27 September 2013 Still Tired
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to provide the band for a dance night but Pertwees relatives get locked up for stealing lead while waiting to perform. Priceless.
I have a rest we go and see Joan
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and gets under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.
Tom Vernon, who has died in France aged 74, cut a Falstaffian figure in the series of gently affectionate programmes he made for Radio 4, Fat Man on a Bicycle .
Tom Vernon Photo: REX FEATURES
7:03PM BST 26 Sep 2013
As radio’s itinerant 19-stone Fat Man, Vernon broke out of the confines of the radio studio. He combined a natural empathy with a novelist’s descriptive powers in meetings with “real” people on their own turf, drawing from them observations about their lives that were more intimate and personal than almost anything that had been heard before.
And while to radio and television audiences he will be remembered as the Fat Man, to a generation of children he was the reassuring voice who answered when they telephoned Father Christmas. It was perfect casting.
The son of a soldier turned colonial administrator, Thomas Bowater Vernon was born in London within the sound of Bow bells on April 23 1939, a premature four-pound first baby to his 42 year-old mother. His father, a former Bengal Lancer who had seen service in the Khyber Pass had gone on to become head of prison services in Nigeria. (Foreign Office interview: “Play polo, Vernon? Send you to northern Nigeria. No tsetse fly there.”) In Nigeria he had met his future wife and Tom’s mother, a hospital matron.
Tom attended grammar schools in Shropshire, Sussex, Dorset and Kent; he was the first boy to go from Gillingham grammar school to Cambridge. There he notionally read English as an exhibitioner at Pembroke College, in fact devoting most of his energy to drama and music.
On coming down Vernon became a teacher, then a public relations officer, first for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and then for the British Humanist Association, where he helped to get legislation passed on abortion reform and against enforced religion in schools. He also wrote a prize-winning and influential pamphlet called Gobbledygook for the Plain English Campaign.
But he could not resist performance. He was moonlighting as a period-costumed minstrel at the Elizabethan Rooms in Kensington Gore when he met Sally Pearce, who was to become his second wife. She was working as a wench.
Vernon soon found a regular slot on the Today programme, creating instant songs about the news. When BBC Radio London began in 1970 he became its first presenter, with a brief that was as wide as his expansive personality, creating various literary, historical and musical programmes. He would read whole novels in which he played all the characters, and direct his own scripts of the musical history of London with two performers playing 20 parts.
His love of music and words and delight in people brought many awards including Personality and Presenter of the Year and one for Best Radio Documentary. Then in 1979 he set out to pedal from north London to the south of France for the first series of Fat Man on a Bicycle. His first book, based on the French ride, became a bestseller.
The Fat Man format translated to television on Channel 4 with Vernon travelling further afield — so far, in fact, that he was awarded a medal by the government in Buenos Aires for Fat Man in Argentina (for improving relations with Britain not long after the Falklands campaign).
Moving to BBC1, Vernon abandoned his bicycle and became Fat Man in the Kitchen, recorded in his own handcrafted Victorian home in Muswell Hill. To the horror of the Daily Mail, his cat was seen parading across the kitchen table, and some meat accidentally dropped on the floor was quickly put back in the pan. His bonhomie carried the show, but his real flair on television came from unplanned encounters. His kindly enthusiasm, acute observation and affection for the unusual were compelling.
In the 1990s he and his wife, Sally Pearce, began spending more time in the house that they had bought at Valleraugue in the Cevennes. It was a mirror of the man: large, unpretentious, comfortable, full of potential. There Vernon’s gentle personality allowed him to find his place in the local community, and he participated in local music groups and choirs.
Tom Vernon had an early marriage. He married his second wife, Sally, twice: first in 1967 and then, after their divorce of 1986, again in 1991. The latter ceremony was held at their house in France, accompanied by a fusillade from local hunters and dancing in the orchard. She and their two sons survive him.
Tom Vernon, born April 23 1939, died September 11 2013
The UK certainly had a major biological weapons programme to develop anthrax in the second world war, as Steven Rose asserts (Letters, 20 September), but his statement that “Churchill had to be energetically dissuaded” from using it is wrong. With the help of the Guardian letters page, among others, the late Professor RV Jones and I spent much time in the 1980s showing that this allegation was a myth, based on a misreading of documents about the V-weapons crisis of July 1944. Churchill wanted to use poison gas in response to the V2 rocket threat. He did not ask for germ warfare to be considered, but the chiefs of staff looked into its practicability anyway. They concluded that gas would be counterproductive, whereas sufficient anthrax bombs were simply not available. It was gas, not anthrax, which they dissuaded Churchill from using. This episode is covered in Martin Gilbert’s biography of Churchill, in RV Jones’s Reflections on Intelligence and in appendix 8 of my book, Changing Direction.
Zoe Williams highlights the antisocial and divisive nature of many free schools and academies (Comment, 26 September). A number of them have introduced creationism into the curriculum as an alternative to evolution. It is outrageous that children should be thus indoctrinated with anti-scientific ideas. In my Catholic school decades ago evolution was taught as a given, no question about it. In some American states creationism has been introduced to the biology curriculum as a way of getting religion into the classroom in state schools. This is because the constitution enforces a separation of church and state. In Britain that great religious leader Tony Blair must take some blame for a system that has allowed children to be taught ideas that were already being phased out in Darwin’s day. I hope to see in Labour’s manifesto a commitment to reversing this lamentable state of affairs.
• Zoe Williams makes passing reference to rumours of Ofsted “scoring” academies higher than maintained schools. It’s a shame she repeats them without any determinable reference to fact. Ofsted judges schools – whether maintained, academy or free school – on the same rigorous model. We have no preference for type and judge solely on the quality of what inspectors see.
Director of schools, Ofsted
• Other faiths must sort out their own strategies for spiritual development but I have always opposed the existence of Christian schools because of the damage they do to the cause of Christianity – for all the reasons cited by Zoe Williams. The approach to power and influence represented by Christian schools, old and new, is one of the biggest blockages to people recognising the spirit and teaching of Jesus in the life and organisation of the churches.
Rev Geoff Reid
• Zoe Williams is right to point out the Kafkaesque impotence of parents who disagree with the alarming increase in faith-based free schools. Like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, it is the faith groups that have the foot soldiers and infrastructure in place to unfairly take advantage of the new order.
• Perhaps Seneca the Younger knew the answer: “Religion is seen by the common people as true, by the wise as untrue, and by the rulers as useful.”
South Brent, Devon
• In her advertisement for free schools, Susanna Rustin (Report, 21 September) seems to have swallowed wholesale the propaganda presented by Natalie Evans, the director of the New Schools Network. Rustin tells us that Building Schools for the Future was a “colossal investment”. However, she assures that, though it was abandoned, “leaking roofs and peeling paint are no excuse” for poor performance. This scheme would have ensured that children from all backgrounds had a chance to be taught in decent surroundings. Instead a huge amount of taxpayers’ money has been poured into an ideological experiment. Rustin conveniently avoids telling us how much this plaything of Michael Gove costs.
