29 October 2013 Hospital

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Pertwee is wanting to be come an officer. Cue faux posh accents. Priceless
Sort the books, Hospital hurrah go back in four weeks. Sandy comes.
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary wins get just under 400, though perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Annette Kerr
Annette Kerr was an actress and confidante of Kenneth Williams, who even proposed to her

Annette Kerr as Dora Grimes in 2point4 children Photo: BBC
7:09PM GMT 28 Oct 2013
After their first meeting in repertory at Newquay in 1949 she was among Williams’s closest confidantes, whether in London as they shared theatrical aspirations, or in rep, where they kept up a regular correspondence. In between eviscerating colleagues and repeatedly proclaiming any situation to be “the end”, he shared with Annette Kerr his tastes in literature, history, philosophy and humour. He addressed her as “My dearest Mentor”, including such endearments as “O many sounding congratulations on your attractive dark head”.
One diary entry, from December 1952, attests to Williams and Annette Kerr having enacted the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet into his tape recorder. Perhaps emboldened by that, Williams proposed to her in September 1961, and suggested living together just over a year later. Sensibly, recognising his need for solitude as well as his sexuality, she turned him down, pointing out that the sight of her smalls would be anathema to him, having already told him in 1953: “You know how you loathe people when you see them often.”
Catherine Annette Kerr Peacock was born at Elderslie, Renfrewshire, on July 2 1920, later abbreviating her name. A move from Scotland came after her father, David, who had been blinded during the Great War, trained as a physiotherapist under the auspices of St Dunstan’s Charitable Trust (now Blind Veterans UK) and took up a post at Watford General Hospital. While still at school his daughter made her stage debut at the Watford Palace Theatre, a venue she would return to in repertory seasons in 1953 and 1955.
Her training at the Central School of Speech and Drama was interrupted by the Blitz, which forced the school to evacuate to Exeter; she would later return to that city too, playing at the Northcott Theatre for a season in 1980.
On three occasions – a tour of Anastasia in 1954; a thriller at Bournemouth later that year, Poison Unsuspect; and repertory at the New Theatre, Bromley, in 1955-56 – she worked with another of Williams’s friends, Sheila Hancock. Often wearing a look of concern, Annette Kerr appeared alongside Sean Connery in Scotty Brown’s Bridge (Strand, 1956), and a young Gary Oldman in a revival of Ben Travers’s Thark (Theatre Royal, York, 1979).
A thriller starring Dame Flora Robson, The House By The Lake (Duke Of York’s, 1956-57), ran for more than a year. Annette Kerr played a nurse, as she did in several screen appearances, beginning with Home Tonight (ITV, 1961), a daily, 15-minute soap cut short by a technicians’ strike.

Annette Kerr, Helen Weir, Richard Felgate, David Purcell and Alan White in Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’ at the Saint Martin’s Theatre
She enjoyed travelling the country for regional productions, calling on an array of colleagues who became friends. A favourite venue was the Redgrave, Farnham, where she appeared with Irene Handl and Alfred Marks in Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus in 1975, and in seasons from 1979 to 1982.
Nonetheless, she was happy to join the takeover cast of The Mousetrap for a year from November 1976 as it was a convenient commute from her west London home. Later she played Fairy Blackstick in Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring (Sutton Centre, Nottinghamshire, 1983), an early production of Gregory Doran (now artistic director at the RSC).
Her last parts were in a new play, Acts Of Kindness (Everyman, Cheltenham, 1988) and in episodes of 2point4 children (1992-96) and One Foot in The Grave (1995). In later life she became a resident at the actors’ retirement home, Denville Hall, where she died.
She is survived by a brother, three nephews and three nieces.
Annette Kerr, born July 2 1920, died September 23 2013


Your report of Paula Milne’s aspiration to remake Borgen for UK viewers (Political drama gets ready for a comeback, 26 October) neatly encapsulates the problem facing Scotland’s independent programme producers. The obvious context would be the Scottish parliament – a small country with PR and the possibility of a maverick politician becoming “first” or indeed prime minister. But no UK broadcaster would dream of commissioning a political drama set north of the border for fear of alienating the audience and/or being seen to take a stance on the independence question. Reduced to relocating, however implausibly, shows like Waterloo Road to Glasgow in order to meet quota requirements, the BBC and other broadcasters have failed to commission serious drama from or set in Scotland. Shows like Case Histories or Hope Springs are about as close to “intelligent drama” as metrocentric commissioning editors and schedulers are prepared to go, maintaining Scotland’s function in UK TV drama as occasional setting for urban crime scenes or quirky rural idylls. With control over their own broadcasting, there’s a much higher chance that Scots would get their own Borgen, The Bridge or even Yes, First Minister.
Professor Robin MacPherson
Edinburgh Napier University

I was interested to read Shirley Williams’ concerns about the “mass surveillance practised by GCHQ” (Letters, 28 October). When my American colleague Mark Hosenball sought to bring the existence of this agency to the public’s attention in a 1976 Time Out article, he was deported from the UK on grounds of publishing “information harmful to the security of the UK” and “prejudicial to the safety of the servants of the crown”. The government then in power was Labour, in whose cabinet served … Shirley Williams.
Mandy Merck
•  If I were Angela Merkel, I would be offering permanent political asylum to Edward Snowden: and possibly a German government job for life. They do say revenge is a dish best served cold.
Charlie Marks
Cork, Ireland
• Theresa May seems to have missed the point (May admits ‘go home’ vans were a failure, 23 October). Surely these mobile posters were not targeted at illegal immigrants; the prime audience for which they were intended was those disaffected Tories contemplating a move to Ukip. Their success, or otherwise, will be apparent come the next general election.
David Collins
Kidderminster, Worcestershire
•  I am delighted to see that Sunder Katwala has joined the campaign to get St George’s Day accepted as the English national holiday (Response, 28 October). It largely already is on the street; it is just British establishment/elite obstruction that needs to be overcome.
Robin Tilbrook
Chairman, The English Democrats
• Steve Coogan thinks “agnosticism is for cowards” (Knowing me? No way, Weekend, 26 October). Religion and atheism both depend on unprovable belief. Believers stand firmly on the rocks of their own certainties. We agnostics are cast adrift in a sea of unknowability. It takes courage to face up to that.
Andrew Haig
• If Grant Shapps has a problem with the BBC’s journalism (Editorial, 28 October) he should write to Points of View like everyone else.
Jonathon Palmer

