Blood Transfusion

6 September 2013 Blood Transfusion

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Pertwee, Leslie and Murray have stranded Troutbridge on a sandbank. Makepiece sent to rescue them gets stranded too. Priceless.
Off to hospital Mary for her blood transfusion takes hours, Chanti delives some chocolates and Olivia writes.
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and get over 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Marian Brudenell
Marian Brudenell, who has died aged 78, devoted her married life to the restoration and preservation of Deene Park, in Northamptonshire, the estate which has been in her husband’s family since 1514; in the 1970s she discovered in the family archives a forgotten, rare and highly valuable copy of the Magna Carta.

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Marian Brudenell being welcomed to the White House by Nancy Reagan in 1985 
1:45PM BST 06 Sep 2013
Deene was occupied by the Earls of Cardigan (the title was conferred on Thomas Brudenell by Charles II in 1661) until the death of the 7th Earl in 1868, when it passed to his widow, Adeline, who lived there until she died in 1915. The earldom was inherited by the Marquess of Aylesbury, while the house and estate eventually passed to George Brudenell, the father of Marian’s husband Edmund.
Marian married Edmund in 1955, and by the time she came to live at Deene (initially the young married couple lived with his parents) the house was in a parlous state. It had been occupied by six different units during the Second World War, some of whom had used the birds depicted on the Chinese wallpaper of one of the bedrooms for target practice with their rifles.
In the guide book to the house Marian Brudenell wrote: “By 1945, the already dilapidated house was virtually derelict, the roof leaked, there was dry rot, no electricity nor heating and little plumbing – in short, it was exceedingly uncomfortable. The kitchen was so far away that my mother-in-law used to ride there through the house on a bicycle.”
Edmund’s parents were largely indifferent to their surroundings: Marian’s mother-in-law devoted her time to the farm, while her father-in-law’s main interests were the Library at Deene and dendrology. Weekend guests were required to sleep in dormitories in which there were rows of single beds .
Although Edmund had made a start on renovating the house in 1948 when he was just 20, it was not until the death of his father in 1962 that he had free rein. At first the Brudenells were assisted by an interior decorator , but in due course Marian found that she was more than capable of doing the work herself. It took 15 years.
In the 1970s she was examining the family archives in Northampton when she came across a copy, made in 1297, of the Magna Carta (1215). How it came into the family’s possession is not known, but it appears to have been at Deene Park from at least the early 1600s. Only 17 copies of the charter from the 13th century are known to survive; the Brudenells’ example was the only one in private hands, and one of only five still carrying a royal seal. Marian arranged for it to be returned to Deene, and for several years it sat on an easel in the Bow Room.
In 1983 it was sold privately to Ross Perot, the American businessman who later twice stood for the Presidency of the United States. The proceeds enabled the Brudenells to pay off borrowings incurred in Deene’s restoration. (The copy of Magna Carta was sold again in December 2007 for more than $21 million, and is on display in the National Archives in Washington, DC, alongside the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.)
In the 1860s a ballroom had been added at Deene by the 7th Earl of Cardigan (leader of the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854). This was a Gothic extension which sat ill-at-ease with the rest of the house and, amid much controversy, Edmund and Marian Brudenell succeeded in 1984 in obtaining planning permission to demolish it. It has since been replaced by a conservatory.
It was not only the house which benefited from Marian Brudenell’s attention. The garden, too, had been allowed to deteriorate by her parents-in-law. While Marian herself never adopted a posture other than entirely vertical when in the garden, with the assistance and guidance of James Russell, a famous plantsman, she oversaw the replanting of the long borders, doubling their depth and filling them with old roses, philadelphus and other shrubs.
She was born Marian Cynthia Manningham-Buller on November 26 1934, the daughter of Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller, the 1st Viscount Dilhorne and Lord Chancellor in the government of Harold Macmillan, and his wife, Lady Mary Lindsay, a daughter of the 27th Earl of Crawford and Balcarres. Marian, whose younger sister, Eliza , would become Director-General of MI5, was educated at various schools, including Cheltenham Ladies College.
Marian Brudenell was always elegant without being ostentatious (although she did enjoy her jewels). She wore her thick black hair in a loose chignon, and was quietly proud of her shapely legs. She was well-read, intelligent, inquisitive, full of energy, and outspoken in her beliefs and opinions. Her voice was distinctively Edwardian.
As a hostess, her hospitality was lavish; guests at Deene were met by two butlers ; there were separate bedrooms and dressing rooms for every couple; black tie was worn at dinner, and in the morning ladies were brought breakfast on a tray in their bedrooms. The Brudenells entertained princes and landowners; ambassadors and politicians; lonely widows; scholars, art historians, writers and bibliophiles.
Marian Brudenell had no idea how to cook, but she ensured that there was delicious food at her weekend house parties. Over the years she employed a multitude of staff, some of whom remained at Deene for many years and whose portraits (painted by Edmund’s cousin, Richard Foster) hang in the Octagon Room at Deene.
Punctually on Sunday mornings, there were services — according to the 1662 Prayer Book — in the small chapel at Deene.
Marian Brudenell is survived by her husband, and by their twin sons and one daughter.
Marian Brudenell, born November 26 1934, died August 10 2013


Yet again a senior police officer describes the results of a motorway pile-up, in which no-one died, as a miracle (Crush hour, 6 September). Another witness said how lucky people were. Dozens of organisations and tens of thousands of people have spent more than 60 years making vehicles and roads safer. So let’s call these “miracles” by their proper name: engineering.
David Collins
Harpenden, Hertfordshire
• Giles Milton on Churchill’s advocacy of chemical weapons (G2, 2 September) reminded me that my father spent much of the second world war working for ICI at Burn Hall near Blackpool, making poison gas for use against the Germans should they use it first. The containers are still buried in the estuary of the Wyre at Fleetwood. I don’t know if the MoD has plans to deal with them when they corrode.
Tim Gay
Barnstaple, Devon
• The news that Will Straw, PPE graduate, ex-president of the Oxford Union and son of an ex-cabinet minister, has been adopted as prospective Labour candidate for Rossendale (Pass notes, G2, 3 September) is a reminder that in 1950 Anthony Greenwood, PPE graduate, ex-president of the Oxford Union and son of an ex-cabinet minister, was adopted as the candidate for the same constituency. Not much change there then?
Tony Judge
Twickenham, Middlesex
• Since the architect Rafael Viñoly has previous, for constructing a vast convex mirror setting fire to the surrounding Las Vegas streets, when are the developers of 20 Fenchurch Street going to sue him (Report, 4 September)?
David Santamaria
Bushey, Hertfordshire
• Having returned from my holiday abroad I seized my Guardian on Monday with great affection. I had tried to read it online like my children, but found it awkward. It had no skimability. Thank god for broadsheet newspapers and long may they continue.
Peter Walker
• Spotting Apache showers (Letters, 6 September)? I just Lakota the window.
James Barrett-Bunnage
Helensburgh, Argyll & Bute

