17 September 2013 Hospital
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble They have to go and pick up Ambassador Flatly, the self made millionaire and Leslie inevitably gets them lost. Navigating by the stars. Priceless.
Hospital Mary’s blood count is up both white and red cells though she in under the weather.
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and gets just under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.
Pat Pilkington, who has died aged 84, was the co-founder of Penny Brohn Cancer Care, a charity behind one of the first holistic approaches to cancer treatment in Britain.
5:45PM BST 15 Sep 2013
Penny Brohn Cancer Care, formerly the Bristol Cancer Help Centre, had its roots in a voluntary pilot project created in 1975 by Pat Pilkington and her husband Christopher, an Anglican clergyman and rector of St Stephen’s City parish church. Based in Downfield Road, Bristol, the couple offered emotional and spiritual support in conjunction with information on complementary therapies such as meditation and acupuncture.
It was in the last capacity that they first met Penny Brohn, a young acupuncturist who had lost both her parents to cancer. In 1979 Penny was herself diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Told that there was little to be done, she began to seek alternative treatments abroad, lighting on an immunotherapy clinic in Bavaria. Pat Pilkington flew out to join her, and together they discussed plans for a new system of treatment that would provide cancer patients with the care that Penny felt that she had lacked — “the care”, as she put it, “for the mind, the spirit, the emotions, the heart and the soul”.
They enlisted the help of Dr Alec Forbes, a consultant physician at Plymouth Hospital, who became the centre’s first medical director when it opened in 1980. Forbes modified his existing theories about diet to produce a new nutritional plan for cancer patients . There was an emphasis on relaxation, group healing and daily meditation, employing many of the techniques that Pat had first developed in Downfield Road. Touch therapies such as massage and gentle exercises helped to improve physical well-being.
The Bristol Cancer Help Centre, as it then was, soon attracted considerable press interest, and in 1983 a BBC crew filmed a series of six programmes there, entitled A Gentle Way With Cancer. Transferring to larger premises in Grove House, Clifton, the trio began offering five-day residential placements and training days for professionals interested in the “Bristol approach”. The new centre was opened by the Prince of Wales, who became the charity’s patron in 1997.
Following the death of Penny Brohn in 1999, almost 20 years after her initial diagnosis, the Bristol Cancer Help Centre was renamed Penny Brohn Cancer Care.
The second of four children, Patricia Ann Pegley was born at Scunthorpe on November 3 1928 and brought up in Mill Hill, London. She attended Berkhamsted School for Girls before winning a place at the Central School for Speech and Drama. The war over, she became a drama teacher in Worcester, where she met Christopher Pilkington. They married in 1954 and moved to Bristol, Pat finding work as a radio producer for the BBC.
The initial response from the medical establishment to “the Bristol approach” was not always favourable, and in 1990 a study funded by two cancer charities claimed that women following the system were three times as likely to suffer the spread of breast cancer than those treated at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, and twice as likely to die once the disease had metastasised.
But the women who had taken part in the study vigorously rejected the findings, which were also widely reported in the media, and in 1992 they formed the Bristol Survey Support Group to compile a dossier of criticisms against the study’s underlying methodology. The subsequent inquiry found in the group’s favour, and the funding charities were reprimanded for their poor supervision of research. Both Pat Pilkington and Penny Brohn declined to take legal action themselves, judging it unethical for one charity to use its funds against another.
Pat Pilkington was appointed MBE in 2003. She continued to serve as a trustee of Penny Brohn Cancer Care into the final year of her life.
Her husband died in 2007, and she is survived by two sons and a daughter.
Pat Pilkington, born November 3 1928, died August 19 2013
John Harris highlights a catastrophic part of government education policy (Why is Ofsted lashing out against primary schools?, 16 September). When schools are turned into academies, a major change is in their governing bodies. The link with local authority and local community is broken, and organisations like the academy chains Harris Federation or Ark Schools take over – with little or no connection to the local community and what seem to be oppressive views on how schools should be run.
This is particularly serious in the case of primary schools because of the community role they often have in bringing parents together and thereby promoting community life. The report published this summer by the education select committee noted that although in some places there is a shortage of people willing to take on the role of school governors, overall primary schools’ governance has been judged to be good or outstanding in 55% of them. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
But the coalition government is driven by an ideological intent to push schools towards privatisation. As John Harris reveals, this has already happened to Ofsted, with inspections contracted to Serco, the Tribal Group and CfBT. Yet Serco, as Alan Travis points out (G4S and Serco can bid for £800m of contracts, 16 September) is “facing alleged fraud investigations”. The independence of Ofsted from government is challenged by Harris’s revelations. But who can inspect the inspectors?
Emeritus professor of education, Newark
• Ofsted inspects schools independently and there simply isn’t any evidence to the contrary. Our inspectors go into schools without fear or favour. What matters to Ofsted, as matters to parents and pupils, are good outcomes. We have found it is strong leadership, regardless of whether a school is under a council or an academy chain, which makes a positive difference to pupils’ performance.
It is rare for a school to go from outstanding to special measures. When a school’s performance falls, it is right that Ofsted inspectors go in to identify why this has happened and help solve problems swiftly.
But the good news is that this is happening less often. Just last week Ofsted published figures which showed that about 400,000 more primary school pupils are getting a good or better education than was the case in August 2012.
This is down to the dedication and professionalism of headteachers and teachers across the country. A strong inspection framework plays a big part in supporting good and ambitious headteachers to make necessary changes.
Director of schools, Ofsted
• I do believe that Sir Michael Wilshaw is correct in asserting that there are more good state schools than ever before, but aren’t the statistics upon which he bases his assertion a little flawed (State schools making ‘radical advances’, says Ofsted chief, 10 September)?
Good and outstanding schools are inspected less frequently than other schools – typically within five years, compared to within two years. Doesn’t this mean that inspections, because they concentrate disproportionately on those that are not judged good, are more likely to result in an increase in the number of schools graded higher at the end of that inspection round? Schools moving to “good” are more likely to be “picked up”, in any one year, than those going the other way.
Educational consultant, Knaresborough
• Simon Jenkins is right to challenge head-on the testing-mania of the current regime in the Department for Education (Michael Gove should forget maths and turn to marshmallows, 13 September). With some 90% of the world’s countries having a school starting age of six or seven, and England’s unconscionably early starting age being a quirk of parliamentary shenanigans that occurred around the 1870 Education Act, it is extraordinary that ministers are still furiously digging this antediluvian hole, when all the evidence points to its wrongheadedness. I periodically speak with parents of young children who’ve moved to England from Europe, and who are in incredulity (and sometimes in rage and despair) at the age when their hapless children are having to start formal schooling here; more than one has referred to it as “child abuse”. The day can’t come soon enough when a new regime possessing Simon Jenkins’ sound sense takes over at the DfE.
