20 September 2013 Sharland and Joan
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble They sink the lighthouse boat, and so have to take a scientist out to the lightship, but she is a spy! Priceless.
Sharland Stefan and Anna come to call pick blackberries. Joan falls down some stairs and we have to wait for the ambulance,
No Dads army straight to bed no Scrabble either
Peter Aston, who has died aged 74, was a composer and academic who in 1975 was chosen by Benjamin Britten to conduct his Aldeburgh Festival Singers.
6:47PM BST 18 Sep 2013
Despite a well-earned reputation for church music – where some compared him favourably with Herbert Howells – Aston came to attention with Five Songs of Crazy Jane, settings of poems by WB Yeats for solo soprano that in 1964 were performed at the Wigmore Hall by Gráinne Yeats, the poet’s daughter-in-law.
The following year Janet Baker gave the first London performance of his Northumbrian Sequence, an arrangement of poems by Kathleen Raine, in a tribute concert for Kathleen Ferrier. In the words of one critic, Aston “passed the songwriter’s first test: his straightforward style added something positive to the poems”. He also wrote Sacrapant the Sorcerer (1969), a children’s opera based on George Peele’s The Old Wives’ Tale.
Aston’s interests ranged from the Baroque to the contemporary. He founded the Tudor Consort, set up the English Baroque Ensemble and later became involved with the Norwich Festival of Contemporary Church Music, on one occasion arranging Charles Wesley’s Author of Life Divine in a matter of days for a choral workshop.
His liturgical music was popular in part because choirs of modest ability could work successfully on it while sounding as if they were performing works of a complex nature; although his music employed a plainsong, almost medieval style, it often introduced some syncopated and dissonant melodies.
Among the first to be heard were his Three Hymns to the Virgin Mary, which were performed by the Sine Nomine Singers in the City of London in 1963 and led one critic to remark how Aston “has a marked lyrical gift and considerable harmonic imagination”.
When the Church of England introduced the Alternative Service Book in 1980, many church composers refused to touch it. Aston, however, wrote a setting for the Communion – known as Aston in F – that is still used today. Later he added a Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis.
Peter George Aston was born in Edgbaston, Birmingham, on October 5 1938, and was educated at Tettenhall College, for whose 150th anniversary this year he composed a setting of Let us, With a Gladsome Mind from John Milton’s arrangement of Psalm 136.
He went on to Birmingham School of Music and taught briefly at a local secondary school before joining Wilfrid Mellers in the newly established music department at York in 1964, where he conducted part of the inaugural concert at the Jack Lyons Concert Hall in 1969.
After 10 years he was appointed Professor of Music at the University of East Anglia, where his students would include Simon Johnson, the present organist at St Paul’s Cathedral. UEA already had strong links with Aldeburgh, and after Britten’s death in 1976 Aston continued to prepare the Festival Singers, including conducting Peter Pears in works by Bach and Handel in 1978 and directing a concert of Britten’s earliest music in 1983.
Aston wrote at great length on 17th-century English music, including editing the works of George Jeffreys, organist to Charles I at Oxford during the Civil War. Meanwhile, his books included The Music of York Minister and (with John Paynter) Sound and Silence, which advocates drawing on children’s creative talent as the basis for music education.
He was chorus master of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, president of the Bury St Edmunds Bach Society and, during the 1990s, principal conductor of the Sacramento Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra in California.
Aston was also a keen bridge player and an enthusiastic supporter of Norwich City FC. Although he was a lay canon at Norwich Cathedral, he continued to play the organ from time to time at his local parish church.
In 1960 Peter Aston married Elaine Neale, whom he met while they were students in Birmingham. She and their son survive him.
Peter Aston, born October 5 1938, died September 13 2013
Your report (Indian elections set for Gandhi versus Modi showdown, 14 September) mentions how Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata party, was barred from visiting the US and the UK after 2002 after some critics claimed that “as chief minister he allowed or even encouraged mobs to attack Muslims in towns across Gujarat”.
What Guardian readers may not know is the help that Modi got from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and from Labour and Tory Friends of India in overcoming the stigma of the ban.
In what many see as putting economic expediency before moral responsibility, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sent the British high commissioner to visit him last October. “I am no longer a pariah; the British have come to their senses at last and are willing to welcome me,” crowed Modi.
However, the US government confirmed its policy of withdrawal of his visas for serious violation of religious freedom, while the Foreign and Commonwealth Office claimed that the decision to re-engage Modi was in part to secure justice for the families of the three Muslim British nationals who were killed in Gujarat riots, and that engagement is not the same as endorsement. So the stigma of pariah status was not entirely removed. This is when Labour and Tory Friends of India stepped in with an invitation to Modi to address MPs in the Houses of Parliament. When pressed, they peddled a dubious “clean chit” given to Modi by the supreme court of India. The whitewash of Modi’s image was complete.
Emeritus professor, London School of Economics
The chief inspectors of prisons and probation last week published a report criticising prisons and probation staff working with those sentenced to life and indeterminate sentences (Report, 12 September). These staff have long been aware that the present system is confusing, haphazard, and not fit for purpose. It is surprising that inspectors were shocked at the weaknesses in the system as these have been known for some time. The government has provided no extra resources for prisoners on release on temporary leave but has made cuts while increasing the workloads of frontline practitioners.
Probation and prison staff, overwhelmed with extra bureaucracy, now spend in excess of 75% of their time in front of computer screens, ticking boxes and struggling with unreliable IT systems. My members are forced to rely on poor-quality video links to complete work within unrealistic timescales. But when prisoners are released they are supervised to very high standards.
The planned privatisation of the probation service will produce a much higher risk to the public. Companies such as Serco or G4S will be paid to supervise many of those being released on life and indeterminate sentences. The government wants them to do so at reduced cost by reducing staff numbers while blatantly ignoring expert advice about the management of risk.
Chair, Greater London branch, National Association of Probation Officers
• The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, seeks to justify the privatisation of the probation service by saying that 600,000 offences were committed last year by repeat offenders (Report, 19 September). If he were serious about reducing crime he could have pointed out that the group with the highest reoffending rates, a staggering 60% of those sentenced to less than 12 months, are not covered by the probation service. But that would have shown the futility of his new legislation, which appears specially designed for firms such as Serco and G4S – and we all know how hugely experienced and efficient they are.
When Nick Clegg talks about the “clapped out” politics of the two main parties (Report, 19 September), maybe he needs a reminder of what the last Labour government achieved: introduction of the minimum wage, 78,000 more nurses, devolved power in Scotland, a Welsh assembly, the overseas aid budget doubled, 30,000 more teachers, winter fuel payments to pensioners, halved waiting times in the NHS, free school milk and fruit, the Disability Rights Commission, free entry to museums and galleries, the Good Friday agreement, paternity leave, civil partnerships. These are just a few of the things achieved by a single party in government. Clegg is so proud of standing up to the Tories. Had he not been so power hungry he could have opposed many more rightwing policies by letting the Tories govern alone. That would have been brave.
