28 October 2013 Sharland
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Captian Staunton is thought to be unfit and has to run a marathon Priceless
Sort the books, Sharland visits sweep leaves
We watch Hancock its not too bad
No Scrabble today Mary wins get just under 400, though perhaps I will win tomorrow.
Film and television director who worked with Jimmy McGovern, Robert Carlyle and Linus Roache
Antonia Bird Photo: REX
5:30PM GMT 27 Oct 2013
Antonia Bird , who has died aged 62, was a leading British television and film director, and was particularly noted for dramas that explored difficult social issues.
She first came to prominence in 1993 with Safe, a drama for BBC Two about homeless teenagers in the West End of London; Care (2000), also for the BBC, addressed sexual abuse in children’s homes.
On the big screen, Priest (1994) — written by Jimmy Mcgovern and starring Linus Roache — features a young Roman Catholic priest in Liverpool who struggles with his homosexuality. Priest was voted best film at the Berlin International Film Festival and won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Antonia Bird’s most recent television series, screened earlier this year, was The Village, with Maxine Peake, John Simm and Juliet Stevenson. She directed the first four episodes of the drama about grim existence in a Derbyshire village from the eve of the First World War to its immediate aftermath in 1920.
During her early career in television Antonia Bird made 15 episodes for the first series of EastEnders (1985-86) before moving on to Casualty (1986-87), The Bill (1989) and The Men’s Room (1991), a miniseries adapted from Ann Oakley’s feminist novel. In the early Nineties she also directed an episode for Inspector Morse and two for the medical drama Peak Practice.
Born in London on May 27 1951, Antonia Bird began her career in regional theatre in 1968, when she was 17, as a stage manager. At the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester she progressed to direction, including a production of Joe Orton’s What The Butler Saw, and she later took plays to the Young Vic and the ICA theatre. In 1978 she became a resident director at the Royal Court, but a few years later decided that her future lay in television.
Antonia Bird won many awards, including Baftas for Safe and Care; she also won a Bafta Children’s Award in 2009 for Off By Heart, a documentary about a national poetry competition for schoolchildren. With Irvine Welsh (the author of Trainspotting), the actor Robert Carlyle and the film-maker Mark Cousins, she formed a production company, 4Way Pictures, and her other feature films included Face (1997) — a gangster movie which starred Carlyle alongside Ray Winstone and Blur’s Damon Albarn — and Ravenous (1999), in which a small band of American soldiers at a snowbound outpost in California in the 1840s is confronted by a cannibalistic Carlyle.
In 2004 Antonia Bird made The Hamburg Cell, a television film which is a fictionalised account of the 9/11 hijackers’ recruitment and training in an al-Qaeda camp to prepare for their suicide mission — which they call “the big wedding”.
She also worked in America, and in 1995 directed Mad Love, starring Drew Barrymore and Chris O’Donnell as high school sweethearts who go on the run after the girl is committed by her parents to a mental hospital.
Antonia Bird, who was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, had been suffering from anaplastic thyroid cancer.
Antonia Bird, born May 27 1951, died October 25 2013
In the opening sentence of his review of the Frieze Masters art fair (You’ve got Brueghels? I’ll take two, G2, 17 October), Jonathan Jones states that he spots “fakes” at the fair. Only later in the article does he qualify his argument to refer to paintings that have been restored. There is a huge difference between a restored painting and a fake. The best museums in the world restore their paintings all the time and have conservation departments to keep their collections in the best possible condition.
What Jonathan Jones does not acknowledge is that every work shown at Frieze Masters has been through a strict vetting process in which it is viewed and discussed by a panel of experts whose role is to ensure that the work is what it says on the label. The vetting committee is composed of seasoned and respected curators including Richard Calvocoressi, director of the Henry Moore Foundation; Scott Schaefer, senior curator of old paintings at the J Paul Getty Museum; Sir Norman Rosenthal, previously head of exhibitions at the Royal Academy; Susan Davidson, senior curator at the Guggenheim; and David Ekserdjian, curator of last year’s Bronze show at the Royal Academy, to name a few. They perform an extremely important service and I hope their opinion is not being drawn into question.
The article goes on to acknowledge that there is “beauty in bucketloads” at Frieze Masters. I am pleased that many museums agreed on this point and deemed the works at the fair worthy to enter their collections, so they will soon be on view for everyone to enjoy.
Director, Frieze MastersThe Guardian has served us all well by drawing attention day after day to the excesses of spying on individuals and of mass surveillance practised by GCHQ and the US National Security Agency, revealed in the secret material made available by Edward Snowden (GCHQ fears challenge over mass spying, leak reveals, 26 October).
In a world of sophisticated global organised crime, terrorism both imported and home-grown, and trafficking of children and modern slaves, I recognise the need for intelligence agencies. Undoubtedly their work has unearthed criminal gangs and terrorist plots, and we have reason to be grateful for that.
But Snowden’s revelations show a deeply troubling imbalance between their operations and the respect for individual liberty and personal privacy that citizens of a democracy are entitled to enjoy. I congratulate the government on the new powers it has given to the intelligence and security committee of parliament, which has one of the most thoughtful and impressive MPs as its chairman. But it needs to exercise detailed oversight of an intelligence structure that is running out of control, and badly needs a dose of political common sense.
Let me offer one current example. I became an active member of the Anglo-German (Königswinter) Association many years ago. Over the course of those years, Germany has become the most transformed country in Europe in terms of its values and its behaviour. It is our most important partner in the European Union, and a significant ally in Nato. Its chancellor, Angela Merkel, was brought up in a country, East Germany, racked by suspicion and distrust, in which there were thousands of Stasi, fellow citizens engaged in spying on one another and reporting everything to a ruthless totalitarian state. It is impossible to imagine any leader more likely to be infuriated by being the object of espionage by her supposedly closest allies.
I hope the usually courteous prime minister and US president have already offered personal apologies, and a rock-solid commitment to rein in their respective agencies from such offensive and ill-judged actions. What starts with our closest allies must go on to include our innocent citizens as well.
Liberal Democrat, House of Lords
• David Cameron’s response to the scandal of Angela Merkel’s phone being tapped was to tell us that “there are lots of people … who want to blow up our families” (Cameron ‘agrees’ with EU over US spying, 26 October). Is he suggesting that bugging European political leaders’ phones will save us from terrorists?
