17 October 2013 Birthday
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble They are ordered to sail to join the fleet but will they make it? Priceless
My birthday A bus stops in the park with ‘Happy Birthday’ on its destination sign can’t possibly be for me can it?
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary wins but get less thatn 400, perhaps it will be my turn tomorrow.
Eric Price, who has died aged 95, was a fiery editor whose campaigning paper was a ‘boot camp’ for Fleet Street and a huge hit with readers
6:43PM BST 16 Oct 2013
Eric Price, who has died aged 95, edited the Western Daily Press, the West Country’s morning newspaper, rescuing it from the brink of closure with an extraordinary turnaround that saw circulation rise from 12,000 to 80,000.
Price transformed a grey, sleepy provincial daily into a breezy mid-market broadsheet with an attractive blend of national and regional news. It looked so like the Daily Express — then the flagship of Fleet Street — that an Express reporter in Bristol who bought it by mistake failed at first to spot the difference. The formula worked, and circulation boomed at a time when most provincial papers were losing sales.
Price packed the paper with hard-hitting stories and campaigns, branding it “the paper that fights for the West”. A champion of regional causes, such as Concorde and the Port of Bristol, he was also a ferocious opponent of bureaucracy in all its forms — civil servants, town planners, municipal officialdom — and what a colleague called “pretentious Tory pomp and interfering socialism”.
A lifelong newspaperman (he worked for 13 different titles in all), Price was passionate about his craft and fiercely proud of his paper . Irascible and often irrational in his likes and dislikes, he was famous for having, in the course of one angry confrontation, hurled a typewriter out of a fourth-floor window.
Tensions were such that he would regularly smash the office teapot in frustration, but the tantrums were offset by his schoolboyish sense of humour: he would put drawing pins on sub-editors’ seats, and light little fires under them. He also had a benevolent streak of strategic amnesia; the novelist Terry Pratchett, a former reporter on the paper, recalled Price firing him many times: “But as long as you turned up for work the following day he’d forgotten he’d sacked you.”
When Price took editorial control of the Western Daily Press in the summer of 1960 at the age of 42, he set about dispelling what he described as “the stench of death” about the paper. His essential journalistic talent was that he was a talented sub-editor himself: cutting and rewriting copy to liven it up, and insisting on punchy and provocative headlines. He viewed his role in the editorial chair as that of a “supercharged sub”, and over the years supplied many national newspapers with journalists he had mentored. One described him as running “a boot camp for Fleet Street”.
A workaholic, he put in six days a week at the Western Daily Press and rarely took leave, lecturing staff about the dangers of taking holidays or playing sport as, in his view, either could lead to injury and hence absence. Even a recreational evening at the theatre held little appeal. Asked if he would accept tickets to a Shakespeare production at Bristol Old Vic, Price declined, saying: “Nothing wrong with Shakespeare a good sub couldn’t put right.”
Eric Price (right) during a visit by Denis and Margaret Thatcher to the Western Daily Press
Eric Edward Alfred Price was born in Bath, on May 20 1918, the son of a tailor at Titley, Son and Price, the family business and the city’s biggest tailoring firm, and educated at King Edward’s School, Bath. In 1935, aged 16, he joined the Wiltshire Times at Trowbridge before moving to the Bath Chronicle and then the Swindon Evening Advertiser. He was working as a reporter on the Leicester Mercury when war broke out, and paginations were cut.
In his self-published autobiography, Boy In The Bath (1982), he recalled how “the parsimonious Mercury management became alarmed that with smaller papers they would not require such a big staff. Editorial employees were urged to join up or find war work, and then laid off without pay every third week.”
Price was 21, the prime call-up age, when in October 1939 he joined the Royal Army Service Corps, driving petrol tankers in France. When the Germans broke through in June 1940, he escaped from St Nazaire aboard a cattle boat carrying survivors from the troopship Lancastria.
In April 1943 he was sent to West Africa as assistant to a public relations officer with responsibility for producing a fortnightly newspaper for West African troops in Burma. He moved on to Lagos to work with the Colonial Civil Service launching a similar publication for Nigerian troops.
Demobbed in 1945, Price rejoined the Leicester Mercury. Within a couple of years he moved from reporting to sub-editing, being notified of the transfer in the office lavatory by the editor, Harry Bourne. “By the way,” he said, “you start subbing on Monday.”
He later worked at the Manchester Evening News, Daily Graphic, the Evening Standard in London and its rival The Star, then the Daily Sketch, News Chronicle, Sunday Express and, in 1959, the Daily Express. A year later he was invited to take on the Western Daily Press, with the brief to raise its weekday circulation of under 12,000 to 30,000. He joined as assistant editor in the run-up to the incumbent editor’s retirement. The Western Daily Press had just been acquired by Bristol United Press, publishers of the Bristol Evening Post.
By 1965 Price’s energetic campaigning and broad news coverage took the paper’s sales to a certified 54,544 and by 1970 to about 76,000. At its peak in 1967 it sold 79,214.
In November 1980, when he was 62, Price became group editorial director and editor of the Bristol Evening Post, with a brief to halt the paper’s slide in circulation.
It was then selling 121,000 copies a day, down from nearly 200,000 in 1960. He applied the same rigour to the Post that he had applied to the Press and stemmed the decline in the run-up to his retirement in 1983.
Price kept in touch with the industry by editing the Guild Journal for the Guild of Editors for 10 years. He also maintained a trenchant correspondence with Press Gazette, the newspaper industry’s trade magazine, into his nineties.
While on leave from the Army in 1941, Eric Price married Barbara Fry, daughter of another Bath tailor, Albert Fry. She died last April after 72 years of marriage. Their two sons and three daughters survive him.
Eric Price, born May 20 1918, died October 14 2013
Michael Wilshaw is understandably concerned by the failure of councils to effectively protect children (Report, 16 October). However, his damning public comments may not be the most helpful way forward. Like Wilshaw, I was head of a large secondary school for more than a decade. Unlike Wilshaw, I was subsequently one of the first directors of children’s services. I can assure him that the latter was significantly more challenging, and that senior colleagues and I used our experience, intelligence and resources to the very best of our abilities to protect children. That was not always a guarantee of success in a world of devious and unpredictable adults, a limited pool of candidates willing to take on high-risk and high-profile posts for moderate rewards, and an accountability system that was only too ready to condemn. Perhaps he would have been better advised to widen the public debate on these difficulties, and support efforts to address them, rather than to lambast those doing some of the most testing jobs in the country.
• Michael Wilshaw asks in his critique of children’s services in Birmingham, “Why is it that nearly a third of children in the city live in households on low incomes?” – as if this was somehow a failing by the city council. Wilshaw should be directing this question at ministers such as George Osborne, Vince Cable and Iain Duncan Smith who, having failed to revive the West Midlands economy, have seriously reduced the incomes, and increased the stresses, of families living there.
