30 October 2013 Tired
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Troutbridge has been fitted with an electronic navigator. Leslie has been automated. Priceless
Sort the books, tird potter around not doing much
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary wins get just under 400, though perhaps I will win tomorrow.
Nigel Davenport was a magnetic actor in theatre, TV and film and had roles in A Man for All Seasons, Howard’s Way and Chariots of Fire
Nigel Davenport with Vanessa Redgrave in ‘Mary Queen of Scots’ Photo: GETTY
6:06PM GMT 29 Oct 2013
Nigel Davenport, the actor, who has died aged 85, will be best remembered for playing dark, strong, rakish toffs, aggressive heroes, scowling villains – and for what he himself called his “dodgy” eyes.
Whether in films, plays or on television, Davenport’s power largely derived, some thought, from his expressive gaze. It could be even more striking in close-up. Amiable or disturbing, it caused tough guys to wilt and pretty girls to sigh.
Whether he glanced, or glared, grinned or grimaced, Davenport had an unusual magnetism. He also had a kind of rasp in his voice which some called gravelly and others abrasive, and altogether added to his authority.
One of the most versatile and busy of British character actors, after a strong theatrical start Davenport alternated between films and plays for nearly five decades. On the small screen he might be a red-hot titled lover in Howard’s Way; an aggressive boss on a North Sea oil-rig; a moody Yorkshire squire in pre-war England (South Riding); an interfering working-class racehorse owner (Trainer); or King George III in Prince Regent.
He appeared in more than 40 feature films, ranging from a detective in Peeping Tom, via a tough guy among conscripts in The Virgin Soldiers, to a resourceful psychopath who (in Play Dirty) wipes out a whole army encampment on the grounds that “I didn’t like the tea”. He was also the game warden in Living Free who resigns in order to capture lion cubs and transport them to a distant game reserve, and Lord Birkenhead in Chariots of Fire.
Jack the lad? Only on the small screen
04 Nov 2012
Nigel Davenport (right) with Paul Scofield in ‘A Man for All Seasons’ (GETTY)
Something of a political magpie, Davenport started out on the Left before becoming an early supporter of Margaret Thatcher. He switched allegiance to the SDP (Shirley Williams had been a bridesmaid at his wedding) before returning to Labour and then declaring himself a “Radical”, declining to vote at all.
He was always, however, a staunch believer in the rights of his fellow workers, and for six years from 1986 was president of British Actors’ Equity Association, the actors’ trade union. It was a role in which he did not mince his words.
At the TUC Congress in 1988, for example, he was cheered when he described Rupert Murdoch as a “toxic waste dispenser with his global collection of refuse tips in the media and television”. Deregulation would lead, he said (to further applause), to “tabloid television” and “pathetic drivel”.
Arthur Nigel Davenport was born at Shelford, Cambridge, on May 5 1928, the son of a Cambridge bursar awarded an MC after serving for four years in the Royal Engineers during the Great War. Nigel’s great-uncle, Major Matthew Fontaine Maury Meiklejohn, won a VC during the Second Boer War.
Davenport was educated at Cheltenham College before reading English at Trinity College, Oxford, where he acted with the OUDS. It was there that he decided he would make acting his life.
While on military service with the RASC he worked as an Army radio disc jockey in Hamburg. His first professional acting job was as an understudy in a Noël Coward play, Relative Values (Savoy, 1952) .
Nigel Davenport in the 1963 ITV drama ‘Espionage’ (ITV/REX)
His supposedly “dodgy” eyes derived from a strong squint caused by a lazy eye, of which he was always conscious. From his right eye, he saw little but a blur. “I’ve a great left eye — that’s my secret,” he would say. When he heard a director remarking “That young man will never get anywhere unless he does something about his eyes”, Davenport had an operation to straighten them in 1953. It was impossible to correct the condition fully, but Davenport was not discouraged. He went on to act with the Shakespeare Memorial Company at Stratford, Chesterfield Civic Theatre and Ipswich rep before becoming one of the first members of the English Stage Company at the Royal Court .