Snooping on the entire UK population has nothing to do with democracy, it is the conduct of a totalitarian regime. The coalition government rightly abandoned the previous Labour government’s plans for biometric passports. Such schemes simply erode the liberties of the innocent.
Most of the British public understand that there are bad guys out there. Cameron needs to represent the public and defend our democracy, and avoid being an apologist for those who are happy to trample over the human rights of the entire population.
Wheldrake, North Yorkshire
• Oliver Cromwell once posed himself the question: can it ever be lawful to resist the lawful authority of parliament? To which he answered that no authority has the right to do anything it pleases regardless of the consequences – that “all agree there are cases in which it is lawful to resist”. It seems pretty clear, from some of the pronouncements made by establishment figures, that they, by apparent dint of divine right, see no such limit to their actions, or powers. Furthermore, very soon, mass surveillance will make it impossible for the public, who should be the ultimate arbiters of these matters, to lawfully resist.
Tyldesley, Greater Manchester
• GCHQ is deemed to be our jewel in the crown that enables Britain to punch above its weight. But worship of the Cheltenham-based panopticon is too high a price to pay given the attendant loss of liberty. Better to trade our place at the top negotiating table for an informed open society.
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset
Lord McNally’s female prison reform fails to address women leaving prison who have no home to go to (Female prisoners to be moved to jails nearest family home, 25 October). We know 38% of women prisoners are expected to be homeless upon release. Finding suitable housing and having access to support is vital but rarely available. Without it, the 18,000 children separated from their mothers due to imprisonment each year will often remain in care. This leads to the women being much more likely to reoffend. Housing for Women’s Re-Unite project provides family accommodation that brings mothers and their children together on release, cutting reoffending to just 2.9% from the national average of over 50%. Without suitable accommodation and support post-release, many of these women will return to prison.
Chief executive, Housing for Women
• It is to be commended that 4,000 women prisoners will be moved to establishments nearer to their families. However, past experience of the fragility of government targets suggests that they may be conveniently removed or “forgotten” to suit political expediency. There are currently around 1,700 children in custody in England and Wales for whom proximity to their homes and families is just as important, but the Youth Justice Board target that children should be placed no further than 50 miles from their home no longer features. This has been exacerbated by the decommissioning of secure places for children, particularly in local authority secure children’s homes, resulting in many troubled (as well as troublesome) children being placed hundreds of miles away from their families and other local support crucial to effective rehabilitation.
National Association for Youth Justice
There already exists a “middle tier” which could provide accountability for academies and free schools as belatedly advocated by Nick Clegg (Report, 25 October). It’s called democratically elected local government.
Labour, House of Lords
• Anne Liddon (Letters, 24 October) is right to deplore the loss of university-supported adult education. But Tyneside need not despair: when our lifelong programme lost its funding this summer, we formed a community interest company, and launched our new programme two weeks ago. Anyone wanting to know more, contact email@example.com.
Joseph Cowen Lifelong Learning Centre
• Is Jonathan Harris’s comment (Letters , 26 October) that university staff are “writing long letters to the Guardian in work time” an evidence-based argument? Maybe the editor can enlighten us as to when academic staff submit their letters, or perhaps GCHQ could tell us?
• Here I am, a university lecturer, at 10.45pm on a Saturday during term-time writing a letter. However, I’ll keep it short as I still have marking (55,000 words in total) to complete by Monday morning.
• Still picking strawberries and sweet peas from outside hanging baskets on 26 October. Is this a record?
If the Coalition Government wishes to indulge the energy suppliers by allowing over-inflation rises in the cost of our fuel supplies, then they must find a way to help those who cannot afford to heat or eat. It might be a good start to put the Cabinet in a room without heating when the temperature outside was freezing.
The alternative is a British Spring. We cannot go on taking these rising costs of living while others rake in the cash. This is not to do with politics but has a great deal to do with human decency. Perhaps the concept of the workhouse has never left us.
Dorothy Brown, London NW11
As Fukushima continues to turn into an ever more serious catastrophe, and as the Germans confirm that they are turning their back on nuclear, Britain decides it will be expanding nuclear power generation, with the Chinese as the driving force.
It is not clear to what extent the Chinese or the French will design and build the new units, but the whole thing reminded me of a conversation that I had in Frankfurt. It was the time of the Textile Fair and I had fallen into conversation with a Pakastani businessman. I asked him whether he bought European or Chinese/Asian machinery for his factory, and he replied that he only ever bought from the Germans, despite their equipment being four times the price. He said it was simply too expensive for him to have plant standing idle while he waited for repairs to unreliable Chinese equipment.
So, regarding reliability, it’s one thing to have to wait while a knitting machine is repaired but its quite another thing to have half the UK irradiated because of a hiccup at Hinkley Point.
Alan Mitcham, Cologne, Germany
One of the virtues of public ownership of utilities was that the minister responsible could be questioned in Parliament. Ministers hate being embarrassed and can therefore be goaded into action.
The only thing that embarrasses the people who run our privatised utilities is if they can’t increase their prices and profits at several times the rate of inflation every year. Isn’t it time the people responsible be made answerable to the people who pay the bills, not just to their shareholders?
John Naylor, Ascot
Nimbys must make a choice: a substantial increase in electricity costs, power cuts or accepting a nuclear power station, a gas/coal power station, a wind farm or a fracking site to be built adjacent to you.
Alternatively, a 15 to 20 per cent cull of the population.
Clive A Marshall-Purves, Cenesson-sur-Orb, France
Coping with elders can be dreadful
I agree with Linda Dickens and Alan Pearson (letters 22 October). We are being made to feel guilty by those who clearly have no idea that it may be quite impossible for a family to provide the care needed for an infirm and senile relative. I have experience of how the “powers-that-be” do everything they can to shift that burden, and how the consequences may be dreadful.
My elderly mother-in-law lived in her own home with my unmarried brother-in-law, in his late sixties and not in the best of health. She had dementia. She was a very strong-willed, determined lady who behaved irrationally. We live 100 miles away but, like Linda Dickens, we did all we could.