You report (16 October) that the communities secretary plans to introduce much needed regulation into the private rented sector. But from the details released so far, the country’s 9 million renters will find this is just hot air. The announcement is a mix of policy already on the statute book – such as requiring letting agents to join a redress scheme – and vague assertions about toughening tenants’ bargaining power.
The power of redress will help some, but will only close the stable door after the horse has bolted. Likewise, a largely voluntary tenants’ charter does not measure up to the scale of the problem. Renters in areas with a high demand for housing will continue to find that bad landlords and agents work to their own rules to benefit themselves. For an alternative, Pickles could use my private member’s bill on letting agents, which seeks to stop poor practice happening in the first place by banning up-front fees and introducing tough statutory regulation. Without government action to make this market work better, the quiet crisis for private renters will continue to worsen.
John Healey MP
Lab, Wentworth & Dearne
• Following Dennis Skinner’s outburst at PMQs yesterday, it would behove many more people, not just we volunteers trying to assist the sick and disabled to claim benefits, to properly understand who is really responsible for the work capability assessment debacle. The system, introduced under Labour, was designed by the Department for Work and Pensions, not Atos. The assessment criteria were set by the DWP, not Atos. The assessment process was set by the DWP, not Atos. Decisions on benefits and awards are made by the DWP, not Atos, which only supplies a medical report to the DWP decision-makers handling the case. It is at the DWP that the travesties and injustices are perpetrated – to comply with targeting from the upper echelons and the Treasury.
Atos has failed by providing insufficient properly qualified medical professionals to carry out the assessments; in not ensuring claimants are seen, where necessary, by appropriately qualified staff, such as mental health professionals; and in not ensuring additional medical information is taken fully into account. Because the claimants only ever see an Atos employee, their criticism is directed there. While much of that can be justified, it is the DWP overseeing the system which really needs to be called to account.
• Labour peer David Lipsey (Downing Street agrees to review funding for elderly care proposal , 16 October) evinces much more concern for a fair system of elderly care funding than he ever did when a member of the royal commission on that topic. Whereas the majority of commissioners argued in 1999 that radical and generous change was needed, Lipsey put in a minority report proposing minor tinkering with the funding scheme at minimal cost. At one meeting he vigorously declared that he would expect to pay for his own care. Now it seems he is arguing for a major overhaul of the funding system in line with the subsequent Dilnot report. Surely it cannot be the advent of a Conservative government that has led him to change his mind?
Member, royal commission on long-term care funding
Today NUT and NASUWT members in London and the south-east will be striking in defence of their pensions, pay and conditions. Members at Christ’s Hospital school fully support the demands of their colleagues in day and state schools. Ours is a boarding school, thus we will not be taking strike action. We will be contributing to a hardship fund for striking colleagues. All teachers in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, including those in independent schools, are affected by the decision of the coalition government to impose changes to our pension arrangements. The most worrying is the greatly increased length of service – up to 68 before teachers can retire on a full pension. We are fortunate to enjoy smaller class sizes and better pupil behaviour than in many state schools; however, even with these benefits, being able to teach groups of teenagers effectively in one’s sixties will be challenging. Pupils stay the same age, teachers only get older (much older!).
Christ’s Hospital school NUT rep
Your editorial (14 October) concerning immigration refers to the “hard business case” for immigration, and implies that if something is good for British business, then it is necessarily good for British people. However, this is not always the case. Immigration allows employers to keep wages down, and may allow them to avoid training costs. It also pushes up rents and house prices. Therefore, I would argue that the financial benefits of immigration to businesses (and landlords) is at the expense of most people who are already here.
• Giles Fraser is only partly right about there being no medicine for the human condition (Loose canon, 12 October). There is no cure, but kind companions, a healthy walk in the fresh air, a good book and taking time to meditate are very good palliatives.
• Surely Alison White (Letters, 16 October) is herself making a sexist pre-supposition in criticising the quick crossword for using “Good looker” and “Stunner”. Neither of these terms is specific to gender or, for that matter, to humans – Chris Packham, for example, often describes (feathered) birds as “little stunners”. Perhaps it was in order to address this very lack of misogyny that the Sun coined “Stunna”.
• I did not think of the Sun, but drifted off into a little fantasy about the young Salvo Montalbano. Still, I suppose that I could be guilty of objectifying young men.
• The award of the Man Booker (Report, 16 October) to Eleanor Catton’s 832-page The Luminaries rather than Colm Tóibín’s 101-page The Testament of Mary, surely indicates that austerity is over.
Dr John Doherty
Gaoth Dobhair, Co Donegal
• I worked with a man who described how he travelled with his family through France by train and slept in a courgette (Letters, 16 October).
The impact of government surveillance on legal confidentiality goes further than undermining civil actions against the state (Spies accused of ignoring MPs, 16 October). Every person accused of crime, terrorism or immigration matters who is legally represented is in contact with their lawyers, so if the government monitors the target they will be monitoring legal communications. Lawyers have to discuss their clients’ cases, send and receive instructions etc. It’s impractical to use an office phone/website every time or demand the client come in to discuss this in private – and there are cases where even the fact of the client attending an appointment is an issue.
So lawyers and their agents, like myself, use their own phones, we often give the police our contact details and trust that Big Brother isn’t going to abuse this by monitoring these, especially when I report back to the instructing solicitor or the advocate representing the client at court what the case is about, assess the evidence, say what the client’s instructions were. In short, surveillance affects defence solicitors in every immigration/criminal/terrorism case.
• You report the comments of Lord Blencathra and Nick Brown MP as to information they did not receive from the intelligence agencies during hearings of the parliamentary committee chaired by Lord Blencathra on the proposed communications data bill. Your report suggests information was “hidden from MPs”. In fact, two parliamentary committees were taking evidence on this issue. While Lord Blencathra took considerable evidence regarding the police and law enforcement bodies, the intelligence and security committee took evidence from the intelligence agencies on secret matters and had access to classified material which the other parliamentary committee could not.
Arising from that evidence, we reported to parliament that the intelligence and security agencies already have access to communicartions data, and had less immediate need than the police and other law enforcement agencies for the proposed bill “because they are able to work around the problem through the use of other national security capabilities” under existing legislation. These comments in our published report reflected the evidence that we had received
Malcolm Rifkind MP
Chairman, intelligence and security committee
• In light of your editorial (16 October), I would like to point out that parliament recently had the opportunity to debate the democratic accountability of the security services, during the passage of the Justice and Security Act. Both Yvette Cooper and I argued for extensive reform of the intelligence and security committee, including for the chair to be a member of the opposition and for there to be a majority of democratically elected MPs as members of the committee. We also pressed for pre-appointment hearings for heads of security agencies, for more public sessions and for greater investigative capacity for the ISC.
