Charles and Marj

11 October 2013 Charles and Marj

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are chosen to test a new Navel guided weapons or Oh Nasty as Mr Phillips calls it. Priceless.
Charles and Marj come to call
We watch the Glums
Scrabble today Mary wins and gets under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers, who has died aged 96, rose to eminence at the Old Vic in the 1950s as a sturdy interpreter of the great Shakespearean roles and later took the lead in more modern plays, notably TS Eliot’s last two works, The Confidential Clerk and The Elder Statesman, and several works by Harold Pinter.

Paul Rogers as Macbeth with Ann Todd as Lady Macbeth in 1954 Photo: REX
5:33PM BST 10 Oct 2013
The versatile Rogers was a stocky, forceful, four-square player who knew how to make Shakespeare’s verse intelligible . He also appeared frequently on television on the big screen.
His Malvolio, Iago, Bottom, Shylock, Henry VIII, Macbeth, King Lear and Falstaff won wide respect. He gave his Falstaff in Henry IV for both the Old Vic and, 10 years later, the Royal Shakespeare Company. His Macbeth, a role he filled with fiery perturbation, was often repeated .
Rogers’s television credits were as varied as his stage work. They included (in Plays for Today) Butterflies Don’t Count, The Executioner and Brigadista, and productions such as Porterhouse Blue and The Fear. He was still appearing on the small screen in the 1990s, including in Lovejoy, Kavanagh QC and an adaptation of Hardy’s The Return of the Native.
His films included Billy Budd; The Looking Glass War; Murder In The Cathedral; Our Man In Havana; Three Into Two Won’t Go; Shoes Of A Fisherman; and The Homecoming.
Born at Plympton, Devon, on March 22 1917, Paul Rogers was the son of a headmaster. He studied at the Michael Chekhov Theatre Studio at Dartington Hall before making his first stage appearance in A Bird’s Eye View of Valour at the Scala in 1938. After moving into rep at Colchester, he joined the Royal Navy on the outbreak of war.
Having had two small parts in Ronald Gow’s version for the Bristol Old Vic of Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles at the Piccadilly in 1947, he stayed on with the company for two seasons before going to the Old Vic , where he remained for nearly a decade.
When the Old Vic went to Broadway in 1956, he played John of Gaunt in Richard II, Mercutio, Macbeth and Pandarus. Then he led the company on its Australian tour as Lord Foppington in The Relapse and as Hamlet. On his return, he played Lear at the Old Vic; and then, at the 1958 Edinburgh Festival, came a part that proved to be among his finest — the title role in Eliot’s last play, The Elder Statesman (Cambridge, 1958). Rogers played Lord Claverton, a political boss, with, as Kenneth Tynan put it, “a fine shaggy sonority and the right look of stoic dismay, as of a man staring past the fire into his thoughts”.
From this performance came a stream of rather less rewarding West End parts, and he moved on to the Royal Shakespeare Company which, under Peter Hall, had spread its wings from Stratford to London.
Although by then one of the most qualified Shakespeareans in the country, Rogers went to the RSC to play the patriarchal master-butcher, Max, in Pinter’s new play The Homecoming. In the role of a hectoring old north London widower, he discovered such a ferocious and funny array of cockney snarls and sneers that when the show went to Broadway in 1967 he won a Tony award for Best Actor in a Drama.
Rogers remained with the RSC for a couple of seasons, reviving his Falstaff in Henry IV and playing Apemantus in Timon of Athens; but the Tony Award brought him a part in a Broadway play and then in Neil Simon’s triple bill Plaza Suite (Lyric, 1969), in which he showed his gift for sharp-edged American comedy .
He played in Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth when it moved to Broadway from London, and appeared as Boss Mangan in Heartbreak House for the National Theatre (1975).
Among Rogers’s other successful stage roles was “Sir”, the Wolfit-like actor-manager in Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser, in New York in 1981.
Until forced to retire in his eighties through physical infirmity, Paul Rogers was never out of work unless he chose to be. For relaxation he enjoyed painting watercolours.
He was twice married, first to Jocelyn Wynne, then to the actress Rosalind Boxall, who died in 2004. He is survived by the two sons of his first marriage and the two daughters of his second.
Paul Rogers, born March 22 1917, died October 6 2013


The Commonwealth is making a major mistake in holding its heads of government meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka (Report, 9 October), when that country is in serious breach of the values set out in the Commonwealth charter, and has even failed to comply with the recommendations of its own “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission”. Many of us NGOs accredited to the Commonwealth who successfully persuaded the heads of government four years ago not to hold their 2011 meeting in Sri Lanka insisted that the human rights situation there had not improved by 2013, and in some respects (notably the impeachment of the chief justice and her replacement by a government nominee), the rule of law and governance have got worse.
This meeting will show the world that the Commonwealth, which has hitherto had a good reputation for not tolerating human rights abuses, no longer cares about them. The secretary-general, recently empowered to speak out against human rights abuses (as he did in Kenya earlier this year) has signally failed to do so in Sri Lanka. If the CHOGM follows its usual tradition and elects the president of Sri Lanka to lead the Commonwealth as its president for the next two years, it will confirm the impression of lack of concern about human rights which is given by holding the CHOGM in Colombo.
Michael Ellmanfidh
Officer for the Commonwealth, International Federation for Human Rights
• Across the world women’s organisations are appalled at the systematic sexual torture, rape, and trafficking for sex slavery of Tamil women and girls living in the north-east of Sri Lanka, both during the conflict, and continuing after its brutal end in 2009. And at the inability of the international community to prevent it, and bring the perpetrators to account. While we have all warmly applauded the Hague initiative to prevent sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict environments, and the support of his declaration by 122 UN member states, we are deeply shocked that David Cameron has refused to boycott the forthcoming CHOGG when it is clear that the government of Sri Lanka is guilty of gross human rights violations.
Tamil women are victims of rape, rape in detention, and sexual as well as economic exploitation (for example, in the garment factories and army brothels) on a massive scale, but we now have evidence of forced sterilisation of Tamil women in a city in the north-east. Any measure intended to prevent births within in a particular group is defined as an act of genocide under article II of the genocide convention. Moreover, Sri Lanka has the highest number of “forcibly disappeared” people anywhere in the world. And of extra judicial killings.
Sri Lanka has continually refused to co-operate in any independent investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and has insulted the UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay, who referred to these allegations following her visit to the island in August as “abusing her mandate and acting with bias”. Canada has done the right thing in boycotting this meeting. Cameron’s attendance would be seen as a condonation of extreme human rights abuses. His attendance would also compromise the Hague initiative that launched the declaration to eliminate sexual violence in conflict.
Margaret Owen
Director, Widows for Peace Through Democracy

Jonathan Heawood’s support for the royal charter on press self-regulation (A charter for free speech, 9 October) is welcome, but he is in error when he writes that Hacked Off favours statutory regulation. We oppose statutory regulation and we believe it is essential that the regulatory system is free from political influence – as will be the case under the charter based on Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations.
Brian Cathcart
Executive director, Hacked Off
• With the prime minister now joining critics of the Guardian for publishing leaks from Edward Snowden (Report, 9 October), I feel compelled to defend your paper. As a rightwing republican admirer of the late Lady Thatcher, I also admire the courage of an editor prepared to publish the truth. Whatever Mr Snowden’s motive, I was fascinated and alarmed at the revelation of the state’s surveillance of ordinary individuals. It is incumbent for the Guardian to continue to take the lead in such matters. 
Dominic Shelmerdine
• Not content with badgering the poor over their feckless lack of funds, I see the government is now blaming the poor badgers (‘The badgers are moving the goalposts’, 10 October) for the failure of its cull. Yet another triumph of fantasy over reality for the non mea culpa culture of this caring coalition.
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire
• Presumably the two footballing badgers on the front page are part of a brock-solid defence.
Derrick Cameron
• After watching the game at Anfield on Saturday, I’m in favour of a new-build Crystal Palace (Letters, 8 October).
Michael Cunningham
• Such timing! You print the recipe for the perfect plum cobbler on the very day we eat the last plum of the season from our tree (G2, 9 October). And we live in the north of England, so when the southerners finished theirs I can only guess at. Ah well, I’ll have to cut it out and keep it for next year. Or you could reprint it next 1 September.
Ernie Howard
Driffield, East Riding of Yorkshire