Dr Richard House
Department of education studies and liberal arts, University of Winchester
• I was delighted to see the coverage of the launch of the campaign for free school meals for all (School dinners all round, 10 September), particularly as it highlighted the success of one of Southwark’s flagship policies.
When we introduced the policy in 2010 in Southwark, it was not without controversy. It is now a popular policy that is widely supported by parents and the community. Offering free healthy school meals addresses a range of issues, from tackling poor diet and obesity to raising attainment and removing the stigma felt by children on free school meals.
The policy removes a disincentive to work and puts money back in to the pockets of families, which can help those on lower and middle incomes feeling the pinch. Parents have reported that their children now come home asking for healthy food and said that because of the policy they are able to afford books, dance and other extracurricular activities for children for the first time. This contributes to children being well rounded and having opportunities they might otherwise not have. The money saved is spent in the local economy.
I hope other councils will adopt this policy as one that can help all children but helps those children who are most disadvantaged most. Politicians of all persuasion should take a long-term view on this and weigh the cost against the long-term benefits to children, their families and society. As a Labour politician, I hope my party adopts this as a national policy – one that demonstrates how One Nation values can become unifying policies in practice.
Cllr Peter John
Leader of Southwark council
• I was relieved to see at long last that some good sense is being spoken about the damage that the “school readiness” mentality is doing to children’s development (Early schooling damaging children’s wellbeing, say experts, 12 September).
There was, however, one inaccuracy in your article, and in the caption to the accompanying photograph. It is quite untrue that children must be enrolled in a school by the age of five.
Parents have the legal responsibility to provide their child with an education. This responsibility is non-delegable and, whatever arrangements they make, parents remain ultimately responsible for their child’s education. Mothers and fathers may discharge their responsibility in part by sending the child for some of the working day to a private or a state school. However, more and more are opting simply to make their own arrangements and to educate their child otherwise than at school under section 7 of the Education Act 1996.
Home education is a highly sociable enterprise these days, with so many families from a variety of different backgrounds and income levels choosing this option. Home education networks across the UK are thriving, with families getting together regularly to provide each other with mutual support.
It is vitally important both for the preservation of civil liberties and for the welfare of children that we remember that education is compulsory but schooling is not.
Why does Peter Robinson (G2, 16 September) claim “most keyboards still have no dedicated key for an @ sign” and that “summoning a hash sign is a pain”‽ Both characters are on the standard Windows UK keyboard. True, the @ requires a simultaneous press of the shift key; but the # does not. The problem for would-be users of the interrobang character – ‽ – is rather that many fonts do not include it. However, many do, including several routinely supplied with today’s computers. If using Word, type the interrobang’s Unicode number, 203D, then highlight it and press Alt-X. The character should appear.
Professor John Wells
• Sharon Meers calls for 50:50 equality between women and men in sharing power and work (How to cure a sexist boss, 16 September). In the UK the average life expectancy of men is three years less than that of women; so, ought not some allowance be made for men? Or would the feminist conclusion be that men should work even more, to make up for their absconding three years earlier?
• The “freebirthers” in your article (Born free, Weekend, 14 September) live in cloud cuckoo land. I and my family live in the real world. Our son was born with a serious heart condition which was not detected in my antenatal scans. If I had given birth to him at home without any medical assistance he would have died.
• I like the radical approach to vegetarianism suggested in your Cook supplement (14 September): “to make [tomato, bacon and mint pasta sauce] vegetarian, just omit the bacon”. Vegetarian ham sandwich, anyone? Just omit the ham.
Sidlesham, West Sussex
• Shocking to read a recipe in the Guardian that involved plunging a live animal into boiling water (We love to eat: Lobster cooked on the beach, Family, 14 September). What could be more cruel?
• The pope should have an eco-friendly Toyota Pius (Letters, 14 September)?
Your article (Transatlantic attempt buoyed by 370 balloons, 13 September) states that Jonathan Trappe “specialises in cluster ballooning and was the first person to cross the Channel and the Alps using the method”.
While not wishing to detract from his achievements in any way, I have to point out that the Channel was first crossed by this type of aircraft in August 1986, when David Kirke of the Dangerous Sports Club used a cluster of round helium lifting balloons and a neutrally buoyant balloon in the shape of a kangaroo. This led to his prosecution for flying without a pilot’s licence.
The case set an important legal precedent. As The Times put it in an editorial, “There can be few people who already knew, before this business, that it is an offence in this country to fly a kangaroo without first having been licensed to do so; well, they know better now.”
As a member of the club, I was among Mr Kirke’s assistants on the day of the Channel flight, and later had the opportunity to commit aviation using the same balloons in Wales. The flights were sponsored by Foster’s lager, so we used its product as ballast (rather than the usual sand), making this the first, and, to my knowledge, the only, aircraft yet constructed that was controlled by pouring beer.
As Liberal Democrat opposition to nuclear power joins opposition to secret courts and tuition fees on the bonfire of Lib Dem commitments, voters could be forgiven for wondering whether the party has any “red lines” of policy or principle left (Climate fears bring U-turn on nuclear power generation, 16 September).
The weasel-worded capitulation on nuclear power suggests it has a role to play “providing concerns about safety, disposal of radioactive waste and cost are adequately addressed and … without allowing any public subsidy for new build”.
As the Lib Dem leadership well knows, the new energy bill has been crafted precisely to give generous subsidies to nuclear through so-called contracts for difference. It is thought likely that, for Hinkley C alone, a transfer of £30bn-£50bn from British householders and businesses to the French company EDF will be required. Moreover, it is proposed that nuclear operators’ liability be capped at just £1bn per plant, when the total costs of the Fukushima disaster, for example, may well exceed £300bn.
There are far cheaper, safer, quicker, more efficient ways of addressing the climate challenge than pursuing nuclear power. Accelerating the deployment of energy-efficiency measures, demand-response, demand-reduction and distributed-generation policies, and renewable technologies, would help drive wholesale electricity costs down and deliver more value for money as a pathway to decarbonising electricity generation.
The Green New Deal Group, of which I am part, outlined just such an approach in a report last week. Investment in renewables, alongside a nationwide project to make every building in the country energy-efficient, would create hundreds of thousands of high-quality jobs across the country, as well as reducing both fuel bills and emissions.
Caroline Lucas MP
Green, Brighton Pavilion
• I was surprised to read that Vince Cable is to ask the Low Pay Commission to restore the value of the minimum wage (Report, 14 September).
