19 October 2013 Boxes
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble They are to transport a deposed king, but get a spy instead, bombs in every pocket. Priceless
Sweep the drive sort the books so tired
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary winds get under 400 though perhaps I’ll win tomorrow.
Wolfgang Holzmair was a master of the sawdust ring who tamed elephants and chimps but excelled as ‘Lord of the Lions’.
Wolfgang Holzmair in the ring
5:52PM BST 18 Oct 2013
Wolfgang Holzmair, who has died aged 80, was a celebrated circus performer known as “Lord of the Lions”.
Holzmair began his career as a stable hand with the Franz Althoff Circus in Germany when he was 14. In the late 1950s he joined France’s largest circus, the Amar Circus, where he began working with lions in 1960 after the regular trainer left. It soon became clear that he was a natural lion tamer; some even suggested that his own blond leonine mane gave him some unique affinity with the animals.
Holzmair went on to make his name in America where, in 1971, he became one of the first Europeans to be recruited by the Barnum & Bailey circus. During his seven years with The Greatest Show on Earth!, he was known for entering cages full of lions with only a couple of canes and a Roman centurion or Tarzan outfit for protection. Among his best-known turns was carrying a 450lb fully-grown male lion on his shoulders.
07 Sep 2012
28 Mar 2013
23 Mar 2009
Holzmair shouldering a 450lb male lion in the ring
Holzmair once explained that his secret was “ferocious love”; any animal threatening to get out of line would be pulled up with a sharp smack of his cane. Typically Holzmair worked with 18 to 22 cats, all female except for one heavily-maned male which was only allowed into the ring for Holzmair’s weightlifting routine after the females had left: “The female is dangerous when you have a male. They become jealous,” he noted.
In 1973 Holzmair was the hero of the hour when he came to the rescue of the great Swiss clown, Pio Nock, after he tumbled cycle-first into the lion cage during a high-wire cycling act. “My lions have respect,” Holzmair recalled. “When Pio fell down, no lions went down [from their stools]. Everyone said, ‘Open the door.’ But I said, ‘No, don’t open the door.’” Holzmair grabbed Pio, who was not seriously hurt, and placed him in the centre of the cage where a pyramid of steps offered some protection. Then he went on with his act. “When you open the door, the lions know the act is finished,” he explained.
Although, to audiences, the lions appeared to be as tame as kittens and Holzmair seemed to handle them with consummate ease, he notched up more than 40 scars from encounters with the animals and admitted he was afraid of them: “I’m scared before I go in, but when I get inside I’m the same as with elephants and horses. And then when I come out I’m shaking again.” On one occasion he was attacked by a three-year-old lioness after he had made the mistake of letting a male in with a group of females: “There was flame in its heart. In a second, someone hauled me out before she killed me,” he recalled.
As it turned out he had more reason to fear another circus animal — the chimp, which, contrary to popular opinion, is often regarded by aficionados as the most fearsome creature in the circus. Once, in Austria, Holzmair spent a month in hospital after being attacked by a young chimp. But when another chimp attacked him again in 1976 he knew what to do. “Wolfgang, he cover up in fetal position until help come,” recalled the Dutch chimp trainer Rudi Lenz. “Wolfgang know from experience.”
An orphan, Wolfgang Holzmair was born in Germany on October 20 1932. He spent most of his career in France where he worked with the Amar, Pinder and Jean Richard circuses. In retirement, he ran a restaurant in the French town of Cahors.
He is survived by his wife, Helena, a former trapeze artiste, and by their daughter.
Wolfgang Holzmair, born October 20 1932, died October 16 2013
Geoffrey Wheatcroft (Plebgate’s greatest revelation? 16 October) hopes to expose the opportunism of the Sun’s political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, in wearing a T-shirt proclaiming “I am a pleb” by adding “No, you’re an old Etonian”. Well, he’s not. Neither is George Osborne, but that at least is one attribution the Guardian usually gets right. And now that it looks as though revisionist fiction in William Boyd’s novel Solo has dispatched Bond to Fettes rather than Eton, we’re haemorrhaging putative old boys. Captain Hook at least remains.
Tutor for admissions, Eton College
• Memo to health secretary: how can people take in an elderly relative (Follow Asian example to help elderly, 18 October) if they’ve lost their spare bedroom?
• None of your correspondents (16 October) mention the proven health benefits of male circumcision. For instance, the CDC (part of the US Department of Health) reports that “Male circumcision reduces the risk that a man will acquire HIV from an infected partner and also lowers the risk of other STDs, penile cancer and infant urinary tract infections”. There is therefore good reason for continuing the practice.
Dr Michael Rivlin
• Bernard Bloom (Letters, 18 October) forgets Shakespeare’s point: divinity needs to shape our ends, but humans merely “rough hew them how we may”.
• Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries sounds a wonderful novel, but when Justine Jordan (Asking novel questions with epic ambition, 16 October) writes “New Zealand literature lacked a Victorian epic”, Rose Tremain must wonder how literary memories can be so short. Her excellent (and epic) The Colour (2003) was also set against the Victorian-era New Zealand gold rush.
• The three longest Booker prize winners have all been written by women. Discuss.
You report that a “senior Labour MP welcomes public debate over security service powers” (Report, 18 October). It is not just a debate we need but an independent inquiry into how our existing structures and arrangements for holding our intelligence and security services to democratic account have failed us. On Tuesday, we tabled an early day motion stating that the revelations exposed in the Guardian that British security services have examined the internet activities of British citizens without the consent of parliament demonstrate that the intelligence and security committee is not fit for purpose. Further, we believe that this committee should be chaired by an MP who has not served in a department with responsibility for intelligence and security services in order to avoid any potential allegation of conflict of interest. We called for an independent review reporting to parliament on the appropriate structure and arrangements to enforce effective parliamentary democratic scrutiny of the intelligence and security services. On Thursday, the chair of the ISC announced his committee was to review whether the legislative framework governing the intelligence services access to private information was fit for purpose.
This fails to address the need for a root and branch review of the way in which our intelligence and security services are held to democratic account, in particular the role of the ISC, and leaves the review in the hands of a committee that many believe has failed to hold these services to account, and whose members are largely ex-ministers who have formerly served in departments with responsibility for these services and who therefore some would judge as compromised. Despite all the public furore over the Snowden exposé, we seem to have arrived at a very “British coup”-style result with a smokescreen inquiry and the reinvention of the principle of the “police investigating the police”. This can’t be right.