The shadow home secretary has also set out plans to reform the commissioners system because gone are the days of paper-based accountability checks. The coalition parties, including the Lib Dems, had an opportunity to support all of these proposals and include them. They chose not to back Labour’s plans.
Diana Johnson MP
Shadow crime and security minister
• Boris Johnson needs to make up his mind on undercover cops and sex (Report, 15 October). City Hall’s police committee has been told by him and the head of the Met, Bernard Hogan-Howe, that it’s not acceptable for undercover police to have sex with the people they are targeting and that pre-authorisation for a sexual relationship would never be given. But the mayor is using public money to pay for the Met’s lawyers to argue in court this week that undercover police could be and were authorised to have sexual relationships. There is a significant difference between what the mayor is saying to the media and what his lawyers are saying in court. This is symptomatic of the complete confusion the Met has on this issue. I hope in the interests of transparency and justice the women are successful in their appeal.
Green party group, London assembly
• Years ago we had one or two headline stories about spies, with Maclean, Philby, Blake, Burgess et al all exposed and condemned. Now, the only “spies” we hear about are the ones who voluntarily broadcast their secrets. So with one low-ranked US army recruit and a contractor who is not even enlisted in the US forces, we are told that some of the most serious leaks of US/UK intelligence in modern times has occurred, representing a major threat to the security of our countries. Well, if these two can dig up this stuff, goodness knows what is accessible to the real spies these days.
These events prove that our (UK/US and others) security services are useless when it comes to preventing access to classified information. It also suggests that undesirable agents can probably find a way to access and copy files of internet traffic metadata and interrogate these for their own evil ends. And, somehow, at the very top of our governments, the actions of Manning and Snowden are being condemned while any real security leaks are, no doubt, never reported. Now that these two have alerted us all to the potential frailties of the security systems, we need proper governance and regulation to protect the public, not just serve the interests of those who gather and manipulate this “information”.
• I find myself wondering that if an officer with access to communications data suspected, say, that I was having an affair with his wife, what would stop him from looking at data on my emails and mobile phone calls – and hers. Have I missed something?
• “36b. We may collect the following information about you and other members of your household: name, age, sex, bank details, records of our conversations and correspondence with you, ethnic origin and physical or mental health, details about benefit entitlements…”
Some GCHQ plot exposed by the Guardian? Oh no, just part of the the terms and conditions of my electricity supplier.
You are right to commend Kenneth Baker’s new Career Colleges (leading article, 15 October) but we should not understate the challenge that they face, or the risk that they will further enshrine, rather than counter, the longstanding divide between academic and vocational education in British, and notably English, schools and colleges.
The excellence of our academic offer and the poverty of our vocational provision are intrinsically linked. The vocational curriculum is a second-choice track that those unable to succeed in academic terms, or who display a reluctance to do so, fall on to, not one they select, and it is a track that the children of the poor are more likely to find themselves on.
Throwing naughty boys (and occasionally girls) a car engine is no way to create a nation of engineers or to address the skills gaps that are obvious to all, but it is what we do, and what we have done, in one way or another, since 1944.
Will “academic” schools farm-out “difficult” pupils to the new colleges, or will aspirant engineers queue at the door? The need is for the latter; experience suggests the former. Whatever the outcome, we need a broader discussion about what curricular breadth should look like. Students of all abilities and social backgrounds need a curriculum that combines academic study with a strong professional and vocational education and a broader preparation for effective citizenship. We shouldn’t restrict this to Lord Baker’s colleges, welcome as they, and their laudable objectives, may be.
Dr Tony Breslin, Bushey, Hertfordshire
Vocational training for teenagers – a radical new idea?
This is what my father did as a woodwork teacher in a secondary modern school until the mid-Sixties, giving generations of boys a profitable skill for life. Then the idiots in charge of the new comprehensive regime destroyed it all overnight. They timetabled lessons so short that by the time the boys had got their tools out it was time to put them away, and their real masterstroke was the introduction of written woodwork exams for barely literate 12-year-olds. They also managed to destroy my father’s will to carry on. Genius!
It just remains to ask why it has taken nearly 50 years for a glimmer of sense to return.
Alan Thomas, Epsom, Surrey
It is now eight years since the deficiencies in our education system for technical skills was exposed by the influx of Polish plumbers. And still our academia and establishment consider and reward the facility to conjugate Latin verbs more highly than the skills needed to design and install works of an engineering nature.
Laurence Shields, Wingerworth, Derbyshire
Plenty of robust evidence on poverty crisis
Nigel Morris (16 October) highlights the increasing use of food banks evidenced by the Trussell Trust, Red Cross and Oxfam. In response to these facts, a government spokesperson said: “There is no robust evidence that welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks.”
If by “no robust evidence” he means that studies have yet to be carried out, I am sure this will happen in time, but until it has the Government is able to use this as the excuse to deny any responsibility for the hardship imposed upon many thousands of families, many with working adults, by the policies of this Coalition Government.
As a community worker managing a community centre in the South Wales valleys – we are a distributor for food parcels – I can say that the “bedroom tax” and the random and arbitrary sanctioning of claimants by the Jobcentres, leaving people without income for weeks or months, are major contributors to families having insufficient or no income, which leads to them requiring a food parcel to feed their families.
I suggest the spokesperson conduct his own studies in the hardest-hit communities and hear first-hand how the government austerity measures are impacting on people who were already struggling to manage day-to-day living. I think he will find all the robust evidence he needs.
Roger Wilcox, Ystrad Rhondda, South Wales
Any government that seriously believes that the threefold rise in demand on food banks is caused by an increase in the supply of such facilities is both incompetent at economics and morally bankrupt.
Canon Stuart Currie, Worcester
The loss of sovereignty
Andreas Whittam Smith is obviously right that EU membership has led to a loss of sovereignty (“Our leaders have misled us about the EU”, 16 October); how could anyone imagine a regional integration project would not do so? But why not apply the same analysis to our other vital relationship – with the US?
Successive British governments have ceded swathes of sovereignty to Washington in the crucial areas of national security, defence and foreign policy without even bothering to mislead us: the subject is rarely discussed in the British media.
Snowden has shown us that British intelligence has no compunction about using the American NSA to help it spy on British citizens. Yet there has been minimal debate, the Government says spies are good for us and its media attack-dogs savage the messenger. In a time of austerity and economic crisis, we are apparently willing to spend untold billions of pounds renewing Trident, which is dependent on the US. Again, little debate, few questions.
In our most ill-judged recent foreign adventure, Tony Blair decided to opt for coat-tails imperialism and pick the US over EU allies on Iraq, ignoring the strong body of public opinion that was against the invasion.
Rod Chapman, Sarlat, France
BBC ‘balances’ the facts on climate
Greg Barker (“BBC gives the sceptics too much airtime, says Tory Minister” 10 October) is not the first person to criticise the BBC for its lamentable coverage of climate change.