Can these be the same Lib Dems whose minister for farming, David Heath, pushed through the abolition of the minimum wage structure for agricultural workers because it would lead to a more flexible market? The same Lib Dems who, in the face of the overwhelming rejection of the proposals in the consultation period, ploughed on and whipped their members in the House of Lords to push through abolition? The same Lib Dems who had received analysis from Defra showing that low-paid agricultural workers would lose £279.7m over 10 years if they pushed abolition through?
I wait with bated breath to hear that Cable has instructed Heath to halt the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board, which is due to be implemented on 1 October. Clearly they are now concerned about low pay and minimum wages in rural areas in a way that they were not earlier this year.
Former member of the Agricultural Wages Board
• I see Nick Clegg was playing for the blue team (photo caption: “Nick Clegg takes time out to show his skill at table football”, 16 September). As he has been doing for the past three years.
Michael Gove is disingenuous and possibly also ill-informed (Report, 14 September) when he “raises alarm” that residential homes for children are built in areas of high crime and often far from their original locality. These homes, nowadays usually run by private sector providers, are opened in areas with low property prices not only because the property price is part of the cost but also because areas with high property prices tend not to welcome an influx of unruly young people in their nice quiet streets. (And what we are talking about here are often the most “difficult to manage” teenagers, since government policy is that foster placements should always be considered for children first.)
As for many of them being far from home, sometimes that’s the point. The very reasons behind them coming into care in the first place – poor parenting and insecure attachments, often leading to them acting out their distress with risk-taking behaviour, crime or drugs – are the reasons to move them away from those influences and temptations.
But the real question is: why are so many of these children in care anyway? We know that prevention works better than cure. But preventive services cost money that local authorities don’t now have and instead they find themselves confined to damage-limitation interventions when family situations may already be beyond retrieval. If Gove actually wants children’s lives to improve, he needs to start arguing for increased funding of existing core services. But I’ll not be holding my breath.
• It is good to hear Michael Gove’s condemnation of the “indefensible” practice of sending children to live away from their home local authority areas. Does this mean that his government will now reverse its community-busting housing benefit reforms, which are hitting children and families with similarly cruel effects?
For the first time in my life I agree entirely with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (16 September). She is absolutely right to condemn fully veiled Muslim women who in a misguided attempt to assert their religious freedom are ensuring their permanent exclusion from British society. There can be no better argument against the veil than the courageous example of Malala Yousafzai whose powerful message was massively enhanced by the sight of her smiling face.
I know from personal experience in education that the vast majority of young Muslims want to throw off the shackles of their fundamentalist co-religionists and play a full part in a pluralistic and extremely tolerant Britain.
Stan Labovitch, Windsor
In noting that no sacred text instructs women to cover their faces in public, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown misses the point – for were a sacred text to instruct such covering, many of us would still be appalled.
The culprit is God or, more accurately, deeply held belief in an all-powerful being who demands obedience. Once people are imbued with that belief, be it from scripture, tradition, elders or revelation, what hope is there for reasoning with them over how best to pass unwounded between excess liberty and excess authority?
Peter Cave, London W1
I am a left-leaning atheist who is passionate about universal human rights and who wants disparate communities in these islands to integrate and live together in harmony.
To this end I would like to ask those who defend the veil to answer some questions that are beyond me. How does a woman in a niqab repay, in kind, the warmth in a stranger’s smile? How does a woman in a niqab enter into a loving relationship with someone of her own choosing, perhaps from another community? And finally, how can you tell if a woman in a niqab is wearing it because she feels “empowered” by it, or because someone has told her to?
To me, a niqab is a two-fingered gesture aimed at my background and my culture. It tells me the woman wearing it, or the person who’s told her to wear it, sees members of my community as inferior and not worth getting to know. The implication that men in my community might rape women if it weren’t for niqabs concealing their beauty is also grossly insulting. Will anyone stand up for my human rights?
Phil Edwards, Godalming, Surrey
I am troubled by people objecting to an accused wearing a burka in court on the grounds that it prevents jurors from seeing their facial expressions (letters, 16 September). To G Barlow’s question, “should the smirking face of a remorseless accused be hidden from the jury”, I would answer “Yes, that sounds like a good idea.”
Facial expressions, I would suggest, can be one of the most important factors leading to miscarriages of justice. Indeed I did hear of one extreme case of a juror who refused to accept that the person in the dock could possibly be guilty “because he had such a nice face”.
Should a juror who is meant to be deciding a case on the basis of the evidence place any reliance whatever on facial expression? Would it not serve the interests of justice better if all accused in the dock were obliged to wear burkas?
Chris Sexton, Crowthorne, Berkshire
Professor Albert Mehrabian’s research has shown that, in human communication, 55 per cent of messages pertaining to feelings and attitudes lie in facial expression. No conscientious jury could be expected even to consider a case where its ability to assess the defendant’s truthfulness was reduced by more than half.
David Crawford, Bickley, Kent
When I see a woman in a niqab, I think either that she is bullied by her family or community, or that she feels no solidarity with women who are. Both thoughts depress me.
Daphne Tomlinson, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire
How boys and girls learn
Richard Garner wishes luck to the proposed Diaspora Diamond Free School with their “interesting proposal” to teach boys and girls separately (Chalk Talk, 12 September).
According to the school this arises from parental demand and its wish to address the different learning styles of boys and girls.
They’ll need more than luck, unfortunately, as there is no real evidence to suggest that this form of educational apartheid is any better, and, as many teachers recognise (and as is confirmed in research by Lise Eliot and others), there’s more variety in learning styles within a cohort of boys or girls than there are differences between the sexes.
Free schools remain an experiment of our age and the jury is still out on whether they will provide the cure or sound the death knell for our allegedly broken education system. Whichever way it turns out, parents will want to be sure that they are on the right side of the experiment in their choice of schools.
Neil Roskilly, Chief Executive Officer, The Independent Schools Association, Saffron Walden, Essex
Selling Royal Mail to foreigners
So the Government is to sell off the Royal Mail, a profit-making national service, to attract inward investment. What guarantee do we have that the newly established postal service won’t cut jobs, close even more post offices and reduce collections and deliveries in order to increase profits and dividends to shareholders?
And in a few years time when it is bid for by a French, American or Chinese company we will be powerless to stop it.
Mrs Thatcher was right!
Andrew Johnson, Banbury, Oxfordshire
I don’t much care who owns the Royal Mail, or whether the sorting offices and deliveries are handled by one entity or many. I very much care however about our historic post boxes.
As I wander around the towns and villages of the UK, I note VR, GR and ER boxes as part of a wider appreciation of the heritage of our urban landscapes. Even more so than red phone boxes, red post boxes with their royal cyphers are a living tapestry of our history and I really don’t want to be part of the generation that ends that.