John McDonnell MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
The Charity Commission has never claimed that “millions of pounds of charity money raised for the Syria crisis” are going to terror groups (Interview: Charity begins at home, Society, 16 October).
I have stressed that many excellent charities are doing remarkable work to alleviate the suffering of vulnerable people in war-torn areas like Syria. Diversion of funds is always a danger for charities working in disaster zones. The commission recognises the particular dangers they face in areas in which terrorist groups operate. With the help of charities, we have produced guidance for trustees on minimising those dangers and protecting their funds from diversion to terrorists.
Our advice to donors is to give to well-established charities experienced in addressing such risks.
Chairman, Charity Commission
Polly Toynbee is right to draw attention to the silence of the press on the lobbying bill (18 October). But that is hardly surprising given that the press has complete immunity; it will be free to spend as much as it likes promoting its proprietors’ corporate agenda. This leaves Murdoch, Rothermere and the others free to occupy an even more central part in the next election: the fewer voices in the campaign, the more they will dominate.
This, however, may be the undoing of the restrictions. In 1998, the European court of human rights struck down tight spending limits on how much charities and others could spend to support or oppose parliamentary candidates. As a result, the law was changed in 2000 to increase the limit. One of the reasons for the court’s decision was that there were no comparable restrictions on the press, which was free with impunity to campaign for or against anyone it liked. This is not to advocate the extension of the lobbying bill to the press, or to say that the European court would accept such a gag on free speech. But it is to say that what is good for Murdoch and Rothermere is good for Oxfam and Unite, and that by denying to others what it allows to the corporations that run the newspapers, the government may have left itself vulnerable to another legal challenge. It is a curious kind of liberal democracy that requires legal action to defend free speech at an election.
Professor KD Ewing
Institute of Employment Rights
• The deadline for response to proposals for reform of judicial review is 1 November. In these proposals, there is an emphasis on who should be allowed to bring a claim, rather than, as at present, on the importance of remedying public law wrongs. Charities and NGOs would be prevented from bringing a claim if they could not show they had a direct interest in the outcome and, if such organisations did take a case and lost, they would have to pay the defendant’s costs. Third parties who make expert interventions would be deterred by the increased financial costs of intervening and lawyers would be heavily penalised for bringing “weak” cases to court.
Public challenges are vital to a democracy: the main function of judicial review is to prevent the abuse of public power. But under these proposals, individuals will no longer be able to challenge wide-ranging policy; public interest cases will cease. They are also an attack on the poor. Because of the prohibitive financial risks, charities and NGOs will be excluded from bringing litigation, lawyers will be discouraged from acting on behalf of individuals who have no money and the voice of disadvantaged groups will not be heard. Combined with the cuts in legal aid we are witnessing a deep shift away from a society based on the common good to one where justice is subverted in favour of economic advantage.
Churches Refugee Network
You quote a leader from the GMB (Nuclear expert raises fears over Chinese role in atomic plants, 18 October) as suggesting it is almost Orwellian to allow Chinese investment into our highly sensitive energy infrastructure, given that China has been linked to corporate hacking. The point is that the British government is guilty of Orwellian doublespeak. On one hand, we’re told the Chinese are a threat to British interests with their industrial-scale hacking, yet George Osborne claims that paving the way for the Chinese to play a dominant role in the UK nuclear industry is a triumph for his diplomacy.
Illustration by Gary Neill
The fact is that, post-privatisation, the energy sector was starved of investment for years. Our infrastructure is creaking and the government has to go cap-in-hand to the Chinese begging for money. Far from being a triumph of Osborne’s diplomatic skills, British weakness has been laid bare. We are now utterly dependent on foreign state-owned companies to keep the lights on. Chinese companies already own large chunks of our gas, electricity and water infrastructure. The government’s disastrous energy policy means it had an almost nonexistent negotiating hand in China. The GMB is pragmatic and recognises that the investment is desperately needed. But we see no sign of Osborne securing any guaranteed benefits for UK manufacturing. Meanwhile, the Chinese manufacturing supply chain and nuclear industries will benefit from having a controlling interest in the UK nuclear industry.
National secretary, GMB commercial services section
• The UK chancellor has just signed up to a deal where EDF and the Chinese get £14bn just for the construction of Hinkley C. The UK government has also promised profits to the French and Chinese with a guaranteed price which is twice the existing cost, beginning in 2025 for 35 more years, after which they walk away from the UK with their profits and leave all the waste behind for thousands of years. By 2025, electricity costs in the UK will already be lower than today’s costs, as wind, wave, solar and tidal power become established and their initial development costs recovered (see Germany’s success).
For nuclear, the taxpayers will also pay for the waste and decommissioning – £100bn and counting just for legacy waste. Taxpayers will also pay all nuclear insurance costs, from construction to onsite spent fuel storage, for thousands of years. It’s not rocket science; it’s not even secondary school maths. We’re being conned by false threats of the lights going out and outright lies that nuclear is carbon free. And let’s not even start on the health costs – yet another example of international government cover ups which make Nineteen Eighty-Four read like a fairy tale.
• The Royal Academy of Engineering study, GB Electricity Capacity Margin, highlights the need to act now to avoid energy shortfalls. This report looks at a worst-case scenario where everything that could go wrong does go wrong all at the same time. The report highlights the need to facilitate a rapid move to deployment of new large-scale electricity generation to avoid supply shortfalls over the next 10 years, and also to enable the transition to a low-carbon energy system.
Capacity is tightening and there is a need to progress market reform to the point where capacity gets built. However, the consequences of unfortunate combinations of events (such as cold winter combined with plant failures beyond normal levels) would not be national blackouts. There are tools already in place to manage such situations, including voltage reductions, commercial contracts for short-term reductions of demand by industry, and in extremis, controlled and localised power cuts for short periods.
The Institution of Engineering and Technology has long argued for a balanced energy portfolio including nuclear and has drawn attention to the risks of uncertainty created by the lack of long-term strategic planning which is causing potential generators to hold off investing in new plant until the position on government support is clearer.
Dr Simon Harrison
Institution of Engineering and Technology
• Osborne says that using Chinese money to build a new nuclear power station will free up money for us to build more hospitals and schools. Does that infer that China is giving us the money?
Grace Dent (17 October) is surprised that the party which advocates notions of a Big Society now sneers when communities work together to be charitable. And well she might be, as food banks are the clearest possible sign that Big Society is succeeding as a policy.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury alerted Christians like the Trussell Trust in June 2011 to the dangers of this Government initiative to shrink the state and hand more control of services to volunteer groups and charities, warning that it might be a “stale slogan” and “an opportunistic cover for spending cuts”.