He was John Osborne’s choice for Cliff in Look Back in Anger (1956), but the director Tony Richardson protested: “Nigel’s just like an old horse.” He appeared, however, in 15 other Royal Court productions, notably as Bro Paradock in A Resounding Tinkle (1957-58), a performance which Kenneth Tynan described as “a splendidly sour creation, drab, leather-elbowed, and disgruntled, comic because he reacts with no surprise to circumstances of absolute fantasy”.
In Joan Littlewood’s original Theatre Workshop production of A Taste of Honey (Theatre Royal, Stratford, 1959) Davenport played Peter, a used-car salesman and lover of the heroine’s indifferent mother, transferring with the play to the West End, and to Los Angeles and New York in 1960.
By then Davenport had appeared in his first feature films, Look Back in Anger and Peeping Tom, and from 1961 on television. His first major feature film was A High Wind in Jamaica. In A Man For All Seasons he played the Duke of Norfolk and, between films, took various roles on television in series such as South Riding, Oil Strike North, The Prince Regent, Howard’s Way, The Treasure Seekers and The Opium Wars.
Meanwhile, he returned from time to time to the stage. In the West End his parts ranged from Odilon in Félicien Marçeau’s Bonne Soupe (Comedy and Wyndham’s, 1961-2); Moncau in Arthur Miller’s Incident at Vichy (Phoenix, 1966); Irene Worth’s ex-husband Jim North in Frank Marcus’s Notes On A Love Affair (Globe, 1972); and Vershinin in Jonathan Miller’s revival of Chekhov’s Three Sisters (Cambridge, 1976).
Other feature films at this time were Sebastian, Sinful Davey; The Royal Hunt of the Sun; No Blade of Grass; The Mind of Mr Soames; Villain; Mary, Queen of Scots; and The Island of Dr Moreau. His many television credits included The Bika Inquest, which in the 1980s was followed by a return to the stage as King Lear in a countrywide tour.
Davenport also toured as Andrew Wyke in Sleuth; Canon Chasuble in The Importance of Being Earnest; Duff in Alan Bennett’s The Old Country; Mortimer Durham in Maugham’s The Constant Wife; and as Arthur Fenwick in Maugham’s Our Betters at Chichester Festival. His extravagant conception of Lord Whitfield (with a direct line to God) reached the West End in Murder Is Easy (Duke of York’s, 1993), adapted from Agatha Christie.
Though steeped in the values of his family’s military tradition, Davenport was also fascinated by true-life villains, and when in London was known to drop by at the Turk’s Head, a pub frequented by both actors and the criminal fraternity. Blessed with a fine sense of humour, he was often to be found at the centre of a conversation about the day’s horse racing – a lifelong passion.
Having moved to a farmhouse in Suffolk in the 1970s, he spent the last years of his life in Gloucestershire. Though happy in his own company, he delighted in taking on guests in fiercely competitive games of backgammon, Scrabble or Monopoly.
Nigel Davenport married, in 1951, Helena White, who died in 1979; and secondly, in 1972, the actress Maria Aitken; that marriage was dissolved. By his first marriage he had a son, the journalist Hugo Davenport, and a daughter, Laura. With Maria Aitken he had another son, the actor Jack Davenport.
Nigel Davenport, born May 23 1928, died October 25 2013
You report that many people have to decide to “heat or eat” (26 October). Some people do not even have that choice. The Canterbury Festival is in full swing and last Thursday evening on my way to a concert, I saw in a side street a seated figure silhouetted against a bright shop window. A small cardboard notice on his lap said NO FOOD. I was carrying a bag of goodies from M&S so crossed the road, thinking it meant “no food, but cash”. I looked again and it read NO FOOD FOR 9 DAYS. The young man told me the hostel knew about him, but they had no room. He had no social benefit because he had no address. “And so it has come to this,” he said quietly. He was well spoken with curling hair and a neat beard. He clutched a small rucksack, but his fingers trembled involuntarily. At the concert hall a brilliant young Russian man had chosen pieces by composers at the height of their careers. But as his fingers swept the keyboard, I could not concentrate.