The government’s education reforms do not “carry the risk” of huge centralisation of power (Clegg calls for ‘middle tier’ of authority to run free schools, 25 October). That centralisation has already occurred. Michael Gove can now open, close or fund schools in England at any level he chooses and site them wherever he thinks fit. He can also tinker with the examinations system or the national curriculum and with just about anything else that he puts his mind to. Authoritarian government of education in England is already here, and Nick Clegg and his MPs have been an unprotesting party to it.
Second, local authorities do not “control” schools and never have done. They “maintain” them. Since 1944, individual schools have had forms of governance that made it clear that the internal management of schools, including oversight of the curriculum, was for its governing or managing body. The role of the local authority was to hold schools accountable for providing “efficient education” without unreasonable public expense. So neither the secretary of state nor any local authority should “run” any form of publicly funded school. Schools are and should remain self-governing entities.
Third, Kenneth Baker has recently referred to the inability of successive prime ministers to develop any serious understanding of education. But surely one of them must soon recognise that these 50-plus-page academy contracts between the secretary of state and individual schools are expensive, ludicrously prolix and entirely unnecessary? That is why England is the only country in Europe that has been foolish enough to try to administer its schools in this way.
Finally, with rare good sense, Michael Gove has recognised that schools may have good reason to depart from the national curriculum when the needs of their pupils make that desirable; so why on earth does Nick Clegg now want to prevent schools, “free” or other, from doing that?
Peter Newsam
Thornton Dale, North Yorkshire
•  How refreshing that at last someone has put this nonsensical marketisation of our education into its proper historical context (Stephen Ball: Not free, but free-for-all, 24 October). The great landmarks of our education history were not the property of any one political party. Forster 1870 (Liberal), Balfour 1902 (Conservative) and Butler 1944 (National) represented a consensus that schools should not be at the whim of commercial, philanthropic or religious interests, but maintained by, and answerable to, the electorate through their councils. This is true democracy in action. Do we really wish to return to a pre-1870 Britain where any Tom, Dick or Harry can set up a school?
John Wilson
Goffs Oak, Hertfordshire
• What Stephen Ball doesn’t mention is that education policy has become macho politics. When political reputations seem to be flagging, Gove regularly spices things up with his latest take on making things difficult for everyone. Meanwhile Clegg decides on the creation of a new tier of highly paid – no doubt mainly male – superheads who will solve all the problems of education. So we have policy made on the hoof. Where are the sensible people in this debate, women in particular? Nowhere to be seen, which is why education is now such a political football, metaphor entirely appropriate.
Professor Gaby Weiner
Labour Women in Education

In her interview re the government’s controversial plans to privatise 70% of the probation service, Sarah Billiald says: “If you’re my offender and I just say, ‘Come in, do this, do that, go away’, you may or may not do it. Unlike if I sit down with you and try to find out why you may do something and basically get you to do it for yourself” (‘Our probation bid is all about self-help’, 23 October).
In 33 years as a probation officer I was not aware of the approach she initially describes ever being adopted. We did (do) work with people in the way she describes in her second sentence. Namely, to motivate the person to desist from further offending by exploring underlying reasons for their behaviour (not always that evident), plus the use of any personal skills, supported by additional professional help.
She claims that probation staff have never had the flexibility to deliver in a more creative way, because they have been part of the public sector. I do not recognise this at all. Any restriction on flexibility was more likely to be related to increased workloads running alongside reduced resources.
Michael Spurr, chief executive of the national offender management service, recently said that in the past five years the probation service has cut costs and reduced reoffending.
Even considering delegating the important work of supervision of offenders in the community to the private (non-qualified) sector beggars belief. Particularly when the poor track record of two of the main bidders, G4S and Serco, is well documented. Could profit, plus an ideological opposition to the public sector, have something to do with this decision?
David Johnson
Retired probation officer, Sheffield

Zac Goldsmith concludes that a potential solution to vitamin A deficiency, childhood blindness and infant death should not be pursued simply because it relies on GM technology, and GM “is and has always been about control of the global food economy by a tiny handful of giant corporations” (The minister for GM hype, 25 October). The truth is that free licences for “golden rice” are available in the developing world where this health concern is prominent. There is, therefore, no giant corporate conspiracy – merely a desire by motivated scientists to address global health issues within a framework of subsistence farming.
Mr Goldsmith also fails to mention one of the reasons the rice is not yet ready for planting: environmental activists destroyed a field trial in the Philippines last August. In dismissing it as a solution to a global health problem, he suggests that victims be supplied with “green vegetables and cheap supplements”. Will these essentials be obtained at the local Waitrose?
He is trying to resurrect a debate that might have had currency 15 years ago but which is no longer relevant in scientific or socioeconomic terms. Were he to look at the evidence, he might embrace technology for the contribution it can make to producing food that is healthier for humans and for the environment.
Professor Dale Sanders FRS
Director, John Innes Centre, Norwich
•  Zac Goldsmith makes a very valuable intervention on GM crops. While Owen Paterson claims to welcome scientific debate, government advisory committees lack expertise in evolutionary biology, and this knowledge is vital to forecasting wide-ranging effects of the technology. We should be taking very seriously the trial results that GM crops grown in other countries are providing for us. Opposition to GM crops is not based on possible damage to human health, which will be taken into consideration, but on much wider concerns for the general environment.
Joan Green