This much was apparent in an address to the Council of Christians and Jews at a reception in Downing Street last year, where David Cameron reaffirmed his Big Society idea “that there’s a huge space between government and the individual that can be filled by organisations, faith-based organisations perhaps in particular, that can deliver great public services, that can do great things in terms of tackling some of the problems of our time”.
There can be no greater witness to “the problems of our time” than food banks, a clear sign that the poor are both increasing in number and becoming poorer. We shared Rowan Williams’ concern then as we do now, that while at grassroots level the churches, other charities and the donating public are delivering a valuable service, they are being seen as convenient patsies by a government intent on offloading the financial and social responsibility for the poor on to voluntarism.
Alistair McBay, National Secular Society, Edinburgh
You report (16 October ) the food bank operator Trussell Trust as saying that food bank use has increased and people going to food banks had “started to return food that needed to be warmed up because they could not afford to switch on their electricity”.
This raises some questions. When selecting food from the bank are those concerned unable to tell the difference between food that requires heating and that which does not? Prior to food bank distribution were those concerned able to return food to the shop where they purchased it because they were unable to heat it? What happens to food returned to the bank?
By making such a statement I cannot decide if the Trussell Trust is displaying a bleeding heart philosophy or taking the majority of us for gullible mugs.
It is also alleged by some that food banks are utilised more because of benefit cuts. This being so, I for one am pleased that my charity to others is, through the medium of food banks, putting the choice to donate into my own hand rather than having it forced upon me by taxation.
Finally, of course the use of food banks has increased; why pay for food when you can get it for free?
Dennis Wang, Tunbridge Wells, Kent
On the front page of The Independent on 16 October, a telling juxtaposition. Next to the headline “Hungrier than ever… since April, 350,000 people [in UK] have received emergency handouts”, is a photo of an elated Wayne Rooney, who earns in the region of £200,000 a week!
Bankers, eat your hearts out!
Peter Brown, Brighton
This English thing about badgers
We have a peculiar English problem with badgers. A top predator, they have no natural enemies and population is limited only by road deaths.
Evidence shows they attack hedgehogs, ground-nesting birds and domestic poultry. Much has been published about their spreading bovine tuberculosis (bTB) to cattle, with a recent report attributing over half of herd breakdowns to badgers.
Authorities in other countries such as Ireland have accepted the need to remove diseased badgers. In England the badger is sanctified to an almost untouchable status, and the culling policy has provoked fanatical hostility. The only explanation for this disproportionate reaction appears to be the Wind in the Willows effect. This has produced a folk memory of Badger as a benign father-figure. It is time to grow up and engage with the real world, while we still have a dairy industry.
In reply to Mick Humphreys’ query (letter, 15 October), yes, many other animals have been found to be infected with bTB. In most species it is individual animals and they do not spread disease to others. By contrast, infected badgers shed large quantities of the organism and the infection is amplified to other susceptible animals.
Janet Devoy, Newcastle upon Tyne
I read in your interview (14 October) that Owen Paterson stated that if badgers were not shot, gassed or by other means culled they would die a slow unpleasant death from tuberculosis. Is he saying that all badgers have TB?
If not he appears to seriously expect us to believe that the people undertaking the culling discriminate between healthy and infected badgers and only kill the infected ones. If he really is so lacking in knowledge on this matter, who is going to have any faith in his views on GM crops?
Simon W Yorke, Semley, Wiltshire
Latest bright idea for education
So, Lord Baker announces the latest in a long, very long line of “pioneering reforms” to fix secondary education.
“Technical education is a matter of vital interest to us as a nation. We are going to have an enormous struggle to get back our exports. It will be an enormous asset to have as many as possible of our young men and women effectively educated in the technical schools and I hope that technical education will be given in the future a far higher status in educational circles than it has had in the past.”
No, this isn’t a quote from Lord Baker. This is Captain Edward Cobb, the Conservative MP for Preston, speaking to the Education Bill in the Commons in 1944.
The Butler Education Act did indeed set up a nationwide system of technical schools and colleges. These were dismantled by successive education ministers with successive bright ideas. The more things change the more they stay the same?
Jeff Wright, Broughton, Hampshire
I was brought up in Wigan, Lancashire. There was a college there, Wigan and District Mining and Technical College.
My brother did not pass what was then called the scholarship to grammar school – this could have been because he came from a Methodist family and our father was a railway guard. He then went on to the secondary school, which was not denominational, and at the age of 13 passed the entrance to the college.
This college ran many courses, some of which enabled students to gain a degree from London University. This he did, at the age of 20 – an unusual feat even today.
Of course, this college no longer exists, but it would seem to be quite a superior establishment to several that either exist today, or are proposed in the continued meddling by our leaders.
Margaret Rowden, Bath
Business brains fried by recession
Nick Goodway reports that workers at every level in banking are suffering under increased pressure (“Stress and job cuts take toll on bankers”, 17 October). But the scale of the problem is perhaps greater than reported.
Research carried out by Head Heart + Brain has shown 40 per cent of employees in the UK’s banks, insurance companies and accountancy firms think the leaders in their organisation have put them under a lot of pressure in the past six months. This was the highest level of any industry in the UK and compares unfavourably to the average of 22 per cent.
There are wider implications beyond the health of workers. Our findings demonstrated a correlation between sectors where employees say their leaders are under a lot of pressure and sectors with poor “brain-fried” leadership. It is clear that the credit crunch and the resulting recession, far from bringing out the best in our leaders, has brought out the worst in them.
Jan Hills, Partner, Head Heart + Brain, London, E14
Big Six offer no real choice
It was laughable of British Gas to claim that they “understood the frustration” of their customers as they announced another huge price rise.
No business is obliged to pass on rising costs to its customers. They can instead choose to allow their profits to fall, or, more likely in this case, not continue growing at such a fast rate. The Prime Minister is failing in his responsibility by failing to take a stand against the Big Six. There is no meaningful competition in the domestic energy market and consumers therefore have no genuine choice.
Dr Dominic Horne, Ledbury, Herefordshire
A senior British gas executive says use less if you want to pay less, and the PM says switch if you don’t like it. Are we living in a Wonderland visited by Alice and ruled by Marie Antoinette?