Walking through the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane was one of the most moving experiences of my life (Time threatens ghostly remains of a Nazi atrocity, 4 September). The man responsible for the massacre was SS General Heinz Lammerding. The day after the destruction of Oradour, either he or the officer in command of the SS company that carried out the atrocity (a Colonel Heinz Barth, who was later jailed for life) was seen sitting outside a cafe in nearby Tulle smoking a cigar and listening to a German band as he watched partisans being hung from nearby lamp-posts. In 1953, a French court sentenced Lammerding to death in his absence, but there was no legal provision for him to be extradited to France or for the case to be heard in a West German court. Twenty years later, the French and German governments agreed he could be tried by a German court, though former resistance leaders wanted him to be extradited, but before a trial could take place, he died. He was 66 and had lived openly in Dusseldorf, where he was a builders’ merchant. It has always been my understanding that the people of Oradour-sur-Glane were massacred in error. It was partisans from another nearby village with a similar name who had ambushed some German troops. The official version of events is set out in Oradour-sur-Glane: Vision D’epouvante by Guy Pauchou and Dr Pierre Masfrand, published by Charles-Lavauzelle, Limoges, in 1944.
Dr Ron Cox
South Croydon. Surrey

Much as I admire both his writing and politics, I fear George Monbiot (The Lake District is a wildlife desert. Blame Wordsworth, 3 September) has been walking, not with Wordsworth, but with Defoe. Monbiot’s bleak references to “one of the most depressing landscapes in Europe”, to “bare rock and bowling green” and to “something resembling a nuclear winter” owe more to 17th century perceptions of the hills, such as Defoe’s “unhospitable terror”, “the wildest, most barren and frightful [hills] of any I have passed over in England, or even Wales”. 
While unrestricted grazing of the fells by sheep does affect the environment, it is far from completely “sheep-wrecked” – much of the Lakeland landscape is tree-clad, admittedly replanted by the Forestry Commission in unsympathetic pines but latterly by more native species, creating diverse habitats. Without any grazing or intensive management, many of the fells would revert to scrub. The diversity of habitat, attested by the numbers of areas of special scientific interest in the Lakes compares well with the vast tracts of upland Britain “conserved” with heather for the breeding and shooting of grouse and pheasant. And I would hazard a guess that visitor numbers for the Lake District outstrip those for the “chemical deserts of East Anglia” and Birmingham wildlife havens of George Monbiot’s England.
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire
• It may be that pristine rich biodiversity is not necessary for World Heritage status (cf the Jurassic Coast), otherwise it would seem that Monbiot would have us put the case for Birmingham ahead of the Lake District. But it is utterly right for him to ask what exactly our national parks are trying to conserve. Cultural heritage is one thing, leisure and educational value another, and natural history yet another. Genuine mutual compatibility between them is probably impossible though, and a case could be made for partitioning their designation according to these aims.
However, Monbiot stopped short at the 18th century. Even by then, large areas of Britain had been deforested for agriculture, construction, ship- and vehicle-building, weapons and energy. Notwithstanding older practices such as coppicing, reforestation, and conservation of hunting chases, the net effect has been large-scale loss of upland forested habitat over hundreds, probably several thousand years, turning them into the familiar, modern, bleak wildernesses of which we are so protective. The all-important underlying question, not asked by Monbiot but topical amongst conservationists, is what time in the past should we be using for our conservation baseline? Pre-enclosures? Pre–Roman? Pre–agriculture? Hunter-gatherer time? Or, in geological terms, the pre-Anthropocene? Let a genuine multidisciplinary debate begin.
Brian Rosen
• Sheep farming on marginal uplands is a barely sustainable economic activity. Some local inhabitants, walkers and other visitors will demand that their rolling, empty hillside views are left as they are now. But the way they are now is not natural. Left to themselves, broad-leafed and coniferous trees would colonise the hillsides. Nobody should complain about nature getting in the way of the view. If you climb through woodland to a Cumbrian peak above the tree-line, where there are wild flowers unchewed by sheep and views of a lake or two down at the bottom, what could be better?
Dominic Rayner
Roundhay, Leeds
• It is good that George Monbiot questions the assumptions about what constitutes good landscape and what planners and land managers should seek to conserve. The “inherent clash between ranching and wildlife” in the loved landscape of the Lake District is a clash between the different cultural values we assign to landscape: aesthetic versus ecological, for example. A close-grazed sward revealing the muscle and sinew of the fells versus a messier scrubland, richer in wildlife. Both can make the human spirit soar.
Angus Winchester
Chapel-le-Dale, Carnforth
• Seamus Heaney said that Wordsworth’s poetry was drawn from a spirit of resolved crisis. George Monbiot blames Wordsworth for a conservation and overgrazing crisis in the Lake District.
Things have moved on in the Lakes since the 18th and 19th centuries. Many upland farm businesses have diversified into new enterprises – servicing tourism is but one – and the millions of people who come here from all over the planet recognise that the landscape here, powerful and sublime in turn, exalts and inspires the soul. Seamus Heaney and Wordsworth knew this. The Lake District means much more than sheep – and Wordsworth is not to blame for that.
Steve Dickinson
Ambleside, Cumbria
• “One of the most depressing landscapes in Europe,” says Monbiot. Your late, lamented Lake District correspondent, Harry Griffin, must be spinning in his grave. One does not need to be a romantic poet to experience the awe-inspiring up-lift that this landscape gives to the soul. From the graceful curves of the fells of the south to the dramatic contours of the north, the mountain vistas cry out to every passer-by. Shrouded in dense, natural (sic) forests, it would all be lost to view. Keep up the grazing, Herdwicks!
Dr Keith Snell
• Is the majestic photograph of Buttermere (Eyewitness, 6 September), captioned Crummock Water, an eloquent provocation for George Monbiot? And have the sheep been airbrushed out?
Mathew Frith