Yes, as Polly Toynbee points out, the NHS has its problems (Pity the new NHS chief. He is in for a rude awakening, 25 October). But these should not be laid at the door of the Blair reforms to the service, in which the “new chief” Simon Stevens (and I) were closely involved. An independent review led by Professor Nicholas Mays found that “the evidence … shows broadly that the market-related changes introduced from 2002 by New Labour tended to have the effects predicted by the proponents and that most of the feared undesirable impacts had not materialised to any extent” – though it added that the improvements were not as great as those induced by the targets and performance management regime (with which, incidentally, Stevens was also deeply involved). The beneficial effects of patient choice and hospital competition in improving quality and saving lives in the NHS were confirmed in peer-reviewed studies by Professors Carol Propper (Bristol University and Imperial College) and Zack Cooper (then LSE, now Yale) published in top journals in the UK and the US.
The current difficulties faced by the NHS do not result from those reforms but are the product of a spending freeze and, in the words of your editorial (25 October) “the ambiguities that characterise the ramshackle Health and Social Care Act”. Simon Stevens has a unique blend of experience, skill and ability; there is nobody better able to resolve any ambiguities and to promote a high-quality, high-performing NHS.
Julian Le Grand
Professor of social policy, London School of Economics
•  Many prominent political and health commentators have welcomed Simon Stevens’ appointment to this crucial role in our NHS. We must remember that he was the architect of New Labour’s love-in with the private sector, when Alan Milburn signed a deal for the City corporates to move in on the NHS back in 2000. Mr Stevens was promoted to be Blair’s health policy adviser and then joined the private healthcare firm United Health. His former employer must be pleased – especially as it has been keen to move in on the many NHS contracts put out to tender by this privatising coalition government.
We must be very worried by this appointment. The sale of the NHS to the private sector skews motives away from patients and towards share prices. It is time for Labour to call time on the profiteers, and take our public services back into true public ownership.
Dr David Wrigley, GP
Carnforth, Lancashire
•  Polly Toynbee mentions the new NHS of Lansley and Cameron as espousing the idea of “no decision will be made about me without me”. Laudable but not original, and a direct copy of an article published 12 years ago on Health Care in a Land Called PeoplePower (Health Expectations 2001; 4: 144-50). Utopian, yes, but not impossible to achieve with some imagination, innovation and less political meddling. What we really need in the NHS is a service that is accountable to an all-party select committee – ie parliament and the people – and not to individual ministers whose affiliations might not be in the best interest of the patients.
Professor Peter Hindmarsh
University College London
• Nice touch that Simon Stevens has taken a pay cut before starting his job running the NHS – diluted somewhat by his work over the past decade with a US global health business. Widely credited with working up the NHS plan that injected billions into the service, he is arriving back in the UK when the process of reversing the earlier gains is firmly under way and with a wholly different set of feelings enveloping professionals, patients and the public at large. If the NHS is “the closest thing to a national religion”, perhaps he’s been brought back to read the last rites?
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon
•  For her perspicacious and comprehensive analysis of all the difficulties Simon Stevens will face as the chief of NHS England, Polly Toynbee should be raised to the peerage. This would give her another platform from where she could drum common sense into the political system about the future of the NHS suffering under Lansley’s “creative destruction”.
Richard T Taylor FRCP
Former independent MP for Wyre Forest


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (28 October) is mistaken: the public doesn’t truly want press regulation. The stark truth is that the public lapped up all the sensationalist nonsense and shock-horror headlines that they were fed for years.
No, what the public wants is to be absolved of the guilt they feel, that every sin committed by the gutter press was committed in their name, that the immoral and invasive digging only happened because the journalists involved understood the insatiable, lascivious appetite of their market.
Scandal sells newspapers merely because of the voracious, voyeuristic desires of the gossip-addicted public. Privacy invasion is the new pornography, and our society’s level of dependence on this puerile addiction is evidenced by the seemingly unstoppable rise of soap operas and “reality” television.
If we are now willing to surrender the freedom of investigative journalism merely in order to stave off our own psycho-masturbatory predilections, then the tragic irony is that our efforts to appear less sleazy will have been in vain, for we will truly have revealed ourselves to be wankers.
Julian Self, Milton Keynes
Grant Shapps is the most recent politician to question the impartiality of the BBC. He has climbed aboard the bandwagon which the right-wing section of the media has been promoting since Adam was a boy.
Our press is predominately right-wing. It is almost inevitable then that reporting from a different perspective should be interpreted as having a leftish feel, when all it is, is the reporting of the same story without the right-wing slant.
Mr Shapps’ real concern is that he cannot influence the political agenda at the BBC. Lest we forget, the BBC is independent. Is that what really  bugs them?
Robert Stewart, Wilmslow, Cheshire
New regulation needed for  care homes
The lack of care, dignity and respect that was provided to the elderly living at the Orchid View care home in Copthorne is totally unacceptable.
The Health and Care Professions Council believes that the existing regulatory regime in England, which relies primarily on the Care Quality Commission’s system of inspection of care homes, does not deliver the required level of personal accountability among those caring for the most vulnerable in our society.
As a statutory regulator of 315,000 individual health, psychological and social work professionals from 16 professions, we believe that statutory regulation should be introduced for care home managers and care workers.
Backed by enforceable training standards and a code of conduct, performance and ethics, such regulation would bring proper accountability to this vital part of the health and care system.
The regulators working with other key organisations and individuals are well placed to facilitate this change, to raise standards and to prevent those who are unsuitable to work in the care sector from moving from one employer to another with impunity.
The Care Bill is currently before Parliament and the Law Commission’s work in this area is due to be published in the spring. Both aim to simplify and streamline the legislative regime for the regulation of health and social care professionals. This is the moment to reform regulation in this critical area.
Anna Van der Gaag, Chair, Marc Seale, Chief Executive, Health and Care Professions Council,  London SE11
Your correspondents (Letters, 22 October) are correct to recognise, in Jeremy Hunt’s plea for families to care for their elderly, part of the Government’s general policy of promoting “the Big Society”. This is particularly evident in Hunt’s use of the phrase “the social contract” to refer to the obligations of the young towards the old.
For several hundred years, since the time of Thomas Hobbes, the expression “the social contract” has usually referred to the relation between the government and the governed. We give up some of our freedoms and agree to obey laws, in exchange for the protection provided by the government.
In the new world proposed by Cameron and Hunt, the Government will provide no such protection, and the only social contracts will be between individuals or private charities.
This leaves it unclear what justification remains (apart from the threat of force) for our obedience to law. For the poor in this new society, life will revert to being, in Hobbes’ famous phrase, “nasty, brutish and short”.
Peter Benson, London NW2
NHS patients from abroad
Your article “Revealed: the truth about health tourism”, 25 October) is very misleading. It is wrong to conflate the separate issues of people who come from abroad and pay for private treatment in NHS hospitals with the cost to our NHS of providing free NHS treatment to overseas visitors. 
Our world-leading NHS hospitals have a long history of being entitled to generate income from foreign private patients. This income is then reinvested back into our NHS to look after local patients.
But in line with the approach adopted by many other countries when overseas visitors use their health services, it is only fair that in England, we also seek a fair contribution from students and other visitors from overseas when they wish to use our NHS. Hard-working people will not understand why some groups continue to be opposed to this.
That is why the Government has set out plans to better recover healthcare costs from overseas visitors; for example by introducing a surcharge for temporary visitors such as students and establishing a central cost recovery unit.
Dr Dan Poulter, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, London SW1
Climate denial  is not a ‘view’
In his letter about the presentation of climate science in the media (22 October), John Wiseman refers to people who have “views” on climate “orthodoxy”. Neither of these words relates to scientific issues.
Recently, Associated Press contacted scientists about the level of certainty of the current climate science paradigm. The president of the US National Academy of Sciences, Ralph Cicerone, and more than a dozen other scientists said the 95 per cent certainty regarding climate change is most similar to the confidence scientists have in the decades’ worth of evidence that cigarettes are deadly.
The letters editor of the Los Angeles Times, Paul Thornton, has taken the decision not to publish letters from “climate science deniers”.  He says: “Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page. Saying ‘There’s no sign humans have caused climate change’ is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”
Peter Whitehead, Willenhall,  West Midlands, Crisis looms in teacher supply
Dr Mary Bousted and her distinguished colleagues (Letter, 21 October) call on the Government to take steps to resolve the impending crisis in teacher supply.
In the 1980s, such was the dire state of recruitment, a group representing independent and maintained secondary heads drew a graph showing the last day upon which a class in this country would be taught mathematics or physics by a qualified teacher.
Fortunately, that date receded in the early 1990s with the recession, which prompted many excellent young people to take teacher qualifications, some of whom are still teaching successfully today.
I imagine that neither Dr Bousted nor the Government envisage such a drastic move now, though the urgency of rectifying the current position cannot be over-emphasised. In one respect, however, nothing has changed. Only by enhancing teacher status can numbers of applicants to the profession be increased, and this requires a radically new approach to teacher salaries.
Christopher Martin, London W2
Storm hits a  bit of Britain
Your headline read “Britain in lockdown as worst storm in a decade blows in” (28 October). It should have read “Southern part of Britain in lockdown…”.  Every sympathy must go to people affected by the storm but reporting by the media would indicate that the whole country stopped working, when it didn’t.
Sue Thomas, Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria
Having just experienced widespread disruption due to a hurricane is surely a large pointer to indicate that now is not the time to cut green taxes, when climate change is the greatest threat to the world.
Valerie Crews, Beckenham, Kent
Still going  to the dogs
Like Francis Kirkham (letter, 23 October), William Langland (born circa 1332) was also exercised about falling standards.
“What is more, even Grammar, the basis of all education, baffles the brains of the younger generation today. For if you take note, there is not a single modern schoolboy who can compose verses or write a decent letter. I doubt too whether one in a hundred can read a Latin author, or decipher a word of a foreign language. – And no wonder, for at every level of our educational system you’ll find Humbug in charge, and his colleague Flattery tagging along behind him.” (Piers the Ploughman xv, translated by JF Goodman, 1959: Penguin Classics).
Plus ça change!
Jenny Willan, Uffculme, Devon
The lesson from Grangemouth
Own Jones’s rant (28 October) follows the usual theme, all unions are wonderful and all bosses are bad. The question must be asked: why do not the Scottish unions buy the Grangemouth refinery and chemical plant and show Britain how it should be run.
If they put their money where their mouths are, they would soon find that government taxation of power is destroying business in Britain. Two aluminium smelters have already been forced to close.
T C Bell, Penrith. Cumbria
Avoiding blame
Further to John Hade’s letter (28 October), it should be understood that there are no such things as companies; just people hiding.
Neville Skelding, Solihull, West Midlands