So, whatever we do with the company, would the Government please ensure that the post boxes survive? And that the tradition continues so that in 100 years people will be walking past CR and WR boxes as well?
Luke Magee, Ashford, Kent
David Ridge (letter, 14 September) wonders what Her Majesty thinks of the Royal Mail privatisation. Well, as our government is so keen to sell off all the country’s assets, why don’t they go the whole hog and privatise the Royal Family too?
They make significant demands on the public purse for little visible return, and have a unique position in the marketplace for a lucrative sell-off. We could all look forward to the Queen’s Christmas message with an attractive multinational logo emblazoned on her chest.
Arnie Donoff, London N11
The answer to Tony Chabot’s letter (14 September) is that page 28 of the Liberal Democrat 2010 manifesto proposed the separation and part-sale of Royal Mail.
Frank Little, Neath
Good and bad weapons
So the US Secretary of State John Kerry applauds the deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons and talks loftily of the “high principles” behind the agreement. The deal ought to be applauded. It has prevented a war and the world will certainly be a better place without Syria’s chemical weapons, but really isn’t it a bit rich for America to be acting so righteously?
Mr Kerry made no mention of the other rogue nation in the Middle East, Israel with its hundreds of nuclear bombs. No mention either of America’s prolific use of depleted uranium and phosphorous bombs against the people of Falluja in Iraq.
So what we have here is that America is good and Arabs are bad. Cowboys good: Indians bad.
Mark Holt, Waterloo, Merseyside
Lib Dems were right
Leslie Rowe accuses the Lib Dems of having “sold their souls” for power (letter, 16 September).
A party can have the most idealistic and ambitious set of policies imaginable while safely in opposition.
As a current member of the Liberal Democrats I would rather the party was arguing from within government where at least some Lib Dem policies can be made real than having the finest set of policies in opposition which will never be applied or tested.
Bob Morgan , Thatcham, West Berkshire
How to swat a confused fly
I was interested in the piece about various creatures’ perception of time (16 September). The limited processing power of a fly’s brain is no good at multi-tasking and can be defeated despite being “6.8 times faster” than our brains. Wiggle both hands either side of the fly’s present perch so it sees them, then whop both hands simultaneously at the fly, making sure the hand with a tissue gets there first.
The fly can’t decide fast enough which way to jump and you’ve won – works every time!
Tony Wood, Farnborough, Hampshire
British answer to Merkel
Katherine Butler (“Competent and charisma-free. Are these now the politicians we want?”, 13 September) could have tried comparing Angela Merkel with the least charismatic prime minister of the last century, a man so modest that his wife drove him around on his election campaigns in an Austin, and who read the papers only for the cricket scores.
Attlee was a man of far greater worth than any of the flash political Woosters who dominate modern politics.
Trevor Walshaw, Meltham, West Yorkshire
I was very interested to read on 16 September of Richard Rogers’ socially responsible practice, where “the highest paid architect . . . could only have eight or nine times the lowest-paid architect’s salary.” But please tell us about the salaries of other workers supporting the practice: how many times would the salary of the receptionist or the cleaner fit into the salary of the highest and lowest paid architect?
Henrietta Cubitt, Cambridge
‘The bedroom tax should be scrapped. Those who wanted to and could move to smaller properties have done so, the remainder cannot’
Sir, Janice Turner (Opinion, Sept 14 ) is right about the bedroom tax. During more than 30 years working in social housing, I found
under-occupation of valuable, taxpayer-funded assets at times of high demand to be a recurring concern. It has always been recognised among professionals that the problem lies in people who have two spare bedrooms.
Most two-bedroom under-occupation occurs in the over-65 age group who still occupy family houses. For the Government to exempt this group rather than try positive encouragement for them to move — building good quality small flats or bungalows with rent holidays and moving costs paid, for example — is the biggest cop-out of all. The Government has created an ineffective, expensive and divisive policy which it would do well to scrap.
Sir, By calling on the Government to retain the spare-room subsidy, Janice Turner is demanding rights for one section of the population that are not afforded to others. She is calling for the taxpayer to subsidise a luxury that many of us are unable to afford for ourselves.
I fail to see why benefit claimants should be protected from the realities that people face every day. When children leave the family home, it’s very common for parents to downsize. The same is true in cases of divorce and old age, so why should this be different in the social rented sector? There will be instances where moving would impose hardship, but there has been a big increase in the Discretionary Housing Payments fund to mitigate this.
Sir, Mr Clegg’s continued obsession with the so-called “mansion tax” on residential property worth over £2m (report, Sept 16) is strange. Property costing over £2 million already provides a 7 per cent tax yield for the Government when it is bought. If it is owned by a company, it is subject to a substantial annual tax. When the owner (or surviving partner) dies, the Government receives 40 per cent of its value above the small IHT exemption. With the recent large increase in value in the London property market, the proposed tax would affect properties that can be no stretch of the imagination be considered to be “mansions” — for example, two-bedroom flats in Kensington or Chelsea.
Robert Rhodes, QC
Sir, The bedroom tax should be scrapped. Those who wanted to and could move to smaller properties have done so, the remainder cannot. It is absurd and morally indefensible to continue with a policy that causes so much hardship, misery and wastes council’s time and resources.
Long Hanborough, Oxon
Sir, Graham Paine (letter, Sept 16) seems not to have noticed the on-going campaign against austerity which includes all three caps on housing benefit created by the Local Housing Allowance — the bedroom tax, the £500 overall benefit cap and the imposition of between 8.5 per cent and 30 per cent of council tax on benefit income. The three caps on housing benefit make rents unaffordable in social housing and are forcing many evictions into the private rented sector.
The Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
We need to move away from the idea of education as a single intervention for the development of skills
Sir, You report (Sept 13) that employers of graduates are expressing concern about the lack of employability skills of graduates
from British universities. Many universities have made improvements to the skills element of academic programmes, and to make further progress, employers will need to play an even more active role in helping to ensure that such courses are relevant to the workplace.
Given that most graduates are likely to have many careers during their working lives, we need to move away from the idea of education as a single intervention for the development of skills. It is for universities, employers
and individuals to work together to create personalised skills packages that are responsive to the needs of a 21st-century employment market and a culture where learning is lifelong, even if jobs are not.
Professor Stephen Caddick
Vice-Provost Enterprise, University College London
If someone obtains by deception, say, £10,000, the cost of sending him or her to prison means that the public loses out by a minimum of £15,000
Sir, So the Government want to jail benefit cheats for up to ten years (report, Sept 16). The cost of keeping a prisoner in a State-run prison in Britain is between £25,000 and £26,000. In a private prison it is around £31,000. So, if someone obtains by deception, say, £10,000 the public loses out by a minimum of £15,000. I fail to see how this will reduce the money lost to benefit fraud. I do agree that benefit fraudsters should be punished, and hard, but imprisonment is the economics of a lunatic asylum.