Trying to provide “balance” is acceptable for political and ethical dilemmas, but science does not allow for compromise. There is a right answer and it is the business of the BBC to state unequivocally the consequences for humanity of a “business as usual” scenario.
Otherwise we have a situation whereby science dictates that 2 plus 2 equals 4, the sceptics say “No it’s not; it’s five” and the BBC seem to think that the answer must be four and a half.
Everyone is appalled that the BBC dredged up Bob Carter to challenge the findings of the IPCC report on 27 September, but equally indefensible was the BBC’s decision to introduce Bjorn Lomberg the same day on the PM programme as a “middle of the road” scientist. In other words a four-and-a-halfer.
Bjorn Lomberg has never published a peer-reviewed article on climate change, and his book The Sceptical Environmentalist tells you all you need to know about his position. Maybe it is time the BBC tried employing a few presenters, or even an editor, with a scientific degree.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire
Welcome to the end of your life
In a few days I will reach my 65th birthday, and having received details of my state pension, I am looking forward to receiving it next month. I already receive my entitlement to three private pensions from my previous employment, so I was interested to receive recently a letter from one of my providers, but when I opened it, the contents were from four different funeral service arrangers.
Then, a couple of days later, a letter arrived from my second pension provider and I was puzzled to find two more leaflets explaining the benefits of funeral insurance! Finally, yesterday, I received a letter from my third provider, enclosing details from two more insurance companies offering cover for funeral costs. Is someone trying to tell me something? And has life expectancy come down considerably?
As it happens, I have already made arrangements to cover funeral costs, and invested some of my retirement income, but I am certainly going to spend some of it now, as someone appears to know my death is imminent.
Nigel Priestnall, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Football, the wasteful game
While the England team are to be congratulated on the win against Poland, we should not lose sight of their overall poor showing in the World Cup. Enormous amounts of money are spent on English football, yet, it is nearly 50 years since they delivered us the ultimate prize of the World Cup.
Many other sports which operate on a shoestring compared to football have delivered for the nation. Is the money we spend on football really worth it ?
Vernon J Yarker, Maldon, Essex
Your report “Poorest areas of England ‘will suffer under new NHS spending formula’ ” (16 October) omits the average level of NHS spending for each person in each part of England, or for those who are chronically ill or old. Reporting possible change is one thing; giving no idea of the underlying differences is unhelpful. I expect the underlying picture does justify the rebalancing, though it is impossible to judge from the article.
Sir Peter Bottomley MP, (Worthing W, C), House of Commons
The verb “coronated” (Letter, 14 October) seems to have come from the USA and obviously is in the best George Bush tradition. The New York Times last August reported Congressman Rush Holt speaking about his election campaign in New Jersey: “I don’t think a campaign where one candidate is coronated before the race even begins helps.” Are there any earlier sightings of “coronated”? No doubt our dictionaries are on the case.
Professor Guy Woolley, Nottingham
Not that bad
Cuba enjoys probably one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the Americas (North and South) and certainly better than the US, so why the scurrilous headline “Why is Birmingham’s infant mortality rate worse than Cuba’s?” (16 October)? Most of the world’s infant mortality rates are worse than Cuba’s.
Ian Lowery, Kensworth, Bedfordshire
“Plebgate” faces us with the surreal question, “Who is lying, the politician or the Metropolitan Police?” I think the non-surreal answer, based on statistics, is probably “definitely”. Expect more humbug.
Peter Fines, Market Rasen, Lincolnshire
Calls to extend NHS charges are wrong-headed: new charges cost more to collect than they raise
Sir, Yet again Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance, calls for the NHS to extend charges to direct clinical care (report, Oct 16). Such charges exemplify what health policy researchers term zombie policies. Every time one thinks they have been killed off by careful argument they reappear, supported by those seemingly unaware of the evidence that they cost more to collect than they raise, that they require exemptions that exclude most of those in need of care and that they deter in equal measure those with serious and less serious problems.
However, this time Dr Dixon has exceeded himself, calling for patients to be charged for treatments of no proven benefit. Even though he is a longstanding supporter of homeopathy, is he really suggesting that the NHS, still one of the cheapest health systems in Europe, should formalise the exploitation of vulnerable patients for money with no benefit to them?
Professor Martin McKee
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Sir, I congratulate Michael Dixon on opening for debate the question of charging patients for NHS services, but fear that his suggestions will make little impact on the overall budget and that, however carefully charges are designed, they will be perceived to be unfair. We need to clear the air on many issues, including patient charges, our attitude to private health and how to finance the service that we expect.
My suggestions would be, first, to rethink political hostility towards the private healthcare system. Many more employers would offer private healthcare insurance and many more employees would join company schemes if the subscription were not treated as a taxable benefit. Second, we must be willing to contemplate an additional compulsory subscription for healthcare, levied by HMRC, but not accessible by government for any other purpose than funding the NHS. Third, we need a much less frenetic approach to the NHS. Changes need to be thought through and piloted. Above all, the NHS needs long-term political consensus and commitment in which the professionals manage the service and the politicians ensure that the funding is available.
Little Somerford, Wilts
Sir, As a senior manager within the health service, I have long held a view that patients contribute to the problems by being unable to determine what service they need or by selecting services inappropriately. As a corrective measure, patients should be charged for initial GP appointments. This would surely have the impact of reducing inappropriate attendances and make patients think carefully about what services they actually need.
Rhoose, Vale of Glamorgan
Sir, How disgraceful to see Michael Dixon, president of the NHS Clinical Commissioners, yet again citing IVF treatments as a way of dealing with the financial crisis in the NHS. Why should such a distressing symptom of disease be singled out for charges, rather than any other form of serious pain? One could have hoped he would recognise that charges for IVF could be hugely reduced without loss of efficacy, and that ironically many NHS hospitals make substantial profits from these fertility treatments.Professor Lord Winston
Imperial College London
How John Dove in the Western Highlands claimed the best weather in the country
Sir, Certainly John Dove in the Western Highlands “carried the day” for weather yesterday (letter, Oct 16). Here in the East it was wet and grey. How much I agree with Robert Burns when he said, “Of a’ the airts the wind can blaw, I dearly like the west.”
I hope that we stay together, come rain or shine.
Not everyone regards modern windmills as a blot on the landscape —some of us regard them as inspirational
Sir, Your magnificent picture of wind turbines at Clacton-on-Sea (Oct 15) is thought provoking. It reminds me that not everyone regards modern windmills as a blot on the land or seascape. There are those of us who regard them as stately and inspirational, drawing the eye to the beauty of the hills and mountains and the excitement of the seas. Their steady and slow rotation is a source of fascination and they generate clean energy as well. There are some of us who see them as an asset to be delighted in rather than a pest to be resisted.