Ramji Abinashi, Amersham, Buckinghamshire
Boyd Tonkin may be right, for all I know, about the literary merits of Morrisey’s autobiography (18 October), but the important point is that a book published now for the first time cannot be a classic by definition, and by publishing it as a Penguin Classic, Penguin Books are jeopardising the well-deserved reputation of Penguin Classics as a brand. I wonder how the many excellent editors and translators who have worked hard on editions of classic works for Penguin over the years are feeling about this absurd devaluation of Penguin Classics.
John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire
Value of Latin
Ignoring his mention of Polish plumbers, I understand Laurence Shields’ need to point out any deficiencies in our education system for technical skills (letter, 17 October). However, he seems not to realise that the current inability “to conjugate Latin verbs” is one of the main reasons for the emergence of a new generation of young people unable to construct a correct grammatical sentence in English.
Jennifer Richards , Tenby, Pembrokeshire
The award of the Man Booker Prize 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 Donega
Now that individuals change employment frequently, company-based final salary pensions no longer make sense
Sir, The Government has decreed with regards to pension drawdown that an annual pension of £20,000 is consistent with not becoming dependent on the State (reports, Oct 17, 18). That is equivalent, depending on assumptions, to a pension pot at a retirement age of 65 of £550,000 at the very most. Yet we have tax-privileged pension pots of up to £1.25 million and tax-privileged ISAs which can exceed £1 million. The State has no business subsidising annual pensions in excess of £20,000, especially given that a penurious old age awaits too many British people. Future taxpayers
face an intolerable burden of welfare obligations.
The automatic opt-in pensions scheme will probably flounder, given the increasingly part-time and freelance nature of work. The proposed basic State pension of £7,250 per year is clearly inadequate. It needs reinforcing with an even-handed pensions contract between the State and the individual where the State would dangle a carrot by matching the individual’s voluntary after-tax contributions up to a limit. The resulting indexed pension, with the State guaranteeing indexation, should be at least double the present basic State pension. The stick would be that the feckless who spurn a subsidised scheme might endure a less than dignified retirement.
The contract, as well as a cut in income tax, would be financed by axing the tax reliefs. The middle class would protest but they do not need the Government’s help to provide further for their old age.
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset
Sir, I am afraid that, like the Labour Party, The Times is behind the curve on pensions. Most pension managed funds charge around 0.5 per cent, not the 1.5 per cent you assert in your leading article ( Oct 18), the latter being more akin to retail funds that, of course, one can place in a Self-Invested Pension Plan.
That said, fund performance is poor at many of the funds that charge the lower rates. Compare them with some funds that do charge the higher rate, and say which you would have preferred your pension to have been invested in.
There are plenty of very low cost funds available for savers who are motivated by cost alone. Our own business offers plenty but, it must be said, demand for them does not resemble Harrods on sales day.
Hargreaves Lansdown, Bristol
Sir, The pensions system is not fit for purpose, but it is not entirely the fault of the City. Now that individuals change employment frequently and tend to survive longer than the companies they worked for, company-based final salary pensions no longer make sense. However, defined contribution schemes are a poor and inefficient alternative where, in return for high fees, there is no pooling of mortality risk and not much of investment risk. We need portable schemes in which investors can accumulate guaranteed lifetime benefits indexed to, perhaps, average earnings. Unfortunately such products cannot be offered at affordable rates without some farsighted innovation from government. If the Government were to issue longevity bonds, making real payments matching the longevity experience of cohorts of the population, we might begin to see a more sensible system evolve.
Cass Business School, London EC1
Successive governments have overseen changes that prioritise cost over quality of justice and have thereby gained increased control
Sir, It would be better for the magistracy of the UK if its top incumbent showed more curiosity before pronouncing on the “slow creep of the police state” (report, Oct 17). If he had spent even a short time viewing the Ministry of Justice and Home Office websites he would have found that while, since 2009, recorded crime has fallen by 7 per cent, the number of people charged with crime (and therefore appearing in court) has fallen by 11 per cent, and out-of-court disposals have fallen by 39 per cent and police cautions in particular by 40 per cent.
There is a well documented but not necessarily well understood long-term trend of falling crime. Mr Fassenfelt’s empty court dock is caused because of less crime and not because of any usurping of power by the police.
Assistant Chief Constable, Hertfordshire Constabulary,
Sir, I was pleased to see the prominence given to the views of the chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, all of which are apposite. Additionally, I would mention that alongside the decline in the number of lay magistrates is the increase in number of district judges This means that decisions as to guilt are taken by one paid professional replacing three trained unpaid local volunteers.
Successive governments have overseen these changes prioritising cost over quality of justice and gaining increased control by means of appointment and sanction.
C..B. Blakey, JP
Our Service personnel deserve a more efficient and effective system of redress that the relatively toothless Service Complaints Commissioner
Sir, It may not be appreciated that Service personnel have no contract of employment, no trades union or staff federation to look after their interests and limited access to the employment tribunal system (report and Opinion, Oct 18). They are subject to terms and conditions of service which can, and frequently are, changed by the Ministry of Defence, often to the detriment of Service personnel.
Their right of redress? This is a slow and complex process called Service Complaints which are usually submitted through the chain of command which investigates and determines the complaints — often the very people that the person has the grievance against. Judge and jury? Or through the relatively toothless Service Complaints Commissioner, who in reality can only stand on the sidelines.
Our Service personnel deserve a more efficient and effective system of redress.
Lt-Col Jeremy A. Field (ret’d)
Forest Row, E Sussex
The running costs of the House of Lords have been falling and new peers are needed to keep the House up to date and active
Sir, There are three simple figures which, had they been included in Francis Elliott’s article about the House of Lords (Oct 17), would have painted a rather different picture.
First, the running costs of the House of Lords have been falling not rising — down by 15 per cent in real terms since 2010-11.
Second, we need new peers to keep the House up to date and active: since the general election, nearly 100 peers have either died or become ineligible to attend.
And third, the increase in the number of peers in the three main parties and on the cross benches who are able to attend and vote is actually quite modest. Compared with 2007, when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, the total will have gone up by 31 once the July list of peers has worked its way through.
The Government’s attempt at fundamental reform of the House of Lords was stopped by the House of Commons last year. But that has not prevented the House of Lords from doing its invaluable work of revising legislation, a job which it continues to do thoroughly and effectively.
Lord Hill of Oareford
Leader of the House of Lords
Membership of the Ooty club was once restricted to “officers of the armed forces and gentlemen moving in general society”
Sir, The story of Sir Neville Chamberlain inventing snooker ( Sport, Oct 14) is incomplete in one respect. It was not just in the “summers” that Chamberlain was based in Ooty, the Queen of the hill stations, in south India. He was ADC to General Sir Frederick Roberts, VC, commander-in-chief of the Madras army 1871-75, and based in Ooty. Perhaps Chamberlain’s horse was also a “fresh recruit” for he named it snooker, too.