The article by your science correspondent on the way the sun will expand (Long-range forecast: sunny spell will wipe out life, 19 September) in about 3bn years’ time reminds me of a lecture given by Sir Arthur Eddington on the same subject. When he had finished, a chap in the audience asked: “Could you say again how long it will be before the sun expands?” Sir Arthur replied: “We think it will be about 3 billion years.” The chap replied: “That’s a relief – I thought you said 3 million years.”
• Disappointed to see the Guardian stooping so low with the comment on page 2 on the dress sense of Ed Miliband’s wife (Stylewatch, 25 September). Give us a break and confine style to the supplement if you have to at all – and on the back of a decent interview at least.
Buckden, North Yorkshire
• So Team USA win the America’s Cup after Olympic yachtsman Sir Ben Ainslie joined the crew when they were trailing 1-8 (Report, 26 September). Isn’t that a bit like signing Lionel Messi at halftime? (Not to mention the billionaire backer and faster boat.)
• The French were good spitters, too (G2, 26 September). The only French phrase I remember from a 1949 school visit to Paris, seen everywhere, is “Défense de cracher”.
• Before the 1914 war London buses had the warning: “Do not spit but swallow it / For every gob costs forty bob!”
Battle, East Sussex
• Trevor Preston (Letters, 26 September) wonders if his letters to the Guardian go unacknowledged because they first go to GCHQ. But the latter always reports intercepted receipt of my own, sadly innocuous contributions to the letters page. It’s those who don’t get these official “thank you” letters who should worry.
• If @stephenfry is so worried about mass surveillance (Report, 24 September), why doesn’t he just leave Twitter?
Lord Mandelson is wrong in his criticism of Ed Miliband’s energy plan (Report, 26 September), yet was also wrong when he was business secretary. In 2009 his lordship recognised after meeting French business leaders that France was better at setting strategic goals, citing examples such as nuclear energy, high-speed rail and aerospace, then claiming that: “We have something to learn from continental practice [but] we are not talking about public ownership.”
Yet public ownership was central to the success of France in these sectors. It was crucial to its state-owned Électricité de France achieving the target of gaining four fifths of national energy through nuclear power, without a Three Mile Island meltdown. It was through the state-owned SNCF that it gained its TGV national rail system, now in its second generation. Without long-term public finance in sustaining Concorde, despite it never covering its development costs, France would not have retained the advanced engineering capacity in aircraft that made Airbus possible.
Also, while praising French industrial strategy in 2009, Mandelson was proposing to privatise the Post Office, apparently oblivious that France’s publicly owned Caisse des Depôts et Consignations is investment manager for both savings banks (Caisses d’épargne) and the French Post Office. It is through these public institutions that France for decades has assured a long-term supply of savings for productive investments in both its public and private sectors.
Further, while denigrating allegedly Old Labour, and the risk of returning to it, Labour’s industrial strategy of the 1970s was modelled on French planning agreements which made the long-term investments by Électricité de France, SNCF and Concorde-Airbus possible. This was both better informed and more up to date then than his lordship is now.
Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra, Portugal
• The idea that this is a backward step in Labour’s industrial policy reveals only the extent to which Mandelson, the architect of Blairism, continues to cling on to the bankrupt policy of cosying up to big business which precipitated the banking crisis with disastrous effect.
Let us not forget that Mandelson, while a minister, was obliged to resign under a cloud, not once but twice. Remember too that he publicly declared himself relaxed about people “getting filthy rich” under New Labour and has counted among his contacts Russian oligarchs and owners of luxury yachts who have entertained him alongside, not so ironically, George Osborne.
That Ed Miliband has the courage to stand up to the energy companies that have blatantly ratcheted up prices by eye-watering margins under the current administration is admirable. It is to be hoped that as a result of this policy, come 2015, a UK government will no longer turn a blind eye to the obscenity of the preventable deaths each year of those who cannot afford to pay for the unreasonable profits of energy company executives and their shareholders.
• Lord Mandelson presumably still supports the principle of a minimum wage. In a monopsonistic labour market, paradoxically the demand for labour goes up when employers are forced to pay a minimum wage, assuming that the level is set correctly. That is the way of profit maximisation under the minimum wage constraint. In a market where employers have to compete with each other for labour, this paradox may not obtain, and the argument for a minimum wage is one of fairness.
If Mandelson accepts these arguments, he cannot criticise the mirror image argument for a price ceiling in a monopolistic energy industry. Such a ceiling may, paradoxically, even lead to higher production of energy by the logic of profit maximisation in that industry.
• What a pity that Peter Mandelson can’t use his analytical abilities to help Labour craft a more responsible form of capitalism in the way that Lord Sainsbury has attempted, rather than simply seeking to defend his own “legacy” as business secretary. His accusation that Ed Miliband’s planned energy price freeze is taking Labour policy backwards smacks of someone who just doesn’t “get it” – that voters feel that unfettered markets do little to protect the consumer from being ripped off.
The challenge for Labour is to devise mechanisms to ensure that the markets for energy, water and rail deliver the investment that any decent long-term strategy shows we need, while protecting the consumer from companies such as Centrica, which plead poverty one day and then find plenty of cash to reward shareholders the next. Perhaps Lord Mandelson could apply his skills to this challenge, rather than uncritically supporting the current energy market framework.
• Critics accuse Ed Miliband of a lurch to the left and say his energy price freeze is unworkable. Up pops Mandelson to agree that the proposals are a step backwards and won’t work. Instantly, fears and doubts are swept away. It’s a brilliant stroke by Mandelson to ensure that the public supports Labour’s energy policy.
• Curious to know how Mandelson, Milburn and assorted other New Labour types think their incessant chorus of public criticism of their leader helps the party? Why should people join and work locally for the party if national figures constantly weigh in with comments that undermine progress at this critical time? What’s wrong with a discreet call, an email or a face-to-face meeting if they want to log concerns with the leadership? And don’t tell me Labour is “a broad church”. This is tribal, egocentric nonsense.
• Perhaps Mandelson’s cry of anguish expresses his fear that if Miliband is right on this then New Labour’s backside-licking of big corporations might eventually come to be viewed as most people now view its insistence that Britain be involved in Iraq – a moral outrage and a gross disservice to the British people that New Labour were elected to serve.
• The acutely perceptive Baron Mandelson has noticed that the Labour leader’s speech was driven by politics. Surprise, surprise! Whatever next?
Ian Martin is right to call for “international actors to stay engaged” in Libya and that Libyans have no appetite for an “over-assertive western approach” (Remember Libya, 20 September). A mixture of diplomatic caution and Libya’s considerable wealth means that they are getting little of either from the British government directly. Instead, what Libyans need from the UK is meaningful commercial, educational and institutional engagement.