The Rev Nicholas Henderson
Shopping in the West End of London, I was advised by the retailers to look for my products online
Sir, On Saturday I went shopping in the West End (letters, Oct 15). In four shops in Oxford Street and in Covent Garden I was informed that they didn’t have what I was looking for, and they couldn’t be sure when they would have it, and they couldn’t order it for me — but I could order it online. I did. On Saturday evening, I ordered a new coat and got it delivered on Tuesday morning.
If shops are neither willing nor able to sell things, are they really surprised that customers aren’t buying them?
How my father helped the wounded of the First World War to catch the right trains to hospital
Sir, My father, born in Dover in 1903, was one of many youngsters tasked with wheeling injured servicemen from the cross-Channel ships to Dover railway station during the Great War (letter, Oct 14).
The men would have labels on them indicating which train they were to board, but often they would beg my father to be taken to a train going nearer to their home. Initially my father did as they asked, but
soon stopped when an explanation for the labels was given. Apparently
the wounded had been assessed
as to which hospital would have the best facilities for treating their
injuries, and the men were “labelled” accordingly.
The Home Secretary is right to be concerned at the perceived lack of impartiality of police investigations of themselves
Sir, Theresa May is justified in her concerns at the perceived lack of impartiality of police investigations of themselves (report, Oct 16). Exactly the same position applies with local authorities: a complaint is usually referred to the section complained about and, if the response is not satisfactory, the matter is “reviewed” by a colleague of the person originally complained about. The perception of closing ranks is pervasive.
While there is a Local Government Ombudsman as a last recourse, this route is time-consuming and depends on the complainant being able to marshal arguments against the combined resources of the council. There must be much greater transparency in every aspect of public governance to avoid the scandals that regularly emerge.
Tyldesley, Greater Manchester
SIR – The sad tale of capercaillie and its nemesis, the pine marten, illustrates the irrational way in which we protect endangered wildlife.
In respect of the difficulties of removing protected status from species whose populations have since recovered, it would surely be logical for laws protecting wildlife to be for a limited period – perhaps 10 years, forcing future legislators to return to the issue. This would ensure we get wildlife laws reflecting the up-to-date conservation concerns rather than historic ones. It would also prevent legislators, and those conservation groups that support non-intervention policies, from hiding behind out-of-date legislation, as a justification for doing nothing to avert the extinction of our precious wildlife.
SIR – I agree with Charlie Messervy-Whiting that it’s time to turn up the heat on the Government to embrace nuclear power, but where are the new nuclear power stations to be situated?
Logically, they should be close to the bulk of the power users, to avoid transmission losses and masses of pylons across our green and pleasant land. But city dwellers are not going to accept a nuclear power station on their doorstep.
It’ll be the rural population, yet again, who’ll be saddled with the eyesores. We all gain from cheaper and more reliable power generation, so why can’t we share the pain more equitably?
SIR – Propaganda about green energy is becoming less and less credible.
Protected status for wildlife should be temporary
16 Oct 2013
Houses built since the early Eighties will not be eligible for green insulation subsidies because they already incorporate high standards of insulation, and will have energy performance ratings of category B or better.
The owners of many older properties who have improved their energy performance to category C or better will not be eligible either.
There is, therefore, no credible chance that they can benefit from the £166 saving mentioned by Trewin Restorick, CEO of Global Action Plan, and frequently touted by Ed Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
They will, however, continue to pay the £100-plus in “green levies”, and a further £50 in transmission network reinforcement charges every year for the foreseeable future.
Thus, the many are expected to pay £150-plus every year, in order for the few possibly to save £166.
J R Ball
SIR – Apart from an “empty cupboard” and a pile of IOUs, Labour also left another time bomb: an economically suicidal level of energy costs.
Ed Miliband, during his time as Energy Secretary, pursued green measures that pushed up bills, the financing of which, including generous subsidies, was to be paid for by the customers. This was supported by many Tories, who failed to query how the poor would pay, and how the industry would remain competitive.
The root cause of these disasters was, and remains, politicians’ failure to analyse the long-term effect of their actions.
J G R Rix
SIR – To eliminate the imminent risk of power cuts, the Government only needs to ignore the EU’s Large Combustion Plants Directive, and keep open the coal fired power stations scheduled for shutdown.
Since all other EU countries ignore the rules when it doesn’t suit them, surely it’s time that Britain did the same.
SIR – In the past, we relied on big businesses and government to create mass employment. Now, with the digital transformation of our economy, we must look to a new wave of job-creators.
Entrepreneurship – long the engine for American growth – has not been cultivated in an effective way in Europe. There is an emerging start-up culture here; not a single Silicon Valley, but a network of silicon hubs. There is an abundance of talent, ideas and energy, plus millions of consumers ready to use new products that help them in their daily lives. But too many think they have to leave Europe to be successful.
That is why we, as successful web entrepreneurs, have set out how to boost European start-ups’ contribution to growth. Our manifesto of 22 actions, based on our grassroots experience, starts with the basics: education and skills; access to talent and capital; an EU-wide start-up visa; a new E-Corp cross-border corporation; “Chief Digital Officers” in each country and more open public procurement. We believe our ideas can make a real difference.
Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
The Next Web
Eyes on the road
SIR – I read with great interest your report regarding older drivers. Earlier this year, I was told at a routine eye test that my sight no longer met the new EU regulations. I surrendered my licence, but it was my decision to do so: no professional would have informed the DVLA. If I hadn’t gone to the opticians, I would have been unaware of a problem.
Surely annual eye tests should be a requirement for every driver. It should be mandatory for the optician to advise patients that they are no longer able to drive, and the responsibility should fall on the optician to advise the DVLA.
Inspired to cook
SIR – I couldn’t agree more with Mary Berry. I still have my domestic science exercise books from school from the years 1964 to 1966. We only had one double lesson a week, but within the first year I was cooking lamb chops, new potatoes and spring greens followed by bread and butter pudding.
During the three-year O-level course, we made jam, chutney, Christmas cakes, puddings and soups, and were taught about réchauffé, vegetarian and invalid cookery. We were also taught dietetics, which included the value of roughage in the diet, and the vitamin content of foods.
I still cook the mouth-watering lemon meringue pie recipe that my domestic science teacher gave to me.
Flying the flag
SIR – Your leading article regarding the Union flag brought back a happy memory. My wife and I spent the summer of 2002 on a grand tour of the French waterways. Most ports flew EU-member flags. In nearly every case the Union flag was upside down.
Following our visit to the town hall in Fumay to report that this indicated distress, we had no sooner arrived back at our boat when a cherry picker and a team of Les Bleus came to reverse the hoist.
The Entente Cordiale was restored.
James E Sugden
SIR – There are more than three million people in Britain with moderate to severe kidney problems. Treating them costs the NHS over £1.4 billion each year – more than is spent treating breast, lung, colon and skin cancer combined. Much of this expenditure, and some of the personal suffering that kidney conditions can cause, is avoidable, as outlined in Kidney Health: Delivering Excellence, a review conducted by patients and professional organisations, that is published today.
