’ figures would be anything but prudent. The real question (which is not and will not be asked in this Cabinet) is: ‘How can we stick with those figures – but also spread the burden more proportionately?’
A key factor, sedulously hidden or ignored by almost everybody, is that the so-called ‘deal’ on the promissory notes did not provide a windfall of ‘real money’.
If we make a mess of this Budget and have to go back to the lenders for a second bailout after the domestic political game is over, they will tell us that we are a sovereign nation – and must bear the consequences of messing up our first bailout.
Tralee, Co Kerry
Madam – Since this is a democracy, it is a good thing that “the media have been casting a critical eye upon this administration” (Editorial, August 25).
Also in this section
Creighton’s ‘brass neck’ astonishes
Church vs Sinn Fein
A truly remarkable man
Our present problems derive from the fact that the media were not casting enough of a critical eye upon previous administrations.
The result of what your editorial described as the “manic elation surrounding the mood that drove the economics of the Celtic Tiger” is a bankrupt country and what many commentators now define as austerity.
There is no doubt that, after the excesses of the Celtic Tiger, austerity is very difficult.
We should remember, however, it still involves Government spending a billion a month more on public services than it is getting in taxes. As such, it is a bit of an exaggeration to say, as your editorial does, that it is “killing us all”.
We should also remember that the alternative of going back to the excesses of the Celtic Tiger is not on.
So if what your editorial describes as the “inglorious disrepair” of our “rotten boroughs” and uncleanliness of our “Augean stables” are to receive suitable attention, we are stuck with austerity for some time to come.
Sutton, Dublin 13
MYSTIQUE IN THE IRISH NIGHT AIR
Madam – “The tawnies may be following the woodpeckers to the Wicklow hills,” says Joe Kennedy of Country Matters, Sunday Independent, August 25. I hope so, Joe, as their unique and distinctive owl sound would add a great deal of romance and mystique to the Irish night air.
I fell under the spell of the eerie, yet strangely comforting, “hooo-hoo-hooo” call last year in Ulverston, England, and found it to be an enchanting experience. Perhaps they might follow the wood-peckers to the Cork hills, too?