There are academics who would prefer to do more research and less teaching, but with higher fees being paid, don’t students deserve the best?
Sir, Professor Millar (letter, Oct 26) it right about research being pushed by universities at the expense of teaching, but leaves a lot unsaid. First, many academics seem to want to do more research and less (or even no) teaching, irrespective of funding incentives. Second, if academics do less teaching a reserve army of surrogates must presumably do it instead. Third, students have been compelled to pay higher fees and expect to be taught for the privilege, not to fund remission from teaching in pursuit of research.
Notwithstanding this unsatisfactory situation, it is worth considering that teaching quality might actually be higher than it was 25 or more years ago, if only because those who were then not competent to teach (or engage in research, for that matter) were nevertheless maintained in tenure on full salary at the expense of the taxpayer.
Clifford Webb
Sir, The principal purpose of research ought to be the betterment of society and the benefit to students who are being taught the cutting edge research which their parents, as taxpayers, are subsidising. The current demotion of teaching has at least two negative consequences. First, students are not being taught by many of those conducting ground-breaking research, thus losing the potential of learning not only the knowledge but also how such knowledge was discovered. Second, it has reinforced gender discrimination, as the majority of those carrying the responsibility for teaching are women, many of whose prospects for promotion and equal pay are diminished as a result of shouldering the much-needed but undervalued teaching work.
If the government is taking university teaching seriously, it ought to appoint a commission selected from past and present students and from scholars who teach, to report on how university teaching can be improved.
Geraldine Van Bueren, QC
Professor of International Human Rights Law, Queen Mary, University of London
Sir, T he problem of academic life is not just research. T eaching has largely become a matter of box-ticking. A cademics spend a large proportion of time on data entry. Analysis of survey results leads to yet more box-ticking. Academic schools have by necessity fallen for rhetoric over content. There is little sense that what we do is done because it is pedagogically desirable: more because it looks right. Above all, the creative friction between personalities which is essential to teaching is largely absent from academic practice. We are discouraged from spending a lot of time reading the material we are going to teach and thinking of quirky ways to present it. We have very little or no social contact with colleagues. This is a systemic, more than an institutional, failing.
Dr Emma Gee
Cupar, Fife
Sir, Professor Millar does not acknowledge one benefit of the current system — that researchers who would not expect to obtain a tenured position under the old dispensation are able to carry out useful work under the new.
And possibly Einstein is not the best exemplar — he did his Nobel Prize winning work before obtaining an academic post, while employed as a patent clerk.
Dr Edward Bentley
Northumbria University

‘The reality is that magistrates are volunteers and the time they give to the magistracy is their own’
Sir, My letter (Oct 23) pointing out the extremely good value of magistrates has prompted a couple of indignant responses (letters, Oct 25 and 26), but their views merely serve to highlight the difference between perception and reality.
The statistics I quoted in my letter were the result of careful analysis of the Court Service’s figures in an entire county for a whole year. It revealed that, in reality, the direct cost of a district judge per court day was nearly eight times that of a bench of magistrates.
As for the claims made by Anna Webster about the productivity of district judges, studies commissioned by the Ministry of Justice or its predecessor have found that the judges achieve as little as 22 per cent and up to 30 per cent greater throughput than magistrates.
Dr Bakshi’s notions on costs are somewhat abstract. The reality is that magistrates are volunteers and the time they give to the magistracy is their own (a tiny proportion are in a position to claim for loss of earnings, which is capped). In my own case as a private health professional, I would sit during court hours and then catch up on my professional commitments across several evenings, thus costing the Court Service and the economy next to nothing. There are many more like me. It would be a very unusual bench indeed which contained more than one of Dr Bakshi’s “professionals” and his description of cost is not, in any case, a cost to the justice system.
Robert Howe, JP
Rochester, Kent