The photograph above is said to show Roberts signing the rules of snooker in Ooty. Seated on his right is Lt-Col George Pretyman, military secretary. Standing from left to right are: Col Stewart, Maj-Gen Godfrey Clerk, Adjutant General, Lt Neville Chamberlain, ADC, Col du Caine RA, Capt Ian Hamilton, ADC.
Whether Barry Hearn or Pankaj Advani will be let in by the Ooty club when they are there must be in doubt. Membership was once restricted to “officers of the armed forces and gentlemen moving in general society” and it is not much changed today.
SIR – The biggest drawback to removing pews from a church and replacing them with stackable chairs is that hassocks disappear and one is faced with having to kneel on an unforgiving stone floor. Any day now, I expect to see the exhortation “kneel” in the prayer book or service sheet replaced with the word “crouch”.
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall
SIR – Pews were constructed by skilled carpenters. They add to the character of churches and the experience of attending a service. Most of them are not particularly uncomfortable to sit on for the hour or so that services last. If the Bishop of Dorchester wishes to turn churches into leisure centres, he should encourage the building of church halls and refectories.
SIR – We now know, from the Independent Police Complaints Commission, that an inspector and two sergeants deliberately misrepresented the content of their meeting with Andrew Mitchell and the inspector then called for his resignation as a Cabinet minister.
Having lied in the court of public opinion, they obtained a conviction, and he was sentenced to a term on the back benches. Three chief constables think that there is no need to discipline these officers. They seem not to understand the critically important nature of this case to the public.
Policing requires the consent of the law-abiding majority of citizens. If several of the most senior police officers in the land send a message that fitting-up an innocent man is acceptable behaviour, it seriously undermines the confidence of the people.
SIR – I do not recognise the crisis in policing described by Peter Oborne. He appears content to smear 140,000 or so people based on the alleged actions of a handful.
Uncomfortable case of the missing hassocks
18 Oct 2013
I also found his reference to draconian penalties for assaulting police officers odd. In my 10 years as a police officer, I think 10 people have been charged with assaulting me and not one has received what most of us would recognise as punishment.
The people I work with take seriously the trust the public places in them. There is no incentive to do otherwise, and we are all fully aware of the consequences of such actions – police officers routinely being jailed where anyone else would not be.
SIR – Years ago, I had a friend who owned a Triumph TR3 sports car. He had a habit of blipping the throttle once before turning off the ignition in the belief that it filled the carburettors ready for restarting.
One evening outside the local pub, he performed his usual habit and a young police officer told him that he was going to be charged with making excessive noise.
The officer swore to tell the truth, then told the court that he had seen my friend revving his car incessantly for several minutes. The court found my friend guilty.
This incident has coloured my thinking on police honesty ever since.
Cefn Coed, Glamorgan
SIR – Like most citizens, I tend to take the police side in any confrontation. That is what makes Plebgate such an own goal.
A constable exaggerating an incident is no big deal. Discrediting a senior politician and having your pals back you up is reprehensible. It is worse for three Police Federation officers to misrepresent a meeting with the politician, and out of control when three chief constables whitewash them. Front-line police are betrayed by such leadership.
Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife
Slimming the Army
SIR – The Army, despite the cuts, remains inherently unbalanced, with too few support arms to keep its “teeth” units in the field. Infantry units can only be used in benign constabulary environments if they do not have suitable battlefield mobility equipment or artillery, medical, engineer, signals and logistic support.
The post-1945 commitment in Europe is finally drawing to a close, and the British political appetite for bloody land-based “boots on the ground” involvement in distant wars has evaporated thanks to the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Strategic Defence Review of 2010 rightly pointed out the lack of a direct threat to Britain and that, in future, we would have to be able to react globally with strategic partners. Coupled with the legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan, this suggests most forcefully that Britain’s defence posture will be maritime and expeditionary.
We need to transfer resources from less mobile land-based military and air assets to amphibious, sea-based ones.
Dr Duncan Redford
University of Portsmouth
SIR – With respect, Lord Dobbs is looking from the outside in.
I run a streamlined process that enables creative people to take risks. We absolutely trust our writers – who include David Hare, Jane Campion, Tom Stoppard, Christopher Hampton, Heidi Thomas, Paula Milne, Jimmy McGovern, J K Rowling, Steven Moffat, Abi Morgan and David Nicholls.
We are not in the business of recreating “repeats of past successes”. By contrast, it’s the US that is remaking the BBC’s Criminal Justice and The Syndicate. House of Cards is one of my favourite dramas ever made, but the recent Netflix version was a re-make.
Lord Dobbs cites three great US dramas from the past 15 years and the only three Scandinavian dramas known to British audiences, and compares this to the 450 hours of drama the BBC makes each year.
From Call the Midwife to Parade’s End, the BBC makes great drama for all.
Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning
SIR – I wonder whether the upset to so many caused by the fight between the Senate and House of Representatives in America has changed the mind of anyone who previously wanted an elected second chamber in Britain. If not, why not?
The Hutch touch
SIR – Leslie Hutchinson’s career was not over, to all intents and purposes, by the end of the Second World War.
Hutch was at the top of his form in the mid-Fifties, performing every night at Quaglino’s in St James’s, where I was lucky enough to hear him on many occasions.
Sir Beville Stanier Bt
A word in your ear
SIR – Making phone calls without irritating others is simple when it is remembered that the caller’s lips are effectively just a fraction of an inch from the listener’s ear. Scarcely more than a whisper is required.
Vilassar de Mar, Barcelona, Spain
Life without a phone
SIR – Some six months ago, I had my voice box removed as part of a tracheostomy. I have recovered from the operation and am getting on with life the best I can, but I have come to learn many things: mainly that our society is geared around phones.
A simple job of changing the car insurance from one company to another has proved difficult. I tried to cancel online, but it was impossible. In the end, I wrote to Direct Line. I asked it what its policy of dealing with people who could not speak was, and its response was to ask me to phone several numbers for more information.
Government departments are no better. They note the fact that I can’t speak on my file, then tell me that if I require further information, I should phone.
Even when I send emails to my doctor to order drugs, I receive a phone call back. Thankfully, after contacting the health centre manager, she has put in place a system so that if I send an email, the conversation will progress by email.
It is little things like this that really help.