I’ve twice returned to Tripoli since the fall of Gaddafi, once to teach at Tripoli University and again with a small, UKTI-backed delegation from the Royal Institute of British Architects to establish partnerships with Libya’s built-environment policymakers and fledgling institutions. However, such privately funded, loss-leader initiatives with substantial security overheads mean that active engagement is a philanthropic disincentive to otherwise willing businesses, educators and institutions. It should be the job of government to play the long game where British SMEs cannot, by facilitating Anglo-Libyan partnerships with all the hands-on diplomatic, logistical and financial support that they require. The cost of harnessing the greatest peace-building asset in our arsenal might be worth the prize of a major new market for British expertise. The cost of a failed state three hours from London would be greater.
• Ian Martin says Libyans now “experience freedoms they were long denied”. Does he mean the freedom to not have running water, state healthcare, sanitation, security? He may see political ethics and the lessons of history as “point-scoring”, but the west should not have bombed Libya for seven months. It needs to be rebuilt because western leaders destroyed it. For them, Libya is just another Arab state broken by their violence to achieve their geopolitical goals – as long as it is opened up to their oil companies and big businesses, they’ll be content to leave its people in the chaos they created.
Simon Jenkins makes a lot of sense in his destruction of the argument made by the three major political parties for retaining and renewing Trident (This £100bn Armageddon weapon won’t make us safer, 25 September).
If only he had seen the light when he edited London’s Evening Standard in the late 1970s and the Times in the early 1990s, and thundered against Trident then too.
But it is not only British senior politicians who suffer cognitive dissonance over nuclear weapons of mass destruction: good for us; bad for them.
US president Barack Obama told the United Nations on Tuesday that the US was “determined to prevent” Iran from “developing a nuclear weapon”. Yet Iranian president Hassan Rouhani told the gathered world leaders and top diplomats that nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction had “no place in Iran’s security and defence doctrine”.
President Obama also stressed his wider opposition to nuclear WMDs in the Middle East, saying: “We will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction … We reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region and undermine the global nonproliferation regime.”
Obama failed to mention that Israel already has some 200 nuclear warheads, and missiles to deliver them across the region. Why was this?
Dr David Lowry
Former director, European Proliferation Information Centre
• Simon Jenkins’s well-constructed blast against successive British politicians’ obsession with retaining a nuclear weapons capability missed one essential point. If Britain gave up the bomb it would leave France as the sole European nuclear power. Now, I’m not suggesting that this would leave the entire continent having to live in the shadow of a Gallic parapluie nucléaire – but the Daily Mail might …
Director, Allan & Associates
It is disturbing that the Crown Prosecution Service finds it in the public interest to prosecute Green MP Dr Caroline Lucas for the way she opposed the threat of fracking in a community near her Brighton constituency (report, 26 September) but to date has not prosecuted a single banker for their role in wrecking our economy.
City financial watchdogs have fined companies involved in dodgy dealing in the banking industry, but unlike in the United States reckless individuals are never fingered by our prosecuting authorities.These bankers and brokers get the huge bonuses paid personally, even if earned from reckless deals, but never receive the fines personally when caught out.
Meanwhile Dr Lucas gets prosecuted. She has tried traditional methods to raise widespread concerns with fracking; for example, she secured a debate in Parliament just before summer recess on 18 July. Readers can judge for themselves by reading the energy minister Michael Fallon’s response to the concerns Dr Lucas set out whether he is prepared to take on board popular worries over fracking by reading his response on the Parliamentary website: http://www.publications.parliament.uk /pa/cm201314/cmhansrd /cm130718/ hallindx/130718-x.htm
One of several key points raised by Dr Lucas was this: “It is also pretty appalling that the new planning guidelines are set to come into force without public consultation, denying communities that stand to be affected by fracking any say in the new process. It is clear that ministers and the fracking firms, which are, sadly, increasingly indistinguishable, are keen to press on rapidly, but it is wrong to refuse to consult on new planning guidance aimed at making it easier for developers to cast aside community concerns.”
It is impossible for politicians to represent popular concerns over environmental risks if ministers either ignore them when raised through usual democratic channels, or deliberately create planning processes that are exclusive of key community stakeholders.
Dr Lucas is a dedicated, concerned, selfless and hardworking MP. Do our law officers really want to prosecute such politicians?
Dr David Lowry, Stoneleigh, Surrey
Thank you for devoting two pages to the dangers of the chemicals used in fracking (“Is fracking a mortal threat to our livestock?”, 18 September). It is truly astonishing that David Cameron, who wanted the Coalition to be “the greenest government ever”, is so keen to promote fracking.
To allow such toxic and carcinogenic chemicals to be pumped into the ground strikes me as equivalent to toxic waste dumping on a grand scale. Accidental spillages and leakages from imperfect well linings will be inevitable, not to mention complex geological factors that may in time bring these chemicals to the surface and into our food chain.
That we would be spared the shocking US legislation that allows fracking companies to hide details of the chemicals they use is of little comfort. It is time for a major U-turn in policy.
Justin Douglas, St Albans, Hertfordshire
Ed Miliband’s advocacy of theft is a disgrace
Does Ed Miliband understand property rights in regards to his “use it or lose it” threat to property developers sitting on vast land banks? The rule of law is supposed to protect our property rights from the potential arbitrary power of government, but Miliband thinks he can stamp on this fundamental principle of civil association and limited government for the sake of trying to win votes. Miliband was advocating theft and property confiscation; it is an absolute disgrace to hear such rhetoric from a “serious” politician.
James Paton, Billericay, Essex
No doubt “An honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage” (Owen Jones, 24 September”) will make a fine slogan for Ed Miliband at the next general election. On the other hand, it is uncomfortably close to “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage”, as used by Stanley Baldwin in the 1930s, which my working-class grandmother always cited as her reason for voting Conservative.
D J Taylor, Norwich
Ed Miliband gave a really first-class speech at the Labour conference. The average voter will applaud his commitment to freezing energy prices. Most of us will certainly also be in favour of breaking up the big energy firms and bringing in a new, tougher regulator.
Building 200,000 new homes a year by 2020 will in addition go down well with younger and older folk wanting a place of their own.Truly, here we have an excellent, thoughtful young leader who would certainly make an excellent prime minister in 2015.
Andrew McLuskey, Staines, Twickenham
Once again Labour shows that it has no basic understanding of business; that’s partly why it ruined our economy while in government last time. Ed Miliband is not capable of running our country, and conference headlines might please the fickle but won’t win them an election.
T Sayer, Bristol
The blatant attempt at blackmail by the energy companies with their thinly veiled threat to pull the plugs on our energy supply if the government attempts to regulate their obscene profits, despite the fact that many elderly, sick and disabled people depend for their safety on that energy, shows beyond doubt that these fat-cat companies are totally unfit to be allowed to continue managing our energy infrastructure.
The government should make it absolutely clear that any such attempt at such sabotage would result in seizure of all assets, jailing of the perpetrators, and immediate renationalisation without compensation of the energy network. But of course we won’t see that from this government, who wouldn’t dream of offending their rich shareholder friends.
Ian McNicholas, Waunlwyd, Ebbw Vale
We can’t afford not to build HS2
Ed Balls has raised questions about the affordability of HS2 and alternative uses for the available funds. Surely the question he should be asking is not “Can we afford to build it?” but “Can we afford not to build it if we want a globally competitive future for our country in the 21st century?”