Is Nigel Kennedy serious in professing a gleeful ignorance of what conductors do (‘All you can be is yourself’, 31 August)? What a contrast to Alfred Brendel’s Notes From The Concert Hall, published on the same day (Review). I like Brendel’s acknowledgement that pianists can play their solo repertoire “without the interference of partners”, whereas violinists, for the most part, can’t. However, I do take issue with his conclusion that playing a one-line instrument (even with a partner who’s not the interfering sort) is easier.
On the contrary, violinists have to learn everybody’s notes, not only those that appear on our music-sheet. I was lucky as a child to have been taught the piano as well as the violin, enabling me to bumble through the piano parts of violin sonatas; and though I can only fitfully negotiate the orchestral part of violin concertos, I have trained myself to sit with an orchestral score and hear it in my head. Without these skills, performances can come perilously close to mimicry or even nonsense, albeit passionate nonsense, like an actor saying his lines without reacting to anyone else’s.
So while I agree that both violinists and pianists can “achieve excellence in their early years” in technical matters, neither will reach a worthwhile maturity before being answerable, and then responsive, to the music as a whole – every note of it. How I envy pianists and conductors for being entirely responsible for their own interpretations.
Ruth Waterman
• Nigel Kennedy playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons may well think orchestral conductors are a waste of space because, in the days of Vivaldi and Bach, the role of the conductor was unknown. Keeping everyone in time was usually the job of the harpsichordist, providing what was called the “continuo”. As orchestras grew and music became louder, more complex, and longer, and especially when it became impossible for the individual musician to hear what he or she was playing, the role of a time-keeper in front of the orchestra began to develop.
In modern times, it is the conductor’s job to set the tempo, to get all the initial players starting on the same beat, to tell musicians when it their turn to play after a number of rests, to make sure that the relative balance of tone and volume between the instruments is correct, and to inspire the musicians to play with the right level of passion. Long ago, I played the violin in a youth orchestra. Even with 20 players, such was the din that it was impossible to hear my own playing – and thus we had a conductor to tell us when to play, how fast, how loud and when to stop.
Paul Bunting
Worthing, West Sussex


“Four jails will close to make way for £250m ‘super-prison’ in Wales” ran your story (5 September) about jails in Reading, Dorchester, Blundeston and Northallerton closing and one giant one being built to replace them.
Does this mean that all the local employment is lost? And then we, the public, will be paying for all the travel warrants for relatives to visit the super-prison, which will presumably be nowhere near where any of the families live – which also means that children will suffer because they will not be able to visit in term time?
Forcing prisoners to be ferried hundreds of miles away from where they live and away from their relatives to one big place seems a poorly thought out idea.
Surely building replacement prisons on existing sites would be better.
Martin Sandaver, Cusop Dingle, Hay-on-Wye
Super-prisons? Spend millions, lock ’em up in their thousands, throw away the key, and all criminal problems will disappear. What next? A return to debtors’ prisons? That will surely reduce the number of benefit scroungers, if not bankers.
This might please the hang ’em and flog ’em brigade, but it will prove expensive for the country in many ways, with no proof of an effective outcome. Quite the opposite.
In 2007, the Labour Government announced it would build three giant Titan prisons, each holding up to 2,500 prisoners.
There was an outcry against the plan, largely based on evidence from the USA and France, where such institutions had proved to cause more problems among prisoners and increased reoffending.  The plans for the Titan prisons were quietly dropped.
Many offenders have problems with drugs, mental health or limited education. I wrote to the then Home Secretary, Dr John Reid, to ask him to provide details of the Home Office budget to treat those conditions, in support of rehabilitation, in comparison with the £2.3bn to build the Titans.
With some persistence, I discovered that there was no such budget.
Successful rehabilitation is known to reduce a wide range of social problems and their costs to the taxpayer.
That is not to say that perpetrators of serious crimes should not be punished by long prison sentences; but small amounts to treat small offenders, if applied professionally, could provide considerable savings, in the heartache of victims and in public funds.
What’s the bet that there is still no budget for that need?
MALCOLM MACINTYRE-READ, Much Wenlock, Shropshire
You report that four English jails will close and 2,000 (mainly English) prisoners will move to a new facility in Wrexham. I wonder what the English would say if you reported that the Welsh Government intended to export 2,000 Welsh prisoners to England.
Nigel Scott, London N22
Labour and party funding
Contrary to the impression given by your headline “Labour says taxpayers may have to pay more for political parties” (6 September), I do not believe that a Labour government could simply force through public funding of political parties.
I do believe that Labour can and should campaign for a £5,000 limit on all donations, and this, ideally with the support of other parties, should be legislated for without any prior demand for public funding.
Only once it was clear that political parties were giving up big money would it be possible to try to win public consent for some funding of democratic political parties.
John Denham
MP for Southampton Itchen, House of Commons, SW1
Why not combine the five conservative parties and save on the funding issue?
Bob Simmonds
Stickney, Lincolnshire
Soccer success starts at bottom
Before Greg Dyke’s admirable ambitions for the future of England’s football team can have any hope of fulfilment, a few facts must be faced.
Pioneering the game to the world, as we did, does not confer any guarantee of superiority. Winning the World Cup once has left an unwarranted legacy of expectation. But if there exist today young players with the ability, desire and character to play at the highest level, no club will deny them the chance.
The Football Association, albeit belatedly, has not been inactive. New regulations prioritising skill before results are now being put in place for players in the three youngest age groups. Over following seasons, these principles will be extended to older players. This does not necessarily promise a team of world-beaters in 2022, but raising the base level is a start. We may also need to look at the quality of teaching: a coaching badge does not always indicate the ability to inspire.
That is where we must begin. Top-down solutions don’t work. 
Gerald Sinstadt
Tittensor, Staffordshire
The new chairman of the FA, Greg Dyke, could do a lot to return our Sundays to the family.
I recall the days when Dad, with pencil in hand, told everyone to shush as he listened to the football results on a Saturday afternoon. He was looking for those eight draws that might have made a big difference to his working-class family. It never happened. Yet we had the following day left undisturbed for the family. After Sunday school and lunch, all five of us, like all our neighbours, went for a walk along the country lanes, many with prams and pushchairs. That was because there was no football being played.
Mr Dyke could rise up against the TV moguls. League football could be returned to Saturdays, with selected games being shared among all the television companies. Over the season, every league club would get a share of viewing rights, and attendances would rise as couch-potato fans were dragged away from their living rooms – and cans of beer – to watch the games live. It would be good for the health of the clubs and the fans.
Terry Duncan, Bridlington, East Yorkshire
Even special relationships end
Sometimes marriages can unfortunately deteriorate into abusive relationships, at which point divorce is the best option for all concerned.
With the recent parliamentary vote on Syria, some commentators have mourned the demise of the “special relationship” between the UK and USA. There have, indeed, been great moments, from Churchill and Roosevelt to Thatcher and Reagan.
However, many British and American citizens have become concerned that, as opposed to an alliance that protects our mutual freedoms, this “special relationship” has mutated into one that represses our populations.
Even more important to a nation’s survival than the integrity of its border is its constitution – that its government operates entirely lawfully. This means protecting journalists who reveal abuses of power, and state officials who blow the whistle on such abuses.
Britain and America’s governments should view recent events not as a setback, but as an opportunity to ask themselves what purpose our alliance should serve, and to ensure that purpose is entirely for the benefit of our citizens and the world beyond our borders.
A R Wainwright, Halstead, Essex
Academies can raise standards
Professor Stephen Gorard (“Academies ‘increase divisions between the rich and poor’ ”, 4 September) says: “If you want less segregation, do not have different types of schools.”
Ingenious! Abolish choice and, miraculously, we’re back to the good old days of everyone, instead of just a majority, attending a bad school.
Why stop with schools? I propose banning Waitrose on the grounds that doing so would decrease segregation in the aisles of Lidl  and Aldi.
The real issue is whether giving parents more choice raises standards of education in an area. If that is the case (and it would come as a surprise to the parents who move heaven and earth to get their kids into selective schools if it did not), we would then be in a position to debate whether increased segregation is a price worth paying for increasing median educational attainment and shifting the distribution towards higher attainment.
Tom Mitchell, Corsham, Wiltshire
Bombard Syria  with gas masks
If the West is serious about helping the Syrian people, perhaps we should drop a million gas masks over the city of Damascus. If some fell into the wrong hands, it would not matter but could prevent further mass murder by poison gas.
Chris Tomlinson, South Wootton, Norfolk
Kennedy beats Obama
I have to disagree with Bruce Anderson’s assertion (6 September) that “Yes we can” was the best presidential slogan since “I like Ike”. Surely John F Kennedy’s question, offered to voters beneath a picture of Richard Nixon, of “Would you buy a used car from this man?” beats them all?
Vaughan Thomas, Usk, Monmouthshire
Lack of attention
Never having attended a full council meeting in any other authority than Middlesbrough, I decided to attend the recent one in Redcar and Cleveland where the motion of no confidence in the leader, Councillor George Dunning, was to be discussed.
A teenage girl next to me pointed out that one councillor was texting, and I noticed he was also reading a book for a lot of the time. The title of the book appeared to be None Of Them Were Heroes – clearly, he thought it more interesting to read than to listen to the discussion. What sort of an impression does this give to the public?
JOAN McTIGUE, Independent Councillor, Middlesbrough
Nyad the Naiad
Some may have noted the appropriateness of the surname of Diana Nyad (give or take a letter or two), who swam from Cuba to Florida. In Greek mythology, the Naiads were a type of nymph who presided over various types of water, including fountains, springs, streams and brooks. Perhaps the great swimmer’s name indicates she was  fated to achieve some great  aquatic feat.
James Carleton Paget, Fellow and Tutor of Peterhouse, Cambridge
Burning question
With reference to the architect of the “Walkie Talkie” building  saying that he planned to “respect the city’s historic character”,  I hope that he wasn’t referring to the Great Fire of London.
Helen Muller, Romford