• More evidence to buttress Seumas Milne’s scorn of Tory-Lib Dem “recovery” propaganda (Comment, 18 September). Output in the US and German economies rose above pre-crisis levels in 2011. In Britain GDP is still 3% below its 2008 peak. Our recovery is three years behind America’s and Germany’s.
The UK economy began growing again under Labour in 2010 but that was choked off by George Osborne’s budget cuts. His savage squeeze has meant that the UK is taking six years to achieve what our two major trading partners did in three, at terrible human cost and economic waste. The much trumpeted last-quarter “recovery” is barely a third of the US equivalent because Obama invested where Osborne cut. At our conference next week, Labour should be making these arguments with much greater vigour and confidence than we have been.
Peter Hain MP
• I live in Islington and am proud to say that free school meals have been available to all nursery and primary school children in the borough for the last three years since the Labour council came into office (Letters, 19 September).
What’s more it hasn’t stopped the council developing other policies that support residents across other issues – containment of social/council housing rents, play areas for children, new schools, assistance in respect of the bedroom tax, a 20mph speed limit to promote safety – despite three years of severe austerity. Steady, incremental improvement across the board has benefited the lives of Islington residents – not headline-catching handouts like those promised by Nick Clegg and – as we shall see no doubt, for married couples – by George Osborne.
• Thank goodness for a Labour politician who has grasped that the neoliberal experiment has run its course (Tristram Hunt, Comment, 19 September). But “predistribution”? Why invent a word that nobody understands? If it means a well paid, highly skilled, fully employed workforce removing the need for state intervention in support, why not say so?
• Lib Dems’ claim: a stronger economy, a fairer society. Labour’s counter-claim: a fairer economy, a stronger society.
Rev Tony de Alwis
Zoe Williams says banks don’t charge enough for current accounts, which are expensive to administer (Comment, 19 September). But they get the use of the money you deposit, don’t they? Effectively, you’re lending them money – a service for which they exact very high charges when it’s them doing the lending. The theory is that they lend it to businesses – but that isn’t happening.
• Apropos the Syrian conflict, Simon Jenkins (Putin preens himself but the pressure on him is intense, 18 September) could have quoted John Stuart Mill’s words in On Liberty: “I am not aware that any community has a right to force another to be civilised.”
Dr John Doherty
• Agatha Christie would be turning in her grave at news there is to be a new Poirot novel written (Report, 4 September). While I’m sure Sophie Hannah will do an excellent job, the reason Agatha killed her detective off in Curtain, was to prevent such future spinoffs after her death. Her daughter Rosalind fervently protected the integrity of Agatha’s work during her lifetime. It is so sad that such integrity no longer appears to be the cornerstone of Agatha Christie Ltd.
Author of the Agatha Christie Miscellany
• On the subject of cutting each other’s hair (Letters, 19 September), the locus classicus is the neat line from the Roman comic playwright Plautus, “vix vivunt lavanda mutando” – they eke out a miserable existence by taking each other’s washing in.
• A good point from Percival Turnbull on the pope’s choice of car (Letters, 14 September) but too late, I’m afraid, as the Renault is a Fiat accompli.
• Maybe (Yes, David Cameron, ‘Yid’ really is a race-hate word, 17 September) Spurs supporters, banned from chanting the Y-word, would consider wearing Y-fronts on the outside of their trousers, John Major-style?
It’s not Nick Clegg who has turned the Liberal Democrats into a “party of pragmatists” (Martin Kettle, 19 September). You may dismiss “three generations” who have “run nothing more than a local authority” (Editorial, 19 September), carelessly ignoring the presence at conference of former deputy chief ministers of both Scotland and Wales, but it’s the experience of working throughout the land on elected bodies with no overall control that gave us all an understanding of coalitions and collaborative government of all kinds.
Pragmatism about what you can do in particular circumstances does not mean there is any lack of continuing principles. It is becoming clear that those Liberal principles will be at the heart of our manifesto for the next general election. And the present mature sense of calm in the party doesn’t mean it isn’t a calm before a very serious storm. The somewhat fanciful “sunlit uplands” of your editorial include plenty of deep ravines, mires and precipices. All of us, from Mr Clegg to the newest local activist, have no more than 12 months to turn things round.
Liberal Democrat, House of Lords
• Having been one of the few from the beginning (Where are all the Lib Dems’ women, 19 September), the situation is indeed dire, with two outstanding women MPs standing down at the next election, and three of the five incumbents likely to stand again in highly marginal seats. At the Lib Dem conference in 2001, I campaigned in favour of a particular form of positive discrimination, namely grouping together three or four winnable seats in a region, and making the selection of at least one woman in the group a condition of party official support for all four. The motion in favour of positive discrimination was moved by Jackie Ballard, the former MP for Taunton, and was strongly supported by Evan Harris, then MP for Oxford West and Abingdon.
Opposition was highly organised, with several young women appearing in T-shirts carrying the words “I am not a token woman”. Most were neither married nor mothers. They underestimated the obstacles to selection. The motion was lost. Women MPs have a fine record of constituency service. Many have made significant contributions to parliamentary scrutiny and debate. Yet Jo Swinson and others have been criticised for becoming pregnant and having children while in parliament. Yet thousands of women combine having children with demanding jobs. It’s high time for my party to catch up with what Labour and, more recently, the Conservatives are doing. If not, we will sink into irrelevance.
Liberal Democrat, House of Lords
• The Lib Dems are letting women down, and not just over their failure to champion more women MPs. It was disgraceful, for example, that they supported the Tories in abolishing our 40-year-old, unique and universally acclaimed Women’s National Commission. Subsequently they have failed to address the lack now of any substitute institutional mechanism to represent UK women – in breach of our obligations set out in the Beijing Platform for Action, and the Cedaw (UN women’s convention). Never have women so needed to have their voices heard as now when they are bearing the brunt of the coalition’s austerity cuts. Many of us who have been Lib Dem members or supporters are having to reconsider our position.
Member of UK NGO Alliance
• Michael Meadowcroft may have accurately summed up the basic tenets of liberal philosophy (Letters, 19 September), but these can have little bearing on anyone thinking of moving to another party, for surely a political party is best judged on what it has done in power, rather than what it professes to believe. Given the raft of illiberal, reactionary policies pursued by the Tories which the liberals have chosen to underwrite, “human values, devolution and pluralism” have been major casualties of the Liberals’ power-sharing experiment.