The are better and less cumbersome ways of dealing with behaviour that is proving an annoyance to others than going to court
Sir, The Association of Chief Police Officers has called for more tolerance and respect towards childish high spirits. As Libby Purves pointed out (Opinion, Oct 28), however, the Government is changing the law so that the definition of antisocial behaviour becomes “capable of causing nuisance or annoyance”. This is likely to open the floodgates to intolerance. The police will be besieged with calls from people annoyed by teenagers playing in the street. The ACPO says that judges will prevent injunctions being imposed unnecessarily, but should these cases even get to court? There are far cheaper and more effective remedies than a cumbersome and bureaucratic court case.
Penelope Gibbs
Chair, The Standing Committee for Youth Justice

‘Despite best efforts, wrong decisions will always be made, and the cost of inaction, rather than a quick but imperfect decision, can be more deaths’
Sir, Jocelyn Cockburn (letter, Oct 24) ignores characteristics of war which fundamentally alter the responsibility of the State compared with other areas. War is adversarial and thus unpredictable. Despite best efforts, wrong decisions will always be made, and the cost of inaction, rather than a quick but imperfect decision, can be more deaths. I t can be dangerous to transpose domestic planning methodology to the battlefield. A military commander, as proxy for the State, can legitimately send subordinates to their deaths to achieve victory or to prevent greater losses elsewhere. Therefore service personnel cannot have an inviolate right to life. This is the explicit oath taken voluntarily by all who serve. Those who command are acutely aware of the responsibility it incurs.
It is right to hold the State to account, and legal judgment is the appropriate tool in many areas, but legal obligation writ too broadly will gum the machinery of defence and encourage corrosive risk-aversion. I would not instruct a lawyer to win my case using only arguments I selected. Military commanders must be accorded the same freedoms.
Sean Ryan
Changing Character of War Programme, University of Oxford

Red kite, marsh harrier and osprey are now surviving, rather than thriving, due to a huge investment over a long period by conservationists
Sir, Your report about the state of British wildlife (Oct 25) is a dismal story which those of us involved with conservation know only too well. However, the list of species that are “thriving” is misleading. Red kite, marsh harrier and osprey are now surviving, rather than thriving, due to a huge investment over a long period by conservationists, because they were in danger of becoming extinct in the UK due to persecution. Sadly, the hen harrier is currently on the verge of extinction in England for the same reason. Whooper swans do not normally breed in the UK, although some winter here.
What these figures really tell us is that virtually all our “common” native wildlife is struggling — non-wildlife-friendly land management and the intensification of agriculture has wiped out so much of what wildlife needs to survive. The human footprint on the country has become too heavy.
Stella Woodman
Hindringham, Norfolk