The process of taking down upon request is hopeless because the images simply reappear sourced from another obscure website
Sir, Index on Censorship appear to have misled Matthew Parris (Opinion, Sept 11). I did not ask the French courts to “remove all references to a News of the World story that accused [me] of having a Nazi-style orgy”. My request to the French court relates solely to some specific photographs which both the English and French courts have already ruled illegal.
Because it is illegal to publish these pictures, Google remove them each time it is asked to do so. There is no dispute about this and it is a process my lawyers and I undertook over a long sustained period. However, the process of taking down upon request is hopeless because the images simply reappear sourced from another obscure website. I have asked the French court to order them to stop doing this. There is no question that they are capable of doing so.
It would never occur to me to try to remove all reference to the News of the World story. That would be absurd. I just want Google to abide by the obligation not to continue to republish a small number of images that it knows are illegal.
Does the wearing or not wearing of any form of apparel have any influence on the building and maintenance of understanding, respect and good relations?
Sir, Rabbi Jonathan Romain’s contention (letter, Sept 16 ) that religious tolerance is impaired by the effect of the niqab is far from proven. As a lay (Jewish) member of a local Interfaith council and after many years involvement in meetings with those of almost every faith, I have never experienced the wearing or not wearing of any form of apparel as having any influence on the building and maintenance of understanding, respect and good relations.
Indeed, I know of Muslims who would wish to see discontinued the practice of covering up so completely. , discontinued. However, the question of whether employers should be legally entitled to dictate on dress codes should surely be a matter to be decided in the best interests of the work. Religious tolerance, in this particular argument, is a red herring.
SIR – I am a former guide at Parham House, West Sussex, where George Stubbs’s paintings The Kongouro from New Holland and Portrait of a Large Dog were on view to the public for many years, until their removal for sale (“Hands off our old kongouro, British museum tells Australians”, report, August 22).
Originally commissioned by Sir Joseph Banks, the pictures passed to his wife’s relations on his death, as he had no children. They eventually descended to the Hon Clive Pearson and his wife at Parham House. They were exhibited at the Society of Artists, London, in 1773.
Certainly, these pictures should find a home at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, rather than in the National Gallery of Australia, which has also laid claim to the images.
Pulborough, West Sussex
SIR – As a former social care inspector, I believe that the Education Secretary’s analysis of secrecy rules surrounding children’s homes is poor (“No longer will the quality, policies and location of care homes be kept a secret”, Comment, September 13). Between 1975 and 2010, I was responsible for the regulation of thousands of children’s homes. If anything, the Data Protection Act made that work easier because, properly applied, it is a safe and permissive framework to share sensitive information between authorities.
It was a Conservative government that failed to include in the grounds for refusal to register a children’s home (Children Act 1989) the “situation” of the home. Property prices have been the most dominant factor for providers setting up children’s homes, hence many are located in Northern towns, sparsely-populated shires and the Fens.
All governments have consistently failed to champion the value and sanctuary of institutional living for a proportion of children who are in flight from abusive, personal relationships: rather they react to intermittent scandal. More investment is needed, and those at the top of Ofsted and the Department for Education need a better understanding of the key issues.
Stubbs’s painting of a dingo should remain here
16 Sep 2013
SIR – For too many years, children and young people, who have already had to deal with serious and serial adversities, have been sent to far-flung places where they have, despite the best endeavours of professionals working in the child-care and mental-health fields, been out of sight and consequently, out of mind.
They are at heightened risk of abuse and some, following this pathway of abuse, may themselves become abusers. They become caught up in predatory groups of adults, who, unlike the statutory authorities, have detailed maps of where these vulnerable children are living.
Children and young people have a right to be safely cared for and to be nurtured in their local communities. Instead they are despatched to homes far from the friends, family and care workers they are familiar with, as though they are being punished for some wrong-doing.
Professor Sue Bailey
President, Royal College of Psychiatrists
SIR – Ensuring that vulnerable young people in care homes are protected is essential, and we welcome Michael Gove’s call for transparency. However, data protection is not a barrier to keeping children safe, and responsible data sharing in a good cause is always possible.
There shouldn’t be room for confusion in anything as important as child protection. That is why the Information Commissioner’s Office publishes clear guidance, and why we are available to help organisations who need advice.
Paying for plastic bags
SIR – If the Government wants to deter us from using plastic bags, it should simply tell the supermarkets to stop providing them, as they do in France (“Supermarkets to charge 5p for every plastic bag”, report, September 14).
Everyone who has visited a supermarket in France will know that instead of providing plastic bags, one has the choice of providing one’s own carrier or to buy the attractive, strong carrier bags with the image of fruit or fish on the sides, as well as the name of the supermarket. These bags are inexpensive, and last a long time.
SIR – Our high streets are under threat, and the Government is trying to save them. Surely charging for plastic bags will just push more people into having goods delivered to their door, adding to the demise of traditional shops.
Also, I don’t want to have to carry bags with me to avoid paying a charge levied every time I make an impulse purchase.
Worcester Park, Surrey
SIR – India and Bangladesh banned plastic bags in 2002. Britain is to introduce a 5p levy on plastic bags in 2015. Pathetic.
History of the trainer
SIR – I was interested to read Harry Mount’s article on trainers (Comment, September 13). The trainer appeared in the Fifties to replace athletic spikes for warm-up laps, to save the then cinder tracks from excessive wear.
I had a pair of adidas trainers in 1954, when I was at an Army boarding school. They had soft leather uppers and rubber soles, and were most comfortable. Years later, these trainers were the preferred footware of countless British Gurkha officers on duty treks in the Himalayas. When the plastic versions arrived they were not liked; they were hot and did not allow the sweat to evaporate. They still don’t.
Rare please, waiter
SIR – Last week, I ordered calves’ liver cooked pink in a restaurant in Piccadilly – I have been enjoying this delicacy there for years, without any ill effect – only to be told that it had to be cooked through (Letters, September 13). Apparently, rare calves’ liver has been banned by Westminster Council. I switched to roast grouse, which was pink, and not covered by the diktat.
It is only a matter of time before we shall only be able to enjoy a rare fillet steak in the privacy of our own homes.
SIR – My wife and I have just become grandparents. In a year or two, I hope to start to tell bedtime stories again.
I made up stories for our children about Little Miss Mary Mouse, and her younger sister Little Miss Susan Mouse, who lived in a hedge on the edge of a cornfield. Their adventures included going to France, attending a birthday party and a story about bonfire night. The stories are still remembered by my children just as clearly as the classic stories, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, that my wife read to them.