Despite this, no strategic vision for kidney health has been set out by the Government. There have been significant improvements in kidney care following the previous 10-year kidney strategy, the National Service Framework. We should also acknowledge the hard work of NHS staff who care for kidney patients. However, in many cases the improvements we have witnessed have begun to plateau. Problems remain to be resolved, and these include many thousands of preventable deaths in hospital every year due to acute kidney injury, poor diagnosis of kidney disease, and unequal access to high-quality care.
The significance of kidney disease is insufficiently acknowledged in NHS policy. British kidney patients deserve better.
Dr Hugh Gallagher
Consultant Nephrologist, Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust
Policy Director, British Kidney Patient Association
Professor Tim Goodship
Chair, Kidney Research UK
Chief Executive, Kidney Research UK
Chief Executive, British Kidney Patient Association
Chair of Trustees, British Kidney Patient Association
Dr Simon Ball
President, British Renal Society
Assistant Director of Nursing Salford Royal Foundation NHS Trust, Past President, British Renal Society
Dr KA Abraham
Consultant Nephrologist, Aintree University Hospital NHS FT, Renal Association
Chairman, National Kidney Federation
Chairman, PKD Charity
Chief Executive, PKD Charity
Senior Renal Dietitian, Salford Royal Foundation Trust
Trustee, Kidney Research UK
Kidney Health group
Paying for care
SIR – When an elderly person requires residential care at the end of their life, the property that has been their home becomes an asset like any other and the proceeds of its sale should be invested to fund care and provide other necessities. It is only the hopeful beneficiaries who do not see the logic of this argument.
Our mother recently died aged 104 and the family was only too pleased that the sale of her home allowed her to be well cared for to the end of her long life.
Great Billing, Northamptonshire
SIR – Always make your porridge with salt, but the only way to eat it is with dark brown sugar, double cream and a tot of whiskey.
Peacemakers deserving of the Nobel Prize
SIR – Your depiction of President Theodore Roosevelt as one of the “rummier” Nobel Peace Prize winners is unfair. The 1906 Peace Prize was awarded to him for his decisive role as mediator in the Russian-Japanese war. This ended the conflict with peace terms embodied in the Treaty of Portsmouth, which was heavily influenced by Roosevelt.
As regards Roosevelt’s famous cavalry regiment in Cuba, this was in 1898 when the United States went to war with Spain in support of the Cubans’ rebellion against colonial rule. At his own expense, Roosevelt raised a cavalry force; though at that time a private citizen not holding any public office, he acted with the approval of the American government.
The publicity surrounding his famous cavalry charge at San Juan Hill led to his being elected Governor of New York State, thus launching his political career.
West Malling, Kent
SIR – Many congratulations to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the body responsible for destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, on winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
This prompts the question: would the American military have gained this prestigious award had they been responsible for destroying them?
SIR – A Nobel Prize should be offered to any scientist who turns his attentions to the oven shelf and its supports, unchanged largely for more than 60 years. Consisting of chrome rods crudely welded to a frame, they have ends that catch on any scourer, and are not non-stick or self-cleaning as are the interiors of ovens or pots. Lengthy soaking and scouring is required as the dishwasher never succeeds in the task.
Deborah Cameron Moore
Newick, East Sussex
Sir, – Given the Government’s ability, even enthusiasm, to impose charges and hardship on vulnerable citizens, surely there can be no further justification for not taking action to reduce the pensions being paid to former Ministers and politicians, particularly those responsible for our current economic situation? The rules should be further changed so that no politician or minister could receive any State pension until they reach the standard State pension age.
If entitlements can be arbitrarily withdrawn from citizens aged under 26 and the elderly, then surely entitlements can be withdrawn from citizens who clearly didn’t perform in their duties and who do not deserve ongoing reward for their incompetence?
The Budget further consolidates the two-tier society prevalent in Ireland. Taking real action to spread the hardship to those responsible for the country’s mess will be a small but important step in giving citizens hope of a fair and brighter future. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I was disappointed that there was no mention in the Budget of any intention to accrue savings by dispensing with certain “special advisers”. After all, in a recent referendum, the people have decided that 60 special advisers are to be retained in Seanad Éireann, with the Taoiseach being empowered to select 11 of them. Surely that should be enough advisers for any government? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Like hundreds of thousands of other recent emigrants, it is with mounting disillusionment that I digest another so-called austerity budget.
Surely the collective talents of our young people could be engaged to visualise and lay the foundations for alternative outcomes of social justice, sustainable development and ultimately prevent such an economic collapse befalling the country in the future?
Instead, in striving to attain short-term savings from ambiguous unemployment figures distorted by a clear policy to export the brightest and creative young people graduating from higher education, we are left with a generation of politicians who collectively acted as cheerleaders for tiger-era policies who are now are expected to chart a course for recovery.
The evidence of Budget 2014 and the policies pursued over the past six years does not inspire hope in those of us living overseas and those young people who will be making similar journeys over the coming years. – Yours, etc,
Shining Life Children’s
Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Sir, – Those of us who were deluded enough to think that the Labour Party had something to do with “socialism” now know that it’s the other labour that’s intended: pain, pain, pain! Except, of course, for the elite. – Yours, etc,
Donore Avenue, Dublin 8.
Sir, – We have the learned, the great and the good all over the media today (October 16th) complaining about the “austerity” of the latest Budget and the damage it is doing to “the vulnerable”.
We have just had a campaign to get rid of an elitist Seanad because it is unaffordable in a country that has been bankrupt by the decisions of some of its most privileged citizens.
Prominent among the complainants about the severity of the Budget are politicians, members of media and academia who, not alone campaigned to retain the unrepresentative and unaffordable Seanad, but also, during Celtic tiger years, participated in, or supported, the making of decisions which eventually bankrupted the country.
The reckless decisions of the Celtic tiger era, which bankrupt the country, and the decision to campaign to retain the unrepresentative Seanad were made by the privileged for the privileged.
To now complain about the consequential damage to the vulnerable is hypocritical to put it mildly. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – So Ministers Brendan Howlin and Michael Noonan have created the situation where an elderly lady can’t phone the gardaí or press her panic alarm due to poverty, when an under-25 youth burgles her home due to poverty. Bravo gentlemen. – Yours, etc,
Pococke Lower, Kilkenny.
Sir, – The real low hanging fruit, the elephant in the room for those who know, is civil service and politicians’ pensions. Their level versus anything available in the private sector is outrageous. A reduction in these pensions to a truly market comparable level would resolve the budget deficit at a stroke. These people are responsible for where we are. – Yours, etc,
Glin, Co Limerick.
Sir, – As part of a justification for the latest austerity budget, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin pronounced that “Austerity is what is left, after Fianna Fáil in Government drove the economy into the ground and led us beholden, like the famine victims of old, to seek relief outside this country” (Stephen Collins, Opinion, October 16th).