The Labour party has historically displayed the characteristics which Meadowcroft assigns to it, but the much more salient point is that none of the main parties is possessed of an ideology that can penetrate to the black heart of post-industrial capitalism and understand the threat that it poses to those values which liberals and socialists hold dear.
Further to Ian Sample’s history of sarin (G2, 18 September), the unused 1939-45 German stockpiles of sarin and two related nerve gases, soman and tabun, must be set against the UK’s stocks of anthrax, which Churchill had to be energetically dissuaded from using. And it was Porton scientists in the 1950s who “improved” on sarin with a new generation of nerve gasses, called V agents, said to be some fivefold more toxic. And the first use of chemical weapons in Iraq was not Saddam’s but by the RAF against rebel groups in the 1920s.
Professor Steven Rose
• Your article does not include the history of Britain’s involvement. A production plant at Nancekuke in Cornwall was established in the early 1950s to work on sarin, eventually producing about 20 tonnes. Several workers at the plant were severely damaged by exposure to the agent. A campaign was started to expose the work at Nancekuke, the history of which was published in Rage Against the Dying (Pluto Press, 1980). Campaigners and expert scientists later worked to support a ban on chemical and biological weapons.
Regarding the announcement from the Lib Dems to offer free school meals to infant-class children, we think it is about time the national government caught up with what local government has been doing.
Southwark is one council that has been doing this for the last two years, because we recognised the positive impact a healthy, hot school meal can have. It should be rolled out as national policy, but this doesn’t go far enough. It is great that children will be getting free meals in the early years but we have rolled it out through to year 6 and we’d like to see that as national policy.
This is the third year Southwark has offered free healthy school meals to primary school children and already parents and teachers are reporting children taking up the offer are concentrating better in class, are less hungry at home and are asking for salads and vegetables at home.
Dora Dixon Fyle, Cabinet member for children’s services, Southwark Council, London SE1
You have to hand it to the Liberals: they’ve managed to milk the proposal to give infant pupils free school meals for all that it is worth. Cue pictures of Nick watching children eating school meals.
The question I want answering is why, given all the evidence about the benefits of this measure and its success in places such as Hull, a Labour government never saw fit to implement it.
Maybe Gordon Brown could tell us.
Richard Knights, Liverpool
I hope Mr Clegg doesn’t renege on this pledge, as I’ve just invested my life-savings in the Turkey Twizzlers futures market.
Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh, Essex
Bedroom tax hits disabled people hard
The news that 50,000 people affected by the bedroom tax have fallen behind on rent and face eviction (19 September) is reflected in the increase in the number of calls the legal services team at Sense have received from deafblind people and their families, who are struggling financially as a result of this policy.
The tax has had a disproportionate impact on disabled people, as many have been found to have a so-called extra bedroom, despite requiring it because of their disability, for example needing extra space to store disability-related equipment or for short-term carers. Alongside other benefits being cut, housing benefit has been the final blow for many disabled people.
We are urgently calling on the Government to take on board these findings and get rid of the bedroom tax for disabled people. This would prevent more disabled people from suffering financially as a result of their disability.
Richard Kramer, Deputy Chief Executive, Sense, London N1
Trapped by bike invaders
Simon O’Hagan’s comments (18 September) on the impact of leisure cycling on Surrey residents miss the point – that in certain areas of Surrey, the intensity of leisure cycling is causing residents real concerns.
As the Mole Valley District councillor representing Box Hill – probably the most affected area – I see the pressure caused by the number of cyclists using the single minor road through the village. Most of the mainly retired residents feel intimidated when they have to drive among large groups of cyclists; as a result many feel imprisoned at weekends. I can personally substantiate the claims O’Hagan derides as “absurd” – that cyclists “practise months in advance of an event, riding the route in large numbers from very early in the morning shouting at each other”.
This is not a battle between cyclists and motorists; it is an attempt to balance the rights of residents and those of cyclists. The cycling community needs to appreciate the pressures their numbers create, to moderate their use of the hot-spots and put pressure on the minority who behave unacceptably. Local authorities must have the power to regulate the many Sportive events to ensure they are well-managed and to restrain their over-use of certain areas.
David Preedy , Headley, Surrey
Not all residents of Surrey feel the same as those who are signing petitions against cycling events.
Just before the event takes place Surrey County Council engineers check the roads for suitability to cope with the cyclists, and all the roads are re-surfaced and the ever-present potholes filled in.
We were thrilled when we learnt that the “Tour of Britain” was coming to our village. Yes, we have extensive road closures in the area, but for one day’s inconvenience we have the legacy of pothole-free roads.
Sandra Grainger, Normandy, Surrey
Evidence that cull will work
In response to Tuesday’s letter, (“Scant evidence on badger TB”, 18 September), I would like to point out the evidence on the spread of bovine TB between badgers and cattle.
The £50m Randomised Badger Culling Trial, designed by the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, investigated how bTB spread between cattle, badgers and other wildlife between 1998 and 2006. The trial culled just under 11,000 badgers and forms the basis of our current badger culling policy. It conclusively showed that a significant proportion of badgers are infected with bovine TB and that bovine TB is spread between badgers and cattle. Using data from the RBCT, it has been estimated that 50 per cent of herds with TB in high-incidence areas are infected because of badgers.
As well as evidence of a dynamic cycle of infection between cattle and badgers, the RBCT showed that badger culling resulted in an overall beneficial effect on bovine TB in cattle herds, compared with areas that weren’t culled. A benefit was still evident six years after culling stopped. The decision by ministers to include culling in the wide-ranging 25-year TB eradication strategy was taken based on the best available scientific evidence after more than 15 years of intensive research.
Alick Simmons, Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London SW1
Lib Dems will pay for lurch to right
I live in a Conservative seat (Stratford-upon-Avon) so safe that the party could select a garden gnome as its candidate and it would romp home with a vast majority. In fact, it might be better if it did.
Labour’s support is perfunctory; so if anyone has harboured leftist tendencies they have tended to vote Lib Dem, for that party picks up more support, and until fairly recently we assumed that it leant leftwards rather than to the right.
Any claims it has for having curbed the excesses of this most rabidly right-wing government can only wither in the light of the reality of the implementation of neo-liberal policies so extreme that even Thatcher would have balked at implementing them. I think that many people will never vote Lib Dem again, and suspect that most of their incumbent MPs will be doing an involuntary Sarah Teather after the next election.
Michael Rosenthal, Upper Brailes, Oxfordshire
Nick Clegg says the Liberal Democrats should be judged on what they have prevented the Tories from doing. No, Nick, you went for glory and you will be judged on what you did do; increased fees and all. If you had remained in opposition with Labour you could have prevented much more.