Reading the bottom line
SIR – Once again, the literacy and numeracy of our children are found to be lagging behind their parents’ and grandparents’ and that of children abroad. In 1992, John Major’s government set up Ofsted to “standardise and improve the education of our children”.
Ofsted costs us over £200 million each year. Couldn’t this money be better spent?
Do it your shelf
SIR – My tip for cleaning oven shelves is to put them in the dishwasher, but take them out at the start of the drying cycle. The softened detritus can then be scrubbed away quite easily.
SIR – While we are at it, perhaps something could be done about the heating elements in electric ovens, which are on the roof running side to side, right at the front. So, when putting something on the top shelf, it is hard to avoid singeing the oven gloves, or even setting them on fire.
They must have been designed by a man.
Do we need bins for every colour of the rainbow?
SIR – This week, my local council delivered to me a blue bin into which I can put all recycling material together with two waste bins for kitchen waste. They replace a blue and black bin I already had for recyclable materials. These are added to the two bins I already have for garden and other waste.
You report Lord de Mauley as saying that an EU directive will require all recyclable material – paper, metal, plastic and glass – to be collected separately. Will my council, in 2015, have to replace my single blue bin with four separate bins for my recyclable rubbish?
SIR – Recently, I drove an Australian friend through the streets of our beautiful Georgian town of Monmouth. “Oh dear! Is this a distressed area?” she asked, looking at the hundreds of purple bags (plastics) and red bags (paper and cardboard) which cluttered the pavements. I forbore to tell her that on the previous day she would have seen brown canvas bags for garden waste, blue containers for food waste, and that the next day would feature big black dustbins – now only permitted to be put out once a fortnight.
SIR – I wonder how many of the people who voted “yes” in the 1975 referendum on EEC membership imagined that the (now) EU would determine the bins they use. Can a country that cannot decide how its rubbish is collected call itself independent?
Harry M Randall
SIR – Four recycling bins? I would welcome the addition of one extra bin if it be assigned solely to unwanted EU directives.
Arthur W J G Ord-Hume
Sir, – The amount of qualifying income for the purposes of the over-70s medical card has again been reduced in the current Budget to €900 for a married couple and €500 for a single person. If this trend continues in the next couple of years the over 70s medical card will be finally abolished by stealth.
It would appear that this Government’s wish is that all pensioners should work until they are 80 or die at 65. – Yours, etc,
Balbriggan, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Budget 2014 contains just one change in relation to tax credits in Budget 2014 and it is an outrageous one. Treoir, the National Specialist Information Service for unmarried parents, is extremely concerned at the removal of the One-Parent Family Tax Credit from parents (usually fathers) who are sharing the parenting of their children. This tax credit has up to now been available to both parents who do not live together but who share the parenting of their children. As a result of the change these parents will have less money in their pockets and ultimately it is the children who will suffer.
This blanket approach from the Government will apply to all fathers regardless of their level of involvement in the lives of their children. Some fathers share parenting on a 50/50 basis and must pay a higher rent in order to have an extra bedroom for their child, as do the fathers who have their children two nights a week or less.
Treoir has long been advocating co-parenting as it is widely recognised that it is best for children to grow up with the involvement of both parents in their lives, as long as this is safe, practical and in the best interest of the child.
This measure is a slap in the face to parents who are doing their best for their children and reveals a complete lack of awareness of the challenges involved in co-parenting. Shared parenting is good for children and this change (which will result in an increase in fathers paying at least €30 or more in tax per week) is a gross disincentive.
Treoir calls on the Government to reverse this unjust and unduly harsh measure of Budget 2014. – Yours, etc,
Assistant Chief Executive,
Lower Mayor Street,
IFSC, Dublin 1.
Sir, – The Budget announcement shows unequivocally that the Labour Party sold us a pup at the last election and can be assured every old dog, the grey vote, will not forget those failed promises.
Locked out in 1913 and locked out again in 2013 by politicians masquerading as parties of the left? – Yours, etc,
Conquer Hill Road,
Sir, – Your Budget Editorial (October 16th) gave the impression of a reasonable budget and indeed Miriam Lord also seemed underwhelmed. You don’t seem to have read the same Budget as Vincent Browne, who seems to write the sort of journalism The Irish Times used to be noted for, standing up for those without a voice. The ladders are being pulled up, the illusion that we’re all doing it together is swallowed whole, while the people on the fringes have only the mavericks like Vincent Browne to shout for them now. –Yours, etc,
Sir, – I resent the constant claim that the “best and brighest” people have been forced to emigrate. I work, and never emigrated. Why would I get work if there were better and brighter people applying? – Yours, etc,
A chara, – In the court case in April in which I appeared as a witness and gave evidence against my brother, the defence team, acting under instructions from their client, made claims about my motivation and conduct.
In his article (“Adversaries believe Gerry Adams is vulnerable”, Home News, Analysis, October 15th) Gerry Moriarty relies entirely on these same claims without any attempt at balance. He uses selected words from a lengthy cross-examination in which I was restricted by the court by what I could say as is evident from the transcript.
He acknowledges my rejection that I committed any offence, but like some others in the media he ignores the detailed evidence I gave in the court in response to all of the other claims. He selectively quotes 64 words out of 20,222 contained in my cross-examination which in itself is not the full context of this case.
For the record, I answered all questions put to me. I co-operated fully with all of the law agencies involved. Any decisions I took in respect of statements made by me were taken with legal advice. I reject totally the accusation made by others and carried without question by Gerry Moriarty that I somehow was acting in a “calculated self-interested fashion to avoid charges of withholding information”.
Instead of repeating defence claims without challenge, Gerry Moriarty should await the conclusion of the attorney general’s review; and following political intervention by the DUP, the Police Ombudsman’s report and the PSNI investigation into these matters.
In a separate article Eamonn McCann (Opinion, October 17th) tries to draw a link between this case and the bishops’ handling of child abuse. There is no comparison between these two situations. This was a family tragedy reported to the statutory agencies and RUC in 1987. The Catholic Church hierarchy presided over institutional abuse for decades. They swore victims of abuse to secrecy. The church hierarchy set out to silence victims and deny them justice. – Is mise,
GERRY ADAMS TD,
Sinn Féin President,
Sir, – Your Editorial (October 17th) states the HSE has “failed to live within its financial allocation” for the past six years. The statement is inaccurate.