The resignation of Tommy Robinson and other leading members of the English Defence League (Report, 9 October), is a vindication for Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and those that joined us opposing EDL demonstrations over the last four years.
EDL street mobilisations began to lose momentum following the massive demonstration in Tower Hamlets in September 2011, uniting a broad range of communities in opposition to the EDL that prevented them from even entering the borough. This was a huge defeat for the EDL. It attempted to revive itself by stirring up racism, Islamophobia and division following the murder of Lee Rigby, but this did not gain the sympathy with public opinion they were hoping for. UAF mounted a national campaign under the slogan “Don’t let the racists divide us”. This culminated in another demonstration in Tower Hamlets last month, which inflicted a further defeat on the EDL.
Robinson et al have left a sinking ship but this is only a tactical retreat and, just like other European far right leaders, Robinson and Kevin Carroll will use other methods – possibly through electoral means – to spread their Islamophobic and racist message.
This Saturday the EDL still intends to take to the streets of Bradford and UAF will be supporting the We Are Bradford mobilisation. In Liverpool, the EDL and their allies in the north-west will try to disrupt a big trade union march against fascism called by Unite and other unions, and supported by UAF. The campaign against the EDL and fascism goes on.
Peter Hain MP, Len McCluskey Unite, Mark Serwotka Public and Commercial Services Union, Billy Hayes Communication Workers’ Union (CWU), Jane Loftus CWU, Chris Keates NASUWT, Dilowar Hussain-Khan East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre, Rev Preb Alan Green Rector, St John on Bethnal Green, Aaron Kiely National Union of Students, Steve Hart Unite Against Fascism, Ashiq Hussain We Are Bradford, Sabby Dhalu UAF, Weyman Bennet UAF, Jude Woodward One Society Many Cultures

The findings of the OECD that English and Northern Irish 16- to 24-year-olds perform poorly in tests of literacy and numeracy is as predictable as it is depressing (Young adults falling behind rest of world on the 3Rs, 9 October).
You go on to discuss the didactic pedagogical approaches of two of the top performers, Japan and South Korea. However, by ignoring the fact that quite different educational practices characterise the other two top performing countries, Finland and the Netherlands, you fail to see that it is not educational approaches at a micro level that are responsible. So what, at a more macro level, might be common to all four of these high-performing countries? Well, all have relatively comprehensive educational systems that reflect cohesive societies with relatively low levels of income inequality. It is no surprise that our blushes are only slightly spared by the even more abysmal performance of young adults in the US.
Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s superb analysis, The Spirit Level, of the impact of income inequalities on societal cohesion, health and achievement would predict precisely these outcomes and constant Govian tinkering at the micro level will not improve matters.
Doug Carroll
• All of us should be concerned about the situation highlighted by the OECD and Save The Children reports, albeit that the methodology of the OECD leaves a number of questions unanswered.
It has to be borne in mind, as acknowledged by the business minister Matthew Hancock, that it takes years to educate a child. For instance, Sure Start – now being demolished across the country and crucial to developing a child’s early learning – did not get fully under way until 2000. Many children will still be only 13 years old who benefited from this and the massive expansion of nursery education over which I was proud to lead.
Even the literacy and numeracy programmes that were initially so highly successful would only have been available, and then to a limited degree, to youngsters now under the age of 19.
Some have even blamed massive youth unemployment on the lack of literacy and numeracy skills of the under-25s. This is a staggering reversal of responsibility at a time when instead of investing heavily in preparation for employment, youngsters are being offered piecemeal, short-term bits of experience which do not equip them for the world of tomorrow.
It was after all a Labour government that decided to extend to 17 (and from 2015, to 18) the effective leaving age and to ensure that continued learning did not leave whole cohorts of the population behind.
One thing is certain: that cutting the resources for early intervention, which is what is happening at present, will have exactly the reverse effect of what is preached by so many of those, including in business, who regularly call for even more draconian cuts in public expenditure.
These reports warrant united action, not political point scoring.
David Blunkett MP
Lab, Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough
• The OECD literacy and numeracy statistics demonstrate two unpopular truths. Firstly, the fact that the UK and the US are behind other countries shows that it is easier to learn to read and write when your spelling system is phonetic. Secondly, the fact that in the UK those aged between 55 and 65 have done better than those aged 19 to 24 shows that the comparatively free style of teaching in the despised 1960s was more successful than the formal systems that have been brought in since then.
David Gribble
South Brent, Devon
• Many explanations are being offered for British children’s low ranking in basic literacy. But it seems to me the most obvious one is that their education now centres entirely on learning how to pass exams. This is a quite separate kind of skill from the subjects they are supposed to be learning, a skill that is not likely to be of much use to them in later life. But the pressure that league tables and similar devices put teachers under means that it inevitably looms foremost in the minds of those who have to organise their schooling. Thus the aim is no longer to educate the child for life but to keep the school out of trouble. The whole enterprise is distorted in the name of accountability.
Mary Midgley
Newcastle upon Tyne
• Long-retired teachers like myself will remember the shock/horror when the new GCSE examination was introduced in 1988 and we realised that there would be a maximum of five marks deductible from English papers for inaccuracies in spelling, punctuation and grammar. It immediately became obvious that was no longer where we needed to place the emphasis when preparing our years 10 and 11, with obvious knock-on effects lower down the school. And as for the internal assessing of the coursework element… By the way, I believe all this happened on Kenneth Baker’s watch.
Philippa Wakelin
Broadway, Worcestershire
• I am 64. When I started school the concept of “reading readiness” was still in existence. Result: we learnt to read when we were ready and the latest reports are saying that it was effective. The last 20 years of my teaching career were spent attempting to rebuild the shattered confidence of children who, because of a rigid, age-related national curriculum and Sats, were dubbed failures when they couldn’t read by the time they were seven. Most of the rest of the world does not even start introducing formal literacy until children reach seven and have become fluent in spoken language. The government’s educational dinosaurs (Tory and Labour) push endlessly to lower the age of formal literacy training. According to them, Britain is the only one in step. Perhaps, at last, we are being shown to be out of step with the rest of the world, and paying the price.
Jenny Hartland
• I have always understood that 10-year-old level maths is quite good enough for most adults to get by in the modern world. As one who failed my O-level maths years ago, I somehow managed to achieve degree equivalent qualifications, becoming a designer and teacher and later gaining an MA in lifelong education from the prestigious Nottingham University (with qualitative not quantitative research of course). So why all the fuss?
Rowena Dawson
Kegworth, Leicestershire
• Perhaps it’s no wonder that many of us are so illiterate when one of the 3Rs starts with “w” and another with “a”.
Mike Langley

Consumer confidence in the integrity of the animal food supply chain is scuppered. And there are few doubts that another episode in the horsemeat scandal is at hand (UK warned of another horsemeat scandal as food fraud rises, 10 October). Root and branch reform is urgently required to deliver traceability, accountability and clearer labelling, together (crucially) with proper standards of welfare for farmed animals. I recently chaired an independent review commissioned by the RSPCA into Freedom Food, the leading farmed animal welfare assurance scheme. We call for greater commitment to higher welfare standards for farmed animals. The animal food industry is complex, fragmented and politically charged. The RSPCA and others have a vital role in restoring consumer trust. Full implementation of our recommendations will be an important start. Meanwhile Defra needs to be clear how it will raise standards across the board and re-establish the Food Standards Agency as fit for purpose.
Duncan McNair
Chairman of the McNair inquiry