SIR – Allison Pearson’s article “Confessions of a choir mother” strikes a chord, as it were.
As parents of a girl probationer at Bristol cathedral, where the girl and boy choristers share the choral commitments entirely 50/50, we have been thrilled to see the girls treated with equal respect and given equal opportunities.
The point that boys have enjoyed a 1,000-year monopoly of singing rights is well made; surely even diehards might concede that that’s not a bad run.
Perhaps it’s now time for the great privilege and fun of participating in this country’s fine choral tradition increasingly to be shared a little more fairly in our cathedrals, churches and chapels.
Anna and Stephen Brooke
SIR – How many customers know that Ofgem has capitulated to the utility companies in agreeing that they need read domestic customer meters only every two years? Even then, it is only an adjunct to inspecting them for damage or vandalism.
So, an important part of any householder’s main spending can be based, for as long as two years, on estimates made by the supplier. True, customers can read their own meters and telephone or email the reading, but how many know they should?
In what other contractual situation would this be accepted? Ofgem claims that this exceedingly lax approach was introduced after “public consultation”, but they wouldn’t tell me when, how or with what public input such consultation took place.
Importantly, with price increases coming, people should read their meters on tariff increase day, to ensure the increase is not applied to what they have already used.
Dr Harold Hughes
Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey
SIR – It may well be that the Government can do little to curtail domestic fuel prices as a whole (“Heat only your living room, elderly advised”, report, October 25).
However, it could push for fixed-price (or capped) annual fuel bills for the elderly, so they can heat their homes without worry.
There is scope to negotiate such a deal across the energy suppliers, targeted (say) on homes where all occupants are 70 and over, without great burden on the taxpayer.
Mark Campbell-Roddis
Dunblane, Perthshire
SIR – Why is there more than one tariff for electricity? A loaf of bread from a shop costs the same to everyone, no matter who they are and what time of day they buy it.
Steve Cattell
Grantham, Lincolnshire
SIR – One of the best answers to staying warm is a four letter word: vest.
Jennifer Reynolds
Okehampton, Devon
SIR – There is no need to heat the whole bedroom, just the bed will do. Having no wife, I use a hot water bottle.
Sam Kelly
Oldham, Lancashire
SIR – The first few minutes in bed can be chilly, but a surefire way to warm up is to lie still and hold one’s breath until it hurts, then hold it a bit longer until something like panic sets in. The body goes into overdrive and a great flood of warmth courses through, feet and all. It requires discipline and I would not recommend it if you have a dodgy heart, but it works.
Robin Ekblom
Doddinghurst, Essex
SIR – At my husband’s school, dormitories were unheated. In the evening the boys folded their flannels into dart shapes. They froze in the night and made wonderful weapons when it was time to get up.
Margaret Higgs
Shillingstone, Dorset
Mrs Merkel spied upon
SIR – Angela Merkel might remember the words of Karla himself: “You must spy on your friends today, as tomorrow they will be your enemies.”
Piers Smethurst
Brampton, Cumbria
SIR – Charles Efford (Letters, October 26) quoted General de Gaulle saying: “States do not have friends only interests.” I believe he took that from Lord Palmerston: “It is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England. We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” Henry Kissinger also had a go: “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.”
Dr Paul Williams
Helston, Cornwall
SIR – David Cameron does himself no favours in justifying the Government’s increasing invasions of our privacy (report, October 26) by trotting out the well-worn phrase that it is done to protect us from terrorism. I am surprised that he didn’t tell Angela Merkel that “if she had done nothing wrong, then she had nothing to fear”.
Gerald Payman
Auckland, New Zealand
SIR – You report David Cameron saying that “the first priority of a prime minister is to keep your country safe”. This appears a valid dictum – but could this be the same Prime Minister whose policy of swingeing cuts to our Armed Forces has reduced military morale to an all-time low?
Nikolai Tolstoy
Southmoor, Berkshire
A girl taken away
SIR – Greek police removed the blonde, blue-eyed Maria from her supposed parents because she bore no resemblance to them. Yet we now see that her biological parents are no more pale-skinned than they.
I cannot see her being returned to anyone involved. A couple chose to give their daughter away, and the couple from whom she was recently taken have been arrested. Social workers will presumably make the decision “that is best for her”, but it’s hard to imagine what Maria herself must be going through.
Emilie Lamplough
Trowbridge, Wiltshire
Mass poppy flowering
SIR – The annual instruction from the BBC that all presenters will don a poppy apparently took effect on Saturday.
This diminishes the impact of an individual’s personal, voluntary respect.
Cameron Morice
Woodley, Berkshire
SIR – Marks & Spencer sells poppy brooches in-store for £15. Of this amount they return to the Royal British Legion 30 per cent (£4.50).
As a declared supporter of charity, the retention of 70 per cent (£10.50) does not seem charitable.
Lieutenant Colonel R J Tilston (retd)
Camberley, Surrey
Getting the wind up
SIR – With the arrival of another great storm, should Britain also expect a stock market crash three days later? Anyone for black Thursday?
Robert Dobson
Sandys, Bermuda
Widows with children
SIR – This week, MPs can reconsider plans to reform Widowed Parent’s Allowance – a lifeline to those bringing up children alone after the death of a partner. Proposals in the Pensions Bill will make bereaved families worse off and hamper children’s adjustment to loss of a mother or father.
As children develop their understanding of what a parent’s death means, they revisit their grief and experience it in new ways. Their needs can be much greater in the second and third year after the death, and the surviving parent needs to be available, responsive and able to continue familiar routines. This could mean working fewer hours, or taking on a job that fits better with caring for the children alone.
The current Widowed Parent’s Allowance gives parents flexibility to provide support. Government plans will undermine parents’ capacity to meet children’s needs, reducing drastically the time over which payments are made, pressuring widows and widowers to work longer, sooner. Some 75 per cent of families will be worse off.
Families affected by a parent’s death, struggling to help rebuild children’s lives, need all the support we can afford them.
Alison Penny
Coordinator, Childhood Bereavement Network
Debbie Kerslake
Chief Executive, Cruse Bereavement Care
Ann Chalmers
Chief Executive, Child Bereavement UK
Anthony Thomas
Chairman, Low Incomes Tax Reform Group
Georgia Elms
Chairman, WAY Widowed and Young
Catherine Ind
Chief Executive, Winston’s Wish
Simon Chapman
Director of Public Engagement, National Council for Palliative Care
Dr Hilary Emery
Chief Executive, National Children’s Bureau
Uncoached Cherie Blair
SIR – I was surprised to read your report (“Deep-voiced Cherie has massively shifted her tone”, October 25), which claimed I have had voice coaching and even singing lessons.
I’m not sure whether the “expert” quoted thought this marked an improvement in my voice or not, but I am afraid it’s not true. I have not had voice coaching of any kind and, while my family might think I need them, I’ve not had a single singing lesson either.
Cherie Blair
London W2
Plebgate reflects distrust of politicians and police
SIR – Charles Moore asks: “Why do we treat those we have chosen [to govern us] as the very last people to be believed?”
Expenses claims perhaps?
George Herrick
Pendleton, Lancashire
SIR – This controversy would never have arisen if the police had opened the gates for a Minister of State in the first place. He was right to say: “I thought you lot were supposed to help us,” albeit punctuated with an item of colourful language.
Cyril Mann
Rodmell, East Sussex
SIR – In view of developments, I suggest that, in fairness to Andrew Mitchell, this incident should be renamed Policegate.
David Miller
Maidenhead, Berkshire
SIR – The problems faced by the police service do not need to be addressed by yet another document, such as the proposed code of ethics (report, October 25), to be pinned to a notice board. The failings of the police today and yesterday can be traced back to poor leadership and the lack of intrusive supervision at all levels.
In my experience, the vast majority of bad apples were clearly identified, but were never tackled consistently. Among reasons that bad apples continue to harm the police service are that officers are moved without poor behaviour being tackled, and that frequent changes in line management prevent consistent strong supervision.
Reducing the bad apples to the absolute minimum will only be achieved by tackling bad behaviour, irrespective of rank, not by another document.
Ian Southcott
Chief Superintendent, Professional Standards Met Police (rtd)
Widdington, Essex

Irish Times:

A chara, – The financial roadblocks discouraging Irish people who want to return home and pursue an academic course leading to a degree were highlighted by Feargal Quinn (Ind) (Seanad Report, October 18th). As well as paying registration fees, emigrants returning from non-EU countries have to pay high fees depending on the institution and the faculty.
Most of our people have immigrated to Anglophone countries outside the EU. If the potential student is returning to the land of their birth, having worked a short number of years in North America or Australia, they will be treated as a foreigner from outside the EU and accordingly charged very high fees.
A correspondent Gillian Marron (Letters, October 5th) told us her son would be treated as an international student if he returned to Ireland – and he would not be able to afford that level of fees.
Furthermore, returnees are not entitled to any support from SUS1, the student grant aid body, irrespective of their financial circumstances. This is a very unfair situation that could be rectified without huge cost to the exchequer.
Politicians like to make speeches about welcoming home our young people, in particular those who had to leave when the Celtic tiger expired. So why not remove the roadblocks and create gateways instead for our people who want to come home to further their education and contribute to the quality of Irish society?
A big fanfare was made about “The Gathering” welcoming visitors with Irish connections and, in fairness, it was largely a very successful venture. However, I cannot help but recall Gabriel Byrne’s comments at the time when he said we the Irish at home could not care less about our emigrants and he referred to “The Gathering” as “The Shakedown”. Maybe our politicians will prove him wrong on this issue. I hope to be surprised! – Is mise,
(Lecturer in teacher
education GMIT),