I was CEO of the HSE between 2005 and 2010, during which time I was also the accounting officer responsible to government for balancing the HSE budget. The annual accounts of the HSE which are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General, confirm that during this time the HSE operated within its budget. In 2007 the HSE overspent on some services to meet patient demand. A supplementary budget was technically required to allow movement of funds from one part of its budget to another but the overall budget allocation was not exceeded.
All other supplementary budgets during the period 2005 to 2010 were not related to budgetary control. They were, for example, provided by government to fund new initiatives that it announced during a particular year. They were never provided, to use your term, to bail out the HSE.
The HSE continued to operate within budget between 2008 and 2010 despite very significant changes in funding following the onset of the economic crisis. This was achieved through major cost reductions totalling more than €1 billion in many areas including the cost of pharmaceuticals and by centralising procurement.
This budget control followed three decades during which overspending and the requirement for supplementary budgets to fund day-to-day services was a regular feature of the Irish health service.
Fairness requires that when discussing budgetary control at the HSE the facts as documented in the annual accounts of the HSE, and the annual reports of the Comptroller and Auditor general are accurately reported. This in turn might help to promote constructive discussion as to why such control was possible, why it did not exist prior to the HSE and why it has been lost in recent years as the HSE is deconstructed. – Yours, etc,
Prof BRENDAN DRUMM,
MD, UCD School of
Medicine & Medical
Sir, – The Editorial (October 17th) referred to the Budget initiative for a thorough check to be undertaken in respect of individuals’ qualifications for medical cards.
Your Editorial said criticism of the plan has come from nursing home owners. I wish to put on record Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI), the representative organisation for private and voluntary nursing homes, has not criticised this measure.
The Editorial incorrectly stated nursing homes benefit financially in respect of the general medical card scheme. This statement is incorrect.
Responding to the Budget, NHI called on the Minister to include nursing home residents in the categories of persons exempt from the prescription charge. Fair Deal already requires residents in nursing homes to pay for a range of services not covered by the scheme. Such costs are required to be paid for from the outstanding 20 per cent of residents’ income.
Our view is the imposition of the prescription charge is incomprehensible and unfair and it is incumbent upon Minister for Health James Reilly to exempt nursing home residents from the prescription charge. – Yours, etc,
Oak Road, Dublin 12.
Sir, – I am obliged to rebut the inappropriate and inaccurate misrepresentations that have been made by Liam Doran, INMO (Letters, October 16th) regarding the reported Irish Hospital Consultant Association meeting last Saturday, which I attended. The use of the term “too posh to wash” was ascribed to me in a disparaging manner failing to understand precisely the content of the discussion.
Had Mr Doran been present, he would have discovered it was Peter Watson Jones who introduced this term. Mr Watson-Jones, as a highly respected solicitor and lead investigator, was invited by the IHCA to speak on the disturbing findings from the Mid Staffordshire inquiry. He detailed the findings of a “culture of mediocrity” in an NHS Trust that were identified as having an excessively high mortality rate. Three core critical findings were outlined. Serious concern was raised in regard to nursing standards and patient care. The chairman of the inquiry, Robert Francis QC in response, coined the term “too posh to wash” when the report was published in February. The British government immediately acted on the grave findings. On March 26th, the secretary of health, Jeremy Hunt, announced in Parliament that nurses were not too posh to wash and that the current nursing degree programme would have to be changed to reflect that. It is his intention that new training nurses will be obliged from now on to work for one year as health care assistants to improve their empathy and understanding of patient needs. This should be placed in the historic context of the decision in 2008 with the 2020 programme initiative that nursing should move from a vocational traditional hands-on profession to a degree level one.
As most medical professionals are aware, the medical and nurse training bodies in Ireland have a very close relationship with their sister colleges in the UK. We have invariably modelled and copied our training programmes and our healthcare systems to reflect the NHS model.
We are about to introduce “networks”. These demographic structures are distributed in a very similar pattern to the original health boards except they will be linked to a tertiary level teaching hospital. They sound remarkably similar to the financially targeted driven NHS trusts that have now come under critical scrutiny. I have simply asked are we about to follow in a similar vein the mistakes that have been now begun to be learned in the UK.
I work on a daily basis side by side with both degree-trained nurses and nurses of the older tradition. I have the highest respect for them. Nurses work extremely hard and frequently under enormous pressures because of patient throughput. As a consequence, they are forced to spend an inordinate time on paper work and computer inputting driven by modern structures and bureaucracy. This is a fundamentally at variance with what they were intended or trained to do.
There is much valid concern regarding recurrent media reporting of adverse hospital events, some of which have led sadly to individual patients’ demise. Too often, there has been an attempt to immediately identify the medical consultant as the chief culprit. “System failures” are frequently now cited in a neutral noncommittal way by the HSE with reassurance that lessons have and will be learned.
In our current blame-driven adversarial culture, it has become far too easy to immediately target the medical consultant and support staff rather than acknowledge the real possibility that the deficits lie elsewhere. I suspect James Reilly and his senior Department of Health officials may well be reflecting on the (Francis) Mid Staffordshire inquiry in that context. I certainly hope he is. – Yours, etc,
Castleknock Road, Dublin 15.
Sir, – Your paper carries yet another report about yet another group, Space International, calling for the much ballyhooed Nordic model to criminalise the purchase of sex (Home News, October 18th). It makes the allegation that Ireland is a lucrative place for pimps. Would it be too much to ask if, for once, such groups produced some evidence to back up their claims, because the evidence suggests the Nordic model doesn’t work. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I write in relation to the report by Patsy McGarry (Home News, October 16th) on part of the speech made by Archbishop Jackson at the Diocesan Synod of Dublin and Glendalough.
The archbishop states that sectarianism has been a “bitter experience” for him and that he has experienced it in Dublin and Wicklow, not least within the Church of Ireland.
As one who has served there as archbishop I am deeply shocked by this statement. He refers to a people whom I served to the best of my limited ability and whom I came to love dearly. Certainly I can recall individuals uttering sectarian sentiments, but they were very few and far between and in no way could they be considered to be representative of the vast majority of our people.
It is true that there are many people deeply concerned about the fear of losing our ethos in the field of education; of losing the link with Trinity College Dublin in the training of our teachers and of any possible deterioration of our ethos in Tallaght hospital. However, such views are not sectarian but rather a drive to maintain our ethos as a minority church. I am among that number, but I do not think that anyone could accuse me of sectarianism.
I am deeply shocked and saddened by the archbishop’s remarks at the Dublin and Glendalough synod. – Yours, etc,
(Former archbishop of
Sir, – Whatever the merits of the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson’s praise of the GAA for its peace-building efforts, there is another code that could – maybe should – be playing a more significant role.