My brother-in-law coped with soaking bed-linen every morning, refusals to get dressed, or eat what he had cooked, wandering off and dramas too numerous to mention. We coped with phone calls at all hours, usually telling us that her cat or her son were missing (they were always elsewhere in the house), or that she wasn’t at home (she’d lived there for over 60 years), or that she was frightened.
A fall took her to hospital; to recover from the (successful) hip operation she went into a care home, where she settled well. However, she had no assets beside her house, also her son’s home, and those “powers-that-be” soon decided that she should go home. Against our advice, my brother-in-law took on the burden again, with some help with intimate care. After a short time, she contracted pneumonia and went into hospital again.
There she spent three agonising months, being pumped with antibiotics for one infection after another, before she died. The NHS “powers-that-be” insisted that this had to be done; two years on, it still horrifies me that, articulate as we are, we were unable to prevent this. My brother-in-law is still affected by his long ordeal.
This experience has led me to make an Advance Decision, with the help of my GP (who wishes more people would do so), I have detailed what kind of treatment I want in the future. I have no intention of suffering pointless pain and indignities myself, or of inflicting suffering on my family.
Christina Jones, Retford, Nottinghamshire
I am so glad Jeremy Hunt understands how Asian families value their elders. Hopefully he will now make it slightly easier for us to get permanent stay visas for our frail and lonely parents.
Many of us have no intention of claiming any benefits for our relatives once they arrive here. The cost of their care would be much less than making several trips a year to visit them. And the British economy would benefit if we did not have to take so much time off work.
Saraswati Narayan, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire
Caro’s debt to the ‘geometry of fear’
As in life so in death. Like much lifetime art criticism on his work the plethora of recent obituaries on the internationally significant British sculptor Anthony Caro largely fail to adequately locate him within Britain’s burgeoning expressionistic sculpture “school” of the 1950s.
We are told tutelage under Moore led seamlessly at the turn of the 1960s to the sudden Americanisation that saw him adopt and develop the abstract welded steel manner of David Smith and Richard Serra.
Influenced also by Picasso and Gonzalez, Caro was, at his best, a great and innovative sculptor who invested prosaic industrial materials and means with an airy poetry, lyricism and an unprecedented openness to space, architecture and the environment. But British contemporaries Lynn Chadwick, Reg Butler, Brian Wall, Bryan Kneale and Robert Adams beat him to welding and construction. And older artists like Armitage, Butler and Chadwick had, at the 1952 Venice Biennale, first put postwar British sculpture on the international map a decade before Caro’s breakthrough.
The lack of any critical comparison between Caro’s new kind of streamlined abstraction and the earlier surreality of the groundbreaking Venice Biennale “geometry of fear” group leads to what at times seems an unthinking Caro cult. The result is surely an over simplistic and ideologically bloated reputation.
Peter Davies, Bath
There is no doubt that Anthony Caro was a very important sculptor. From the example of David Smith he was able to use construction to open up a new world, freeing sculpture from stuffy academicism.
Isn’t it, therefore, rather a pity that we shall never see his like again? Thanks to the stuffy new academicism of the conceptual and anti-art it is now impossible for talents such as his – or Moore’s – either to be nurtured or to flourish.
Progress indeed! Any comments Mr Serota?
Martin Murray, London SW2
This is just how companies are
There seems to be a misconception about the behaviour of large companies.
In a capitalist society their sole purpose is to provide products and maximise profits. That’s how it works. Companies are not people, they are aggressive and finely tuned profit machines and it is naive to expect them to have humanitarian feelings, environmental concerns or qualms about minimising their tax liabilities.
Moderation of their behaviour is the responsibility of government, and all excesses that they manifest are due to the failure of the Government to legislate effectively to contain them.
This is made worse when the Conservatives are in power because Tories don’t like constraining companies, for reasons of both ideology and vested interest.
John Hade, Totnes, Devon
Snooping on the world
Should Germany now give refuge to Edward Snowden (a true American patriot) who revealed the weird extent of US phone-tapping?
Collin Rossini, Dovercourt, Essex
Does GCHQ answer all the cold calls from India or have the cryptographic geniuses discovered how to block them?
Dr John Doherty, Stratford-upon-Avon
Pity the country whose leaders the US does not consider important enough to be bugged.
Peter Forster, London N4
The case of the 3D printer ‘gun’
On the matter of the alleged 3D-printed gun found in Manchester, I note that Elementary, the US Sherlock Holmes reboot, has restarted on British television. The first episode involved a 3D-printed gun as murder weapon.
Perhaps some over-enthusiastic policeman in Manchester had seen the show and jumped to the wrong conclusion.
Paul Dormer, Guildford, Surrey
Unite overplayed a weak hand but the real lesson of Grangemouth is that if we sell off our public services to foreign investors then we must accept our colonial role. We must accept that the continuance of these services is at risk to the whims and profitability of our foreign masters.
Clive Georgeson, Dronfield, Derbyshire
Surely it is as tasteless for a woman in a highly paid professional job to reveal too much cleavage as it would be for a man to wear a cod-piece (“The Clifford Chance guide to women speaking in public”, 26 October). Both distract from the message they are paid to convey.
Eye of a needle
Your newspaper continues to be filled by correspondents and columnists who see the solution to the present austerity in increased taxation of the hated “rich”. Fortunately the tricky question of who the rich are for these purposes is easily answered: they are anyone who earns more than I do.
Richard Harvey, Frating, Essex
Sir, Electricity is our most vital utility. Before privatisation, the CEGB was responsible for meeting all demand in both short and long term. It devised and implemented long-term strategy and would not be gainsaid by politicians with, at most, a five-year horizon. That all changed in 1990 when the industry was privatised, the new owners being motivated by short-term profits and government subsidies. Since then ownership has changed repeatedly and is now dominated by foreign governments. An economist will argue that this does not matter because the law of supply and demand will always ensure that we have electricity — as long as we are prepared to pay for it. However, it matters because foreign owners will always put their interests before ours.
Now, at the eleventh hour, the government has worked out that we must have replacement nuclear power stations and the formula just announced for Hinkley C relies on the French and Chinese governments. We no longer have the industrial capacity to build our own power stations and in any case we cannot afford them, it seems. Even this is short-sighted because the design of Hinkley C goes back 60 years and is obsolete.