Sir, – As a newly-qualified nurse, with a first class honours degree in general nursing, I find it hard to take any satisfaction or even be proud of my hard-earned achievement due to the nursing graduate scheme that the HSE is introducing.
For many newly qualified nurses/midwives, employment within HSE-run institutions will now only be possible if we agree to undertake an additional two-year educational programme, on top of the four-year degree we have just completed. This will mean that we will be employed at 85 per cent in year one, and 90 per cent in year two, of the first salary point of the January 2011 staff nurse scale. After several months, the HSE has finally announced the educational component that it will encompass: three educational modules run in conjunction with NUI/Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The modules entail three specific themes: quality and safety; communication and team-work; and patient-centred care, all of which we have already covered extensively as part of our four- year degree and which we will have to take while working a 39-hour week. On completion of the programme we will be awarded a professional certificate in nursing/midwifery (applied professional and clinical development NQF level 9).
The equivalent of this certificate does not appear to exist in other countries, as most graduate certificates are directly linked to specialised areas of health care.
I and my fellow newly qualified nurses/midwives are struggling to understand how this will benefit our nursing careers, or patients within the Irish health system. After four years of studying for an honours degree that includes both academic and clinical learning, we now want to work on the wards, provide a high standard of care to the patients and gain valuable clinical experience, before we decide on pursuing further academic learning and the specialisation we want to take in our careers. The sole objective of this wholly unnecessary qualification is to drive down wages by suppressing newly qualified nurses’/midwives’ salaries for the first two years of their careers. But how much is this scheme really going to save, given the HSE will have to pay institutions to deliver this new qualification?
The healthcare system is already overstretched and overrun and Irish nurses are choosing to emigrate and work in health systems as fully qualified staff nurses where their existing qualifications are valued and respected.
Indeed in England many newly qualified Irish nurses receive a first month’s accommodation and a postgraduate course of their choice paid for. The reality is that once again we have more than 1,600 nurses/midwives, graduating with an honours degree, none of whom are being offered permanent full-time posts in our public health service.
This new scheme will only serve to heighten this trend, one that the Irish health system can ill afford. – Yours, etc,
Tara, Co Meath.

Sir, – Given the State of our society, is it not time that we aired Animal Farm and 1984 again, with a commentary about how the Orwellian society mirrors or own?
We have Big Brother, the Perennial Enemy, the “more equal” bankers and politicians, the brain washing through the monopoly of the education system and state regulation of all aspects of society. And when there are state failures, we want more state control.
The steps to ending the nightmare will only start after we have identified that we are living in one. – Yours, etc,
Glenabo Heights,
Sir, – It is with sheer amazement that I read the head of the National Transport Authority (NTA), Gerry Murphy’s justification for the 5-10 per cent increase in fares for buses, trains and Luas from November 1st. According to him, fare increases were needed as passenger numbers dropped and fuel costs grew. Now, I’m no Nobel laureate economist, but my basic understanding of the demand / supply curve suggests he should be lowering prices, dramatically if need be, to get people back onto public transport; not hiking them up even further. If nothing else, the proposed hikes fuel further resentment between service users and service providers.
I look forward to reading further about the longer-term sustainability of this approach to pricing by the NTA. – Yours, etc,
Camac Close,

Sir, – Possession of a medical card is clearly a valuable social welfare benefit. Would in not, therefore, be logical for medical cards to be a function of the Department of Social Protection rather than Health?
There should be ample time to transfer the responsibility, with associated support staff and budgets, for 2014 onwards. Such a move would also free up some extra capacity for Minister for Health James Reilly to pursue his goal “to turn Angola into East Anglia”. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Last week a number of civil society organisations and individuals were invited to discuss the Scheme of the Gender Recognition Bill 2013 with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection. While we welcome the development of the Gender Recognition Bill, and the opportunity to discuss these and other concerns with the Oireachtas Committee, we also want to be clear there are key areas where the human rights of transgender and intersex people are not sufficiently protected.
These areas must be addressed if this long overdue legislation is to adequately support transgender and intersex people. We are particularly concerned that the current draft of the Bill excludes under-18s. Transgender young people have reported they feel devalued and vulnerable in their schools and we are concerned the situation will be made even worse by the blanket exclusion of under-18s from the Bill.
We are also very concerned that applicants are not allowed to be married or in a civil partnership and that a doctor’s certificate is needed. A person’s right to self-determine their own identity must be at the heart of this legislation. Discrimination against transgender and intersex people is a very serious issue and this legislation must lead the way in challenging that. We hope both the Oireachtas Committee and the Government will take on board our recommendations and ensure we have new law that protects the human rights of transgender and intersex people. – Yours, etc,
COLM O’GORMAN, executive director, Amnesty International Ireland; Dr CAROL-ANNE O’BRIEN, avocacy co-ordinator, BeLonG To Youth Services; KIERAN ROSE, chairperson, GLEN; MAX KRZYZANOWSKI, director, LGBT Noise; BRODEN GIAMBRONE, director, TENI; LAURA HARMON, vice-president for Equality and Citizenship, Union of Students in Ireland,
C/o Fleet Street, Dublin 2.
Sir, – Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien recently requested a two-minute silence in the Dáil to highlight the experiences of deaf children who are without a second bilateral cochlear implant.
I have no doubt about Deputy O’Brien’s genuine concern for these children but I must question the usefulness of such an exercise. I do not to intend to argue in great detail about the pros and cons of bilateral cochlear implantation for young deaf children, other than to highlight that the research is arguably inconclusive. Indeed, the UK health policy group, NICE, calls for more research into this issue. A recent lecture by an academic in Trinity College affirmed that one third of deaf children received no benefit from cochlear implantation.
Deputy O’Brien’s decision to use “silence” to highlight this issue, is baffling to us in many ways. Silence should be regarded as a virtue, not a vice. To spring the oft-misquoted phrase: “Speech is silvern, silence is golden”. Of course, silence on disturbing issues such as sexual abuse must not be encouraged anytime but what I refer here to is the projection of one’s own imaginings on to how others feel. In this case, it is an image of how these children feel in their world, based on another’s assumptions and projections, and this is a risky business.
To attempt to understand the ontological outlook (the essence of being) of others in a two-minute exercise does not do justice to these children, nor to us as deaf people. Silence is genuinely practised in many cultures and religions and is even celebrated in a number of festivals. Gandhi held a weekly practice of staying silent for a full day to purify his soul and mind. For many of us in the deaf community, the exercise in the Dáil was somewhat amusing, while for others it was insulting. We do not see ourselves as suffering from “silence”. In fact, despite living in this phono-centric society, where sound and hearing are given far greater value than other senses including vision, hindering our ability to participate, many of us go on to achieve much in our lives – things that many would only dream of.
Some of us have residual hearing and are able to use the telephone and enjoy music with hearing aids, while others do not. Finally, cochlear implantation is itself part of a massive bio-medical industry and is regulated chiefly by stock markets. The three main manufacturers have made tens of millions of dollars in profits. Sinn Féin has preached against the evils of big business capitalism in the past, yet the exercise of using “silence” in the Dáil for something that is associated with big business interests is all the more bizarre as a result. – Yours, etc,
Oldcourt Road,