I’m an Indian national and I work as a consultant from Mumbai for Inasp, an international development charity in Oxford. I was employed by them for over a year when I was in London and Oxford, and they very kindly allowed me to move to a consulting position when I had to relocate to Mumbai.
I have been able to advance in my career in the past year, and I think this is partly because I bring a viewpoint from the global south. Although Inasp does not do any work in India, I am culturally connected to other south Asian countries in which we do work. When I travel to Africa, I find many similarities between what I see there and what I see here in India. I often don’t feel like an outsider at all and in some countries I’m not treated like one.
In short, I think I have a certain gut feeling about how things work in developing countries and I find, to my delight, that my views are appreciated by my colleagues and seniors at Inasp. But I may be an exception and what I do is a result of my circumstances and personal history. International development is definitely not a common career choice here.
I think development organisations would benefit from hiring more consultants or workers living in the developing world.
Ravi Murugesan in Mumbai
Development professionals should work where they’re most effective
I agree it is too white because most of the resources are controlled by the west. Even if there is a job in Africa the first person who would be considered for that job would mostly be a white person. I am a development student and I have found it very frustrating that development jobs hardly go to the blacks.
Doreen Mukotekwa in Essex
The development sector is less accessible to minorities in developed countries
There needs to be a greater appreciation for diversity not only in race but also to approaches and personalities in development. As an African-American I have a vested interest in African development in particular. When in Sierra Leone in 2010 my colleagues couldn’t understand why it was so easy to connect with the women in a microfinance group and why the chief in the village we went to to discuss a new birth clinic wanted to address me in very specific ways. That linkage to people is actually a benefit and should be considered and utilised just as much as prior experience.
Outside of those of a high socio-economic background, many minorities do not have the opportunity to travel abroad during college and are often not exposed to the experience. When they want to go into international development, some of them, like myself, aren’t even exposed to this field until much later in their college careers and then are at a disadvantage. There isn’t a point in an application that allows you to really speak to your background as an asset.
The other issue I’ve faced is that development people tend to be bleeding heart, Birkenstock wearing people. From a social perspective, that isn’t I or many other people who may be more interested in fashion or pop culture while ‘saving the world’. Even on the ground my colleagues may be interested in being surrounded by a bubble of expats while I’m more likely to quickly befriend locals who often rail against ‘aid’ in their countries. A concerted effort for tolerance in approach and also recruitment outside of the obvious sources could put a debt in the issue at least in the United States.
Cherae Robinson in New York
CEO of Rare Customs and founder of Afripolitans
Your ethnic background doesn’t dictate how empathetic or elite you are
While I agree with Ben’s analysis in many ways (and put my hand in the air as a posh white bloke myself), I think a top-down approach to rebalancing the offices of international NGOs, aid agencies is not necessarily the answer. Just because a vast majority of an organisation’s staff is made up of people from developing countries does not mean that there is a stronger empathy with, or experience of, being hungry. And even then, would that lead to better poverty outcomes? The way we staff global organisations will always need and attract elites be that in Oxford, London or Juba. Once anyone has worked for one of these organisations for any period of time, whatever their origins, their ability to genuinely understand and empathise with the world’s poorest is no greater than anyone else’s. The more people start to engage in strategy and big policy issues the further they are from genuine understanding of realities on the ground. A quick field trip in a convey of white land cruisers can do little to reverse this expanding gap.
If we accept this, I wonder if there is something more fundamental about how we think and how we plan. As long as agencies staff themselves in traditional ways, programmes will look similar: top-down programmes, approved by HQ, reflecting the latest theory of best practice, but intrinsically removed from day to day realities. The gender, colour and class of the team becomes pretty irrelevant at this point.
Do we need to flip aid and development on its head? Can we find a way to start from the people who are genuinely hungry, giving them power and resources of how programmes are structured and resourced, and work all the way up?
Pete Vowles in London
We need to rid ourselves of the ‘perfect poor’ ideal
Having spent time, particularly in Africa, working for and living with the poorest of the poor, this article couldn’t be more on point. Ben mentions that he has seen, met, and worked for disadvantaged populations, and writes something that goes to the heart of what many international development professionals and humanitarians often forget when in these areas, “…I could always leave.” This is the dividing line between understanding and experiencing.
I have lived in remote areas with no running water or electricity, taking public transport, living with constant dysentery, but I could always leave. Those in the west think it is ‘heroic’ or ‘selfless’ to do these things when it is a westerner ‘suffering’ like this. However, we somehow feel that the poorest of the poor must be somehow OK with this? Often we don’t think of them as being anything but charity cases, instead of human beings. No matter where I am in the world, no matter how bad, at the end of the day I can always leave. I keep leaving, like the rest of those in the sector. We continue to change jobs, countries, and continents.
However, those we are trying to serve cannot leave. They are not all perfect, with hearts of gold for sure. This is something else that seems to escape many in the west as well. It seems that unless we paint a picture of those ‘perfect poor’, with hearts of gold, selfless in every way, they are somehow less deserving (if deserving at all) of aid?
One thing that I have found even more discouraging is how many expats are working in areas where they genuinely dislike those they are working for, or even hold a great amount of disdain for, at the end of the day. It isn’t that they are venting frustrations at the inability to get things done, but that they look at those we are there to help as ‘less than’ those in the west. The insults hurled by some ‘humanitarians’ at those they are in theory working for is shocking. How can we create the standard, attempt to impose it, and then judge those we have put it upon when they don’t reach it?
Renée Wolforth in Washington, DC
Good intentions and empathy can’t replace personal experience
Having worked in development for the past 15 years, I have to strongly agree with Ben’s article. But it is not limited to the field level and those implementing projects, but starts at the level of the Bretton Woods institutions and donors. Who runs the IMF and the World Bank, and most of the UN?
What NGOs do is small and insignificant to the impact of ‘posh white blokes’ coming out of thinktanks and graduate schools from the elite institutions of the world who go straight into these large institutions. Those doing the research to support the ‘policies’ of development are often coming out of our top schools, Princeton, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge, and none of them have ever had to watch a child or their child die due to lack of water or hypothermia in a desert due to malnutrition. This arrogance is supported by all the large financial institutions and large donors and ultimately by the NGO world.
Some NGOs are trying to change their leadership at the field level and technical level and have a broader array of people in the field. But those who do are still full of posh white blokes.
Good intentions and empathy are not enough. A profound understanding of what drives people and what choices or opportunities they have is at least a starting point. I fortunately will never have to choose the feeding of one child over another. And anyone working in the UN, IMF, WB or many NGOs does not either.
Lika Dioguardi