It is high time that more than just lip service is paid to the idea of having an all-Ireland soccer team. Considering that much of the most vehement sectarianism emanates from the soccer terraces, a move to a 32-county team might help to tackle this.
The bigger challenge perhaps would be finding success on the pitch; current form of both the Republic and Northern Ireland suggests a tough road ahead. The ugly side of the beautiful game. Soccer imitating life in general you might say. – Yours, etc,
Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon
* As head of our local community watch, I find the cut to the phone allowance a regressive step. It will surprise no one that this Government is going the extra mile in making life difficult for the most vulnerable, and you will not get more vulnerable than elderly people living alone, with the constant fear and threat of assault and robbery.
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The problem lies in the lack of garda manpower and closure of rural garda stations that gives ruthless thugs a free rein to intimidate and frighten old people to an early grave. The elderly have been allotted an unfair share of these austerity measures. From short-changing on pensions to taxing savings. All the stops have been pulled out, making it more difficult to become eligible for a carer or home help. The abolition of the bereavement grant is a real low blow. The law was changed recently to allow burial wrapped in a sheet or blanket – was this done in anticipation of cutting the burial grant or is it just another attempt to get the last cent from our dead relatives?
Shiny new barriers have appeared outside the Dail, is this another sign that protesters with walking sticks and wheelchairs will be kept well back if protests by the grey brigade gather momentum after this Budget?
To sum it all up, I know of a very wealthy homeowner who recently spent €15k on repairing a window in a listed building. This is the type of person who should be asked to shoulder more of the burden. Not John or Anne who don’t have electronic gates and SUVs the size of my house.
All this backslapping about an exit from the bailout programme, but at what cost? We are only now suffering the effects of the last Budget which does not bode well for our ageing citizens.
Gort an Choirce, Dun na nGall
WE DIDN’T ELECT ADVISERS
* The Budget should not be decided by six people alone in a government; or should I say six advisers behind them. There needs to be urgent Dail reform. I would suggest that every elected representative should act for the people, rich or poor, and frame an inclusive Budget.
We don’t elect an ‘opposition’ when we go to the polling station, we elect a public representative. The candidate we elect will represent us at all levels, while in the Dail, it should never be about the ‘power’ of one side as there will never be a balance for the people.
Michael Noonan stated we are getting our purse back from the troika, but no one party should hold the purse strings.
Why do we need a Taoiseach when it’s clear the advisers decide on most things the Government do?
The current system does not serve the voter. Why not just elect advisers? It makes one wonder, do we need so many TDs in Dail, maybe the referendum should have been about Dail reform: get rid of 60 TDs. It will be interesting to now hear the opinions about the Budget from the 60 senators we saved from abolition.
CUT SEANAD ALLOWANCE
* Given recent government concern about the (alleged) annual cost of running the Seanad, I expected to see action in the Budget. Surely it was the ideal time to cut the senators’ tax-free ‘turning up’ money (officially their travel and accommodation allowance)?
But no. In its wisdom, the Government decides instead to save money by abolishing the telephone allowance paid to the elderly.
Well I suppose they thought if the senators lost their ‘turning up money’ then TDs would have to lose theirs.
It’s a lot to lose. For example TDs in Band I (they live 25km to 59km from the Dail) get €25,295 pa tax-free to cover their ‘travel’ expenses to work and within their constituency on top of their €87,258 salary.
Ranelagh, Dublin 6
BEDOUIN SUCCESS STORY
* I was very surprised to read Eoin Murray’s reporting of Israel’s policy towards the Bedouin community in Negev, Israel (October 11). Being a Bedouin myself, and an Israeli diplomat, my perspective is different and, I believe, more informed.
Descendants of nomadic tribes who migrated to the region in the 19th and 20th centuries, we, the Bedouin community in Israel, are part of the Israeli success story. There are close to 190,000 Bedouins in Israel: some in Galilee, in northern Israel, while the majority (160,000) live in Negev. The Galilee community is generally more organised, educated and integrated into modern Israel, while 40,000 Bedouins in Negev still live in unregulated villages.
Since Israel was established 65 years ago, various Israeli governments have attempted to help the Bedouins adopt a modern lifestyle, providing free education, infrastructure, medical care and more. This takes time, and requires the full participation of community leaders. What is needed is a united community leadership, which sadly does not exist at present.
A shepherd cannot be transformed into a hi-tech engineer, and the government must retain a realistic understanding of the population. The Bedouin are a nomadic people who are not by nature landowners. Yet the government suggests, for example, free land to build houses. It would be more successful, instead, to allow the building of agricultural farms, similar to the Jewish kibbutzim.
Until I was eight years old, the Bedouins in my Galilee community lived in tents. Now, most Bedouins are living in concrete homes, attending college, holding positions in government, and more.
Counsellor for Civil Society Affairs
Embassy of Israel, London
SMUG LEADERS’ PUNT
* After watching the Budget, I was thinking what are those two leaders trying to do to ordinary people?
Enda and Eamon were looking very smug and celebratory as Noonan was telling of the hardship their two political parties were going to inflict on the citizens of the 26 counties. What have they got against the elderly, the sick, the parents of young children, and the under-25s – while the rich stay rich?
Maybe Enda and Eamon have bet on London to win the Connacht, or God forbid, the All-Ireland championship next year as the youth of Ireland cannot afford to stay here.
Castlerea, Co Roscommon
* This Government has frequently encouraged citizens (particularly young people) to establish private pension savings. This seemed reasonable enough; after all it is wise to provide for an uncertain future. They then brought in the 0.6pc pension levy in 2011, which was to run for four years. This was a plunder of capital sums, equivalent to taking money from private savings.
We were told that this money would be used to fund the jobs initiative (where did it all go?). We were also assured that this was a once-off. Naively, I felt comforted to hear this. Alas, in this Budget, they have increased the levy by 0.15pc and extended it by a further year. Now, why on earth would any young person sign up to a private pension scheme when the Government can dip their avaricious hands into it?
Dunleer, Co Louth
DEMOCRATS ALSO WRONG
* Ed Toal’s excellent letter, on the global effects of American political pig-headedness (October 16), was correct on all counts, bar one.
While the Republicans are indeed “flexing their muscles”, so too are the Democrats, who are just as unflinching in their defence of their ‘Obamacare’ bill, as the Republicans are in their opposition to it – the nub of the current trouble.
It seems to me that national healthcare is never a bad thing – but the present impasse is far from being a purely Republican hang-up.