Clive Georgeson, Dronfield, Derbyshire
Letters on the pillar box
You publish a letter concerning the charm of red pillar-boxes as historical records (17 September). Though truculently republican, I too enjoy the window into the past offered by a Victorian post-box in a more modern street, and I was delighted to identify three Edward VIII post-boxes in the town of Tobermory, a large fraction of the total installed during his nine-month reign.
I feel I should note an error when your correspondent looks forward to the days of CR and WR. Should succeeding kings take their first given names as their titles, we can expect Carolus Rex, but it will surely be GR for William V as Gulielmus Rex, if the tides of time have not washed away both pillar-boxes and the monarchy.
Richard Jeffcoat, Birmingham
Cats must be kept on a lead
Well said Jonathan Allen with his call (letter, 19 September) to make cat-owners responsible for their animals. Despite what owners will argue, it is possible to stop the destructive rampaging. We have a couple near here who keep their cats tethered on long leads in their garden and take them for daily walks along the street. All cat owners should be made to do the same.
Adrian Durrant, Eastbourne, East Sussex
While I was very sorry to hear about Jonathan Allen’s pet rabbit being killed by a cat, I feel he ought to take some of the responsibility. This tragedy need not have occurred, had he provided the animal with secure housing. If the rabbit had been killed by a fox, Mr Allen would be blaming himself. We must all take responsibility for the animals in our care.
Ben Martin, Maidstone, Kent
I started reading Rosie Millard’s piece (19 September) about an astonishingly honest “man living on the streets of Boston.” Boston, Lincolnshire? No: a few lines later on it became clear that she was writing about Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
If this piece had been published in an American paper, the town would have been referred to as “Boston MA”. But here in England, journalists assume that we will understand that “Boston” means a foreign city 3,000 miles away. The 51st State Syndrome strikes again.
John Williams, West Wittering, West Sussex
Hamming it up
Did Ian Herbert in his piece on Manchester City (17 September) really intend to imply that the former City manager Roberto Mancini would hand round a tray of prosciutto at his press conferences? I know you hard-working journos would appreciate a slice of Italian ham for your lunchtime sandwiches, but surely you’d prefer a glass of prosecco?
David Atcheson, Douglas, Isle of Man
Kind to flies
The fast reaction time of a fly (letters, 17 and 18 September) is so easily and humanely defeated by a very slow-moving glass, which the fly does not see approaching; just don’t be tempted to speed up at the end. A piece of card completes the fly-catcher. No mess, no death, so zen.
David Bruton, Colchester
In the event of a majority vote for independence the current constitutional arrangements would hold until a newly elected Scottish government comes into being
Sir, Scottish “wariness at going it alone” (leading article, Sept 18) may be less to do with the political manoeuvring you describe and more to do with the lack of clarity about what would follow a “Yes” vote.
The false premise on which the two sides are campaigning is that an independent Scotland would be formed in the image of the SNP’s policies. This cannot be so. In the event of a majority vote for independence the current constitutional arrangements would hold until a newly elected Scottish government comes into being on a date, and in a form, still to be decided. Alex Salmond has no mandate, and no powers under the current devolved constitution, to enact legislation to, for instance, remove Trident from the Holy Loch, or to retain Queen or pound. The referendum will therefore not be a vote for this or any other vision of how Scotland will look if we vote in favour.
Presumably it suits both Unionists and SNP to pretend that we will be voting for this SNP vision, and on that basis we can only dread the escalation of the daily mud-slinging and specious speculation. Obfuscation reigns, when it would be in everyone’s interest for us to be told in advance, not what self-serving politicians, on both sides of the border, want us to believe, but what will happen, and how we will be governed.
Dr Jack Gillon
Sir, I was glad to see your differentiation between “the Scottish people” and “those people living in Scotland” in your leader. Over generations, hundreds of thousands of Scots born, brought up and educated in Scotland, have gone into the wider world and proudly represented the Scottish people, their homeland, history and culture. How many of those are aware that it appears that the 2014 referendum will permit voting by those living in Scotland, but will deny votes to their relatives and friends who retain close ties with their homeland but who do not live there?
There is still time for Mr Salmond to rectify this anomaly to ensure that the voices of all “the Scottish people” can be heard.
Letchworth Garden City, Herts
Sir, I hope voters will bear in mind the reality with regard to Scottish EU membership — essential in regard to support in times of any future national financial difficulty.
For an independent Scotland to obtain membership of the EU as, say, its 29th member, it will have to persuade all the existing members to approve its application — just one veto will scupper its whole case. Spain will undoubtedly impose that veto, because, if it does not, some of Spain’s own 17 restive regions will be encouraged to press their own aims. And there will be more nations other than Spain who will veto Scottish independence, if existing members become fearful of what has been called the European Union of a Hundred Flags.
Sir, If Scotland becomes independent will the Western Islands, Shetland and Orkney then seek independence from Scotland? They are already working to try to establish their position and economies in a future independent Scotland. They have their own identity and Shetland has very strong Scandinavian roots, not Scots. Who then will own the North Sea oil and fisheries?
The West’s lack of action over Syria has been both a failing that bears direct comparison with the failure to aid the Spanish Republic during its civil war
Sir, Anthony Loyd’s report (Sept 19) on the growing number of jihadist fighters in Syria makes it clear that moderate elements among the rebel forces are slowly being eliminated. Therefore intervention in any form is no longer a viable option since it will provide a direct boon to our enemies.
The West’s lack of action over Syria has been both a moral and political failing that bears direct comparison with the failure to aid the Spanish Republic during that country’s civil war. This mistake may have the same consequences for the West, as the Middle East is ever more likely to be consumed in a regional conflagration fanned by Islamic fundamentalism, as well as attacking Western targets.
‘The large proportion of the population who are now overweight or obese are unlikely to live as long as their parents’
Sir, I am always surprised when people believe that our life expectancy will continue to increase (Matt Ridley, Sept 19). The reason it has increased is because those living longer were born between the wars and enjoyed sensible diets and exercise. The large proportion of the population who are now overweight or obese are unlikely to live as long as their parents. This will not change until we find a way to help people to return to more modest portions of healthy food, and to exercise.
Have the timings of developments such as the school meals statement been prompted by nothing more than the desire to please party supporters?
Sir, The announcement to the Liberal Democrat conference of free primary school meals (report, Sept 19) is the latest of many policies launched in recent years at party conferences rather than in Parliament.
Ministers may claim that the (often flouted) convention that policy statements must first be made to Parliament only applies while both Houses are in session, but few if any decisions announced to party gatherings are urgent.