I have found interesting the recent article by Katherine Butler (3 October) and letters about young people’s attitude to the old. My wife and I would both be classed as “oldies”, both having lived through the Second World War, but in different countries and conditions. However we feel we have the best of it.
We have had a freedom which modern youngsters are denied. I can recall playing cricket in the middle of the main road through the village and being able to disappear on our bikes, or in my wife’s case skis, for hours without parents being terrified that we had been abducted or worse. School was fun and entry to university no problem. A visit to the cinema for two with an ice-cream and a cup of coffee afterwards and change out of 50p! Into a rewarding and fairly well-paid profession. Years of happy home life with an affordable mortgage. Now, combined ages of 158, and together for 57 years, we are still content.
I feel desperately sorry for many modern young people. They have demands from so many quarters. Terrible pressure of work, if they have job. Horrendous property prices. The Government talks continuously about “hard work”. Work should not be hard! It should be rewarding and enjoyable. One should feel that one’s efforts are making life for others a little better.
I do not believe the vast majority of young people resent or dislike us oldies. We find great helpfulness and friendliness in shops, restaurants and pubs. In one shop I saw a sign which said “If you see a customer without a smile, give them one of yours.” It works on the young. Try it.
Richard Betts, Honingham, Norfolk
As a cynical old man I generally believe that mankind is rapidly going backwards. The world food shortage, global warming, sectarian conflicts  and the rapid rise of international capitalism and the resulting damage to the poor of every country in the world all add up to an accelerating downhill slump for civilisation. The only people who can stop this are the ones that are responsible for it, and they show no signs of doing so. I will not be around for too much longer and my pity is for the young who will be hit by more and more very serious problems in the not too distant future.
One shining light in my dark vision became apparent on Monday morning when listening to the Today programme on Radio 4. I heard Malala Yousafzai interviewed and at the end I had a lump in my throat, she is a remarkable young woman who spoke with clarity and passionate belief about what could and should be done. As long as there are young people like this wonderful, and very brave, young woman in the world then even I must concede there is a glimmer of hope.
Michael Wood, Thornton, Lancashire
US right-wingers can’t wait for  the Apocalypse
Andreas Whittam Smith is broadly accurate in his assessment of  the “default’ issue in the US (Voices, 9 October), but I think he seriously underestimates the extraordinary American obsession with Apocalypse and what they  longingly refer to as “the End  of Days”.
It is difficult for Europeans to understand the level of historical and religious ignorance and bigotry implicit in the stance of the Tea Party and more extreme Republicans. Listen to Michelle Bachmann’s interview on Understanding the Times, a Christian radio show, where she gives the maddest of mullahs a run for their money; “We need to rejoice, Maranatha, come Lord Jesus, His day is at hand,” and, “we were told this, that these days would be as the days of Noah.”
These people honestly welcome the potential collapse of civilisation, fed as they are a constant stream of survivalist and disaster fiction by Hollywood, alternative history and conspiracy theory by the net, and psychopathic nonsense by the National Rifle Association.
The extreme right in America could actually welcome a US default and the chaos that they believe will result. The Obama administration cannot afford to assume otherwise. Here’s hoping they have a Plan B.
Christopher Dawes, London W11
Lives wrecked by Lariam
As interviewees in your most recent article on the Lariam scandal (7 October), we were delighted to learn that the former Chief of the General Staff, General Lord Dannatt, is now calling on the Ministry of Defence to cease the use of Lariam as anti-malarial prophylaxis for our armed forces. It was also encouraging to see the support offered by Lord Guthrie and Major General Patrick Cordingley. As just some of many whose lives have been wrecked by this drug, we hope that we can now count on Lord Dannatt’s support in challenging the Surgeon-General’s policy, articulated in the letter published on Wednesday 2 October, and would welcome a meeting with him at the earliest opportunity if he would care to contact us through this paper.
Bea Coldwell, Jane Casperson-Quinn, Richmond  North Yorkshire
Consistency is the key to learning
Julien Evans (“Why education  is failing”, Letters, 10 October)  says that UK pupils are failing  to reach the grade in numeracy  and literacy in comparison with other countries due to the fact that the English language is not phonetic, and we haven’t decided whether to use imperial or metric measuring systems.
He must have missed the statistics which showed that the older generation were better in both. Spelling hasn’t changed too much in the past few generations, and imperial and metric systems have been used together for 50 years now.
From the experience of my own children the problem seems to be inconsistency of teaching and marking at primary level. Errors in spelling or punctuation are only pointed out if the child is being tested in those areas – otherwise they are not, for fear that the child will be inhibited in their ideas.
As for maths, changing the teaching method halfway through a child’s primary years is a pretty good way of confusing pupils. This happened to my youngest child, and she finds maths a struggle. Her brothers, who were taught in what seemed to me a rather old-fashioned way (aural mental arithmetic tests, and learning tables by rote), in contrast found maths easy, the eldest going on to study physics at university.
Surely the best way of teaching a child is consistency. Constant changes in method, techniques or curriculum just serve to confuse.
Liz White, Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire
The UK has an undoubted and longstanding literacy problem. In 1929 employers were already complaining to the Newbolt commission about the poor reading and writing skills of many of their new recruits. Numerous surveys since then have all estimated the functional illiteracy rate of English-speaking school leavers and adults at about 20 per cent. The Moser report of 1999 put it at 22 per cent. What they almost invariably also agree on is that English-speaking countries have an exceptionally “long tail of educational underachievement”.
I suspect that there is a connection between this and the fact that English-speaking children need roughly three times longer for basic literacy acquisition than the European average of one year. Greater learning difficulties, as attested by the longer learning time, inevitably also result in a higher failure rate.
The most obvious cause of this are illogical, antique English spelling habits, with umpteen different spellings for identical sounds (blue, shoe, flew, through, to …), many  of which spell more than one sound as well (once, only, other; treat,  great, threat).
I would solve the problem with a modernisation of English spelling. Currently at least 4,000 common words necessitate the learning of individual spelling quirks. With a little more concern for the plight of underachievers, this could very easily be halved. But even reducing it by just a quarter would make English literacy acquisition far less time-consuming, because it would make the system more transparent and teachable.
Masha Bell, Wareham, Dorset
Decades of expert improvements devised by our gifted politicians to the education system. Perennial increases in school examination results. And the outcome – in terms of the three Rs, our children are below the standard of their grandparents.
Laurence Shields, Chesterfield, Derbyshire
Conspiracy theorist
Seven theories of why Norman Baker lands a job at the Home Office, but not the obvious one (Matthew Norman, 9 October). After the botched murder of Dr David Kelly how better to discredit suspicion of murder than to persuade someone to write a book suggesting a murder but making sure that the book can be easily ridiculed? Norman Baker did that and now he has his reward. 
Matthew Norman’s ignoring of the obvious shows that he is part of the conspiracy, probably. 
R F Stearn, Stowmarket,  Suffolk
Royal Mail sell-off  is robbery
“It’s your chance to own a bit of the Royal Mail” they claim. (report,  10 October).
I’m a British citizen, I already own a bit of the Royal Mail, thank you very much. What they mean is that they’re stealing my bit and everybody else’s bits and flogging them off very cheaply so their City friends can make a lot of money.
Paul Harper, London E15
Why no VAT on school fees?
If the chairman elect of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference considers that buying education is no different from buying a car (letter, 9 October) perhaps he would agree that VAT ought to be added to the fees.
John Naylor, Ascot
Mail Madrilenos
Reports that Madrid is considering a by-law which bans everything from busking to not sitting properly on public benches is reassuring. It means there is a place for Daily Mail readers to retreat to when we are overrun by Marxists who hate Britain.
Ian McKenzie, Lincoln
Badger cabal
I know that minister Owen Paterson has claimed that his cull hasn’t worked because the badgers have been moving the goalposts (report, 9 October). However he has declined to mention the militant badgers leader behind this strategy. One can only suspect that badgers have been looking at the works of the late Ralph Miliband here and are busy warrening capitalism from within.
Keith Flett, London N17


Why should GPs also be required to extend their non-emergency service beyond the normal working day
Sir, What people often fail to understand in the debate about general practice is the difference between emergency and routine care. It is essential for GPs to provide 24-hour, seven-day emergency cover whatever system they use. This is a considerable workload and responsibility. Why should they also be required to extend their non-emergency service beyond the normal working day? No other profession does so.
Until 2006, when I retired from general practice, my colleagues and I worked throughout the weekdays, often not finishing surgeries until 7pm. One of us would then be on call in the evening and throughout the weekend to cover for emergencies. Latterly we joined a GP co-operative to cover for emergencies with our colleagues in the area. I know most GPs were conscientious and dedicated. We were prepared to cover all services expected of us for our salary. That the government eventually imposed a contract on the profession which paid for individual services was not the fault of GPs. I would be very surprised if the standard of general practice has deteriorated as Marian Latchman’s ill-considered letter (Oct 8) suggests.
Dr Christopher Roberts
London SE21