Bedtime stories are a wonderful time for bonding with children, and for the early learning of the art of the spoken word.
EU budget concerns
SIR – The EU president’s request to official auditors to tone down their criticism of Brussels’s spending to avoid negative press coverage (report, September 14) is quite staggering, particularly given the breath-taking figures involved. Apparently dismissing the need for EU spending to be better controlled, and those responsible for the £89 billion of misdirected funds to be rooted out and censured, Herman Van Rompuy seeks to play down what is surely one of the biggest scandals of the EU.
While the Prime Minister is right to pour scorn on such a statement, I am far from convinced his demands for EU reform will be listened to. He will undoubtedly fail on the issue of fraud and corruption, as there are so many people with vested interests.
The British Parliament’s pro-EU stance must convince those in power that Britain will never leave the EU. So Britain’s net budget contribution will continue to be safe for their private use.
Follow your conscience
SIR – I do hope that we will remember the Christian conscientious objectors who enlisted into the Royal Engineers to do bomb-disposal work during the Second World War (report, September 12).
They were prepared to die in the sure and certain hope of their place in heaven, while not carrying arms.
Capt Allan Hodgson (retd)
Chaplain to the Royal British Legion, Paphos Branch
Pegia, Paphos, Cyprus
SIR – The Peace Pledge Union has been given a substantial grant to raise awareness of the role of conscientious objectors. Once, in the House of Commons, Winston Churchill failed to answer a question put to him by a member at Question Time.
Herbert Morrison, a conscientious objector, asked if he was frightened to reply. “Shall we just say”, replied Churchill, “I have a conscientious objection to answering the question.”
Applying for jobs
SIR – With reference to your article, “Most CVs are not worth the paper they’re written on, say bosses” (report, September 12), surely they are more accurate than most job advertisements and descriptions.
Why independent bookshops struggle to survive
SIR – Tony Fyson (Letters, September 10) needs to look a little further back for the beginning of the end of the independent bookshop. This began in about 1997 with the ending of the Net Book Agreement. The result of this was that supermarkets and big chains could sell books more cheaply than the independents could buy them.
My son owned a bookshop at that time, located opposite John Menzies. It didn’t matter that he was able and willing to obtain books that they could not, best sellers are a bookshop’s bread and butter, and the inevitable result was that he sold up.
SIR – While on holiday in the New Forest recently with my two grandchildren, aged 11 and 15, I visited a lovely independent bookshop in the village of Brockenhurst. I was delighted to find that it was still there, as my last visit was three years ago.
The sheer joy of the ambience and the friendly staff persuaded me to buy some books for both my grandchildren and myself – I was not in the least bit bothered that they were at full list price. Long may such an inspiring shop last.
Potters Bar, Hertfordshire
Sir, – The main difference between a constitutional Seanad, no matter what its “faults”, and non-constitutional (though legal) pre-legislative consultation groups, is that the constitutional Seanad may not safely be ignored by any Government.
Over the past 76 years, this quiet function of the Senate has ensured the taken-for-granted stability of the government of the Republic of Ireland. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In the early part of the last century, the British Liberal leader Lloyd George described members of the House of Lords as “Five hundred men, accidentally chosen from among the ranks of the unemployed”. When the Conservatives defended the Lords as the “watchdog of the constitution”, Lloyd George said it was in fact the“Conservative leader’s poodle” .
Cannot the Seanad best be described as comprising an unrepresentative and privileged few, supplemented by failed and aspiring TDs and enough nominees to ensure it is the taoiseach’s lap dog?
Sir, – Minister of State Alex White’s article calling for the abolition of the Seanad is quite extraordinary when you consider that when he was a senator (2007 – 2011), he was an enthusiastic supporter of the Seanad and of radical reform of the second chamber (“No plausible case made for a second chamber”, Opinion & Analysis, September 13th). In November 2010, just four months before he left the Seanad and was elected to the Dáil, Mr White voted in favour of a motion put forward by Senator Joe O’Toole which proposed radical Seanad reforms roughly along the lines now being proposed by Senators John Crown and Katherine Zappone. Both of these sets of proposals are now being dismissed by Mr White as “unworkable”.
During the debate on the motion in 2010, Mr White made a number of additional proposals, including a more detailed committee-style scrutiny of Ministers by the Seanad and a system of petitions to the Seanad by members of the public. He was highly critical of the Fianna Fáil government of the day, saying that it was “principally a matter for the government to bring forward the proposals” for reform. And yet now Mr White is happy for his own Government to shirk this responsibility and to proceed to try to ram through abolition.
Having called for detailed reform less than three years ago, Mr White now tells us that “the State can do without a house of parliament that so few of its citizens know about, care about, or would miss” and that “the case for its abolition literally is that there is no case for its retention”. This is quite an extraordinary U-turn.
If Mr White wants anyone to take his stance seriously, he ought to clarify urgently what caused this radical change of heart. If you were a cynic, you might come to the conclusion that since Mr White has used the Seanad as a platform to be elected to the Dáil and ultimately ministerial office, he has done the same flip-flop routine which so many others have performed on the issue. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In his press conference on September 10th, Taoiseach Enda Kenny brandished a copy of the Constitution in support of his proposal to abolish Seanad Éireann.
I remind the Taoiseach that Article 28(4)(1) of the same Constitution states “the Government shall be responsible to Dáil Éireann”.
The four-man Economic Management Council (EMC), comprising the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Ministers for Finance and Public Sector Reform, has met about 47 times. The results of their deliberations and decisions go to a largely acquiescent Cabinet. If a Dáil vote on these decisions is required, it is secured by a draconian use of the whip, not only threatening but actually expelling dissident members from the party and, to add insult to injury, local party organisations being warned that if they dare to exercise their right to nominate any of these expelled members for re-election, their nominations will be blocked by party headquarters.
Now Mr Kenny demands abolition of the Seanad using arguments such as the unsubstantiated and strongly contested assertion that the Seanad is costing the Irish taxpayer €20 million per year.
Nobody would deny the Seanad needs reform, but even in its present imperfect form it provides a forum to highlight the very real dangers inherent in a unicameral state with a Government controlled by a small group such as the EMC or its successor.
A No vote in the forthcoming referendum is a vote for democracy. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I agree with Sean Stewart (September 14th) that we are being offered a defective choice in relation to the Senate referendum – a Yes or No with nothing in between.The binary choice is not good enough.
Reform of the Seanad electoral system is needed but so too is reform of the total system of government. The Cabinet has been emasculated by the creation of the four-man economic management committee. Any move by Government towards further concentration of power, which the abolition of the Seanad would entail, should be rejected. This referendum is not the reform of politics promised by Fine Gael. It seems more like a proposal to remove any possible dissent from the neighbours in the Upper House.