Sir, I agree with Baroness Morgan about the lack of interest in the side effects of some cancer drugs (“Lethal toll as women quit ‘unbearable’ cancer drug”, Sept 4). I am half way through a five-year course of tamoxifen and find the side effects very draining. I received exemplary treatment and after care from Milton Keynes Hospital in managing the surgery and side effects of chemotherapy but have the same symptoms from tamoxifen as Lady Morgan. One has to be careful of herbal and other remedies because they might interfere with the hormone-dampening effect of tamoxifen, but I feel more could be done to see whether there were other safe but effective remedies. I too take a low dose of an anti-depressant which means that the intensity of the flushes is reduced but my sleep is interrupted roughly once an hour by a single or series of flushes and my joints, particularly my hands, are very stiff and sore.
I am very grateful to have this drug, which may prevent my cancer returning, but I can understand why so many women stop treatment early when they are working or running a home.

Leighton Buzzard

Sir, “Unbearable cancer drug” is not a helpful headline. I was prescribed tamoxifen when I was 50. It did precipitate a menopause but the side effects of the menopause, hot flushes, tiredness, etc, are things which all women have to cope with to a greater or lesser extent.
I am just so grateful that at 70 I can enjoy my 12 grandchildren and marathon running. This may well be partly due to the gift of tamoxifen.


Sir, My wife, Anne, was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2003. Excellent rapid treatment followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy over six months was effective. Then, eventually, she started to take tamoxifen. The side effects, tiredness, weight gain, hot flushes, etc, she did suffer so when the all-clear came five years later, we were pleased to stop the drug.
Two years later the cancer came back, and Anne died two months later. The side effects of tamoxifen were uncomfortable but if she had continued perhaps my Anne would still be with me today

Thornbury, Glos

Sir, When I was in practice it was abundantly obvious that tamoxifen suited some, was tolerated by others and had bad effects on a few or maybe many — but they didn’t say as they were clinging to their lifeline.
Alternatives became available but were poorly researched, and I was told by one drug rep, when I said I thought their evidence was a bit slim, that was all you were going to get as the company had the answer it wanted and was not thinking of sponsoring any more trials.

East Ogwell, Devon

Sir, The side effects of tamoxifen are unpleasant. I took tamoxifen daily after a mastectomy, from September 1992 to 1997. I was at that time a busy volunteer in Cruse Bereavement Care. The worries and illnesses of bereaved people were far worse than mine.


Sir, Daniel Finkelstein (Aug 31) refers to liberal interventionism as “the position we have taken for 75 years”. Does he mean to date the birth of liberal interventionism from 1938 and the Munich pact?
Munich could perhaps be regarded as the high-water mark of Tory non-interventionism, but as a characterisation of the following 75 years of UK foreign policy the word “liberal” sounds strange. What about the Suez “intervention” — a squalid late-colonial adventure? And Harold Wilson’s refusal to intervene in Vietnam? Surely the doctrinal basis for intervention in Syria was Tony Blair’s Chicago speech in 1999.
Tom Rivers
London N7

Sir, Daniel Finkelstein laments that politicians draw conclusions from singular events. Unfortunately, as the Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson long ago observed, “We have but one sample of history”. Fortunately, one observation is often sufficient to tell us all we need. We need no more than the massacre of the innocents to find King Herod a bloody tyrant.
Anthony Cutler
London SW7

Sir, Daniel Finkelstein (Aug 28 and Sept 4) demonstrates how complex are the lessons of history and the decisions to act or to not act. It is to be hoped that not all our “thinkers” spend their time sitting on red benches and that those on the green can also appreciate the long game, no matter how many unknowns (known or unknown) they might perceive.
Alex de Gier
Knaresborough, N Yorks