It is difficult not to conclude that the timings of developments such as the school meals statement have been prompted by nothing more than the desire to please party supporters and to bolster personal standings. The electorate will draw its own conclusions from such a cynical exploitation of rules designed to elevate the promulgation of policy above narrow political advantage.
The proposal that drunks should be diverted from police cells into drying-out centres has been put forward before but never implemented
Sir, Your article (Sept 18) on the proposal by Adrian Lee, Chief Constable of Northamptonshire, for “drunk tanks” has taken me back to 1979 when, in company with a colleague on behalf of the Association of Police Surgeons, I gave evidence at the Home Affairs Committee’s investigation into deaths in custody. The association proposed that non-violent drunks should be diverted from police cells into drying-out centres staffed by personnel trained in the care of those with impaired consciousness and which were fully equipped for resuscitation. The committee accepted the proposal but it was never implemented.
In 1978 and 1979 there were renewed but unheeded calls for its implementation at conferences organised by the Police Complaints Authority and the Royal Society of Medicine, to which I drew attention in a letter published in your columns on April 23, 2004.
Is yet another opportunity going to be missed to reduce deaths in custody and free custody officers from this time-consuming obligation?
Dr Neville Davis
Hove, E Sussex
SIR – I read with interest your Nature Notes on the cull of grey squirrels in Cornwall in order to re-establish red squirrels there (September 10). Why are those who oppose the badger cull so vocally silent now towards those who would reduce the grey squirrels?
The badger may be cute to look at, but it has caused more harm than any squirrel will, including threatening farmers’ jobs and spreading disease to other animals, and, possibly, humans, in time. It is also responsible for the decline in smaller animals.
We ought to support those who are working to preserve livelihoods and the balance of nature, and do our best to leave a safe environment for future generations.
SIR – Liberal Democrat plans to increase further the tax paid by those on high incomes positions the party to the Left of Labour and ignores abundant empirical evidence that increasing tax rates reduces the revenue yield.
The British tax system is already highly progressive due to frozen personal allowances (increasing the number of higher rate taxpayers from 5 per cent in 1988 to 17 per cent in 2013-14), increased rates of stamp duty impacting high value property transactions, and frozen inheritance tax bands that disregard the increase in house prices. Moreover, the highest earning 1 per cent will contribute 29.8 per cent of income tax revenue this year, up from an average 22 per cent under Labour, with the top 10 per cent of earners paying a colossal 58.9 per cent of the total.
It is no coincidence that British economic growth accelerated following the reduction in the top rate of income tax to 45 per cent in April. The Conservatives must not flinch from challenging advocates of ever-increasing taxes on income, enterprise and accumulated assets and emphasising their negative consequences on economic activity and prosperity.
The badger and squirrel culls need our support
19 Sep 2013
SIR – It was amusing to read about the Liberal Democrats’ plans to increase the marginal tax rate on those earning over £50,000 a year on the grounds that it was time that they made a contribution to the current financial problems.
That large segment of society has being paying increased taxes since the Coalition took office because the starting point of the 40 per cent tax rate has been brought down in every budget – in contrast to the last Labour government’s policy of increasing that point in line with inflation. It is staggering that the Labour Party has been more considerate to the “better off” than the Conservatives or the Lib Dems.
SIR – The policy of free school meals for all children at infant school is wrong. Not only is it arbitrary and expensive, but Nick Clegg justifies it on the basis of saving families money.
However, it is paid for out of families’ tax bills. Why won’t the Government allow us to choose what we spend money on, rather than dictating to us? A real “liberal” would do this.
SIR – At the Lib Dem conference, Norman Baker MP came out in favour of banning traffic in town centres. He has obviously not looked close to home.
In his own constituency of Lewes, the town of Newhaven was destroyed as a location for shopping when it was pedestrianised and bypassed. Unemployment shot up and it became a hollowed-out town with boarded-up shops.
Newhaven, East Sussex
SIR – Introducing “drunk tanks” to reduce public drunkenness in Britain (report, September 18) is a very sound idea. I have seen them work in Canada and America, where they have concrete floors, hard wooden bunks, and no cups of tea or breakfast for the inhabitants, who are kicked out at the crack of dawn and in some cases hosed down. It is a thoroughly demeaning experience, which hopefully has a remedial effect. It also saves countless police hours.
However, the idea of collecting £400 is ridiculous. In reality, you would be lucky to get 40p from most of those released.
SIR – Sections 141 and 142 of the 2003 Licensing Act make it an offence to sell alcohol to someone who is drunk or to obtain alcohol for someone who is drunk.
Why do police officers not visit bars and pubs late at night and arrest the bar staff and people buying drinks for their drunken friends? Instead they stand around on the pavement waiting for the drunks to come out and start throwing up, urinating in doorways and smashing up parked cars.
It wouldn’t need to be done often before we would see a whole new culture develop.
Nigel A Callaghan
SIR – A better idea than drunk tanks is tackling the cause of the problem – cheap alcohol and 24-hour availability.
Building more houses
SIR – The news that Rightmove, the property website, has revised upwards its forecast of average national residential property prices by a factor of three is deeply troubling (report, September 16).
This surge in house prices underlines the need to construct more housing rather than bolster demand through the Government’s Help to Buy initiative.
Britain’s byzantine planning regulations need consolidating. There is considerable scope to develop new Garden Cities, so long as they provide a mix of dwellings to buy and rent – in contrast to the brutalist horrors imposed on Cumbernauld and Skelmersdale by post-war planners.
If the Government fails to act on house construction we will all suffer, not only young families in search of a place to buy.
Centre for Policy Studies
SIR – Michael Laurier (Letters, September 17) suggests the use of biodegradable plastic bags. But it is important that these bags should be made of corn or maize starch or other harmless materials rather than from petro-chemicals.
This is because when such plastic breaks down it leaches tiny toxic particles of plastic into the soil, which makes it even more harmful than normal plastic bags.
SIR – I was prompted to hunt out my childhood diaries after reading Jane Shilling’s column on them (Comment, September 17). My entry on November 22 1963, when I was 12, caught my attention: “Sowed sweet pea seeds and planted six tulips. Today was cloudy. (Pres. Kennedy shot).” I was a keen gardener back then and still am today.
Portstewart, Co Londonderry
Care home reforms
SIR – The proposed reforms to children’s homes by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary (report, September 12), are dangerously narrow. All children should have safe, effective care whether in fostering, kinship care or children’s homes. The vast majority of the victims in the Rochdale and Oxfordshire cases were living with their birth families and these proposed changes will have no impact on the lives of vulnerable children at risk of harm and abuse.