If this referendum is rejected, the Government will then have to consider real reform. – Yours, etc,
Glenageary, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Fine Gael posters urge the electorate to abolish the Seanad, save €20 million and thereby reduce the number of politicians. Would it not be more cost-effective to abolish the Dáil, save much more money and thereby reduce the number of politicians much more drastically? Come to think of it, if cost is the only consideration, do we really need more than 160 legislators or 15 Ministers to run Ireland? I quite like the ramshackle Oireachtas, with its President, Dáil and Seanad. I also like the ancient and venerable titles of Taoiseach and Tánaiste, but I can’t help reflecting that a troika seemed to run Ireland quite effectively. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Is it because our Seanad is under threat that we now have constant radio ads for a fellow called Senator Windows who promises to protect our homes? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Once again, I am appalled by the stance of the Irish bishops, who apparently own the Veritas shops, in not allowing the sale of Fr Flannery’s A Question of Conscience (“New book by Fr Tony Flannery not available in Veritas bookshops”, Home News, September 12th). However they are now ensuring that many more will look to buy it! It is important that we all email our respective bishops and let them know in numbers how we feel on this issue. I would like to think that we would also ask our bishops to keep us informed as to what exactly they are doing to have our silenced priests– Fr Gerard Moloney, Fr Iggy O’Donovan, Fr Seán Fagan and Fr Brian D’Arcy – unsilenced. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Is not the “silencing” of Fr Flannery getting a tad surreal? His constant media presence surely makes this the most vocal silence in recorded history. Not to mention his supporters, who loudly and publicly proclaim that they have been “cowed into servility” and silence by the “oppressive” structures of the church (September 16th).
On this evidence, either those in the structures were absent the day they were giving the “how best to oppress” class in the seminary, or those doing all the shouting have an exaggerated notion of their own oppression. – Is mise,
Rev PATRICK G BURKE,
Sir, – I was lucky enough to be educated by Marist Sisters who encouraged us to take nothing at face value, to question everything and to make up our own minds when we had gathered our facts.
An organisation that responds to criticism by using every means at its disposal to silence its critics would certainly make me wonder what they are so afraid of.
Certainly the Catholic Church bears little or no resemblance to the words and teachings of Jesus in the Bible. It has built for itself a cosy, smug, male hierarchy that allows no questions, brooks no criticism and declares its teachings to be infallible. Jesus wept.
While they sojourn in their ivory towers, it seems to me the time is coming when they shall reap what they have sown. I agree with Sr Eileen Linehan (September 12th) that “hundreds (if not thousands) of earnest Irish Catholics remain silent for fear of the repercussions of speaking their truth”. How sad is this. The Catholic Church still thinks it can rule by fear. How far removed they have come from the simple message of “love one another as I have loved you”. It is hard to consider it a living church. It does not address the needs of its people; it doesn’t even want to listen to them.
Silencing good men like Fr Flannery will only serve to hasten its decline. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – As a financially contributing and intellectually convinced member of the Catholic Church, I expect its pastors to believe in and preach that which they signed up to – the core teachings of the church as laid out by the Magisterium. In this context it’s extremely disconcerting to turn on the radio virtually every day and hear a long interview with a “silenced” priest, enunciating half-baked views on various aspects of Catholic teaching. The church authorities obviously are not very adept at silencing dissent. Perhaps they might avail of the services of the ruthless silencing abilities of the present Taoiseach. He has been the subject of much praise from many political commentators for his firmness in dealing with the anti-abortion members of his party. Bishops, please copy. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I wish to suggest, with socially appropriate PAYE humility, that the reaction to Jim Stafford’s radio interview about solicitors, accountants and their houses has been begrudging (Hugh Linehan, “Stafford let mask slip on how our betters cope with crash”, Opinion & Analysis, September 14th).
At a time when there is a lack of confidence in the economy and in the natural leaders of our people, it is vital that appearances be maintained.
Ireland has long been led by people whose appearance and reality were far apart and it is crucial that this be continued.
In addition, it’s about time that the contribution of insolvent solicitors and accountants to Irish society was finally and appropriately recognised. Not only should they be maintained in houses that someone else is paying for but which reflect their position in society, but the Government should also introduce tax deductions so they can more easily afford the elegant clothes and German cars they need.
In addition, subsidies and restrictive practices should be introduced so that their children are always in the best schools and their ability to earn supra-normal incomes is copper-fastened.
We can thus ensure the perfection reflected by current Irish society is maintained and that Ireland continues to be led by the kind of accountants and solicitors that have brought us so far. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Joe Humphreys’s excellent piece (“High level of psychosis among remand prisoners”, Front Page, September 14th) highlights the circumstances that result in the mentally ill ending up in prison, rather than mental health facilities. If a revolving door of readmission to prison or hospital is to be avoided, then effective discharge planning is required.
While cost and time can always be an excuse for us healthcare workers, the reality is that we need to make tough decisions as to who we prioritise. Patients who have schizophrenia or psychosis and engage in substance abuse can cause chaos on a psychiatric inpatient unit and often the response is to discharge to homeless services with limited outpatient care.
An alternative care plan led by one key worker could involve assertive outreach by mental health workers who support the patient but who also ensure that social welfare payments are managed initially until the patient’s destructive lifestyle is addressed.
However, this is seldom done as it requires an assessment of patient capacity and that can fluctuate, so without discussion on future health policy regarding the merits of a paternalistic approach to hard cases, as opposed to patient self-determination in all cases, the status quo may remain. – Yours, etc,
Adult Mental Health
Sir, – Robbie Roulston’s piece (“State protection of Protestant fee-paying schools needs to be challenged”, Opinion & Analysis, September 13th) is a refreshing antidote to the propaganda put forward by the proponents of special treatment for fee-paying Protestant schools. For a start, Dr Roulston’s views are evidenced-based; and it is well that we should understand the circumstances of nearly half a century ago when the current system was established. The point is, of course, that those circumstances in large measure no longer apply. In the mid-1960s, schools were denominational in practically every sense – the student body was overwhelmingly of one religious group, as were the staff. Headmasters were often Protestant clerics. Frequently, there was formal church involvement in governance. The point, for Protestant schools, was to mitigate or eliminate the pernicious effects of the Ne Temere decree on the demographic trajectory of the Protestant community, and to ensure continued customers for the churches.
All this has changed. Examining the current prospectuses of the schools with a “Protestant” ethos, one is struck by the tone of welcome to students of other denominations, and none. This may be to the good, but it completely undermines any case for special treatment. The schools are very coy about their current denominational composition, both students and staff. When one takes account of the extensive colonisation of these schools by Roman Catholics (whether nominal or not is beside the point), it is difficult to see how they can claim to work to a “Protestant” ethos.