Sir, George Tetley (letter, Sept 3) would argue that the questions of intervention in Syria and the breaking (or not) of international law should be left to the UN. The UK is a permanent member of the Security Council. By rejecting outright the principle of intervention, have we not placed our cards on the table? It should also not be considered from the outset that an intervention would result in Britain “blundering into another war”; rather we should be looking at successful intervention operations that Britain has played an important part in. The civil wars in Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone (all recent in memory) were ended with intervention by Nato or UN missions in which Britain, as a key figure on the international stage, played a key role. Is this vote a further sign that we are shrugging off our responsibilities? I feel my pride in being British is being questioned.
Jamie Graham
Batcombe, Dorset
Sir, The 1956 Suez Crisis was resolved not by direct US political pressure, but by use of the so-called “Uniting For Peace” Resolution 377 which let the UN General Assembly override British and French vetoes in the Security Council. There is no reason why this resolution should not apply with Syria — especially given UN recognition for the Resolution to Protect (R2P), which provides a basis to intervene in the affairs of a sovereign nation in the case of a humanitarian crisis.
Mr Putin (“Putin ‘does not exclude’ supporting US-led airstrikes”, Aug 5) is correct to insist that any action must first be authorised by the UN, but this is an opportunity for Britain to use this resolution to override any Russian veto at the Security Council, and lead the world in taking legal action to enforce a ceasefire in Syria.
Simon Prentis
Cheltenham, Glos
Sir, May I disagree with Andrew Stuart when he writes (letter, Sept 4) that he and 51 other ambassadors wrote to Tony Blair to tell him not invade Iraq. In fact our letter was sent a year after the invasion, and expressed our anxieties about the lack of planning, the failure to foresee stubborn resistance and to understand its nature, and the unnecessary casualties caused by heavy weapons and wrong tactics.
Mr Stuart writes that “we were widely abused”, but my recollection is that the combination of media and personal responses to what we wrote gave me a once-in-a-lifetime feeling that we had spoken for Britain. It is gratifying that on Syria Parliament has now spoken for Britain.
President Putin says that if it can be shown that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, and used specifically by the regular army, the evidence should be submitted to the UN Security Council. In that case he doesn’t exclude backing the use of force. But he rightly warns against military action without UN approval, which would represent aggression.
The US Secretary of State John Kerry told the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that America has that evidence: “Only the most wilful desire to avoid reality can assert that this did not occur as described or that the regime did not do it.”
It is up to Britain and France, in the Security Council and in the G20 meetings now going on in St Petersburg, to make sure that the evidence is produced and that the Security Council takes account of it and decides whether or not military force should be used.
Oliver Miles

The strategy of encouraging tall buildings in a cluster near the Gherkin and close to public transport links is sensible
Sir, Ross Clark’s comment about glass and tall office buildings in the City misses several key points (Thunderer, Sept 5).
The overall energy efficiency of a building depends on many factors, including the mode of travel of the workforce there — which is why the strategy of encouraging tall buildings in a cluster near the Gherkin and close to public transport links is sensible.
Developers like glass because wall units can be precision-built in a factory and assembled with speed on site, so greatly easing construction.
When problems arise with innovative buildings like the Walkie Talkie, it is tempting to assume that in the past major buildings did not have construction problems. That was never the case, as the history of cathedrals shows.

City of London Corporation

John Bright insisted that he was not discussing the question ‘on the abstract principle of peace at all price’
Sir, Sir Jeremy Lever refers to John Bright’s campaign against the Crimean War (letter, Sept 5). In a famous speech to the House of Commons on March 31, 1854, Bright insisted that he was not discussing the question “on the abstract principle of peace at all price” but “entirely on principles” which were held by all Members of the House. These, he said, were “that the interests of the country are clearly involved; that the objects for which the war is undertaken are probable, or, at least, possible of attainment” and that “the end proposed to be accomplished is worth the cost and the sacrifices.”
His argument was not pacifist but practical and although unpopular in his continued opposition to the war he was ultimately vindicated.

When dealing with unwanted telephone calls, it seems that there is little that BT can do to help its customers prevent them
Sir, Further to your report on telephone cold callers (Sept 4), when I called BT, armed with the (UK) telephone number of one of these callers, BT told me it could do nothing without the address, even though I am already registered with the Telephone Preference Service.
Except for suggesting the various options like caller display, BT was no help at all. And since most of these remedies are at an additional cost to the user, there seems to be no incentive for BT to change the status quo.

East Williamston, Pembrokeshire

House of Commons


SIR – I can’t say what the early departure of swallows from Malvern augurs for winter in Worcestershire (Letters, September 3).
My garden is still playing host to a large number of them, and the spotted flycatcher family is still busily fattening up too.
However, I last saw the recently independent young cuckoo feeding here on August 23, and I hope that it is now well on its way to Africa.
Sue Tate
Carbost, Isle of Skye