Our 19th-century Victorian forbears left a legacy that enabled us to meet most of our infrastructure needs for the 20th century, and we became lazy and parsimonious in our thinking on national infrastructure investment.
Sadly, they omitted to provide for sufficient north-south rail capacity for the 21st century and for national success this will be most keenly felt in respect of freight capacity. Whether we like it or not, we are in a globalised economy competing with emerging economic power-houses falling over themselves to invest in their national infrastructure. It would be interesting to know what questions of affordability and alternative uses for the funding Mr Balls raised when his government was planning and initiating the construction of Crossrail.
The HS2 project will cost each year a broadly similar sum to that which has been spent each year for the past decade and more on Crossrail. Surely it can’t have anything to do with the fact that Crossrail benefits the economy of London, whereas HS2 benefits the economy of much of the rest of the country?
Malcolm Everett, Birmingham
State-school sport is thriving
Has David Hewitt (Letters, 23 September) been anywhere near a state school recently? My children’s school has a state-of-the-art gym and sports hall. PE is valued and taught with excellence and enthusiasm. There is no sign of “apathy”. Pupils have experience of a wide variety of sports (all those mentioned in his list, apart from squash and many more besides) before, during and after school. They compete against other schools and are certainly not restricted to being “grudgingly allowed to play sport one afternoon a week”.
State-school sport is actually alive and kicking and achieving incredibly high standards.
Helen Smithson, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire
English primary schools do not need an American for-profit company to tell them that “you can have fun from learning” and that core values of “compassion, wisdom, respect, justice, courage, hope, responsibility, and integrity” are essential ingredients of good education (report, 25 September). The person who needs this advice is Michael Gove, who seems to think that transmission of skills and facts and the testing thereof is the essence of education.
State funds should go into state schools, not private pockets.
Michael Bassey, Coddington, Newark
Niqab makes a spectacle of piety
The defenders of the niqab are laying claim to the British virtue of tolerance (Letters, 24 September), but completely ignoring another long-standing aspect of our national character, a very strong dislike of those who make a spectacle of their own piety and virtue mostly in order to highlight the supposed sin and vice of everybody else. This idea is enshrined in our language in expressions like “self-righteous” and “holier than thou”.
R S Foster, Sheffield
For once, I’m backing Boris
I’m not a fan of Boris Johnson, but I praise his call for the super-rich to follow the example of their American counterparts to “do something for society” – to demonstrate some philanthropy. You reported his perfectly reasonable comments as a “rant”.
Funny, up until then I thought I’d been reading The Independent.
Stanley Knill, London N15
Ukip jests, surely
Farage showed the refreshing candour and no-nonsense forthrightness for which he and his party are renowned when he said of ex-Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom: “Nearly everything he has said has been meant as a joke.”
I trust Bloom will return the compliment and say the same of Farage and Ukip.
Christian Vassie, York
I noticed, in yesterday’s Birthdays, that former cricketer Ian Chappell is 701. I presume this is 701 not out?
Nick Marler, Otley, West Yorkshire
The ‘lost generation’ of graduates who cannot find paid work, the success stories of social science students, and teaching ‘employability’ at school
Sir, I have yet to hear any of the political party conferences say something positive about youth unemployment, especially about graduates. They seem to have been forgotten, with almost 19 per cent of graduates unemployed and youth unemployment overall running at nearly 21 per cent.
My daughter has been unemployed for a year now. She has three A levels at grade A, a degree and a master’s from one of the top five universities in Britain and, after applying for many jobs in the museum and art world, has never been offered an interview. Almost all the applications she sends do not even get a reply and because many of the employers use an internet-based system for applications which does not allow for correspondence, she is unable to get any feedback. Her experience of some art and auction institutions also seems to suggest a high degree of nepotism.
She has had many unpaid internships and is currently volunteering for a charity. However, she would like a proper paid job and so has reluctantly set her sights lower. She recently applied for a sales assistant role at a national retail store. This involved a long group interview, with tasks and presentations. She thought she had done well, but three days later she was told she hadn’t got the job. No feedback, just an unreplyable, automated email.
She refers to herself as part of the “lost generation”, a whole swathe of young people who have been forgotten, who have worked hard at school and university, encouraged by the politicians to do well, only to find that there is nothing for them at the end of their studies.
Sir, We were sorry to read in your article “Salary fears put courses in peril” (Good University Guide, Sept 25), that social science subjects are facing difficulties in student recruitment since the introduction of the £9,000 fees. John O’Leary is right to point out the perception that social science degrees don’t offer good career prospects.
However, the Campaign for Social Science can demonstrate that this perception is unfounded. We will shortly be releasing a report entitled “What do Social Science Graduates Do?”, analysing data from the latest Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey. Among its findings are:
A higher proportion of social science graduates are in work than STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) or arts-humanities graduates, three and a half years after graduating.
At the same point in time, higher proportions of social scientists are “managers, directors and senior officials” than any other subject group.
Greater proportions of social science graduates, too, are employed in the professional and scientific industries.
Professor James Wilsdon
Professor Cary Cooper
Campaign for Social Science
Sir, The modern schooling system has failed to adjust to the fact that the economy is in recession and is flooded with graduates. Schools must engage their young people in employability skills from the age of 15. Not to do this can mean many years wasted on overly academic courses which often take young people no further forward in terms of earning a living.
Converting redundant railway routes for road use, and taking a leaf out of France’s book when it comes to interconnectivity
Sir, Nissan last month caused a stir by declaring that it will be ready to sell cars capable of fully autonomous driving by 2020. Mercedes has a research vehicle which autonomously retraced the 103km route between Mannheim and Pforzheim originally navigated by Mrs Bertha Benz in 1888.
Railways including the proposed HS2 run between buildings where no fare-paying passenger lives or works, thus giving rise to two further journeys. Even if the journey time by rail over distances of up to 200 miles is halved, it is doubtful that the door-to-door journey time (as distinct from station-to-station time) will equal the convenience or time of a start-to-destination time by road.
The bad news is, if built, HS2 will on completion be redundant. The good news is railway routes convert into excellent grade separated roads.
Roger M. Bale
St Clement, Jersey
Sir, According to George Thackray (letter, Sept 26), the high-speed trains’ lack of flexibility “limits interconnectivity with the existing network”. The French TGVs on which I have travelled from Paris to Annecy, Strasbourg to Lille, and Paris to Dijon, running for part of each journey over the regular network, appeared to have no problems in this regard. Why should HS2 trains be any different? Admittedly, the track over which they ran would need to be electrified, but that would apply to any electric train on the existing network.
When reporting on the America’s Cup, perhaps the truly international nature of those making up the winning crew should be emphasised
Sir, The US wins the America’s Cup (for sailing): humbug. The winning boat, Oracle, is owned by Larry Ellison, the third richest citizen of the US, and one fellow citizen was a member of the 11-strong crew. Also in the crew were four Australians (one of whom was captain), two Kiwis and one member each from the UK, Italy, Holland and Antigua.