Sir, – I was delighted by the return of Charlie Fell to your Business pages (October 22nd). It was like seeing an old friend after too long an absence – or perhaps more correctly, an old enemy. I do not share his pessimism. My attitude towards the risks posed by the profligacy of the monetary authorities on both sides of the Atlantic is similar to Abraham Lincoln’s towards the risk that General McClelland would set himself up as a dictator: only a victorious general poses a real threat. If they give us a recovery – if the money they are pumping into the system begins actually to be spent – then we must find a way to deal with the resulting inflation, but that would be a welcome problem compared to the non-recovery in which we find ourselves.
I would have said that I have made a fair amount of money by ignoring Mr Fell’s warnings, but I had been paying close enough attention to his logical and carefully researched columns to understand that the horses are still running and all I hold are betting slips. He prevents hope from transforming itself into optimism.
I look forward to seeing him again soon in your pages. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – In my travels around this country, I am horrified by the amount of people who use their mobile phones at petrol pumps while refuelling. 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, – I wonder what odds I would get for the newly- planned children’s hospital for Northern Ireland being completed (Home News, October 21st) before a sod is turned for the national children’s hospital here in the Republic. Given that the HSE is going to be preoccupied sorting out the medical card fiasco and eventually becoming an organisation that employs health care workers (only) while offering nothing in the way of universal, quality healthcare, I’d say pretty good. – Yours, etc,
Dollymount Park, Clontarf,

Sir, – One of your letter-writers refers to Southern Ireland (October 23rd). There is no such place as Southern Ireland nor did such a place ever exist. Yet it frequently appears in your paper.
There are two states on this island: Northern Ireland and Ireland, the latter being the name of the State in both the Constitution and on the passport. It has taken us a long time down here to accept that the six north-eastern counties were called Northern Ireland, so perhaps it’s equally time that the State I live in was called by its correct title – Ireland. The addition of its added status as a Republic is optional in the same way that our neighbouring island state could be called the Monarchy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:

The reduction in the dole payment is an act of blatant unfairness. Yet again the poor and the unemployed will be disproportionately hit and have no redress. This is justified by the convenient myth that these people are mostly feckless and undeserving.
Also in this section
Outrage at US spy scandal is just plain naive
Stout reason to cut price of pint
Thank you for the truth on suicide
The notion of fairness is close to the heart of even very young children. It seems to come with them at birth. Embedded in our dealings with one another is an abiding sense of what is fair.
The identification of justice with the administration of law and not with fairness tends to weaken our moral sensibilities.
Political, banking and business miscreants, and we have had many, when suggesting that they have done no wrong, appeal to the law but not to the mutual moral expectations, particularly that of honesty and fairness, that are at the heart of our way of life.
The fact that the legal system administers the law, but not necessarily fairness, drove Mr Bumble in ‘Oliver Twist’ to proclaim “The law is an ass” when informed that he was legally responsible for his wife’s theft of jewellery.
In the case of the findings of the Mahon Tribunal, there was a wave of national outrage as neither the law nor the principle of fairness were well served. There seemed to be one law for errant politicians and another for the rest of us.
Whatever policies and practices we invoke in the governance of our country, their value resides in the extent to which they improve the lot of the most disadvantaged, not the rich. This is not some Marxist proclamation, but a reminder of what holds a people together, namely a deeply rooted, intuitive sense of fairness.
Philip O’Neill
* I am 23 and from Cavan. I have been living in New York for the past nine months with no plans to move back home. After I did my masters in English I qualified as an ESL teacher. After applying to numerous ESL schools and having no luck I decided to move to New York to seek out better opportunities as opposed to applying for the dole.
My brother is a civil engineer. He had a similar experience after completing his honours degree. He applied for many jobs and found himself settling for positions for which he was over-qualified, both in England and Northern Ireland. He has been living in Perth, Australia for the past few years, where he found better opportunities. He too has no plans to move home.
My sister is at home with a first-class honours degree in social care. The only work she can find is unpaid voluntary work and even that was difficult to find. The only reason she is still at home is because she is waiting to do her master’s degree. After that, she plans to join me in New York.
My mother is an accountant in Cavan town and my father is a principal in Killenkere NS. I follow the news of my beloved country very closely. I am disappointed more every day. The 2014 Budget really got to me, as it forcefully hit my generation and my friends.
Laura Rahill
Douglaston, NY
* It is more urgent than ever to have an EU fingerprint ID card, especially given what has happened with the Roma children and the 14-year-old Eastern European child found in a distressed state at the GPO who still remains unidentified. This card could also contain medical data. Ireland could lead the way, as we did with the smoking ban.
It would help in the fight against child trafficking. It would make the gardai and HSE’s jobs much easier. If we all had these cards, no one group would feel discriminated against and it would only take minutes to identify a person or child. Surely no one would object.
Kathleen Ryan
Tallaght, Dublin
* Yesterday, my wife and I – a pair of 70+-year-olds from the country – having visited a few days with friends, got on the DART at Glasthule with a view to getting to Heuston Station via Connolly and Luas. The first three trains were terminating at Pearse, so we took the first, hoping to find some form of connection there. There were no announcements on the train about anything – as we walked along the platform at Pearse, there were still quite a few people sitting on the train.
At Pearse, we sought information to be told that line works this weekend meant no trains to Connolly (a bank holiday weekend, with matches both north and south of the Liffey?). Was there a replacement bus? Not to Connolly! How do we get there? It’s only a 10-minute walk! Are there scheduled buses from here to either Connolly or Heuston? I don’t know! Leaving the “information” office, we went to the ticket barrier to find the same level of knowledge.
I know that the Irish management module is the ‘mushroom system’ (smother them in manure and keep them in the dark), but is that the way to operate a railroad?
Cal Hyland
West Cork
* The opening seconds of ‘Love/Hate’ on Sunday night had another scene involving cruelty to animals. This time it was a dog-fight, which the gangsters found edifying and most viewers (I imagine) repulsive. It was a true-to-life depiction of this appalling blood sport in which dogs are pitted against each other while fans gather to watch, cheer, and bet huge amounts of money on the outcome.
The dogs suffer horrific injuries, and are goaded to fight on until one of them has been severely mauled or killed. By the end of a fight, both animals will be bleeding all over, have bits of their faces missing or maybe their eyes ripped out, and be covered in cuts and bite marks.
There have been precious few convictions for this illegal activity over the decades, but the new Animal Health and Welfare Act (despite its many shortcomings) has additional measures aimed at stamping it out. Now, anyone present at a dog fight, in addition to those organising it, can be prosecuted and subjected to heavy fines or imprisonment.
Anyone with information on dog fighting should pass it to the gardai or nearest SPCA branch.
John Fitzgerald
Campaign for the Abolition Of Cruel Sports Callan, Co Kilkenny
The thing is, if Enda Kenny hasn’t had his phone bugged by the US, he’ll embarrass the hell out of us by complaining to Obama for having been left out.
Robert Sullivan
Bantry, Co Cork
Irish Independent


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