SIR – Sue Cameron (“How social media delivered the Syria defeat”, Comment, September 5) does well to draw attention to how the vote in the House of Commons on August 29 showed “the extent to which ordinary people can use social media to bring their will to bear on MPs, prime ministers and presidents”.
She might have added, though, that while the users of social media have shown their power in opposing the wishes of the authorities “in Tunisia and Egypt as well as the Commons”, they have so far not shown the ability to achieve coherence round positive policies.
In the nature of things, the social media are probably going to remain a negative rather than a positive force.
If anything, that reinforces Sue Cameron’s view that politicians “are going to have to… take much greater pains in putting their case”.
Sir Harold Walker
British ambassador to Iraq, 1990-91
London SW1
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06 Sep 2013
SIR – Through digital television, everyone, not just those who pay for satellite TV, has access to a variety of news. In addition to BBC and ITV, we can see Sky News, Al Jazeera and the Russian view of the world.
This easy access to other views must colour the way we see world affairs and current events in Syria. It has shown me how centred on Britain and the United States the BBC news has become.
Helen M Fitch
Lhanbryde, Moray
SIR – Britain can be proud of its £348 million contribution to helping those affected by the Syrian conflict, second in size to America’s (report, September 3).
But world leaders, meeting for the G20 summit, have failed to deliver over half the $4.4 billion they promised to meet humanitarian needs, which are of an unprecedented scale.
And they must also do much more to help us reach and treat all those in need in Syria. Only an immediate cessation in hostilities will enable us to turn promises into action in Syria.
Leigh Daynes
Executive Director, Doctors of the World
London E14
SIR – Is the aim of a military strike in Syria to destroy weapons or to punish Assad?
Selective weapons destruction is feasible, but military or civilian casualties will have to be considered as “acceptable”.
If the aim is punitive, the strike must be targeted on Assad, if he is proved to be the perpetrator. Someone so careless of the lives of his own people is unlikely to worry unless he is the target of that punishment.
However, a successful punitive strike would be a step towards regime change, which politicians say is definitely out.
It is frustrating to sit and do nothing. But the aim of any strike must be clear, achievable and likely to lead to improvement on the ground.
Brigadier Christopher Dunphie
Bridge of Cally, Perthshire
Paying for plastic bags
SIR – Why is it the shopper who is to be forced to pay for plastic bags (report, September 5), when the shopper never wanted them in the first place?
In the Seventies, our milk was delivered in bottles on an electric milk float. We rinsed our empty bottles, and the milkman picked them up as he left the next day’s milk. Beer was generally in bottles, as was lemonade.
Fruit and veg were always sold in brown paper bags, as were bread and cakes from the baker’s, while meat and fish were wrapped in waxed paper. At the supermarket, we packed our groceries in the same boxes in which the supermarket had received its deliveries. And fish and chips were served in newspaper.
In short, without any legislation, we were very green. Now, the retailers oblige us to buy an individual apple served on a polystyrene tray wrapped in clingfilm, and supermarkets deny me a cardboard box.
It is not “society” that has become less green. The retailers have forced this change upon us.
James Preston
Little Thurlow, Suffolk
Selective-sex abortion
SIR – The Crown Prosecution Service stance on selective-sex abortion-providers (report, September 5) is to leave the matter in the hands of the General Medical Council.
On the same principle, any gangland contract killers would, it seems, now be well advised only to promote their professional services while playing a round at their local golf club. The CPS would be happy for any consequences to be handled by the committee of the golf club, rather than for there to be formal prosecution of obviously criminal acts.
Or have I interpreted this wrongly ?
Graham Hoyle
Baildon, West Yorkshire
Godless Brownies
SIR – At our first meeting of the term, we discussed the wording of the new Brownie promise, which one of my new Brownies was about to take, with the whole pack. None of the girls knew what “Be true to myself” and “Develop my beliefs” meant.
The girls then pointed out that both the Brownie song at the beginning of our meeting, and Brownie Bells, the song at the end, contain the phrases “loving God”, and “Oh Lord our God”.
Mari Bell
Brown Owl, 1st Rhyl Brownies
Rhyl, Flintshire
Where is thy sting?
SIR – Judith Manners (Letters, September 5) just needs to carry a small sachet of vinegar with her. Put a little on a wasp sting and it takes the pain away. It works very quickly and is much cheaper than Waspeze.
Carol Laird
Sidmouth, Devon
SIR – One of P G Wodehouse’s characters reminded me recently of the soothing qualities of a Reckitt’s Blue Bag for wasp stings. In younger days, no family picnic was packed without including the little blue tablet in its muslin wrap.
John H Stephen
Bisley, Gloucestershire
SIR – In Greece they burn ground coffee to deter wasps. It seems to work here. Our dipsomaniac hornet, after four evenings of plunging into a glass of red, has not been seen since.
S Bryer
Colne Engaine, Essex
Blaming immigration
SIR – It is common for politicians and commentators to blame immigration or immigration policy for economic and social problems, like unemployment or crime, even when the evidence suggests it is unlikely to be the main or even a significant cause.
Jeremy Warner (“Mass immigration has made Britain a less competitive economy” September 3) takes this a step further by blaming immigration for a problem that doesn’t exist. He talks of “Britain’s dismal long-term productivity performance”. But, as the LSE Growth Commission observed, Britain’s long-term productivity performance has improved substantially over the past 30 years. “By the eve of the crisis in 2007,” they note, “UK GDP per capita had overtaken both France and Germany and reduced significantly the gap with the US.”
Jeremy Warner claims that “when the last administration boasted of the umpteenth successive quarter of successive growth, it neglected to say that this was largely the result of population growth”. In fact, the British economy grew by about 40 per cent in the period of sustained growth (and high immigration) from 1997 to 2008. Population growth over this period was a little over 5 per cent.
The question of the impact of immigration on productivity is important and complex. Most recent research suggests some positive impact, although of course the impacts will differ across countries and between different types of immigrant (and not always in the way one might think).
Jonathan Portes
Director, National Institute of Economic and Social Research
London SW1
Prohibited parcels
SIR – Christopher Pearson (Letters, September 5) asks why the Civil Aviation Authority wants to know the content of Postal parcels. A significant volume of the express parcels traffic is now transported by air. Only on Wednesday, I was on board a Boeing freighter aircraft with a payload of about 29 tons.
Knowledge of items “prohibited for air passage” is essential for safety purposes.
Colin Cummings
Yelvertoft, Northamptonshire
SIR – Anyone ruthless enough to send parcel bombs is unlikely to have scruples about lying to a Post Office counter clerk when asked the contents of a packet.
Geraldine Durrant
East Grinstead, West Sussex
Construction industry will build HS2 to budget
SIR – George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, issued a bold challenge on the Andrew Marr Show to the construction industry in stressing his determination to see HS2 delivered within budget. We gladly accept the challenge of completing Phase One of HS2 on schedule – and for less than the Government’s target of £17.16 billion.
We applaud the Government’s support for investment in infrastructure and in particular HS2, which is essential to address the looming capacity crunch on our rail and road networks.
Britain’s construction sector has delivered Heathrow Terminal 5, High Speed 1, and the London Olympics. Crossrail will undoubtedly be next. HS2 is a unique opportunity to embrace technology that is relatively new to this country, but has proved its worth around the world.
In building the network, we can develop the wide range of skills already available to British industry, and inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers. The construction of HS2 will create jobs and support economic growth even before its completion.
The funding secured for HS2 rightly includes a contingency – this is the responsible way to plan a project on this scale. Yet the artificially inflated figures circulated by opponents in recent weeks in no way represent the outcome we expect.
Moreover, no economic reading can fully capture the wider range of benefits that such a nationally important, high-capacity network can deliver. It will keep Britain moving for decades to come – meeting fast-growing demand and providing closer connections between cities, regions and markets.
HS2 is a much-needed investment in infrastructure for the future. Building it on time and within budget is well within the capabilities and ambition of the British construction industry.
Dr Nelson Ogunshakin
Chief Executive, Association for Consulting and Engineering
Philip Dilley
Chairman, Arup Group
David Tonkin
Chief Executive, Atkins UK
Andrew McNaughton
Chief Executive, Balfour Beatty
Paul Sheffield
Chief Executive, Kier Group
Anna Stewart
Group Chief Executive, Laing O’Rourke
Keith Howells
Chairman, Mott MacDonald Group
Mike Putnam
Chief Executive, Skanska UK

Irish Times:

Sir, – The Minister for Education states there is no evidence to support the contention that Ireland has an excellent education system and that it has a long way to go to become world class (Home News, September 6th).
Ironically the World Economic Forum (WEF) published its Global Competitiveness Report for 2013-2014 on September 4th, and this highly respected international report appears to contradict the minister’s view. One of the main pillars of that report is the World Economic Forum’s ranking of the education systems in each of the 148 countries whose competitiveness it assessed this year. The report uses the adjective “excellent” to describe Ireland’s primary education system in its summary and credits both our “excellent” health and primary education systems for contributing significantly to Ireland’s competitiveness. The report ranks the “quality” of primary education in Ireland as 8th best in the world out of 148 countries.
It also praises our “strong” higher education and training system which it ranks 18th in the world and again credits this as a key factor in maintaining our overall competitiveness. In fact our overall competitiveness, at 28th in the world, lags well behind our “excellent” and “strong” education system’s performance.
Significant competitive disadvantages identified by the WEF report are our macroeconomic environment, ranked 134th of the 148 world economies studied, the budget deficit, ranked 137th, national debt 142nd, financial market development 85th, soundness of banks, 146th; ease of access to loans 127th; wastefulness of government spending 55th; government procurement of advanced technologies, 70th; and quality of auditing and reporting in Ireland, 58th. By contrast the only area of our education system that it identified as being a “competitive disadvantage” was our schools’ poor access to the internet which it ranked 43rd out of 148.
In Ireland’s case, any ranking below 28th on any factor is seen by the report as being a competitive disadvantage. The World Economic Forum clearly sees the quality of our education system as a significant global competitive advantage even if Mr Quinn does not. Given that this is the opinion of The World (my emphasis) Economic Forum in its global competitiveness report; I think the question now is; “With which other planet’s education systems is the Minister comparing the Irish education system?”, because it certainly isn’t Earth’s!
Rather than disparaging the system for which he is currently responsible, the minister should be highlighting its high global competitive standing, taking the credit for that as a Labour Minister and defending it from attack in the forthcoming budget. In this way he can ensure that our “excellent” primary and “strong” higher education and training systems can retain or improve those highly impressive world rankings. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – The failures of our political system were a major contributor to the Irish banking crisis, necessitating the €64 billion bailout. That is €13,457 for every man, woman and child in the country. The Government is now at pains to emphasis the €20 million in savings, or €4.21 per annum for every man woman and child, through closing the Seanad. I believe the people can bear the additional cost until we get proper political reform.
We have a political system with too few politicians focused on national issues; we have a system of local politics, our TDs are in effect social workers, forced through multi seat constituencies to ignore national issues of developing the economy and making laws and regulations. Even ministers and taoisigh have to commit much of their time to local issues for fear of losing the next election. We want our taoisigh, ministers and TDs to focus on national issues.
The Government should make a real effort to correct the system that failed us. We do not believe the Seanad is a flawless institution, but neither are we foolish enough to think it caused the financial crisis nor that abolishing it will fix the system that failed us. If in the end real reform entails the abolition of the Seanad then so be it, but start where the real problems lie: Dáil Éireann and our electoral system. Let us not shirk this chance to reform and instead create some positive legacy for our children to go with the €64 billion of bailout debt we are bequeathing them.
I would urge your readers to force the Government into real reform by voting No in the referendum. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Years of austerity, low growth and high unemployment have resulted in the emigration of more than 200,000 Irish nationals in the past five years yet your Editorial (September 3rd) does not address the obvious truth that the fastest way to financial viability for a country with crippling debts is to allow its currency to depreciate. Ireland’s membership of the euro zone precludes this option.
Ireland’s predicament was foreseen 20 years ago by the Cambridge economist Wynne Godley.
Following the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, which led to the creation of the euro, he wrote: “If a country or region has no power to devalue, and if it is not the beneficiary of a system of fiscal equalisation, then there is nothing to stop it suffering a process of cumulative and terminal decline leading, in the end, to emigration as the only alternative to poverty or starvation.” Sounds familiar? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – John Waters has joined that illustrious group of Irishmen who suffered imprisonment for standing up for their principles, including Daniel O’Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell. What a pity his freedom has  come too late for the naming of the new bridge across the Liffey – it could have been the “Bridge over troubled Waters”. Surely he at least deserves to be made a Freeman of Castlerea? – Yours, etc,
Old Caulfield Road,
Co Tyrone.
Sir, –John Waters will no doubt be indignant at the suggestion (Niall Ginty, September 4th) that he might henceforth be known as the Dún Laoghaire One. Surely, he’d insist on the Dalkey One! The special One from Dalkey (nee Roscommon) believes people should be able to meet and chat without the threat of having to rush off to avoid a parking penalty . . . and God knows that “free for all” mentality served us well in the past! – Yours, etc,
Glenmaroon Road,
Dublin 20.
Sir, – John Waters reports that he was weighed and measured (News, Agenda, September 4th). The question is: was he found wanting? – Yours, etc,
Wellington Street,
Eganville, Ontario,
Sir, – It costs approximately €300 per day to keep a person in prison. Assuming that the arrest, transport and processing of the prisoner is probably the most expensive part of the operation, then John Waters’s recent escapade has probably cost the taxpayer about €1,000, plus forgiveness of the fine. Jailing people for parking fines in 2013 in the era of electronic attachment of wages and social welfare payments is nonsense. The Department of Justice should take lessons from the Revenue as to how it collected the property tax. – Yours, etc,
Pope’s Quay,
Sir, – Padraig O’Rourke (September 4th) wonders “why . . .it is not possible for off-street car parks to charge for the actual time involved”. The good news is that it is possible – indeed it is already being done in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, where John Waters had his brush with the law, as well as in Fingal, South Dublin and Dublin City council areas. All you need is a mobile phone, and a credit or debit car.
It works as follows. You register on the “Parking Tag” website and you are sent a bar code which you affix to your windscreen. When you leave your car, you estimate how long you will be away, and send a text to a short code number, giving the number of minutes of parking required, along with the two-letter code or colour code for the zone in which you are parking. This is displayed clearly on signage on each street in these areas. The parking fee is debited from your payment card, and there is no surcharge. You can pay for as many minutes you like. The system sends you two reminders by text. Parking wardens can see the bar code behind your windscreen, and will scan it to see if you have paid for your parking. You can simply send another text to pay for more minutes. Of course it means we will need to marshall new excuses if it turns out that our parking is not paid for even under this system, such as: “The battery on my mobile phone ran out”, or “My phone was on silent and I didn’t see the text reminders coming in”. We are human and our ability to justify ourselves is endless. – Yours. etc,
Merville Road,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – John Waters seems to think when he pays for an hour at a parking meter he should be allowed an “extra” 20 minutes because people should be able to meet and chat “without the threat of having to rush off to avoid a parking penalty” (Home News, September 4th).
He seems to be advocating that a form of “light touch regulation” should apply to sociable car-drivers like himself. Surely this approach has been totally discredited in the fields of banking, house-building, etc? If it were applied to parking on public streets it would result in similar chaos.
On a more positive note, I look forward to reading of more Irish Times columnists doing some jail time.– Yours, etc,
Bayside Walk,
Dublin 13.
Sir, – In “The ultimate meaning of my Wheatfield ‘adventure’,” (Opinion, September 6th) John Waters quotes frequently from the writings of Vaclav Havel. When it comes to illegal parking perhaps he should heed the following Havel quote: “Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not”. – Yours, etc,
Shandon Crescent,