Why stop at the Famine? Surely Fianna Fáil must have been responsible for the arrival of the Normans in 1170, Anarchy in Ireland in 1515, The Flight of the Earls in 1607, the arrival of Cromwell in 1649, the deaths of Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Wolfe Tone in 1798, the execution of Robert Emmet in 1803, the death of Charles Stewart Parnell in 1891, the deaths of Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins in 1922 and the Dublin Arms Trial in 1970? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Perhaps the saddest thing about the Budget is Labour’s total capitulation to Fine Gael’s far right fiscal ideology. Eamon Gilmore claimed the reductions in dole for the under-25s was not a cut but an “adjustment” while Joan Burton spent the day talking about a version of a “social contract” in which the failure to provide jobs is deemed the fault of those who cannot find one. The “Chicago Boys” are tittering down their sleeves this day; after all that has gone before, they still have admirers about the place. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The weak and vulnerable have yet again to suffer for the mistakes made by others – who it seems we are unable to penalise for their actions.
More and more with every budget, they must feel that for them, like in the final words of Thomas Hardy’s Mayor of Casterbridge, “Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain”. The mortal world having failed them, they have to hope in the story of Lazarus for any cold crumbs of comfort. – Yours, etc,
Newmarket on Fergus,
Sir, – Harry McGee (Home News, October 15th) claims the Government must demonstrate that savings from the Haddington Road agreement “are real and not just paper transfers.” If he wants evidence that the savings are real, I suggest he asks one of the 13 per cent of public servants whose pay was reduced, for the third time, in July 2013. Or any of the hundreds of thousands of public servants who will see their increments frozen in the coming months.
These are cash savings, not “paper transfers”. What’s more, they come on top of 14 per cent average pay cuts across the public sector since 2009, a 30,000 staffing reduction, and other major cost-saving reforms already delivered under Croke Park (worth €1.8 billion to the exchequer so far) or planned under Haddington Road. Public servants have also been subject to the same increased taxes and charges as everyone else over the past five years. – Yours, etc,
Head of Communications,
Impact Trade Union,
Nerney’s Court, Dublin 1.
Sir, – The idea of the virtual shopfront (Weekend Review, October 12th) was intriguing, but the execution was disappointingly mundane.
I’d enjoy a book shopfront with Eileen Battersby behind the till, a champagne reception in the poetry section, and a small, angry mob in the corner trampling down the premature display of Christmas decorations. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Consultant psychiatrist Dr Dermot Walsh (October 15th) asks what “conclusions may we draw from a situation where the abnormal has become the norm?”
My own conclusion, for what it is worth after a half century plus scratching my vacuous cranial cavity over the hominid behaviour, like that of members of his own profession, from RD Laing to Thomas Szasz and our own esteemed Prof Ivor Browne, is that our society itself is not a particularly salubrious collective psychological construct; or as Krishnamurti famously expressed it, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
A large part of the problem being that it is far easier to detect individual aberrations from societal norms, and diagnose the symptoms as the disease, than it is to diagnose the diseased state of our collective delusional behaviours (phantom Tiger-worship?) driving the symptomatology of society’s most sensitive individual victims of these collective psychoses.
Nor will Tuesday’s econometric budgetary balancing act, at the expense of our young and most vulnerable, to maintain global resource-speculator stability in the obscene parasitic luxury to which they have dynastically accustomed themselves, rebalance these collective pathologies. But no doubt there will be second, if not seconding, opinions. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Róisín Ingle’s article about a hands-free approach to the teaching of deaf children and teenagers through a “no pens day” (Home News, October 12th) rightly highlights the need for more imaginative ways of teaching and learning by deaf children.
As someone who was born profoundly deaf in the 1970s and who was mainstream educated with hearing peers at primary, secondary and university level by lip-reading my teachers and lecturers, my experience was indeed demanding, but hugely rewarding.
Rapid advances in modern technology make possible a mainstream approach to education for deaf children. A combination of early diagnosis and advanced hearing devices, such as digital hearing-aids and cochlear implants, has changed the landscape of educational opportunities for all deaf children.
Consequently, demand is growing for mainstream teachers with expertise in teaching listening and spoken-language skills to deaf children, plus a knowledge of modern audiology, speech and hearing sciences. Integration, not segregation, is key to the development of a deaf child. It is essential to allow children who have hearing devices to learn and play in an everyday environment surrounded by children who do not have hearing issues.
In the classroom, technology is at the point where voice synthesis allows a teacher’s words to be displayed on a tablet or smartphone screen in near-real time for lip-reading scholars. Furthermore, we are close to having a teacher’s words displayed in real time as captions on an interactive whiteboard or white-screen, just like the television news services.
The rapid advances in medical and communications technology is making a whole new world possible for deaf children. Text messaging is merely a start. – Yours, etc,
CEO Irish Deaf Kids,
Sir, – As well as seeking accountability and changes from the HSE; are we going to see some accountability from The Irish Times, which leapt to judgment in the aftermath of Savita Halappanavar’s death and propagated the line that Mrs Halappanavar died because she “was denied an abortion”? We now know, thanks to the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) report and other reports before it, that it was not Ireland’s abortion law which caused Mrs Halappanavar’s death; rather it was the abysmal monitoring of the patient, while in a public-sector hospital, and the failure to diagnose sepsis in time which resulted in the death of Savita Halappanavar.
I would like to see, one day, a collective apology from the established bastions of Irish journalism (led by The Irish Times) for, after having succumbed to groupthink, sending an erroneous narrative around the world that Ireland’s law on abortion was responsible for Mrs Halappanavar’s death. – Yours, etc,
JOHN B REID,
Sir, – “More evidence that the law was no barrier to Savita’s life being saved” is the heading to Breda O’Brien’s article (Opinion, October 12th). But her article is totally taken up with reports and opinions referring exclusively to the catalogue of medical errors that occurred after the fateful decision that an abortion was out of the question because “Ireland is a Catholic country”. This although the experts present stated unequivocally that the baby could not be saved. Even though the foetus had no chance of survival, it had precedence over the health of the mother as long there was a foetal heartbeat. By the time there was no foetal heartbeat it was too late for Savita Halappanavar.
Ms O’Brien is desperately (but unsuccessfully) trying to convince herself that the law “was no barrier to Savita’s life being saved”. I believe that had Savita been given the abortion (or inducement, if that word is more palatable to the anti –abortionists) she requested, she would most likely be alive today. – Yours, etc,
VINCENT Mac CARTHY,
Sir, – The question was raised in your Editorial (October 14th) as to whether mainstream education was the cause of Ireland being just average on literacy, numeracy and problems in technology-rich environments, or if there might be some other effect that prevents us from being ranked higher. There is indeed an explanation why the results are poor.