Sir, Your correspondents naturally question whether 24-hour GP surgeries are affordable (letters, Oct 8). Partly this is because as GPs they have a vested interest in not ­
resuming responsibility for out-of-hours care. However, this does not necessarily mean they are incorrect in their assessment that the system will not be able to handle the additional cost. What is systematic in the NHS is that it is mainly driven by supply-led demand. Why should patients wait for a doctor’s appointment when they can pop along to A&E without one and be seen within four hours, even though they do not need emergency care?
The solution is to ensure that patients access the level of care that is appropriate for their condition. In most cases this will be their GP. Why not abolish public access to A&E departments? Instead, have an out-of-hours service based at the local hospital with a GP or nurse triage system that directs care where it is appropriate — mostly back to the patient’s GP, with only real emergencies being treated in A&E. Once the supply is removed the demand will dissipate and the system can return to equilibrium.
Ian Cherry
Preston, Lancs

Sir, I do not doubt that public opinion is in favour of being able to see one’s GP at weekends. Most of my friends and family report significant hurdles in getting to see a GP in a timely fashion and that seeing a particular GP can take weeks. Once at the GP, for many people the care is excellent, but for some it can be a dissatisfying experience. For patients who need referral for scans or specialist opinion this may also be a lengthy process. GPs are still largely the gatekeepers to further NHS care. Many people try to circumvent this by attending A&E, spending hours in casualty in the hope that they will be “sorted out” or at least get “in the system”.
General practice is no longer fit for purpose for many people who want timely access to, for example, physiotherapy, imaging and specialist opinion. We can’t continue as we are. ­We need to think again.
Dr John Speakman (ex GP)
Broome, Worcs

A cricket fan sets the record straight for those of us who can’t tell our chinamen from our googlies
Sir, Philip Howard’s Guide to the Best Sporting Idioms (Oct 10) is not quite correct in defining a chinaman as “a disguised off-break with a leg-break action bowled by a left-handed bowler to a right-handed batsman” or “the left-hander’s googly”. The term refers to a delivery bowled specifically by the left-arm wrist spinner, whose stock ball is the off-break, spinning into the right-handed batsman. This delivery spins away from the batsman towards slip, effectively the leg-break.
Traditionally, and particularly in Australia, the latter delivery has been known as the chinaman. However, in recent decades, the chinaman has been used to denote this type of spinner’s stock ball and googly the disguised delivery: the phrase ”chinaman-and-googly bowler” has become common.
Mr Howard has perhaps been misled by the anecdote which gave rise to the term. In 1933 the Middlesex all-rounder Walter Robins, stumped off an off-break bowled with a leg-break action by Ellis “Puss” Achong, a West Indian of Chinese descent, is supposed to have exclaimed “Fancy getting out to a bloody Chinaman!” As Achong was usually an orthodox left-arm finger (rather than wrist) spinner, turning the ball away from the right-handed batsman, this would indeed have been a surprise delivery.
Jeremy Tagg
London SW12

How can we say who is and isn’t English with any certainty, when immigration has been a constant for centuries
Sir, My family have been English since at least the 14th century. My father worked in India and I was born there (“Wilshere: keep England English”, Sport, Oct 9). My wife has a similar background and she was born in China; her siblings in India and Australia. About half my contemporaries were born abroad as a result of their parents working overseas or being in the Services.
We are all classed statistically as immigrants. Are we English?
Julian Pilcher
Basingstoke, Hants

A newspaper report on aircraft noise from half a century ago proves yet again that some things will never change
Sir, I saw this today. “The National Physical Laboratory is staging a research study in which 170 civil servants will play bingo at the end and near the runways of Farnborough. The purpose of this grotesque trial is to discover whether the suburbanised, respectabilised, umbrellacised servants of the Crown, playing their wretched gambling game, will have their thought-processes and instincts disturbed by the howl and roar and yell and thunder and shriek of smelly oily hurtling banshees now making the life of hundreds of thousands of citizens round London Airport into a permanent aural hell”.
This was written by the Daily Mirror columnist Cassandra and published on September 8, 1964, proving yet again that some things don’t change.
P..A. Thompson
London W1

The invention of the photocopier has contributed to the great increase in the length of contested trials since 1959
Sir, The invention of the photocopier may have been to the huge advantage of business (letters, Oct 9) but its impact on litigation has been more mixed. The unthinking and indiscriminate photocopying of documents for inclusion in trial bundles has contributed to the great increase in the length (and consequent cost) of contested trials since 1959, and thus the need for active judicial case management.
His Honour Judge David Hodge, QC
Specialist Chancery Judge, Manchester Civil Justice Centre

Fining Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust will only diminish further the financial resources to run the Trust to a safe standard
Sir, You report that Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust is facing an unlimited fine for health and safety law breaches that led to the death of a diabetic patient (report, Oct 10). Is this the wrong punishment? A fine will only diminish further the financial resources to run the Trust. Someone should be held accountable. Perhaps new sanctions are required which hold to account the various actors in corporate and individual failure but which do not compromise the economic foundation on which the future of any NHS Trust depends.
Terence Crolley
Maghull, Merseyside
A cricket fan sets the record straight for those of us who can’t tell our chinamen from our googlies
Sir, Philip Howard’s Guide to the Best Sporting Idioms (Oct 10) is not quite correct in defining a chinaman as “a disguised off-break with a leg-break action bowled by a left-handed bowler to a right-handed batsman” or “the left-hander’s googly”. The term refers to a delivery bowled specifically by the left-arm wrist spinner, whose stock ball is the off-break, spinning into the right-handed batsman. This delivery spins away from the batsman towards slip, effectively the leg-break.
Traditionally, and particularly in Australia, the latter delivery has been known as the chinaman. However, in recent decades, the chinaman has been used to denote this type of spinner’s stock ball and googly the disguised delivery: the phrase ”chinaman-and-googly bowler” has become common.
Mr Howard has perhaps been misled by the anecdote which gave rise to the term. In 1933 the Middlesex all-rounder Walter Robins, stumped off an off-break bowled with a leg-break action by Ellis “Puss” Achong, a West Indian of Chinese descent, is supposed to have exclaimed “Fancy getting out to a bloody Chinaman!” As Achong was usually an orthodox left-arm finger (rather than wrist) spinner, turning the ball away from the right-handed batsman, this would indeed have been a surprise delivery.
Jeremy Tagg

SIR – I have been following the discussion of the controversial storyline in Downton Abbey involving the rape of a lady’s maid.
Both my paternal grandfather and great-grandfather were butlers, and from my family I learnt that the rape of female servants by members of the family they served, and by visitors, certainly occurred.
Bringing shame on the family was hushed up by either dismissing the victim or encouraging her marriage, at which time she would leave the household.
My father maintained that his mother, in service herself, was illegitimate and, though that is not supported by a limited study of the family tree, she certainly had a Mediterranean complexion.
I live more in hope than expectation of a modest vineyard with my name on it.
Michael Brook
St Austell, Cornwall