I look forward to the day when governments agree to fund the development programme needed to derive an inherently safe reactor system which is, relatively, both quick and cheap to build. In anticipation we should be rebuilding UK skills and industry through government sponsorship.
The country that markets this new design first will earn a fortune. Why can it not be the UK? Or have we lost all ambition?
Dr John C. Bishton
Sir, We welcome the news of the Hinkley C nuclear deal. Nuclear energy has an important role in our low-carbon economy. Hinkley C will help create thousands of new jobs and will encourage investors to support the considerable capital investment needed to bring our energy infrastructure into the 21st century. Investment in Hinkley C will come from a mix of UK and international investors, including substantial support from France and China; this is testimony to the positive environment for investment in UK nuclear energy. This in turn is good news for nuclear businesses, R&D collaboration and skills development, in which the UK industrial and academic sectors can play a leading role.
Professor Panagiota Angeli, Professor in Chemical Engineering,
University College London
Sir, An effective way of lowering the price of energy bills would be to remove the 5 per cent VAT levied. This could be done quickly with little real impact and would not affect the government’s “green” credentials.
Sir, Although David Cameron’s intention to reduce energy prices is superficially laudable (report, Oct 25), he is simply shifting some of the burden from consumers to taxpayers. This does nothing to put our electricity supply on a more rational foundation. The next step should be the elimination of subsidies for renewable energy generation. If solar farms and wind turbines make economic sense, suppliers will invest in them. Until then, the government should focus on ensuring we have secure, affordable energy.
The biggest contribution by far to demand for housing since the Second World War has been the growth of young single people living alone
Sir, The assertion by the Planning Minister, Nick Boles, that the elderly are to blame for the housing crisis serves only to fuel a generational war with false facts (report, Oct 25).
A large proportion of the elderly have downsized to efficient small homes that have released family houses onto the market. The move generates stamp duty for the government, churns the housing market and creates jobs in support. At the end of their lives they move to single rooms in care homes which achieve the very highest level of housing density at 80 people per acre. This also generates jobs: a double land-use for the same land-take.
The biggest contribution by far to demand for housing since the Second World War has been the growth of young single people living alone, and of single-parent families. If Mr Boles wants to make housing more efficient, rather than singling out the elderly, who have accepted condensed living and communality, he should examine how such examples could be applied to these other less efficient elements of the population.
Among those taking part in 100 Women were eminent contributors from scientific and technological fields such as Claire Bertschinger
Sir, We agree with Professor Gibson (letter, Oct 25) that science should play a role in the BBC’s 100 Women season, which shines a spotlight on the lives of women around the world. This is why the presenter Lucy Hockings hosted a discussion about women in science and technology as part of last Friday’s 100 Women conference and why we have chaired discussions and interviews around innovation in education, with a focus on girls and sciences.
We cannot agree, however, that the world of science was unrepresented at the conference. Among the women taking part were eminent contributors from scientific and technological fields such as Claire Bertschinger, director of Tropical Nursing Studies at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Russian-Finnish-Indian engineer Irina Chakraborty and the technology entrepreneur Martha Lane-Fox.
Editor, 100 Women
Fur seals can be dangerous: a reader remembers routinely carrying a stout wooden pole for defence against their sharp teeth
Sir, Covered in feathers he may be, but the seal is a fur seal and not an elephant seal (photo, Oct 24). And anything but a softy. When I was a Deck Officer on RRS John Biscoe, and involved in landing scientific parties on remote beaches, we would routinely carry a stout wooden pole for defence against their sharp teeth.
Why are male prisoners not being given the same consideration as women? Doesn’t the Government believe in fathers’ rights too?
Sir, The Government has announced that, henceforth, women prisoners will be imprisoned as close to their homes as possible, so that they will not be too far from their children, and can enjoy family visits. So why are men not being given the same consideration? Do they not love their children too, or is this simply par for the Government’s course, where fathers are considered to be somehow less important than mothers in the lives of their children?
SIR – Gareth Malone is correct to condemn the decibel level at concerts.
Some time ago my wife and I attended a concert in Salisbury Cathedral by the choral group Blake. They claim to be classically trained but they still resort to microphones and the attendant amplification that is par for the course.
Our granddaughter was in the accompanying choir, but it was mainly redundant. We were sitting three metres from a vast speaker emitting a volume that was almost painful.
BBC bias could influence outcome of a referendum on the EU
27 Oct 2013
SIR – We often go to shows at the fabulous Snape Maltings concert hall but have to leave early because the music is amplified too much. It’s unnecessary because the hall has brilliant natural acoustics.
SIR – Gareth Malone is right. Live and “unplugged” is a good test of music and musicians. This is not a case of classical versus pop; amplification has long been used to make music of all genres more marketable.
Blandford Forum, Dorset
SIR – I took my grandchildren to the cinema recently. The volume was so high that I feared for the children’s welfare. According to the Academy of Paediatrics, “85dB is the threshold for dangerous levels of noise”.
I brought this to the attention of the cinema company, who said: “Our speakers are only able to produce a maximum of 80dB, reached infrequently…trailers are often louder, as this helps to focus attention on the products or films being advertised”.
Perhaps Gareth Malone could lobby the cinema industry?
SIR – Well done The Sunday Telegraph for exposing the BBC bias in its recent news report on EU immigration (report, October 20). This must be embarrassing for the Corporation, given its present appeal for comments from the public about its coverage of news and current affairs programmes.
The BBC seems blind to the reasons why the EU is not working. Programmes investigating its mismanagement and undemocratic nature are conspicuous by their absence.
This raises questions about the BBC’s relationship with Brussels. What is particularly worrying is the effect this bias will have on the electorate if a referendum on the EU is called. I fear the appointment of Tony Hall as Director-General will make little difference.
D R Taylor
Over-amplified concerts are now a painful ordeal
27 Oct 2013
SIR – The BBC’s news coverage is biased against the Coalition Government, not only in the words it uses but in the body language of its newsreaders.
George Alagiah announced the fall in unemployment on the 6pm news on October 16 with a facial expression of the utmost gloom and a voice to match.
Nobody who has the good of the nation at heart could be so miserable at such good news; but it could mean that the economy is improving, which lessens the chance of Labour getting back into power.
A C B Lamport
SIR – Just when you think the BBC’s Left-wing bias could not get any worse, up pops Russell Brand on Newsnight.