This reader has a comeback to Lord Skidelsky’s letter concerning our leader writers’ inability to understand the ‘paradoxical’ nature of Keynesian economics
Sir, The de haut en bas tone of Lord Skidelsky’s letter (Sept 26) chiding your leader writers’ inability to understand the “paradoxical” nature of Keynesian economics would be tolerable, or nearly so, if the rule he implies by use of the word “would” in relation to the effects of government spending (without, one may remark, saying where the government got the money) were as falsifiable as a real scientific law. It is not.
The recent case of Michael Le Vell at Manchester is an example of where committal proceedings could have saved both time and money
Sir, In view of recent criminal cases it is regrettable that the old form of committal proceedings has been abolished. Formerly, the prosecution case could be tested before the Magistrates Courts (professional or lay) to assess its strength. Often the case would be dismissed at that stage and not be sent to the Crown Court if the evidence was not there or was not satisfactory against the defendant. It was a procedure which could save much Crown Court time and expense. The recent case of Michael Le Vell at Manchester is an example where there appeared to be no proper evidence to convict (reports, Sept 11 & 12). He could have been spared years of anguish by the possible disposal of the case in the lower court. Similarly all the recent cases where allegations are made years after the events could be tested and perhaps sorted out in the lower court.
(former District Judge)
SIR – Two other popular comedians who created stage names from an outside source (Letters, September 24) were John Eric Bartholomew, who took the name of the town where he was born to become Eric Morecambe, and Ted Ray, born Charlie Olden in Wigan, who adopted his stage name from a well-known professional golfer of the early 1900s.
Grinstead, West Sussex
SIR – The origin of Mark Twain’s name is an interesting one. It had been adopted from the custom of dropping a line with knots spaced every 6ft into the river to test its depth.
When it had reached the second knot, the leadsman would shout, “Mark, twain!” indicating that there was a depth of 12ft and it was therefore safe to proceed.
Richard N Underwood
Hove, East Sussex
SIR – In his speech to the Labour Party Conference, Ed Miliband proposes fixing power prices, nationalising land for building and giving everybody a pay rise (report, September 25). How can this be? Is this really what the shadow cabinet were taught as sound economics?
SIR – Nothing illustrates more precisely why Labour is unfit to govern than Mr Miliband’s absurd pronouncement on energy prices. In Canute-like fashion he will hold back market forces, and stop the price of power increasing – presumably supported by state subsidy and government spending. That is how Labour got us into this mess in the run up to 2010.
I don’t know how Mr Miliband can present such policies with a straight face.
The comedian who named himself after a town
26 Sep 2013
SIR – The only way Mr Miliband could fulfil his election pledge to freeze household energy bills would be by lifting the obligation imposed on power companies to buy open-ended amounts of renewable energy at two or three times the cost of alternatives. This would not just freeze our bills, it would reduce them.
That would please everyone except Chinese solar panel makers, Danish turbine companies, and the leaders of the Conservative Party. Power companies could retain a fair profit for investment in our future. Customers would see bills go down.
The prospect of no more turbine or solar blight could see “Red Ed” swept to power on a wave of Tory heartland votes, bemused and frustrated at their own party’s failure to make such a pledge.
SIR – Mr Milband’s energy price freeze promise could come back to haunt him.
Britain’s energy infrastructure is creaking already, having been left virtually untouched by successive governments for the best part of 30 years, while our energy consumption grows relentlessly. We expect more energy, lower prices and reliability, yet we have done nothing at all to achieve these things. Coal-fired power stations and old nuclear reactors are closing down, while new builds are not coming on stream fast enough.
Already Britain is facing a winter with a tiny margin of safety on our total production capacity. One breakdown and the lights could start going out. This requires more (not less) money to fix it.
John S Parris
SIR – Does Ed Miliband have any understanding of the operations of a commercial energy company? The cost of electricity (other than nuclear and hydro) is dominated by the cost of fuel. Gas and coal prices are subservient to international pressures and demand.
In the 24 hours up to 11 am on Tuesday, electricity was generated as follows: gas 29 per cent; coal 42 per cent; nuclear 20 per cent; wind 0.3 per cent, while the interconnector from France supplied 5 per cent. We should therefore be installing another interconnector, not spending billions subsidising wind turbines.
SIR – Perhaps Mr Miliband would be kind enough to fix the price of oil. As our village in North Oxfordshire has no mains gas, we have to work with the vagaries of the oil market, which seems to be more volatile than the gas or electricity markets.
Failing that, he could always try and fix the price of logs.
South Newington, Oxfordshire
SIR – What exactly does Ed Miliband think the energy companies will do when his proposed 20-month freeze is over?
SIR – After Ed Miliband’s pledge to freeze prices, the energy companies complain they are only making 5 to 6 per cent on investment. Pensioners, like myself, can only dream of such returns, despite having no option but to pay inflated energy costs.
Woodsetts, South Yorkshire
SIR – Will Ed Miliband confirm that, if he is elected as prime minister, he will not abandon the pensioners’ £100 winter fuel allowance even if he freezes energy prices for 20 months?
SIR – Let us hope that our Prime Minister has more pressing matters to address than spending two weeks rehearsing his speech before he takes to the stage at the Tory party conference.
We do not need a slick pantomime act. I will be quite happy if David Cameron uses copious notes and doesn’t walk all over the stage. He should keep focused and deal with what matters, in order to ensure that the country does not slip back 40 years come the election.
SIR – It seems we’ve moved from the 1992 Sun headline: “If Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights”, to a possible 2015 one: “If Miliband wins today, please make your way to the exit as the lights are being turned off”.
Grounds for reburial
SIR – Robert Ingle (Letters, September 23) advances arguments for the remains of Richard III to be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral. Mr Justice Haddon-Cave dealt with these points when granting permission to the Plantagenet Alliance to proceed with its application for judicial review of the decision to re-inter Richard III in Leicester Cathedral under arrangements made by the Leicester authorities.
Mr Ingle relies on “good archaeological practice”. This generally relates to unidentified remains, and the unique event of the discovery of the undisputed remains of a king of England 528 years after his death in battle calls for a rather different approach. Although he belittles the Plantagenet Alliance, it has, at least, ensured that the decision on the reburial will be an informed and authoritative one after proper consideration of the law and all the facts and circumstances.
Running on empty
SIR – I, too, used story-telling to encourage my children to come on walks (Letters, September 23). Mine centred on an Italian ice cream seller called Mr Fernandes who had a floating van on the river Avon. He would provide free ice cream whenever I walked there unaccompanied, but was never there when my children joined me.
I think this caused them great psychological damage.
Holding on for dear life
SIR – When my employer, an American multi-national, initiated telephone hold music it chose the theme to the series MASH, as it would be recognisable around the world (Letters, September 25).
However, it was soon replaced when it was realised that the music was entitled “Suicide is Painless”.