SIR – The report by the OECD showing England and Northern Ireland near the bottom of advanced economies in literacy and numeracy is an indictment of the previous administration, abetted by some of the teaching unions, for dumbing down exam standards.
Full marks to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, for his heroic efforts to counter this betrayal of our youth. But if the ultimate objective is to make young people more internationally competitive, there is another problem which needs to be addressed. Immigrants are often preferred in the job market because they have better personal discipline, greater social skills and know how to show respect for others. A revival in good parenting is needed too.
Anthony Jones
London SW7
SIR – Michael Gove is definitely not “making his best efforts to reverse” the trends illuminated by the OECD report. He continues to impose measures that treat learners as empty vessels, passively awaiting their fill.
Education is best achieved by making learners the subjects, not the objects of the process. Abolish Sats, Ofsted, performance-related pay and the privatisation of schools’ management.
Related Articles
Historical precedents for Downton rape scene
10 Oct 2013
Then we might see some lasting engagement in learning by students.
Nick Grant
Wembley, Middlesex
SIR – As a retired numeracy adviser I can speak from experience. The decline in standards started when governments, with the help of Ofsted inspectors, began to interfere with the curriculum. Literacy and numeracy hours were brought into schools, and generations of simple and effective numerical operations were abandoned in favour of long-winded and complex methods of handling basic numeracy.
The straightforward methods of subtraction and multiplication might not have been “mathematical” but they gave pupils the tools and confidence to later understand the mathematics behind them.
David Brown
Preston, Lancashire
SIR – We now have several generations of teachers who are themselves products of the failed education system. How will they cope with teaching to syllabuses similar to the original A and O levels?
There will therefore have to be extensive retraining for current staff. At the same time, the qualifications required for new entrants to the profession will have to be raised and rigorously enforced.
Dr James Harper
Woodbridge, Suffolk
SIR – So, pushing four-year-olds into formal schooling for the last 40 years has not worked. Quite the reverse, in fact.
Susan Day
Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire
Risky tutors
SIR – Harry Wallop rightly highlights the arms race in private tutoring. However, hiring a tutor is a minefield for parents, and some tutors can actually cause damage to a child’s chances, given the lack of regulation and quality control in the industry.
Of even greater concern is that parents take quite a risk with their child’s safety when they hire a tutor. While schools have a legal obligation to check that those they appoint have not been barred from contact with children (by the Department for Education’s “List 99” and the Disclosure and Barring Service as well as other pre-appointment checks that include fitness and references), parents have no such recourse, apart from the word of the tutor.
It is perhaps surprising that parents choose to leave their children in the hands of tutors without additional supervision.
Neil Roskilly
Chief executive, The Independent Schools Association
Saffron Walden, Essex
Rural GPs
SIR – As the retired senior partner of a four-doctor rural practice covering 650 square miles of mid-Wales, I fully agree with Rachael Milling’s opposition to “one size fits all” NHS changes. Kenneth Clarke’s first draft for the NHS reorganisation of 1990 was designed to solve problems in Greater London. With its financial reductions and bureaucratic changes, it would have closed three out of 18 Powys practices, and shut all of our GP community hospitals.
We were too rural to organise an “out-of-hours” service, and so we were each on call for 84 hours per week. If we had been allowed to have an additional partner, stress would have been reduced. The duty GP, on call continuously for the last 24-48 hours, could have had a day off to recover.
Instead there is now a sub-optimal night service, ambulance cover is reduced and casualty departments 25 miles away are packed with our patients.
Ken Harvey
Fear of crashing
SIR – With due respect to Sid Davies and others scared of flying, what most people are actually petrified of is crashing. A little knowledge of the theory about what keeps the aircraft up and going forward can help those who cannot afford to learn to fly.
Malcolm Watson
Welford, Berkshire
Privatised mail service
SIR – The postal service in Holland went private a few years ago and TNT now delivers the mail. I have just learnt that deliveries on Mondays have been stopped and the plan is to deliver mail only a few days per week in the near future.
Drude Connelly-Minderman
Balerno, Midlothian
SIR – Why are we being asked to buy shares in a company we already own?
Dr Simon Northwood
Godalming, Surrey
SIR – In rural Devon we can now claim to have real snail mail. The last two letters I received from a hamlet near Dartmoor had their envelopes mutilated by snails that find rural post boxes a suitable place to live, breed and feed. Apparently the gum that seals envelopes makes a welcome meal for them.
Richard Mann
Bideford, Devon
The Crystal Palace
SIR – The idea that there will be a new Crystal Palace is a little disingenuous.There may well be a modern structure that apes the form of the original building, but it will have none of the aesthetic appearance.
Modern sheet, or float, glass used in contemporary construction is flat and lifeless, with no inherent character or vitality. It partially accounts for the uniformity and mediocrity of many modern cities designed by architects and town planners.
The Crystal Palace was so named because it was constructed with handmade, mouth-blown cylinder glass, made by Chance Bros & Co of Birmingham. This fabulous material shimmered and sparkled due to its uneven surface, whose bubbles and inclusions caught and refracted natural light during the day and artificial light by night.
The building wasn’t called the Glass House, or Glass Palace, but the Crystal Palace. The clue is in the name.
Ben Sinclair
Bentley, Worcestershire
Harmful e-cigarettes
SIR – That nicotine is an extremely addictive substance and a powerful poison, with a wide range of physiological effects, is beyond dispute. And yet e-cigarettes are currently on sale without sanction in corner shops and online. Despite containing a toxin, they are being promoted as a lifestyle product, rather than an aid to kick the smoking habit. Even their nicotine content was, until recently, not even mentioned in their advertising.
Puffing on an e-cigarette could be a gateway to other tobacco products or classified drugs because they are currently sold on the free market without medical supervision or connection to a stop-smoking programme. They are no more acceptable than khat, which Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has banned.
Other smoking adjuncts, such as roll-up accessories and menthol cigarettes, enjoy fashionable status among students and these are also rightly heading for legal curbs.
Anthony Rodriguez
Staines-upon-Thames, Middlesex
The Pryce is right
SIR – I see that Vicky Pryce has now released her book, Prisonomics. Who said crime doesn’t pay?
Carey Waite
Chailey Green, East Sussex
Feeding leftovers to ‘beautiful’ urban foxes
SIR – I note that Chris Packham of Autumnwatch recommends we should feed urban foxes. We enjoy fairly regular night-time visits from foxes and I periodically throw them food.
I agree with Mr Packham that they are beautiful animals to watch, and believe that foxes in your garden help keep down the rat and mouse population.
Brian Smith
Chelmsford, Essex
SIR – I have a couple of vixens that meet my dog and me most evenings along the path that runs between my house and the common.
I feed them leftover cat and dog food and, in the winter, the odd specially purchased chicken wing.
If I feed them when they need it, they won’t need to forage on the streets and in people’s bins, or kill my neighbour’s pet rabbit. There is, I believe, a mutual respect between us. I don’t try to get too close to them, and they don’t come within 10 feet or so of my house. Foxes are gradually losing their habitat. They didn’t move into our space, we built on theirs. It is our responsibility to learn to live with them.
Kevin Wright
Harlow, Essex
SIR – Mr Packham should know better. Foxes are verminous, mange-ridden predators, and are not as “cuddly” as some people like to think. They are dangerous and messy, especially in an urban environment.
A H W Izod
Edenbridge, Kent
SIR – Foxes are deterred by human urine. All one has to do is fill up the small boys in the locality with orange squash and invite them to water the boundaries. The boys are thrilled to oblige and the foxes stay away.
J M Cawthorne
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Irish Times:
Sir, – The proposal to give a medical card to every child under five (Home News, September 20th) is simply a vote-buying exercise for Fine Gael. The measure will pour several million euro into the most well-off communities in the State, and should not be supported by the Labour Party in Government.
I am a GP in the Ringsend and Irishtown area of Dublin, a proud working class area. Most of my patients with young children already have medical cards, so this initiative will not provide any new resources into this area. In leafier suburbs, however, better off families will find their younger children handed free GP care which they do not need, while the rest of the family continues to rely on private health insurance.
Meanwhile, many thousands of families are just above the income limits for a medical card or GP visit card. Limits are currently quite strictly enforced to control costs. These families struggle with healthcare costs and often delay or avoid necessary medical care because they are caught between the guideline income limits and their diminishing resources. Surely Labour in Government should be more concerned about these families regardless of their children’s ages?
The most fair approach to increasing access to free GP care is to progressively raise the income limits for a medical card, improving access for hard-pressed families on the basis of need. This way, support is placed where it is most needed, in areas which do not have the safety net of private healthcare. – Yours, etc,
GP, Irishtown & Ringsend
Primary Care Centre