Interviewed by Jeremy Paxman, this ridiculous nonentity is allowed to broadcast his extreme Marxist views, calling for a “massive redistribution of wealth”.
While Mr Brand is entitled to hold whatever views he likes, can somebody please tell me why the BBC thinks it appropriate to give him any airtime at all?
Stocksbridge, West Yorkshire
SIR – Roger Daniel could do what I did, when I discovered some years ago how the BBC was using licence payers’ money: stop watching or recording television. He would need to inform TV Licensing of his intentions and cancel his licence.
SIR – It is hard for some BBC broadcasters to hide the sneer in their voice towards the Conservative side. When it comes to interviewing Labour representatives they do so with a different tone.
SIR – I listen to Radio 5 Live but am more and more frustrated by the attitude of its presenters. Anyone who is against Government policy in any way is given large amounts of air time while representatives of the Government are quickly dismissed. As far as I can see, the only way is to privatise the BBC.
SIR – Dismissing ITN as “no longer” a “worthy competitor” to the BBC doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and does a disservice to our talented journalists who break exclusives and make high-quality programmes for ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and others. Our news programmes reach 43 per cent of the public every week, trust levels are higher than all media other than BBC, and our journalists match and often beat their BBC counterparts.
Look at Channel 4 News’s International Emmy for its Homs reporting, how ITV News and ITV’s Exposure led the way in unmasking Jimmy Savile, or the acclaim our production division received for its Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields documentaries.
Quality news programming is enjoying a purple patch at a time when ITN is showing financial stability and record revenues, and the commercial broadcasters are demonstrating a commitment to news and new current affairs formats.
Chief Executive Officer, ITN
Hinkley Point delay has cost us billions
SIR – If Labour had not wasted its 13 years in power, Hinkley Point would already be up and running by now and at a much lower cost. Labour’s dithering has cost the country billions, so it is a bit rich for Ed Miliband to come out with price-freeze proposals in an attempt to buy votes. Labour has a lot to answer for: ruining our pensions, selling our gold too cheaply, allowing unfettered immigration and transferring so much sovereignty to the EU.
B J Colby
SIR – It’s hardly surprising that energy suppliers want to increase prices while they can.
Didn’t a certain party leader recently promise to freeze energy prices if his party wins the next general election? Given that scenario what would any supplier do?
SIR – For those worried about electricity and water bills, I suggest they look towards what is tax-free to us all: sunlight, wind and rainfall. My home uses these for 30 per cent of its energy needs. I threw the electric kettle away and switched to a gas hob type, as another way to cut power costs. Now I have to change my boiler pump to a DC battery-operated pump for when the power cuts begin.
Eric R Hawkins
SIR – Sir Alec Douglas-Home may, sadly, be regarded as “one of the worst prime ministers of the century” (From the Archive, October 20). However, he has been undervalued.
Had there been a general election just before he became prime minister, the Conservatives would have been soundly defeated. When the election did take place, after a year of Sir Alec’s leadership, Labour’s majority was only four. Sir Alec almost pulled it off.
Were he a 21st century prime minister, he’d probably be considered the best so far.
SIR – Twelve months in office is insufficient for such a judgment of a prime minister to be possible.
He was a man of immense integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of duty to his country. I can’t say that about some of his successors.
SIR – Was Lord Home really worse than Salisbury (Boer War bungling); Asquith (poor Great War leadership); Lloyd George (corruption); MacDonald (mass unemployment); Baldwin (loath to rearm); Chamberlain (appeasement); Eden (Suez); Wilson (devaluation); Heath (industrial unrest); Callaghan (winter of discontent); Blair (Iraq war); Brown (debt bubble)?
Dr Martin Smith
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Drawing the lino
SIR – I was astonished to read that the Royal Ballet was “mystified” as to why linoleum was proving problematic as a dancing surface. My great-grandfather developed linoleum in the late 19th century. It was manufactured in Europe and America and sold all over the world. It was intended for parts of the house that needed easy cleaning, such as kitchens, bathrooms and corridors, and never intended to replace wooden stage flooring. No one in their right mind would expect ballet dancers to feel safe on it, particularly on pointe.
Francis M Newton
Saffron Walden, Essex
The edge at Trafalgar
SIR – I was interested to read about the vulnerability of the respective fleets’ ships’ timbers at the Battle of Trafalgar. Another advantage that the British held over the French was below the waterline.
Plates made of copper (mined in Llandudno and smelted in Swansea) were nailed to the underside of these ships. The result was that no algae or barnacles would grow on them, making them much more manoeuvrable and speedy.
Hence, I have often been told, the origin of the phrase “copper-bottomed”.
SIR – Nelson understood his opponent, Admiral Villeneuve, well, and also knew the professional limitations of the combined Franco-Spanish fleet before him that day. Napoleon cared little for his Navy, and did not understand warfare at sea.
SIR – Nelson’s ships’ cannon were fitted with a flint sparking mechanism that ensured the cannon fired immediately when the “trigger” was pulled – so the shot went in the direction in which it was intended.
The French fleet still operated with fuses to fire their cannon. This meant that, with a rolling sea or swell, the delayed firing meant that some shots went over the enemy decks or into the sea.
Dishonest police are in a small minority
SIR – Last weekend, the policing minister, Damian Green, disingenuously expressed surprise that 66 per cent of people still trust the police. Perhaps he wished that figure were lower to make it easier to push through his ill-thought-out policing reforms.
He should not be surprised, because most members of the public are not stupid. They realise from experience that almost all of their police are honest, hard working and dedicated. Breaches of trust by a very small minority of police officers are rare but invariably attract great attention. The time to worry is when dishonesty in the police is so commonplace it ceases to be newsworthy.
SIR – I write to congratulate you on your “Lest we Forget” campaign to commemorate the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. The supplements have encouraged me to research the service of my grandfather, Ernest Lee, a private in the Worcestershire Regiment, who was killed in the Salonika campaign, aged 21.
This has inspired my son and me to honour my grandfather’s sacrifice by journeying, in the New Year, from Sussex to the Doiran Memorial on the Greek-Macedonian border to pay tribute to him and the 2,000 comrades of his who were lost in the Petit-Couronne assault.
Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex
SIR – Jasper Copping’s report on the increasing consumption of roadkill came only a few days after my husband picked up a pheasant from the side of the road and served roadkill stew for dinner.
I prefer the aisles of the supermarket to the roadside, but if roadkill encourages my husband into the kitchen, I won’t complain.
SIR – It is not just 10 pence and 50 pence pieces that exhibit magnetism. If you try it with copper coinage, you will find it is a date-related phenomenon.
In my pocket a 2p piece from 1994 is magnetic whereas one from 1981 is not. It must be a further sign of the devaluation of sterling, now they make our coinage from cheaper alloys.
A chara, – I would like to draw attention to a Budget cut that has so far attracted little attention. The €20 training allowance previously paid to Fás trainees (a payment to long-term unemployed participants) has been abolished.
The Government has been urging the country’s unemployed to retrain and upskill, but in its wisdom has cut the small incentive to do so. €20 may not seem a substantial amount, but when a person’s total weekly income is €188 or in the case of someone under 25 €100, then it is suddenly a substantial sum.
Surely in these times it would have made more sense to retain this allowance and ever so slightly alleviate the plight of those citizens who wish to better their chances of gaining employment? – Is mise,
Mount Sion Avenue,
Sir, – We would like to express our continued concern with the system of direct provision. Direct provision debases the inherent dignity, worth and value of human beings. As well as the concerns expressed in The Irish Times about direct provision recently (October 7th, 8th, 21st & 23rd), a High Court judge in Northern Ireland refused to send asylum seekers back to this jurisdiction, as the direct provision system was not in the best interests of children.
The effects on the physical and mental health of asylum- seekers in direct provision have been documented by non-governmental organisations over many years. Inadequately regulated private contractors have control over intimate aspects of living, such as when to eat, what to eat and who to share a room with. This raises serious concerns regarding the impact of direct provision on asylum-seekers. Legislatively prohibited from working, some asylum seekers have no option other than to rely on direct provision accommodation centres for years on end. Generally barred from having access to the welfare system, asylum- seekers are provided with a pittance in order to live their daily lives with some semblance of dignity.
Inadequacies with the system for determining whether a person qualifies for refugee or other protection status cannot absolve the Departments of Justice and Social Protection from blame for the creation, maintenance and support of the direct provision system. Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, need to act now so as to bring this dehumanising system of direct provision to an end and restore dignity to those people exercising their internationally recognised right to seek asylum. – Yours, etc,
SAMANTHA ARNOLD, Irish Refugee Council; BERNADINE BRADY, Child & Family Research Centre, NUIG; SAOIRSE BRADY; DECLAN BRASSIL, Galway City Partnership; SUZY BYRNE; ALLAN CAVANAGH, Artist; MARK COEN, Durham Law School, Durham University; VICKY CONWAY, Kent Law School, University of Kent; AOIFE DALY, School of Law, University of Essex; YVONNE DALY, School of Law & Government, DCU; SHANE DARCY, Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUIG; FERGAL DAVIS, UNSW Law School, Sydney; SONYA DONNELLY, Clinical Lecturer, University of Hong Kong, FIONA de LONDRAS, Durham Law School, Durham University; FIONA DONSON, Faculty of Law, UCC; SUZANNE EGAN, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; MÁIRÉAD ENRIGHT, Kent Law School, University of Kent; BRYAN FANNING, School of Applied Social Science, UCD; MAEVE FOREMAN, School of Social Work and Social Policy, TCD; PIARAS Mac ÉINRÍ, Department of Geography, UCC; FIONA FINN, Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, Cork; BREDA GRAY, UL; ALAN GREENE, Durham Law School, Durham University; ROBBIE GILLIGAN, School of Social Work and Social Policy, TCD; LIAM HERRICK, Irish Penal Reform Trust, Dublin; DEIRDRE HORGAN, UCC; NIAMH HOWLIN, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; JENNIFER KAVANAGH, Law Lecturer, WIT; PATRICIA KENNEDY, School of Applied Social Science, UCD; DANIELLE KENNAN, NUIG; URSULA KILKELLY, Faculty of Law, UCC; FERGAL LANDY, Child and Family Research Centre, NUIG; LOUISE KINLEN, Researcher; SIOBHÁN MULLALLY, Faculty of Law, UCC; RAY MURPHY. Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUIG; CLAIRE MURRAY, Faculty of Law, UCC; MUIREANN Ní RAGHALLAIGH, School of Applied Social Science, UCD 38. ÉIDÍN Ní SHÉ, University of Southern Queensland; TREVOR Ó CLOCHARTAIGH, Leinster House; AOIFE O’ DONOGHUE, Durham Law School, Durham University; CONOR O’MAHONY, Faculty of Law, UCC; JACQUI O’RIORDAN, UCC; CATHERINE O’SULLIVAN, Faculty of Law, UCC; Charles O’Sullivan, Cork; HELEN UCHECHUKWU OGBU, Galway; FERGUS RYAN, Department of Law, DIT; JENNIFER SCHOLTZ, Children’s Research Centre, TCD; JENNIFER SCHWEPPE, School of Law, University of Limerick; EIMEAR SPAIN, School of Law, UL; LIAM THORNTON, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; JUDY WALSH, School of Social Justice, UCD; ROISIN WEBB BL; NESSA WINSTON, School of Applied Social Science, UCD; GERRY WHYTE, School of Law, TCD
C/o Liam Thornton,
School of Law,
Sir, – After 31 years abroad, I have recently calculated what it would cost me to return to the land of my birth.
After the recent Irish Budget, my annual tax liability would almost triple if I were resident in Ireland rather than New York. Furthermore, I could pass on only €240,000 to my son upon my death and would pay more than half of any wealth beyond that to the Irish Revenue.
In the US, the federal government allows me to pass on up to $10 million tax-free (there are further taxes in some states).
While corporate tax rates in Ireland seem attractive, where is the incentive for the individual to open a business there in the face of such a confiscatory tax regime? Then I listen to the Dáil debates and see that your political opposition feels this tax burden on wealth creators is still not high enough and they are now the largest party in Dublin.
Sadly, if I were graduating from university in Ireland again, I would make the same wise decision to leave the country. Plus ça change . . . – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It is somewhat unedifying a spectacle to us Catholics to see Irish Anglicans beating the lard out of each other in public. I understand that this type of literate bar fight was quite common in previous centuries.