Over the past seven years there has been an exodus of our brightest and best from this country as a result of the recession. Our highly educated young people are emigrating to find work and avoid the dole queue. Only those left behind are surveyed. Thus, the brain drain is skewing the results for Ireland. The next question we need to ask is, “Can Ireland afford to lose so many well-educated people each year to other countries?”
Ireland is not reaping the benefit of their education and is now presenting as just average in the education rankings. We are losing our young people and our reputation as a highly educated nation. This issue is being swept under the carpet. Now is a good time to stimulate debate on the issue. – Yours, etc,
The Vale, Skerries Rock,
Sir, – One upside of today’s vanishingly low interest rates is that a 41 per cent DIRT rate does not feel so painful. Thanks Messrs Bernanke and Draghi. – Yours, etc,
Sir,– It is true, as Eoin Dillon (October 16th) writes, that I am a former Irish Times journalist. I left The Irish Times 38 years ago to join the Labour Party. Every saint has a past, every sinner a future . . . – Yours, etc,
(Prof) JOHN HORGAN,
Office of the Press
Sir, – After reading Mary Hannigan’s insightful thoughts on the Kazakhstan game “Giles says 54321 and Dunphy blasts off”, SportsWednesday, October 16th), may I suggest her as the next Irish football manager as she certainly has an excellent grasp of the game? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Le roi est mort, vive le “Roi”! So let’s give the present “interim” manager of the Republic of Ireland soccer team the chance to guide Ireland to qualification for Euro 2016. If two Jacks (Charlton and Trapattoni) could achieve the feat, why can’t a “King”? – Yours, etc,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Our experience of the crash is still painful. Five years on, today’s budgetary decisions are still predominantly influenced by the fallout from that free-spending tail-spin into economic catastrophe. Our highly-qualified children throng the world’s airports and turn their backs on their homes, leaving heartbroken families to deal with the emotional void.
Also in this section
Pope Francis could teach our politicians a lot
It’s life – but not as we know it
Battered coping class
Why did all this happen? Because we as a people became indifferent to our fates, we handed them over to three successive Fianna Fail governments who proved unworthy of our trust.
To date, Ireland has looked to America for an example of shining democracy – a place where the little man could be afforded big opportunities. But step lightly because you tread on our dreams – for the shutdown has been a shattering wake-up call.
Americans have had to watch the Republicans slam the shutters down on Capitol Hill as the Tea Party courted not just American, but global, economic meltdown.
Such a combination of bloody-minded arrogance and ignorance should make the blood run cold in the veins of all who cherish and respect social responsibility.
The struggles of working Americans mean nothing when the political Titans flex their muscles.
Ireland knows all too well what happens when expediency takes precedence over the interests of the many, at the behest of a mighty few.
It looks like a shard of reason has broken through in Washington, let us hope this is the case.
But what has this exhibition of hubris and hauteur done for the image of the most powerful country in the world? It has made its friends wince and its enemies writhe in laughter.
These have been a very dark few weeks for global politics. We should remember: “whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”
Queens, New York
TIME FOR COMPASSION
* Listening to news of the tragedies at Lampedusa, it is hard not to be reminded of our own history of coffin ships heading to America during the famine. This perspective should be our guide in responding to the terrible human loss of life.
It should also strengthen us in our resolve to support the countries of southern Europe as they seek EU action to end the scourge of human trafficking.
The Government should offer strong political and diplomatic support to Malta as it seeks to put the crisis on the agenda of EU leaders and foreign ministers. This is a time for Europe to show a compassionate side, which is too often sacrificed for bureaucracy, red-tape and indecision.
We must also look too at what practical support Ireland can offer. Can one of our naval vessels, which in the past have sailed half way around the world to promote Irish trade, be deployed to support the humanitarian work of Malta and Italy. Or should we, like in the Bosnian conflict, ease the flood of people seeking safety by offering sanctuary?
The strength of our response should reflect the values which we think are the true measures of our success as a people: compassion, empathy and a determination to tackle injustice. To do nothing would not only be callous and cruel but would also be a betrayal of our own history and a failure to learn from some of its most tragic episodes.
PATIENTS KIDDING AROUND
* Will GPs now find many of their patients behaving like five year olds?
DON’T TELL US WHAT TO DO
* How dare elements of the likely German government-to-be issue diktats from on high regarding our corporate tax rate.
The sooner we leave the bailout in the dust, the sooner this posturing and Weltpolitik arm-twisting can be consigned to the dustbin of history.
ERA OF AUTOMATION
* Michael Noonan’s Budget will do nothing to reduce Ireland’s greatest deficit. The problems of the 21st Century are caused by a runaway ability to produce everything to surplus levels and an elimination of need for human labour.
The challenges for economists in the 21st Century are to plan, manage and restrain the enormous power of modern production and create much more employment from a decreasing pool of work.
The economic era of growth is over. Technology has replaced it with an economic era of sufficiency or enough; indeed much more than enough, if production is not managed and restrained. The era of work has been replaced by an era of automation.
Mr Noonan’s Budget does nothing to address the new realities; it is, in fact, counterproductive and only prolongs misery that will be endured until sufficient intelligence emerges to stop this crazy rejection of the very best economic time the world has ever experienced.
Tubbercurry, Co Sligo.
A POIGNANT MESSAGE
* I would like to congratulate junior health minister Kathleen Lynch for taking the initiative to contact Donal Walsh’s parents after seeing his appearance on ‘The Saturday Night Show’ on RTE.
She said: “Young people clearly aren’t listening to people like me or anyone within the service and we’re desperately hoping that they’ll listen to someone like Donal, who’s their own age, their peer”, as reported in your article “Thousands view inspirational ‘Live Life’ clip” (Irish Independent, October 14).
Last week, I was shocked to read the article: “Life is for living – message for teen pals as tragic Chloe is laid to rest,” (Irish Independent October 8). This is what Father Pat Seaver, parish curate, told mourners at the funeral service of Chloe Kinsella.
As a guidance counsellor in Cork a few years ago, he had asked students to write about their reaction to suicide. “Shockingly, almost half had written: ‘What a great way to go. I’d like to have the courage to do the same.'”
Donal Walsh from beyond the grave has a very simple message but it is so profound: “No one’s going to judge you at all because everyone has to open up. It’s something everyone has to do. Why keep it to yourself when people you love and that love you are there to help you? They want to help you, they want to get rid of these feelings that you’re feeling.”
Nobody disputes that someone who takes their own life is in deep emotional/mental turmoil but this simple message underlines the necessity for opening up and talking about your problems.
On the face of it, a simple and common sense request, but in a society that often shuns expressions of emotional fragility, it is something many young and not-so-young people find difficult, and sometimes impossible, to do.
In the video released by the HSE Donal Walsh had visibly deteriorated since his TV appearance.
His message has a particular poignancy now that he is no longer with us and hopefully, as he says in the video, if “someone who is standing in a room where they feel there are no windows or no doors just take time, a door will open.”