Sir, – Tomorrow marks the centenary of Senator WB Yeats’s September 1913 appearing in the pages of this newspaper. At the same time, the institution in which he served, Seanad Éireann, is to be consigned “with O’Leary in the grave”.
It is a pity that the Government, in searching for justification for this populist move, can only “fumble in a greasy till/ and add the ha’pence to the pence”, citing spurious savings as a reason to dry “the marrow from the bone” of our democracy. Abolition is not reform, and we shouldn’t allow them to pretend it is.
“Men were born to . . . save”, apparently, nothing more. The “democratic revolution” we were promised is dead and gone; it’s rather like being ruled by Michael O’Leary: stunts, no frills and save!
Was it for this . . .? – Is mise,

Irish Independent:

* The republican movement can claim to be many things, but wise is not one of them. The wars they have fought define a movement that plays too fast and loose with the lives of their own volunteers and that exhibits an unbelievable coldness for their victims.
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Expensive iPad has no advantage over books
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Library cuts a sorry chapter for Hogan
This fighting of wars, especially wars that had no chance of success, is central to their failure to understand the nature of the situation in Ireland. “Eight centuries of resistance” is the republican boast. “Every generation has fought for freedom.”
Another way of looking at this is to try to understand why the English needed to keep their hold on Ireland.
From the initial invite to English earl Strongbow in the 12th Century, the English army was regularly attacked and the English king, Henry II, sensed that they were vulnerable to an invasion launched by their enemies, and helped by a now powerful Strongbow, from eastern Ireland.
Republicans say there is no answer in non-violent Christianity for dealing with the British. But there is. Jesus advocated that his disciples were “as innocent as doves and as shrewd as snakes”. Only those who were innocent and shrewd were capable of dealing with the British.
Leaders like John Hume, Charles Stuart Parnell and Daniel O’Connell ruled out war in favour of using their innocence and their shrewdness. They made significant progress.
John O’Connell
* If John Waters is to be imprisoned, let it be for his Eurovision song. Life sentence.
Gerry O’Donnell
Dublin 15
* We have too many politicians, “it” has no real power and we’re spending money we don’t have facing into a hard budget. That sums up the Yes side in the Seanad abolition campaign.
On further inspection, it’s worth noting more than 500 amendments to legislation suggested by the Seanad have been accepted by this Government to date. Who will suggest these amendments if the Seanad is abolished?
The last official report on Seanad reform recommended that the vocational panels be abolished, 26 seats be filled by direct elections, the franchise for electing university senators be extended to all third-level graduates, and the Taoiseach be formally required to use his nominees to represent Northern Ireland, the diaspora and marginalised groups.
It also suggested that the Seanad be given new functions, such as a greater role scrutinising the government and EU legislation. These reform measures are the gift of the members of Dail Eireann.
As for savings, won’t monies in reality be diverted to the Dail and its committees?
On October 4, we will also be asked to create a new Court of Civil Appeal. The lack of debate and discussion on this proposal is a cause for concern, with just four weeks until polling day.
Roisin Lawless
Co Meath
* I am open to considering the issue of Seanad reform if solid suggestions are made as to how this reform can be achieved. To date, I have heard mainly vague and tentative suggestions, and I do not agree with some of the more concrete suggestions.
First of all, a suggestion that all Irish passport holders should be allowed a vote means that residents of Ireland who are most affected by activities here might well be swamped. I believe that the right of representation has to be closely tied to contribution to taxation.
Secondly, the implied suggestion that university graduates should receive a special place in electing the Seanad is repulsive to me, partly as in my long working life, the biggest idiots I have met were all university graduates.
Thirdly, I have heard no suggestions as to how an election would be organised. The number of senators to be elected, constituency size, ability of candidates to effectively canvass large constituencies, method of voting and method of nomination are all unclear.
Fourthly, the current nomination process is designed to reinforce the vested interests and is totally unacceptable to me. Yet I do not know of any alternative nomination system proposal, except a vague suggestion for a popular nomination.
If a case is to be made for reform, that case needs to be spelled out in precise terms. I agree that we need political reform but that needs to start in the Dail.
Andrew Duffy
Address with Editor
* I was saddened to read Michael Dwyer’s column (Irish Independent, September 4, 2013). Jim Larkin was more than just a sheep-brained communist leading the Irish workers into despair, and William Martin Murphy was not a well-meaning philanthropist-type with a love for the ordinary working man.
Jim Larkin and the trade unionists saw the workers being ruthlessly exploited by big business, working hard, long hours for low pay and with very little security. They wanted more for the ordinary man and strove to obtain it.
Murphy and his ilk had no intention of giving in to any of their justifiable demands. So Murphy gave out tea and sandwiches at a meeting with the workers? So what!
Larkin was a communist, and Michael Dwyer, it seems, has a liking for capitalism and the big boss. I have a liking for neither the left/far left nor the right/far right; I just want a fair and honest look at the history of my city, county and country.
Seosamh O Faolain
Address with Editor
* A sonnet on Seamus Heaney:
Seamus Heaney 1939 – 2013
The lemonade man reversed up our lane.
The rattling crates and engine settled.
He beeped the horn. Then climbed down from the cab.
My mother, opening the front door, heard
His coarse curse as he slammed down a crib side;
And his angry, tearful sighs as he stooped
Under a branch and climbed the steps, laden
With her weekly messages. And she knew
That something terrible must have happened.
So she asked him, “Bob, what is the matter?”
And the horrible news he delivered
Shocked her too. As he turned to leave, she wept
Saying, “Come in through to the scullery.
I’ll make tea and we can talk of Seamus.”
Paul Keenan
Trinity College Dublin
* Which of these warning notices for drinking water seem out of place in 2013? Pakistan: Boil water before drinking. Ethiopia: Boil water before drinking. Mozambique: Boil water before drinking. Co Roscommon, Ireland: Boil water before drinking.
I know that everybody in the world in the 21st Century should have drinking water as an everyday, basic right.
But in a country which would not be regarded as poor and which can pay huge wages to our political leaders and bankers, you would think that after four years, ‘boil water’ notices in the part of Ireland where I live would have ended.
Henry Hughes
Castlerea, Co Roscommon
Irish Independent


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