That said, I have to confess to a degree of sympathy for those of our separate brethern who object to “polyester Protestants”. The objectors could be described as “Basil Fawlty” Anglicans. Fawlty clearly didn’t much like those chappies from Calais and beyond. Not all, but most of the “polyester Protestants” are lapsed Catholics. These lapsed Catholics may be subdivided into à la carte Catholics, and cart-before-the-horse Catholics.
Before the emergence of “polyester Protestants”, an old Church of Ireland lady confided to me that there was a sort of apartheid between Church of Ireland members whose ancestors have been in Ireland since before the Reformation, and those who came in after the Reformation, especially those of Cromwellian origin. Interestingly, the Irish-language poet, Dáibhidh Ó Bruadair (1625-1694), a Catholic, had a deep regard for the former, but couldn’t stand the latter.
I blame Fr Tony Flannery and the Association of Catholic Priests for causing much of the problem around “polyester Protestants” with which the more stake-in-the-country Anglicans have been plagued. If Fr Flannery would only hurry up and set up a Protestant denomination for the à la carte Catholics, and cart-before-the-horse Catholics, the problem would be largely solved. These dissenting Catholics are Protestants basically, but the more “Basil Fawlty” Anglicans of Ireland want nothing to do with them, obviously, as they lower the tone of the communion preferred by the stake-in-the-country Anglicans. If Fr Flannery could do the needful, the Olivia O’Learys of Ireland would have somewhere more welcoming to go on Sunday between Sunday Miscellany and The Marian Finucane Show. That would be a “win win” outcome.
Have the warring Anglicans thought of doing an anger-management course in Maynooth? Alternatively these crypto-Catholic Anglicans could petition Rome to set up an Anglican Ordinariate in Ireland – that is, a body that caters for cradle Anglicans who have come to realise that they now have more in common with Rome than with the cold house that the Anglican Communion has become for them. Home sweet Rome! Pax vobis. – Yours, etc,
SÉAMAS de BARRA,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.
Sir, – In my travels around this country, I am horrified by the amount of people who use their mobile phones at petrol pumps whilst re-fuelling. Despite warning signs which clearly state: No mobile phones, these people feel their conversation is so important that they have a total disregard for the safety of others.
The use of any transmission device, mobile phone, two-way radio etc.. is highly dangerous in the presence of flammable liquids – all it takes is one spark to cause an explosion. Please, please switch off mobile phones in petrol stations and reduce the risk of serious injury or death. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Is it not ironic that people like Hugh Treacy (October 25th), who supported and canvassed for the retention of the Seanad, should now have to write to the papers castigating one of the leaders of the campaign for reneging on the reforms promised?
I thought myself that the retention of the expensive and privileged elite in the Seanad was indefensible given that the country is bankrupt and that we have more public representatives relative to population than comparable countries.
How could we have been so gullible to have fallen for such a dishonest campaign? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – If Frank McNally’s mystery e-mailer (Irishman’s Diary, October 24th) has a problem with the Hiberno interpretation of “a couple”, imagine how his Anglo brain must be frazzled by “a feed”. And as for a rake – well he’d definitely be in the ditch after that! – Yours,e tc,
South Circular Road,
Sir, – With reference to Fiona McCann’s article (Weekend Review, October 19th) on the relative numbers of male and female speakers at the forthcoming Web Summit in Dublin, surely the content of what speakers at such conferences say should matter more than their gender?
Regarding gender imbalances generally, why is it so often the case that when men are in the majority in a particular field this is perceived as an issue, with calls for gender quotas and the like to redress the imbalance, whereas no corresponding perception seems to exist when the reverse is the case – as is the case in areas such as primary school teaching, and is likely to be in the future in fields such as law and medicine?
Lastly, I have always understood equality of opportunity, a concept with which I entirely agree, to mean giving priority to merit irrespective of factors such as gender, etc, but this is not the same as pursuing gender balance as an end in itself which, in some circumstances at least, may end up doing more harm than good. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Patrick Corkery’s statement (Letters, October 8th) that Neville Chamberlain, as a Unitarian, “would not have been overly familiar with” the “peace in our time” prayer from the Book of Common Prayer is absurd. And his anti-Unitarian barb spoils an otherwise good letter.
When William Robertson, Rector of Rathvilley, Co Carlow, left the Anglican fold in the 1760s because of his Unitarian leanings, he favoured a prayer book shorn, as he put it, of all “controverted points”. And his friend Theophilus Lindsey’s Unitarian Book of Common Prayer was published in 1774 thus continued to include the “peace in our time” prayer because in no sense was it a “controversial point”.
For the same reason both Dublin Unitarian Church’s Service Book of 1915, edited by Ernest Savell Hicks, and the 1932 Unitarian Orders of Worship, the use of which would have been widespread in Britain in Chamberlains’s time, include similar prayers. It is clear, therefore, that a 1930s Unitarian would have known the imagery involved perfectly well.
But in any case, for the record, and for Mr Corkery’s enlightenment, Chamberlain was not so much quoting from the Book of Common Prayer as echoing a remark made by Benjamin Disraeli upon returning from the Congress of Berlin in 1878. – Yours, etc,
(Dr) MARTIN PULBROOK,
Sir, – I was interested to note in your News in Numbers (October 24th) that the HSE deficit up to August of this year was €94 million with projected deficit for the entire year of €105 million. I presage that I may be against public perception in this matter, but I believe these figures are a good result for the HSE operating in a demand-led service environment.
To put it in context, the HSE budget for 2013 is approximately €13 billion, in layman’s terms €13,000 million. A projected deficit of €105 million for the year represents a .8 per cent budget overrun, or in further clearer terms an 80 cent overrun in a budget of €100. I would imagine that there are many large businesses in Ireland who would not be unhappy with an equivalent result for their financial year. I am not an avid HSE supporter but this result must also be viewed in the context of the demand-led business that the HSE is in. As opposed to some Government departments the HSE, at the commencement of any fiscal year, do not know in advance how many people will require, use or be entitled to their services.