Sentences must be fair
SIR – When I was an acting magistrate, I often found the most appropriate sentence for a particular offence to be a conditional discharge (report, September 24).
Many defendants appeared in court pleading “guilty”, but due to exceptional circumstances (as in the case of Godfrey Smith who was recently sacked by the South Central Ambulance Service for speeding), it would have been wrong to impose the normal sentence of a fine or a disqualification from driving.
In these circumstances, the defendant would only be brought back to court and punished if he committed another similar offence in the next six months, or whatever period the court considered appropriate.
This way the dignity of the law is upheld, but the defendant usually feels the sentence to be fair.
R I Cahn
Itchingfield, West Sussex
Sex and videotape
SIR – Channel 4’s plan to base a television show on couples having sex is disgusting (report, September 24). The Campaign For Real Sex is insulting decency in pretending it will encourage “a frank conversation” and “reclaim sex from pornography”.
It will only encourage greater acceptance of pornography in society and debase what is meant to be beautiful.
Woodford Green, Essex
SIR – Travelling with five children, Judith Woods and her husband found themselves feted in Venice by the child-friendly Italians (telegraph.co.uk, September 24).
When I lived in Rome I took an even larger brood (six of mine, five from another family) to visit Ostia Antica. At the entrance I was asked if they were all mine.
When I nodded in assent we were ushered in without charge – past a hurriedly assembled reception line, a flurry of salutes and cries of “Mamma mia!”
Dr John Doherty
Double yolked eggs are actually quite common
SIR – Finding a box of six double-yolked eggs is not as unusual as one would imagine (report, September 24).
Recently, I purchased a box of six large free-range eggs from my local butcher. “Large” is an understatement – they were so big that they scarcely fitted into their box, which had to be secured with an elastic band.
Every one of these eggs proved to contain a double yolk. The eggs came from a local supplier in Ledbury, Herefordshire.
SIR – On Monday, I purchased my usual dozen eggs – free-range Columbian Blacktails – from Waitrose. I scrambled six of them for our grandsons’ tea and found that four of them were double yolked.
The next day we had four of the same dozen, poached, and three of those were doubles. The last two I used to make a Victoria sponge – and yes, they were both doubles.
Nine out of 12. Amazing. Is it due to the warm summer?
Sir, – As academics engaged in research in a variety of different disciplines we strongly advocate a No vote in the upcoming referendum on Seanad abolition.
We believe that to tackle the major issues affecting our society, it is vital that there should be more scrutiny of legislation and executive accountability, not less; that the level of vocational expertise in our parliamentary system should be strengthened, not eliminated; and that political participation by citizens in deliberative democratic processes should be intensified, not reduced. While the Seanad, as currently constituted, is not sufficiently equipped to deliver on these ideals, the reform proposals set forth in the Seanad Bill 2013 proposed by Senators Feargal Quinn and Katherine Zappone go some way to meeting them.
By broadening the nomination process and giving all citizens the right to elect our senators, the Quinn-Zappone Bill seeks to implement the real value of bicameralism in providing space for reflection and debate by two sets of qualitatively different representatives. By increasing the Seanad’s powers of scrutiny in a range of areas and providing for the right of the people to force the Seanad to debate on an issue of national importance, this reform package has the capacity to bring new expertise and scrutiny into the parliamentary system and to provide a channel for citizens to express their views, their ideas and their suggestions for change, thus strengthening the foundations of democracy in our country.
The only hope for real reform is a No vote. – Yours, etc,
Prof IVANA BACIK, School of Law, TCD; Dr CATHRYN COSTELLO, Faculty of Law, Oxford University;
Dr YVONNE DALY, School of Law and Government, DCU; Dr SHANE DARCY, School of Law, NUI Galway; Prof FIONA de LONDRAS, Durham Law School, Durham University; LARRY DONNELLY, School of Law, NUI Galway; ; Prof DIARMAID FERRITER, School of History and Archives, UCD; Dr Graham Finlay, School of Politics and International Relations, UCD;
Prof CONOR GEARTY, Dept of Law, London School of Economics; Dr AIDAN KANE, School of Business and Economics, NUI Galway; Dr PADRAIC KENNA, School of Law, NUI Galway; Dr ROBERT MOONEY, School of Sociology, UCD; Dr RONAN McCREA, Faculty of Laws, University College London; Dr NOEL McGRATH, School of Law, UCD; Dr CIAN MURPHY, School of Law, King’s College London; Prof GARY MURPHY, School of Law and Government, DCU; COLM O’CINNÉIDE, Faculty of Laws, University College London; Prof DONNCHA O’CONNELL, School of Law, NUI Galway; Dr EOIN O’DELL, School of Law, TCD; CHARLES O’MAHONY, School of Law, NUI Galway; Prof GERARD QUINN, Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway;
Dr NIAMH REILLY, School of Political Science and Sociology, NUI Galway;
Dr CIARA SMYTH, School of Law, NUI Galway;
Prof JENNIFER TODD, School of Politics and International Relations, UCD; Dr JOHN WALSH, School of Languages, NUI Galway; JUDY WALSH, School of Social Justice, UCD & SUZANNE EGAN, School of Law, UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4.
Sir, – Noel Whelan (Opinion, September 21st) argues, “In deciding how to vote in the Seanad referendum on the October 4th, voters should have regard not only to the merits or otherwise of the proposal itself, but also to the origins of the proposal, the timing of the referendum, the nature of the argument being advanced by the Government in support of it, and the extent to which the Government is prepared to debate it”. In this he is wrong.
We have had too many referendum campaigns influenced by extraneous issues and used to send a message to the incumbent government, rather than by the pros and cons of the substantive issue. The referendums to be held on October 4th (and future referendums), should be decided only on the merits or otherwise of the proposal itself. If voters are unhappy with the government, a general election is the time to express it. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The arguments used in the referendum campaign seem increasingly irrelevant. For example, the notion that Seanad Éireann should be a watchdog, or a bulwark against government excesses, is not reflected in the Constitution, which rather provides for the complementary roles of Dáil and Seanad in processing legislation.
Allowing for roseate-tinted nostalgia, my own experience of the Seanad from the late 1970s to the early 1990s is one of constructive co-operation with the government of the day, especially where Bills were initiated in the House on educational,cultural and social matters. The informed and harmonious debate in the spring of 1991 on the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, introduced by Mary Harney, showed the Seanad at its best,entirely free of party rancour, and this was warmly acknowledged at the time by the minister. – Yours, etc,
JOHN A MURPHY,
Douglas Road, Cork.
Sir, – The arguments advanced in these columns over many weeks may be reduced to three. 1. The Seanad is costly, elitist, and toothless – abolish it. 2. That may be true, but it is our only bulwark against the whipped tyranny of the Dáil and once it’s gone it’ll never be restored – reform it. 3. But abolition will remove the figleaf from the Dáil, leaving it exposed as the lickspittle dogsbody to, at most, a dozen Inner Party politicians who will run the country as their own private fief; then it will simply have to be reformed. For this the GPO was scarred in vain. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Right vote, wrong house. – Yours, etc,
Whitehall Road, Dublin 14.