Where homes are inadequate or located in unsafe areas, this must be addressed and quickly, but the majority of children’s homes provide young people with specialist therapeutic support that will enable them to live fulfilled adult lives.
Currently, children’s homes are too often used as a last resort for children with very challenging behaviour only when all else has failed. The Department for Education’s data show that nearly a third of children in children’s homes have been through six or more placements. This is the real scandal, with poor commissioning decisions denying children the stability and security they need and deserve.
The Department for Education recently revealed it had decided against developing a care strategy, instead choosing to implement piecemeal reforms – such as to the adoption system – that do not impact upon the majority of looked-after children.We urge Mr Gove to rethink this decision and take a strategic approach to reforming the wider care system.
Acorn Care and Education Group
National Fostering Agency
Priory Education Services
SIR – I am dismayed that child abuse, rape and pornography are reported in detail on the early evening news when children and youngsters may be watching. Exposing our children to the shameful behaviour of a minority of perverted people will give them a mistrust of all adults. Surely these accounts should be left until the late news?
Best before Christmas
SIR – You report (September 10) a sighting of the first Christmas tree of the year. My local Co-op has a display of Christmas puddings and mince pies. The mince pies have a best before date of October 2013.
C M Laughton
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
The Union Flag should remain unchanged
SIR – Ann Brown asks how many Union Flags will have to be replaced upon Scottish independence (Letters, September 17). I suggest that the answer to her question is “none”. There is a tradition, perhaps heraldic, that red and blue may not be in direct contact: hence the white stripe would have to be retained. While the blue, representing the sea, would not be an inappropriate colour to retain in the flag of a maritime nation.
In any case, the Union Flag appears as part of many other flags, not least the White Ensign. I think the Royal Navy would soon have something to say if anyone attempted to interfere with that.
SIR – Surely, if Scotland breaks away from the United Kingdom, it will be an irrelevance to Scots what colours are left in our flag.
I am proud of our distinctive flag and its history and see no reason why it should be altered. I suspect that most sensible Scots will be pleased if our flag is unchanged, and, if it annoys Alex Salmond and his friends, then so much the better.
Dr David W Parkinson
SIR – The Union Flag should not need redesigning, whatever the Scots decide. After all, we kept the lilies of France in the Royal Arms long after the French disowned us. If the Scots are equally silly we should just behave as though nothing has happened.
SIR – At the same time as the saltire is removed from the Union Flag, perhaps the Scottish Arts Council can find a way of incorporating the Welsh national flag, which is nowhere to be seen in the present design.
Sir, – The Government is asking us to abolish the Seanad to save €20 million while on the same day they are also asking us to approve the creation of an appeals court, which presumably will be a considerable additional cost to the exchequer. The debate is not about cost, it’s about value.
The Seanad may not be fit for purpose but the Coalition’s reform proposals for the Dáil, if we ditch the Upper House, lack vision, detail or intellectual rigour. The fact that there is any doubt about the outcome of this particular referendum is testament to the Government’s inability to convince the electorate that their new model for better governance is credible. – Yours, etc,
Goatstown, Dublin 14.
Sir, – Your correspondent Eric Keane questions my support for the abolition of Seanad Éireann, given that I had previously advocated reform of that body. But is it seriously to be contended that because one has previously advocated reform of an institution while serving therein as a member, one is prohibited thereafter from advocating its abolition?
As a response to mounting criticism of the Seanad, there have been many calls (largely, it must be said, in the Seanad itself) for reform, instead of abolition. For my own part, I repeatedly expressed scepticism about the Seanad’s role and future – stating, for example, in the 2010 debate to which Mr Keane refers, that the Seanad’s future was “on the line”. The fact that I engaged in those debates, when abolition was not immediately on the agenda, cannot be said to disqualify me from advocating abolition now that such a proposal is before the people.
Incidentally, Mr Keane is quite incorrect when he likens the Quinn/Zappone reform Bill to the proposals made by Senator Joe O’Toole in November 2010. For example, the current Bill includes a proposal for self-selection and registration by the entire population into “constituencies” to be defined by the existing anachronistic vocational panels. This is completely unworkable and would, in my view, actually reproduce inequality of representation in the Seanad.
In conclusion, it is to be hoped that the debate on the proposal to abolish the Seanad will address the issues of substance involved, rather than engage in endless accusations of U-turns and flip-flops (on either side). If not, there will be a great number of individuals and parties disqualified on the basis suggested by Mr Keane.
ALEX WHITE, TD
Director of Elections,
The Labour Party,
17 Ely Place,
Sir, — Tom Collins (“Compulsory history, an anathema”, Education, September 18th) writes that “it is ironic that historians should find themselves arguing for compulsion, given the experience of compulsory Irish”. It is not clear that Prof Collins has himself considered the experience of compulsory Irish quantitatively. The facts are that only geography and English had a higher number of students sitting higher level papers than sat the Irish paper in the Leaving Cert last June.
For a subject that is the target of all manner of negativity in this country for cultural reasons – often hidden behind the “I’d have really loved Irish if it wasn’t compulsory” argument – it is remarkable that almost 40 per cent of students sitting the exam chose higher level, when they were not compelled to do so.
Incidentally, while Irish is always the popular target when talking about compulsion, let us not forget either that 50,000 students sat maths in the Leaving Cert, while only 43,000 sat “compulsory” Irish. Compulsion ain’t what it used to be, it seems.
The relevance of history – even from a general knowledge perspective – as a central part of any educational system which purports to produce informed rounded citizens is self-evident.
It would be a shame if the teaching of history were to fall victim to some specious political crusade to be seen to promote “choice”. In the average post-primary school, students find their choices extremely limited anyway, not least because of the constant cuts.
Had my daughter started post-primary school five years ago she could have studied two European languages but now because of cuts she can do only one in that school. In that context, talk of choice is risible.
This development is far more about creating the illusion of choice, as part of the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn’s “reforming” agenda, than creating actual choice, which would require more teachers teaching more subjects. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – When discussing the upcoming referendum concerning the establishment of a court of appeal, the legal maxim “justice delayed is justice denied” comes to mind.
There is a four-year waiting list for appeals from the High Court to the Supreme Court, which in practice blocks litigants’ right to due process.
This time frame is not justifiable and must be rectified. These delays not only affect a litigant’s right to a resolution in a reasonable time-frame, but the speedy resolution of disputes is also necessary for a successful economy.
To highlight how this problem has come about, back in 1971 the High Court had seven judges and today it now has 36 judges. There has not been a proportionate development in the Supreme Court, which in 1961 consisted of five judges and today consists of eight. Yet the Supreme Court is receiving all civil appeals from an expanded High Court.