Sir, – I support the NCHD campaign for safer working hours. The long shifts, stretching to three or four days, endured by my generation of doctors, should not be revisited on younger colleagues.
Rosters for NCHDs in emergency medicine (EM), have long been compliant with European Working Time Directive. The challenge lies in making “non-EM” specialities compliant. A proportion of patients who attend at emergency departments require review by another speciality. I am concerned that the response of those tasked with making speciality rosters compliant, is simply to strip service to patients in the emergency department, especially at night time and weekends. Patients waiting in overcrowded emergency department truly do not deserve this additional blow.
Can I ask that the Labour Relations Commission include in its decision an instruction that all proposed roster changes are interrogated to ensure that the care of patients waiting in emergency departmens is not further delayed? – Yours, etc,
FCEM, Consultant in
Emergency Medicine,

Sir, – I would urge caution against the simplistic notion that all the Government must do is widen the electorate to the upper house in an attempt to reform the Seanad, as many are urging.
Do we really need a second chamber which has an electoral mandate similar to the Dáil? Secondly, while the idea of giving the diaspora a vote seems novel, has anyone thought through the practicalities of holding such an election in practice using our electoral system of proportional representation; never mind the legitimacy of votes for citizens who do not physically live or pay taxes here? Finally, how would we categorise which vocational panels individual citizens are eligible to vote for?
Once one looks beyond the increasingly bland calls for “reform”, it is clear the devil is very much in the detail. Sadly, many of the commentators who advocated a No vote haven’t yet produced proposals that satisfactorily overcome the severe limits posed by the current wording of the Constitution. In the unlikely event such proposals ever come about, I can’t help but feel the decision to keep the Seanad was a missed opportunity for real reform. – Yours, etc,

A chara, – What incredible arrogance from David Gwynn Morgan (October 10th) to assume that those who voted No to the new court did so just to give the Government a bloody nose.
Personally I objected to money being spent providing more jobs for judges and lawyers when money can’t be found for hospitals or schools.
Many others argued that court processes should be reformed and made more efficient instead. That is: No voters thought about the issue and decided accordingly. – Is mise,
Ascaill Ghleanntán
na hAbhann,
Cluain Dolcáin,

Sir, – The recent printing error by Dublin City Council regarding polling cards (Front page, October 2nd) may look a little daft from the outside, but it has brought us potential benefits.
It transpires we do not need our polling cards to vote in referendums: so why do we waste millions printing and posting them? –Yours, etc,
Strand Road,

Sir, – I refer to your Front page story (Carl O’Brien, October 8th) regarding the conditions in which asylum seekers live. The conditions are a disgrace and in years to come will be another blight on our nation’s sad history of treatment to various peoples.
Similarly in your Law Matters page (October 7th). May I quote a legal case concerning an asylum seeker and her three children, in which a judge, in quashing the decision to remove them to the Republic said, “The well-being both emotionally and financially of the primary carer and the importance of that to the well being of the children in her care would point significantly to the best interests of the children being to remain in Northern Ireland”. Justice Stephens also noted that Ireland had opted out of minimum standards directives. Enough said.
Does our Minister for Justice have a comment to make? – Yours, etc,
Monastery Walk,
Clondalkin, Dublin 22.
Sir, – I read in my Irish Times (Carl O’Brien, Front page, October 8th) about the inhumane treatment of people in our direct provision centres, followed by an article about Waterford City Council’s noble act in honouring the anti-slavery campaigner, Frederick Douglass (Home News, October 8th). I wonder do we learn anything from history?
Maybe the statue of Fredrick Douglass by the the sculptor, Andrew Edwards, now awaiting completion at All Hallow’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin could be dedicated to the unfortunate people seeking refuge in our Republic? – Yours, etc,
Coleraine Street,
Dublin 7.

Sir, – Attending the the Flann O’Brien festival in Strabane Frank McNally (An Irishman’s Diary, October 9th) managed to leave Northern Ireland, cross the broad reaches of the River Foyle and enter Co Donegal without noticing where he was.
He then has the temerity to chide the Strabane-born satirist for leaving slightly hazy details of the location of his birth 102 years ago.
I hope Frank McNally found his way home. – Yours, etc,
Cnoc an Stollaire,

Sir, – As an atheist, I am one of those who Archbishop Richard Clarke describes as having “fallen into the trap that religious faith is somehow an optional extra” and “not worth the bother” (Opinion, October 8th). As someone who has investigated many different faiths and found positive and negatives in all of them and made an informed decision that they are not for me, I am insulted.
I would like to offer an outsider’s view on indoctrination verses education. If a religious education teacher tells my child at school that his father is going to hell because he does not believe in the faith of the school, that is indoctrination. Education is about how to think, indoctrination is about what to believe.
As for the point of the majority of the population admitting membership of a faith community, I believe this is more related to schools being controlled by “faith-based” organisations and fear of not being able to get into these schools without the necessary faith paperwork. If statistics are what you want, go to the church on Sunday and see if the overwhelming majority of the membership show up.
I agree we need to teach value systems in schools and people need ethics to live by. How many of the bankers that ruined our country went to faith-based schools? Ninety per cent? How many of the politicians who made it possible for them to do what they did were campaigning at the church gates? Ninety per cent? Faith-based does not equal moral. Children need to be taught how to think and to be taught proper value systems; religion has not been proven to guarantee this. – Yours, etc,
Birchfield Park,
Goatstown, Dublin 14.

Sir, – There is a portable asset that the Government has overlooked in its pre-budget trawl for taxable revenue – St Anthony’s floating rib. It will tour Ireland next week and has proved to be a money magnet. Is there time to rush a “Rub of Relic” tax Bill through the Dáil? – Yours, etc,
Kilbarrack Road,
Dublin 5.

Sir, – What legal authority does the US government have which permits it to invade or unilaterally enter sovereign states , as it has done on too many occasions, most recently Somalia and Libya (Editorial, October 8th)?
It assumes to itself the right to act as a world policing body – to suit its own political agenda and strategic interests, of course. It would appear to be a case of “might is right”. Isn’t it time that somebody shouted stop? – Yours, etc,
Crosthwaite Park South,
Dún Laoghaire,

Sir, – I recently received my two-monthly bill from Electric Ireland relating to my holiday home which I use infrequently. Needless to say my electricity usage is minimal, approximately €10-€18 on each bill. However the final total is often in excess of €60, of which the single greatest charge is for a “low usage” amounting to 60 per cent of the bill. I enquired from its customer care service as to how to make further savings. To my amazement I was told to use more electricity by leaving a light bulb on continuously for a month or two as this would boost my unit usage to over 120 units, giving me a saving of €20!
Electric Ireland states that there are very few properties, almost certainly vacant, that would incur this charge. However, it is estimated that there are approximately 100,000 homes including holiday retreats (many of which are still used despite recessionary times) which surely must be incurring this charge.
We live on a planet where it now seems more than probable that mankind is responsible for global warming, yet Electric Ireland is encouraging a greater carbon footprint. Surely such comments fly in the face of all that is being done to avoid a greater impact on our fragile environment? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Barry O’Halloran, (Business + Commercial Property, October 9th) states that the construction industry now accounts for about 6 per cent or 7 per cent of the economy, “about half of what is considered to be the norm in most economies”. This is incorrect. The construction industry in performing economies accounts for 8 to 10 per cent of GDP. Ours is not at present a performing economy. The Irish economy is about where it will be going forward.
We need to stop incorrectly informing the public. – Yours, etc,
Roebuck Road,

Sir, – I refer to the recent article on male unemployment (“Men overboard”, Weekend Review, October 5th). In the article, job-seeker Terry O’Connor refers to the potential loss of his income support from social welfare if he was to take up a re-skilling course and the fact that he cannot afford the fees. Springboard, a government initiative, managed by the HEA, offers free, part-time higher education and training to job-seekers with a previous employment history. Because courses are part-time, participants in receipt of social welfare can retain their entitlements over the duration of the course. All Springboard courses provide skills which are directly linked with growth areas of the economy, and where there are quality, sustainable jobs. 40 per cent of Springboard participants are back in employment within six weeks of completing their course. Further information at – Yours, etc,
Programme Manager, HEA,