Sir, – It is to be hoped that President Higgins, as an academic and intellectual, would welcome robust discussion on his position on ethics for all, and it is a pity that many of the responses to Dan O’Brien’s reflection on his DCU speech (Business Opinion, September 20th) were so defensive.
As a researcher and occasional lecturer in clinical ethics, I welcome President Higgins’s investment of energy and authority into the topic of ethics for all. However, a number of aspects of his address troubled myself and others who were at the lecture.
In the first instance, it was pity that the ethics for “all” seemed to get funnelled towards companies, auditors, economists and politicians, rather than equally relating to individual citizens – illegal turf-cutters, strategic buy-to-let mortgage defaulters, those working in, or availing of, the black economy – for whom there is equally a challenge in developing a sense of a society with a more embedded ethical perspective.
Secondly, we were offered a very bleak view of economists, and economics as a rigorous academic discipline and a broad church, declared a craft rather than a science. Joseph Stiglitz, Tyler Cowan and Paul Krugman counter this, as do the economists engaged in TASC in Ireland. It is notable that Jürgen Habermas in a talk in UCD in 2010 indicated that economists such as Stiglitz were key elements of intellectual discourse on how we shape society.
In any event, while it is very good to get ethics more centre stage and promoted as a fundamental of civil society, let us ensure a lively and open debate which liberates the subject as far as possible from ideology.
Professor in Medical
Sir, – It is illuminating to discover that President De Gaulle used to pay the electricity bill for the Élysée Palace for the time after 6pm when the workers had gone home and Eoin Dillon (September 26th) suggests President Higgins should follow this precedent. As well as being honourable and brave, De Gaulle was devoted to rectitude. Even as president, De Gaulle and his strict wife, Yvonne, paid for their own telephone calls. Dinner parties with the De Gaulles were resolutely gloomy, frigid and dreary. Neither believed in small talk and Yvonne de Gaulle got a migraine at the mere thought of meeting a divorced woman. Do we want all this in the Áras? Merci, mais non. – Yours, etc,
Phibsborough, Dublin 7.
Sir, – Desmond FitzGerald (September 25th) is right: “Let’s see Mr Higgins and his ilk lead by example and make some sacrifices to lessen the burden they place on the taxpayers of a small bankrupt country.” Furthermore, if President Higgins really wishes to participate in public discussion of the ethics of the current macroeconomic management of our affairs let him answer Dan O’Brien’s convincing critique (Business, September 20th) via a letter or article within the same length limits of that article. – Yours, etc,
Ranelagh, Dublin 6.
Sir, – I read Dan O’Brien’s critical comments (Business Opinion, September 20th) on President Higgins’s DCU speech, entitled “Towards an Ethical Economy”. The President’s speech was a tour de force on truth, values and choices. That is the moral and philosophical leadership that we expect from a President, especially from one who is a distinguished intellectual with a well worked-out view of the world.
The values of friendship, love and caring that the President espoused in his speech, clearly invites us as citizens to look beyond acquisitive individualism, as the basis of the good society. This thinking is, of course, challenging for those who do not share the President’s critical humanistic vision. Evidently, they think our first citizen should be silenced. There are shades of the trial of Socrates in these demands for intellectual orthodoxy.
I will be recommending the President’s inspiring speech to my students as a powerful discourse on the contested meaning of truth in the contemporary world. – Yours, etc,
Prof FRED POWELL,
Dean of Social Science,
University College Cork.
Sir, – While Desmond FitzGerald’s personal attack on President Higgins (September 25th) is itself undeserving of comment, it does show that the President’s remarks have hit home. – Yours, etc,
Maynooth, Co Kildare.
Sir, – Nearly all schools with a Protestant ethos are in the fee-paying sector. Therefore, most parents of minority religions have little choice but to send their children to a fee-paying school.
In contrast parents of the majority religion have a choice of sending their children to a fee-paying or a free school. Protestant schools have to cater for the entire socio-economic spectrum and for all academic abilities. This they do well by providing bursaries and the block grant which is distributed on a means-tested basis. Our schools have always welcomed children of all faiths and none whose parents choose our schools particularly because of our ethos and are hugely supportive of their characteristic spirit.
The government’s action in successive budgets of increasing the pupil-teacher ratio in fee-paying schools has had a disproportionate effect on Protestant schools. Sadly the continuation of this campaign threatens the future of these schools and if this happens the diversity they provide to the country’s educational landscape will be lost. – Yours, etc,
Council of Governors of
Sir, – John Gibbons’s article (Opinion, Septemebr 23rd) would have you believe the planet is facing oblivion. However, it omitted to mention that the IPCC’s forthcoming ARP5 (Fifth Assessment Report) accepts there has been a reduction in the warming trend from 1998 to 2012. It would appear the IPCC is unable to fully explain this reduction, citing several possibilities – none of which is definitive. This reduction, despite the increases due to CO2, surely indicates that IPCC’s predictions are questionable to say the least and at most point to its inability to arrive at believable ones based on its computer modelling. Despite somewhat arguable consensus frequently quoted by the media, there are many scientists and climate experts who do not accept the IPCC’s dire predictions on the climate.
Such an alarmist attitude as adopted in this article is surely unnecessary and indeed irresponsible until it can be established with far more acceptable levels of accuracy than heretofore that the planet is heading for disaster. History is full of such doom-laden predictions that never materialised – and no doubt we’ll have more in the future. – Yours, etc,
Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford.
Sir, – Vincent Browne is certainly consistent is his relentless campaign to write negatively about as many people as possible (“Ingenious, driven, reckless, avaricious”, Arts & Books, September 21st).
Tony Ryan was determined and demanding. He gave many people a chance, including me.
I worked for him between 1983 and 1985 as a personal assistant (aka general dogsbody). It was interesting, challenging and exciting. I made mistakes but I certainly learned an awful lot from Tony Ryan.
In my mind he was unquestionably one of Ireland’s greatest entrepreneurs – not just because in GPA he built the world’s largest aircraft leasing company. A failed flotation resulted in him leaving the company. But, for me, his greatest achievement and his most outstanding contribution to Ireland economically and socially, has been Ryanair. He was a man who had taken a very public humiliation but got back into the cockpit and headed skywards again.
By any yardstick Ryanair is one of the world’s most successful airlines and that is down to the unique combination of Tony Ryan and Michael O’Leary.
Ryan was proud of his roots and was a consummate Irishman. He supported Irish artists, loved hurling and embarked on one of the finest restoration projects undertaken in the past century, the Lyons Estate.
His family has continued the generous and discreet philanthropy he practised.
Once again Vincent Browne gives his version of events and chooses to omit many salient and relevant details in relation to matters he was directly involved with Tony Ryan. He declined to be interviewed for the book. That has its own wry irony for a person who berates all and sundry for not subjecting themselves to his erratic form of scrutiny.
When I was growing up, my parents always counselled me not to speak ill of the dead. – Yours, etc,
Grand Canal Quay, Dublin 2.