The establishment of a court of appeal would mean that the structure of the Irish courts would be similar to other common law jurisdictions and most decisively would ease the burden on the highest court in the land and give it breathing space to carry out its true function, of clarifying the Constitution to the people. The new court of appeal would cover criminal and civil matters and would sit much more frequently than the existing Court of Criminal Appeal. Its inception would bring efficiency and effectiveness to the Irish court system, something which I believe is badly needed. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Paul Cullen makes a compelling case for health equality in relation to physical health (“Tackling health inequalities is a lifelong struggle”, Health & Family, September 17th, 2013). The situation is even starker in mental health.
Individuals from lower socio-economic groups develop mental illness earlier in life and have longer durations of untreated illness. Individuals with mental illness also have increased rates of under-employment and homelessness, further deepening inequality.
The problem of mental illness in Ireland’s prison system was well illustrated recently by Joe Humphreys in the Prison Trap series (September 14th-17th , 2013). In essence, individuals with mental illness are more likely than those without mental illness to be arrested in similar circumstances and remand is more likely even for lesser offences. The fate of the mentally ill after release from prison provides further evidence of persistent inequality and social exclusion.
In 2011, the think tank TASC published a report on health inequality in Ireland, Eliminating Health Inequalities: A Matter of Life and Death. It noted a range of inequalities in physical health in Ireland and pointed out that “the social gradient is also evident in mental health scores. People from higher social classes tend to experience better mental health. Levels of depression and admissions to psychiatric hospital are also socially patterned, with higher prevalence among less affluent socio-economic groups”.
This is not just an Irish problem. Depression is the world’s leading cause of disability, affecting more than 350 million people worldwide.
The solutions to these problems are complex but achievable. In Ireland, reform of mental health policy, along the lines of A Vision for Change (2006), is an important step. Reform of legislation matters too, and Ireland’s Mental Health Act 2001 is currently being reviewed and an assisted decision-making Bill was published this year.
These steps towards reform are positive but they need broad political and societal support. Social and housing policies, for example, are vital in promoting social justice for the mentally ill and their families.
The solution to these problems will stem from broad-based, ongoing reform of mental health policy, law and social policy, underpinned by deeper societal and political awareness of these issues. To this extent at least, Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), the German pathologist, anthropologist and politician, was demonstrably correct: “Medicine is a social science, and politics nothing but medicine on a large scale”. – Yours, etc,
BRENDAN KELLY, MD,
PhD, FRCPsych, FRCPI,
Sir, — I see that the Ombudsman has initiated a preliminary examination of a claim that the Department of the Marine withheld scientific information from the European Commission (“Complaint may reopen sea lice inquiry”, Home News, September 17th).
I trust that we will not be subjected to lice, damned lice and statistics over the coming weeks and months on radio and TV as we sit down to breakfast and other meals during the day. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I refer to Fintan O’ Toole’s article concerning the State’s protocols for the control of sea lice (“If you can’t win the scientific argument, suppress it”, Opinion & Analysis, September 16th). In relation to inquiries received from the European Commission referred to by Mr O’Toole in his article, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine forwarded all relevant material to the commission, including material supplied by Inland Fisheries Ireland.
In addition, the commission arranged for Inland Fisheries Ireland to make a direct oral presentation of its position at a meeting with the commission on December 19th, 2011, at which the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine was also present.
Following consideration of the scientific facts underpinning the State’s control protocols for the management of sea lice, the European Commission closed the case on October 11th, 2012. – Yours, etc,
Press and Information
Department of Agriculture,
Food and the Marine,
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Sir, – I was astonished and dismayed to read that the Health Information Quality Authority found that not even one hospital scored even 90 per cent compliance with regard to proper hand hygiene (Home News, September 4th). On the radio, I heard that nurses are “afraid” to insist that doctors wash their hands between each case. And the doctors are worse than the nurses. What on earth is going on? Don’t these same doctors and nurses think about the awful consequences that will occur by not doing so.
Having worked mostly abroad, it was normal for the nurse to insist doctors washed their hands in front of the patient if necessary and to change gowns before each case. This situation was never challenged and, in fact, the professional nurse/doctor relationship was always one of the utmost respect and friendliness.
In Second Opinion (“Organisational culture has the upper hand over hygiene”, HealthPLUS, September 17th), Jacky Jones summed up the situation very neatly: “What is needed is quite simple. Hospital managers, every consultant, nurses and all supervisors must model best practice hand-hygiene behaviour and expect their peers and colleagues to follow suit. Reminders should be issued in front of patients if necessary.”
When highly educated and highly paid professionals cannot be bothered with even basic hand hygiene, then patients must speak up and challenge them. – Yours, etc,
CATHERINE T GENT,
Sir, – I fear Vincent Browne (“Government of cynical stunts is allergic to real democracy”, Opinion & Analysis, September 18th) has identified the wrong culprit for the shortcomings in the State’s major institutions. It is not the politicians but we, the citizens, who are primarily responsible.
We persist in voting for the parties that have formed all our governments. Might we conclude that this voting pattern happens because the electorate feels that these parties reflect its own views, attitudes and methods?
Mr Browne laments the “exclusion of the people from the big decisions”. He seems to have forgotten we have opted for a system of representative democracy, with a degree of direct democracy. In other words, we elect representatives and empower them to act as a parliament and government, while retaining to ourselves the right to amend the Constitution. When we are asked to be the decision-makers, we often demonstrate an attachment to our system. Mr Browne speaks of “the unrepresentative character of the system” but two attempts to replace the PR system were rejected in referendums.
I’m afraid Mr Browne will have to realise we have the system we have chosen and, despite the tribunals, etc, we show little appetite for radical change.
Such change as has occurred has often been imposed from outside, from the EU, UN and, more recently, the troika.
It would be more convenient and popular to hold the politicians liable for the shortcomings you mention, but the truth is that responsibility ultimately lies with the people – and they are, as Mr Browne notes, sovereign. – Yours, etc,
Kimmage Road West,
Sir, – So, we are going to have a banking inquiry run by the elite for the elite, but no mention of Anglo is allowed because of pending court cases (“Ministers want Anglo kept out of initial bank inquiry”, Front Page, September 19th). This is totally absurd. Certain people will now have the perfect excuse to temper their responses for fear of mentioning Anglo. – Yours, etc,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Children in the 1950s and 1960s lost their teeth for reasons that had nothing to do with fluoride and tap water. In the 1950s I was called from my classroom and told to take two of my younger sisters to Sligo hospital to see the dentist. The dentist pulled four of my teeth and my sisters suffered the same fate. One of my sisters fainted and fell. I was told to take her outside to faint. She still carries a scar on her face. We witnessed a surgeon coming out from an operating theatre, not a pretty sight. We were sent back to school. We were traumatised.