If a bicycle acquires four wheels and a roof, it is no longer a bicycle.
What most characterises these schools now is their class basis and, I would maintain, it is why “Catholics” and “Protestants” send their children there.
A notion of “People Like Us” has finally trumped sincere religious belief, and it would be honest if the schools simply admitted this. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Derek Scally (“How clueless Irish pundits misrepresented Germany”, Opinion & Analysis, September 16th) writes that “trying to win over Germans to your economic thinking . . . is like trying to convince Martin Luther about the virgin birth during the Reformation”. Luther was always a believer in the virgin birth. – Yours, etc,
St Assam’s Avenue,
Sir, – Observing the glut of plastic bottles littering our beaches, verges and roadsides, it is most unfortunate that Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has chosen to reject the introduction of a deposit-and-return scheme (“Minister scraps plans to introduce packaging levy”, Home News, September 12th). Having largely dealt with the scourge of the plastic bag, surely a refundable tax on plastic bottles could have a similarly dramatic effect on an ongoing eyesore. – Yours, etc,
Ballybrack, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I remember when the redeemed deposits on five returned bottles of lemonade would be enough to buy a Mars bar. – Yours, etc,
Madam –The recent sacking of Giovanni Trapattoni was regarded widely by the soccer-supporting public as being the right move.
Also in this section
Questions for SF
Were flats not checked?
Attack on Heaney was a gross insult
Some argued that it was the 11 players on the pitch who led to his downfall – that they just weren’t good enough. Others said that Trap’s lack of proper English was a barrier to communicating tactics on the field. More said his style was seen as too ‘stale’, too ‘safe’ – hoof the ball up the middle and hope for the best!
Whatever the reason, he had to go. The Republic of Ireland team have missed out on a chance to perform on the world stage in Rio next year. It’s a massive blow to any passionate Irish soccer fan.
The general public, too, feel let down to a certain extent. It’s never nice to see your own team demoralised.
The question is: can a new manager step in and change the fortunes of this team or is it just down to the players themselves?
But perhaps we should be asking: how do we judge the success of a manager or leader?
And turning to the church, how do we judge the success of a religious leader? If we judge by the amount of new vocations to the priesthood, then there is a leadership crisis.
It was stated recently that 20 new trainee priests were beginning their studies in St Patrick’s College in Maynooth this year.
And none of these are drawn from the dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin or the Archdiocese of Dublin, which has a Catholic population of over one million. So is the leadership crisis down to the priests themselves – that they’re just not good enough? Or is it the lack of proper theology to communicate tactics in the field? Or is the leadership too stale or too safe?
The faithful feel demoralised. I believe it’s time for a radical change. It’s time to let Francis rebuild his church in Ireland.
* The banks are still scratching their heads to come up with a solution to the property debt crisis. One solution is all borrowers who purchased homes during the boom years are given a one-off capital writedown.
I am not suggesting total debt forgiveness but perhaps a 10 to 20pc writedown. For those who still cannot meet their mortgage repayments, the banks’ standard loan administration procedures should be executed.
This would stop the dubious practice of banks implementing various under-the-table deals for defaulters, which is administratively complex, random and unfair.
A one-off writedown for all is surely the most equitable solution as it helps those who want to sell their home in a fallen market.
Walkinstown, Dublin 12
Should Martin O’Neill be appointed as national team manager, will it be a case of a wee MON from the North in the hot seat?
Beaumont, Dublin 9
Going for broke
Is Ireland the only country where you can be too poor to go broke?
Continuity Fine Gael
I note that the group of Fine Gael rebels are now calling themselves The Reform Alliance. Presumably Real Fine Gael, Provisional Fine Gael or Continuity Fine Gael would be nearer the mark?!
Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim
Keep up appearances
The reaction to Jim Stafford’s radio interview about solicitors, accountants and their houses has been unimaginative and begrudging.
At a time when there is a lack of confidence in the economy and in the natural leaders of our people, it is vital that appearances be maintained.
It’s about time that the contribution of insolvent solicitors and accountants to Irish society was finally appropriately recognised.
Not only should they be maintained in houses that someone else is paying for and which reflect their position in society, but the Government should also introduce tax deductions so they can more easily afford the elegant clothes and German cars that they need.
In that way, we can ensure that the perfection reflected by Irish society is maintained.
Yours, in socially appropriate PAYE humility.
Marine Drive, Dublin 4
Disbelief at atheists
I feel compelled to express my “disbelief” (if you’ll excuse the pun) that the ears of an atheist can be offended by the Pope’s preaching.
I cannot understand why anyone, either believer or non-believer, can criticise the Pope for being, well, the Pope. That is akin to asking why a pilot is flying a plane or why a doctor is healing the sick. They are merely acting according to the role they were given. Perhaps it is the Pope’s message that is most offensive to those who do not wish to listen? Apparently they do not wish others to listen either.
I respect the fact that an atheist has no religious beliefs, which they are perfectly entitled to. Equally, the people who look to Pope Francis as their spiritual leader are entitled to publicly hear what he has to say.
Surely there must be more to atheism than denouncing the religious beliefs of others?
Drumcondra, Dublin 9
Even if we ignore all the austerity-generated public/private sector squabbling, we cannot afford to ignore the very real and looming pension timebomb.
A while ago, the government of the day had the audacity to force companies to record their pension liability in their annual accounts and all but wiped out many defined benefit pension schemes, while their own defined benefit pension liability does not appear anywhere in accounts, GDP, etc.
Perhaps the one good thing that government did with (too little of) the boom money was set up the pension reserve fund, but alas that has now been reduced to levels nowhere near sufficient for its original purpose. The bottom line is simply that the State can’t afford to have some of the best pensioned politicians and top civil service in Europe.
The maximum state liability for any one person should be the total of the state pension plus the average industrial wage. That amount should be the combined total of all state pensions being received, even if a person was a soldier, then a teacher, then a politician, etc. The next referendum I want to vote on is one that will allow us to apply this retrospectively.
Howth, Co Dublin
Miriam Donohoe (Irish Independent, September 13) suggests Prince William’s grandmother will die in “a few short years”. The polite approach is surely not to speculate on the longevity of an 87-year-old lady.
But many would, if pushed, point to her 101-year-old late mother. It is repeated ad nauseam by those who profess to be experts on British royalty and constitutional affairs that she will rule to her dying day.
Her 64-year-old son may have 15 more years to wait but where does the “mounting speculation” that he will never reign, which Ms Donohoe asserts, come from? Many viewing Britain’s affairs believe he will, unless he pre-deceases his mother, rule as king.
Law Library, Dublin