Sir, – Over the past few months, we have heard reports from diverse groups, such as gardaí, soldiers, teachers, nurses, that their salaries are hardly sufficient, especially as they have huge mortgages to pay back. Some people are even forced to seek help from the Department of Social Protection.
I have a simple suggestion. Why don’t we allow mortgage-holders to extend their mortgage by a further 50, 60 or 70 years?
True, the terms and conditions would have to be modified vis-a-vis the death of the original policy-holder, but the idea is that the mortgage is passed on to the generations who will eventually benefit from the asset. Should the latter not wish to avail of the remaining mortgage, they can always sell and realise a profit in most cases, as things can only improve with time.
The immediate benefit would be that the monthly payments for the current mortgage holder would be significantly reduced. This would increase the disposable income, with all the resulting benefits to society. – Yours, etc,

A chara, – I’ve just received my new passport and I see there are images of Ireland on all of its pages – and very nice they are too. Page 19 is devoted to “Irish” instruments, they being what appear to be whistles and flute, banjo, accordion, fiddle, bodhrán and harp. There are also the inevitable dancing shoes.
Could it be that the artist commissioned for this job is not aware of the ultimate instrument in Irish music, namely, the uilleann pipes? – Is mise,
Hollywood, Co Wicklow.

Sir, –I refer to the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll and to the shocking Labour poll (Front page, October 1st). A message for the Labour leadership in that poll is “austerity equals poverty”. – Yours, etc,
Former Labour TD and
Limekiln Green, Dublin

Sir, – With a new sponsor in place (SportsThursday, October 10th), the Áth Cliath jersey will have AIG on it. I think it stands for All-Ireland Greats. – Yours, etc,
Glendoher Close,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Irish Independent:

* I think the last two weeks have forced a few questions to be asked about the moral direction of our society.
Also in this section
Animal lovers should watch how we kill hares
Political system screams for reform
The children of Syria desperately need help
First off we had the creators of ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ defending their game – and video games in general – against the accusation that violent video games could inspire violence in those that play them.
Then this week we see a cat being shot in the first episode of RTE’s ‘Love/Hate’, which caused a huge negative response not just from animal welfare people, but from revulsed people from all corners.
The defence from the writers of ‘Love/Hate’ was astonishment.
They appeared to wonder at how people could watch their show, and see people being victims of violence in every episode, yet rise up in anger against the death of a single cat.
I think the answer is quite clear. We are losing more and more empathy for each other.
The murder of a cat is outside this loss of empathy and so makes us feel something that dwells in an innocent place not yet damaged by violent TV or video games.
I am a huge lover of art and I believe passionately that art is supposed to make you feel whatever that feeling is.
And I understand that art does imitate life, but perhaps sometimes art should help to mend society and not just add to its ills.
Darren Williams
Sandyford, Dublin 18
* A few weeks ago I was arguing with my friends that the Seanad had no powers and should be abolished, but as the ballot approached I changed my mind.
Firstly I wasn’t impressed with the fact the man who initially proposed the change wasn’t prepared to take part in any of the debates. I also came to realise that the Seanad did indeed carry out some useful work, with all the amendments it carried out on various pieces of legislation. I saw it as a power grab by the Taoiseach.
To my knowledge, the four-man EMC (Economic Management Council) in the Cabinet has disproportional influence in many of the government’s decisions. I wondered if Kenny saw the Seanad as an obstacle to this cosy little arrangement as legislation went further down the line.
Before Enda Kenny became Taoiseach, there was much talk about his style of leadership as a chairman as opposed to being a chief. Whether it is a power trip or not, his style has completely changed and is often now described as autocratic. The Fine Gael TDs who didn’t support the abortion legislation, ironically being true to Fine Gael pre-election promises, were immediately banished from the parliamentary party and told they wouldn’t be allowed to run again.
Finally, the rare defeat for the Government in the Seanad a few days before the referendum brought it home to me that this house could be a useful addition to the parliamentary system and could provide a brake on legislation where necessary.
Thomas Roddy
Salthill, Galway
* I voted No as a protest vote, because of how insensitive the current Government is to those of us who are struggling financially. I reckon that about 70pc of people are in financial difficulties of some sort, and that’s on a scale of going to the St Vincent de Paul, or the most favoured charity of family and friends.
What the Government is forgetting is that the trioka doesn’t elect them. If the Government wants to be re-elected it needs to give equal energy to the financial situation of those of us who are struggling as it does to the country’s finances.
Jay Flavin
Youghal, Co Cork
* The good ship Seanad has hit stormy waters and come through the first squall. She now needs a complete refit; re-arranging the deckchairs won’t help.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte says the Government has an obligation to reform the Seanad. The Government reforming the political process is precisely what we don’t need. What we need is consensus, with members of the Oireachtas reaching some level of agreement on the goals of political reform.
The Seanad needs a new electoral system, a realistic mandate for a different relationship with the Dail and with Government. Any real reform must include changes in the election process and that can’t be done without Constitutional change.
What the country does not need is a prolonged squabble between political parties trying to score points. There is a tendency in politics to fight for ownership of the winning proposal rather than striving for agreement on the best outcome. Our politicians must show maturity on the issue.
Reforming the Seanad alone is a waste of time – the Seanad does not operate in isolation and reform must be part of an overall change. It’s a complex matter and will not be resolved with simple solutions. A measure of agreement between the political parties is a pre-requisite. Wide consultation and discussion are also necessary.
The worst mistake would be to go for a quick fix, as the Taoiseach tried with his personal (and half-hearted) crusade for the 32nd Amendment. Further attempts at reform should only be put to the people after the widest possible consultation.
Ronan Quinlan
Baile Atha Cliath 15
* It is surely no coincidence that Kerry, with the highest percentage of senators – five – per head of population, had the highest Yes vote for abolition of the Seanad.
As for Mr Kenny, he would do well to remember the late Charles de Gaulle’s dictum – that there is nothing wrong with having a referendum, provided one realises that it quickly transfers itself into becoming a vote on the proposer instead of the proposal.
Charlotte Sharpe
Cahirciveen, Co Kerry
* As Enda Kenny stumbles from his Weekend Wallop, could I inquire when he will seek the resignation of those Fine Gael and Labour senators, given that his party put up thousands of posters advocating a Yes vote in order to save €20m?
And will Sinn Fein decommission theirs, given that those who espouse equality and pure republican principles could not be seen to belong to an “elitist” assembly.
Lastly, when will the Constitutional Convention devise a model for citizens to directly elect the Seanad?
John Gallagher
Tubbercurry, Co Sligo
* Despite claiming just two days before the public vote that it would not be possible to reform the second chamber, the Taoiseach said he would now have to make changes.
This is the sort of waffle we heard before the last general election, eg the ‘Five Point Plan’.
Seamus McLoughlin
Keshcarrigan, Co Leitrim
* Whatever about the late Taoiseach, your correspondent Eamon Dunphy’s unnamed “source close to Haughey”, in my opinion, had a detached relationship with reality.
Haughey moved from his Raheny semi-detached on the Howth Road some time before I left Ireland in 1964 and had a substantial house in generous grounds (Abbeville?) by then. There were gardai in a gatehouse there because of his position as Justice Minister before Harold Wilson took office as British prime minister and three years before James Callaghan devalued Sterling.
Haughey was much talked about before his 1957 election to the Dail. Some of the stories belonged to the “duirt bean liom” tradition. His legend endures. Like Errol Flynn and Jack Doyle, his exploits, real or imagined, he will be cherished when meaner spirits are forgotten.
Donal Kennedy
Palmers Green, London
Irish Independent


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