Our parent’s permission was not sought for us to see the dentist, let alone for the extractions. Our mother was extremely angry. She would not have allowed such treatment of her children. – Yours, etc,
King Edward Lawn,
Sir, – I was fascinated by Paddy Woodworth’s article and the accompanying photographs (“One wild festival: camping in the Comeraghs”, Life, September 17th).
Growing up in Clonmel, my mother used to bring my brothers and myself for picnics to Comshingaun. Having trudged up the mountain, she used to tell us that this lake was bottomless and that if we fell in we would end up in Australia! Reading the article, I could have been that little girl sitting on the rock 60 years ago! – Yours, etc,
NOËLLE ANNE CURRAN,
* Who is running Ireland? Who is in charge of our fiscal policy? On November 17, 2011, the Irish Independent carried reports of Irish Budget documents being discussed in the German Bundestag before TDs in Ireland ever even saw them. Indeed, if my memory serves me properly, a previous Irish ‘money bill’, to give a Budget its correct legal title, was openly discussed in Germany before even the Dail or the Irish media had a sniff of what was going on.
Also in this section
Recovery lies in education of our children
No moral consensus on Ireland’s future
A question of leadership
“So what?”, one might ask. These Germans are our friends and know how to mind money, some might say. Unfortunately for the German government and its parliament, they have broken the very basis of Irish Law. Our Constitution is very clear on the formation of money bills and the parameters which makes them legal.
One of the central themes of these Budgets is austerity. We now know that the basics maths employed as the very basis of austerity is incorrect. The economists who “did the math” weren’t very good at doing the math, which we now know has been accepted by the Bundestag and adopted by it for Ireland.
We know that the current Government and all sides of the House are quite agreeable with this status quo. One wonders how this could be the case when the Irish Constitution is so very clear on money bills in Article 21 – “Money bills shall be initiated in Dail Eireann only” – or, as the booklet on Seanad abolition puts it: “They must start in the Dail.”
It seems to me that austerity has no legal foundation in Ireland and I wonder – quite cynically, admittedly – if the notion of Seanad abolition was “initiated” in a Dail-protected Bundestag.
I equally wonder how different Ireland might be if the members of Dail Eireann had received some financial advice from the Althing, Iceland’s parliament.
Athenry, Co Galway
CHERISH OUR HERITAGE
* The proposal to demolish the Ormond Hotel (Irish Independent, September 7), scene of part of the Sirens episode in ‘Ulysses’, represents yet another potential kick in the teeth for Joycean Dublin. While not on a par with the culture of indifference that led to the loss of Joyce’s childhood home in Drumcondra, it is yet another sad reflection on the lack of foresight in a city that is one of only six UNESCO Cities of Literature.
Just last summer, a decision was made to close the James Joyce Tower in Sandycove for most of the summer, a decision that was only reversed due to the dedication of local volunteers.
Were it not for the heroic efforts of Brendan Kilty, 15 Ushers Island, the setting for the Dubliners short story ‘The Dead’, would have succumbed to passive neglect long ago.
Our cultural heritage – and in particular our literary heritage – is a key aspect of what draws people to Dublin as a tourist destination. Can we please cherish our literary past? It has much to offer.
Liberties Heritage Association
Carman’s Hall, Dublin 8
SOME ARE MORE EQUAL
* Is it not a strange world we live in? The Irish Independent (September 17) colour-charted in detail global records for pollution. The world’s richest polluters are the world’s 500 richest companies.
Their total emissions over the past five years exceeded 3 billion metric tons of CO2 gasses per year and this is only marginally decreasing each year.
Research from an environmental ‘think-tank’ organisation shows that the level of public disclosure of greenhouse-gas emissions among the world’s largest 800 companies is unacceptably poor.
Compare this irresponsible regulation with a simpler case in history. My relatively new car was brought for the NCT recently. Despite being otherwise perfect, it failed the emissions test. The solution was a new catalytic converter, costing approximately €800 for this small family car.
I had no option other than to find the money and have the job done, because I have a conscience, while giant companies don’t need one.
Thurles, Co Tipperary
EVOLUTION IS NONSENSE
* Allow me to respond to yet another ill-conceived letter from Gary J Byrne (September 14). First of all, His Holiness would do well to avoid any books by evolutionist Mark Hauser, who was sacked from Harvard for fabricating data and general scientific misconduct.
As for evolution, it must surely count as the greatest scientific hoax of all time. There is not a shred of evidence to support any of its claims – its just a bunch of ‘just-so’ stories.
Where are the missing links, Mr Byrne? How did your conscience actually evolve? Where did all the information contained in DNA come from? DNA itself consists of encoded data, complete with error-correction mechanisms and control systems that would astound most engineers. And yet we are supposed to believe that random mutations caused this?
The whole theory is utterly preposterous. The evidence for God is everywhere. St Thomas Aquinas proved from first principles back in the 13th Century that He exists. Since then, numerous other philosophical and metaphysical proofs of His existence have appeared.
The great astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle wrote towards the end of his life regarding the fine-tuning of the universe and the solar system: “A common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with (the) physics, as well as chemistry and biology.”
Dr A Rogers
Castleknock, Dublin 15
GET RID OF THE SEANAD
* The Senate and proportional representation were introduced by the founders of the Free State to ensure that the interests of Protestants/Unionists were protected.
Eamon de Valera introduced a Bill to abolish the Senate in 1934. He later saw that a second chamber could be of party-political value and reintroduced a second chamber in the 1937 Constitution. The new Senate became a creature of the Government of the day, with little democratic mandate, and it has made little contribution to Irish life.
When De Valera entered the presidential election in 1959, he put forward an amendment to the Constitution for the abolition of proportional representation.
Dev was elected President but the people defeated the amendment. Thus we still have the Senate and proportional representation as unnecessary and unwelcome historical legacies.
Anthony J Jordan
Sandymount, Dublin 4
OUR NEW SUMMERS
* Unless my memory fails me, this will be the third or fourth year in a row where we have experienced a so-called Indian summer, with good weather forecast for the coming weekend.
At this stage, it’s surely reasonable to drop the ‘Indian’ prefix or to at least replace it with ‘Irish’.
COLLECTIVITY OF CLOWNS
* Question three in the Living & Leisure section (Irish Independent, September 17) asks for the collective noun for a group of ladybirds. The answer is of course “a loveliness”. What a gorgeous image that conjures.
Maybe we can now have a “relic of religious” for priests, nuns etc, a “pointlessness of politicians” for all our useless TDs, senators and councillors and, finally, a “brass neck of bankers” for the shower who have us where we are just now.