In conclusion, maybe media commentators should instead of beating their breasts over a €105 million HSE budget overrun, put the overrun in the perspective of a demand-led service in financially challenging times. – Yours, etc,
JONATHON ROTH (Dr)
Sir, – On a recent Saturday I had the misfortune to stand on O’Connell Bridge, Dublin, in the company of at least 30 others, waiting for a bus, when a kindly passerby informed us that there were no buses coming through our main thoroughfare due to a protest somewhere. In the 20 minutes I stood there, no one in authority appeared to inform the long-suffering public.
I then proceeded to Tara Street to get on the southbound Dart. When the train arrived the announcement informed us that the train was going to Howth. On the train, the announcement continued in this vein, at the same time stating that the next stop would be Dalkey. For those who knew where we were going this did not present a problem, but the poor tourists who were trying to navigate the system were totally dependant on the kindness of fellow passengers. Is this the best service that can be provided in our capital city? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – “Former owner lists defects before €4m auction” (Front page, October 24th).
A case of gaudeat emptor! – Yours, etc,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.
* In my opinion, the world of international relations took a turn for the truly surreal in the past week with the extensive coverage of the US’s National Security Agency’s ‘Prism’ spying scandal.
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Duped by ‘historical porn’
The protestations by France, Germany and other states that their leaders’ phones were “tapped” and their private conversations were listened to surreptitiously has dominated the news in Europe, the Americas and around the world. The US’s international standing is now very much under attack, reeling as it was already from Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s diplomatic one-two over the Syria debacle.
The allegations being made are that the US listened in on the private telephone conversations of national leaders around the globe in addition to millions of communications being sent by ordinary people, as well as financial and industrial leaders. However, I do take issue with the level of “shock” and “horror” being expressed by some critics of the ‘Prism’ programme.
First off, the idea that spying on friends was “never acceptable, no matter in what situation”, as the German chancellor put it, is naive in the extreme. As long as there has been diplomatic relations between states, there has been spying, especially among allies. Allies always want to make sure that the people they sign treaties with won’t stab them in the back in some way.
Secondly, don’t we, the people, condone a simpler form of surveillance in the form CCTV in our towns and cities to curb criminality, and in the form of reality television like ‘Big Brother’, where, in the early years at least, sane people’s privacy was invaded on a daily basis for the sake of ratings and entertainment? With the rise of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and the kind of uninhibited gossip on them, people practically throw their privacy away.
Thirdly, more than a few government leaders, like our own Enda Kenny, have the good sense to assume that their communications are being monitored by others.
A rare dose of common sense in a world going mad.
Clara, Co Offaly
DOES GOD EXIST?
* The national debate has swung to the Council of State and the notion of members having to make an oath in front of God. The question seems to be whether someone who does not believe in God should have to swear an oath on His or Her name. This opens an interesting debate on the subject of the existence of God.
So, what does science say about God? It proves His existence, of course, but in order to understand this, one must remember that terminology has changed greatly since the time that God got His name from our ancestors.
The proof? Newton’s Law on the conservation of energy proves “God’s” existence. It states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, it merely changes from one form to another.
Death is the changing of one form of energy to another. The lifeforce leaves our mortal coil. But it cannot be destroyed, according to Newton.
Attymon, Athenry, Co Galway
WE’RE SMOKING LESS
* Christopher Snowden suggests that Ireland’s high ranking on the European tobacco-control scale hides low rates of smoking reduction here in his piece ‘Why our efforts to cut smoking have been a failure’ (Irish Independent, October 23).
However, contrary to Mr Snowden’s claims, the prevalence of smoking in Ireland has fallen from 33pc in 1998 to 22pc today – a drop that directly correlates to measures such as the workplace smoking ban and increased duty on tobacco.
Numerous studies point to the influence that branded packaging has on young people’s decisions to start smoking and highlight the positive effect that plain packaging has on smoking prevalence.
The Asthma Society of Ireland strongly supports the Government’s commitment to introducing plain packaging, yet this is only one of a suite of measures contained in its Tobacco Free Ireland 2025 policy. The banning of smoking in cars where children are present; tobacco-free environments at schools, playgrounds and other public places; and smoking cessation support services are just some of the measures put forward.
Over 5,000 Irish people each year die prematurely from tobacco-related illness, and smoking affects the quality of life of many thousands more.
The Asthma Society of Ireland
* I read Marian Finucane’s interview (Irish Independent, October 26) with interest. She said that a friend of a friend who was a retired professional led too quiet a life for her to contemplate retirement herself.
I have a friend who has a friend who is retired on basic pension. She gets up in the morning, goes for a long walk, goes to Mass, and then does not have time to read the paper until lunchtime because she volunteers at a local charity.
After that, she is off to deliver meals-on-wheels and then, if she has any time left, she campaigns for those on the state pension who have suffered several cuts in benefits during the recession.
I am a retired journalist (who worked abroad) and when I gave it up I was asked if I would miss my name in print every day. I replied that I would enjoy the anonymity of just being an ordinary person again, even though I enjoyed my job. Sometimes it is good for the soul to move out and let others take over and take the credit for a change. You would be surprised what fills the time!
Castletownbere, Co Cork
KEANE ON ROY
* Rachel Wyse has described Roy Keane as an unsuccessful manager.
He brought Sunderland to the Premiership and saved Ipswich from relegation. He was an outstanding footballer with a great work ethic and a credit to himself and his country.
He is also probably the best TV pundit in the UK at present.
He is not perfect – who is – but he is living a full life and is not afraid to speak his mind. He is who he is.
Vernon Avenue, Dublin 3
DEATH OF A LEGEND
* As a lifelong supporter of Dundalk FC, I was saddened by the recent death of Tommy McConville. Always good humoured and available for a “footie” chat on Oriel match nights, Tommy was one of the best players ever to lace a boot for the club.
May he rest in peace.
Beaumont, Dublin 9
TRYING TO BE NICE
* What’s the difference between Ryanair and the Government? Ryanair is trying to be nice.
Westport, Co Mayo
HAUGHEY HATCHET JOB
* I read that some members of the family of the late former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey are concerned that the forthcoming TV series about him will turn out to be “a hatchet job” on his reputation (Irish Independent, October 25).
If only. I think Mr Haughey did the hatchet job himself as, in his lust for riches, he sold himself to big business. If the Haughey family were cute, they’d keep their heads down at this time and let the hurricane pass.
To many, though, Mr Haughey’s reputation will remain where it rests now – in the gutter.