Sir, – Having held a coffee morning in aid of the Irish Hospice Foundation last week, I proceeded to the Bank of Ireland named on the enclosed Giro slip to lodge the proceeds of the event. Having filled in the slip as requested, “notes, coins and cheques”, I was informed by the cashier she was unable to take coins, which totalled €17. These coins were mainly €2 pieces and would have taken her less time to count than to explain to me that she was unable to do so.
I was flabbergasted by this development. Having worked in the bank myself, I couldn’t believe my ears. I then went to my own bank, AIB, and while it would accept coins, it wouldn’t accept two of the cheques as they were payable to the Irish Hospice Foundation and not Our Lady’s Hospice as stated on the Giro, another blank.
I then had to drive to the fundraising office of Our Lady’s Hospice to give it the lodgment directly, as the banks wouldn’t or couldn’t complete the transaction.
Thousands of people in homes and offices held coffee mornings last week for this most worthy cause, but I should like to warn them not to include coin in their lodgments and to ensure the cheques are payable to the correct payee or they will go on a wild goose chase, like I did. The banks are treating the public who bailed them out like scum, and I for one am sick of their attitude. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In place of Arthur’s Day I propose Mrs Doyle’s Day. We could all sit and drink tea with our friends and neighbours. Better yet, we could make it Fairtrade tea. Then we remind people of the other qualities the Irish are known for: charity, hospitality and conversation. Ah go on, go on, go on! – Yours, etc,
Skibbereen, Co Cork.
* Why should there be “disbelief” that the damning Anglo Tapes will not lead to a proper probe into banking activities here (Irish Independent, September 25)?
Also in this section
Let’s stick to the €3.1bn budget adjustment
Taxes and charges driving our family away
History repeating itself
Since 2008, evidence has been pouring out of every one of our rotten banking system’s orifices.
None of this is to mention the cabal of untouchable politicians, some ex and some not, who, by virtue of their greed and incompetence, bankrupted the country. Why on earth should there be disbelief in our society over anything any more when we remember all that?
* I find it hilarious that Environment Minister Phil Hogan is actually “surprised” that the Central Bank has decided no further action will be taken on The Anglo tapes.
Why is Mr Hogan “surprised”?
For far too long, nobody in this country has ever been accountable for their actions.
From scandal after scandal, involving clergy, politicians, developers and bankers, accountability seems practically non-existent.
Perhaps therein lies all our problems.
Tralee, Co Kerry
NOT A DAY TO CELEBRATE
* Today, Arthur’s Day, is our ‘national day of drunkenness’, with Arthur Guinness as its patron saint. We forget that Arthur Guinness was part of an elite ruling class in this country during the 18th Century.
Guinness has always been seen as this patriotic Irish drink, when in fact Irish state papers released after the 30-year rule last year revealed that the company considered dropping its association with Ireland during the Falklands War and also as result of the IRA’s bombing campaign.
Guinness chiefs seriously considered promoting it as an English company, because of deepening resentment of Ireland and Irish brands in the UK. Surely that’s an eye-opener of what a company will do to maintain its vast profits.
Would people ever get a grip and stop celebrating this farcical lore and especially hailing Arthur Guinness as some great romantic Irish hero.
KEEPING THE SEANAD
* I rarely find myself in agreement with Bruce Arnold on EU matters but in his article (Irish Independent, September 23) he raises some important issues in regard to the Lisbon Treaty.
He mentions the yellow-card and red-card system, whereby a certain percentage of national parliaments can halt a proposal from the EU Commission or, in conjunction with the EU Parliament, can actually stop it. These are important safeguards.
The Seanad has an equal vote with the Dail in this process and can act independently. Losing that independence of action and only trusting in the Dail to object is getting rid of crucial checks and balances.
We were promised that Ireland’s interests were protected in vital areas of national sovereignty, eg corporation tax. Our guarantee was and is that there had to be unanimity for any changes to take place. We also had a fall-back position in that not only had the Dail to agree to a change, so too had the Seanad.
While I am not suggesting that this particular Government will do a U-turn on corporation tax, how can we know if in five or 10 years’ time another government may be press-ganged into submission? If that happens and we have no Seanad, then our final line of defence is gone and we have nobody to shout stop.
Marian Harkin MEP
European Parliament, Brussels
* Richard Bruton TD continues to claim that abolishing the Seanad is “enough to pay for 350 primary school teachers or 1,000 new garda cars”. Perhaps he might indicate which of these two options he will guarantee will come to pass in 2014 if the people support the constitutional changes on October 4.
Cllr Malcolm Byrne
Gorey, Co Wexford
* I propose a “teacher swap”. Send the moaning teachers over here to a London school for a week and we’ll see if they last. They infuriate me. They are striking once again and I can only wish for a job at home in Ireland.
(Name and address with editor)
* I must object to the despicable manner in which Fr Iggy O’Donovan is being pilloried by a church which prides itself as being a caring institution.
I am not a regular Mass-goer but I have been present on several occasions at ceremonies, Masses, funerals and blessings conducted by Fr O’Donovan. On all these occasions I have been impressed with the caring and understanding manner in which he has conducted these ceremonies.
In regard to the complaint about a recent baptism conducted by him, I would place far more trust in the comments of Fr Tony Flannery, a spokesman for the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, than anything Cardinal Brady or any of his minions would have to prognosticate on the matter.
Bettystown, Co Meath
TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN
* Arising from the latest ‘Growing Up In Ireland’ report, while the media picked up on the obesity crisis affecting children, there was less mention of a more serious issue, that one in five children has a speech or language problem.
As more parents get caught up in the virtual world of social media and computer games, this leaves them little time to chat with their children.
Even more worrying is that some parents, despite the advice of paediatric professionals, are giving their under-fours computer games and iPads. Admittedly, this is a great way to keep them quiet, but don’t be surprised if your child can’t speak properly, can’t read facial expressions and becomes withdrawn.
Unless parents cop on, switch off their phones and engage with their children, there will be an even sharper collapse in our educational standards.
Erne Terrace, Dublin 2
COURT OF APPEAL VOTE
* The Government is making two propositions in the Court of Appeal referendum but is not allowing the electorate to vote separately on them. It wants to establish a Court of Appeal and to allow each Supreme Court justice hearing a constitutional case to publish his or her opinion.
The second proposition would eliminate the article in the Constitution which excludes the possibility of each justice publishing a separate opinion in relation to the constitutional review of a law.
There are vital safeguards in the existing procedure, which have secured the independence, prestige and authority of the court. Decisions have been clear, final and unambiguous, based on solid legal principles and public understanding.
The proposed change could have serious unintended consequences if the personality and personal ambition of each justice were to overshadow the decision being made.
Public confusion could ensue and the spectacle of deep disagreement being aired in public could undermine public confidence in the entire court system. Individual opinions about the Constitution could also be hijacked by powerful vested interests. We might even see the spectacle of judicial decisions being subsequently measured in opinion polls, reducing the stature of Supreme Court deliberations to that of a bland popularity contest.
Glenageary, Co Dublin