The alleged abuse at the G4S-run prison in South Africa (Report, 28 October) is just the latest in a string of damaging claims. War on Want conducted an intensive fact-finding mission to South Africa, Mozambique and Malawi, finding that low wages, long hours and cost-cutting exploit G4S workers and create conditions ripe for abuse. Corporations like G4S must not be handed taxpayers’ money to profit from imprisonment and misery.
Senior campaigns officer, War on Want
• It’s not only political power that has been sucked out of cities (Editorial, 29 October) for generations but also the personal wealth of millions, by the rapaciousness of London financial institutions which have flogged us poorly performing financial products, as well as raking in billions each year through hidden and excessive charges.
Burton in Lonsdale, North Yorkshire
• It is noted, from your archives (26 October 1931, reprinted 26 October 2013) that Lady May Cambridge broke a tradition of centuries by omitting the word ‘obey’ from her marriage vows. However, 19 years earlier, on 13 January 1912, when the suffragette Una Dugdale married Victor Duval at the Savoy Chapel, the couple also insisted that obey be deleted. That year Una Duval published a pamphlet, Love and Honour – But not Obey.
University of Portsmouth
• A great heading for Polly Toynbee’s article on Iain Duncan Smith’s assault on people with disabilities claiming benefits (These brutal disability cuts fuse ideology and idiocy, 29 October). May I add “ignorance” and “inhumanity” to “ideology and idiocy”?
• Since their release from prison, Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce seem to have taken up permanent residencies in the Guardian and on Radio 4. Any chance of passing on the names of their agents?
Newcastle upon Tyne
• Why should poor St Jude take all the blame? He shares his day with St Simon (Report, 29 October).
Canon Peter Hearn
Burton upon Stather, North Lincolnshire
David Cameron’s proposals to roll back green taxes (Report, 28 October), which account for around 4% of an average energy bill, rather than tackling the underlying causes of rising prices and increasing fuel poverty, are symptomatic of the government’s chaotic energy policy. At the moment gas prices in the UK are lower than in most European countries, but UK households use more energy and so pay more due to lack of sufficient home insulation. Yet the government is investing next to nothing in insulation and failing to support serious investment in renewables. The National Grid Future Energy Scenario in 2012 predicted that with proper investment in renewables, the UK could become free of energy imports by 2020.
Instead of pouring billions of pounds into additional subsidies for dangerous and polluting new nuclear power stations, which will only come online too late (if ever) to address our energy gap, the government should switch to a proper programme of investment in insulation and proven, clean and safe renewables. This would provide Britain with energy security, tackle fuel poverty and create lasting jobs.
• George Monbiot advocates using as much renewable energy as possible, but then downplays its potential in favour of nuclear power. When it comes to solar, as the Royal Society says, “no other sustainable energy source comes close”. Contrary to Monbiot’s claims, solar across all the UK’s roofs would exceed current fossil power supply. Solar’s full potential can be increasingly realised as storage systems commercialise. Cost reductions in solar have been so exceptional that by 2018 we anticipate large-scale solar will need lower public support than nuclear is due to receive in 2023 – and for 15 years, not nuclear’s 35 years. Furthermore, solar puts power directly in the hands of millions of people, not a single utility or overseas state. Nearly half a million homes have now gone solar in the UK. Whatever the controversies over nuclear power, credit to the government for backing this winning technology.
Solar Trade Association
Your editorial (28 October) called on victims of hacking to sit down with the politicians and the press to “find a compromise” on press regulation. As a victim of computer hacking, I find your suggestion ironic. Victims have done nothing but compromise in our quest for effective, independent regulation. We accepted the mechanism of a royal charter, which you rightly describe as an “obscure device”, but wrongly blame for the apparent impasse in which we now find ourselves. And would that the press and the politicians had sat down with us in the last few weeks, as they continue to court one another just as they did before the Leveson Inquiry.
The real cause of the “enormous damage” you identify is the deliberate and mendacious fiction, constantly repeated by almost all the press and even many broadcasters, that setting up a new self-regulatory body to replace the toothless Press Complaints Commission is state regulation by another name. The reason is obvious: they want the public to forget the gross abuses perpetrated on families like the Dowlers, the McCanns and the Watsons by certain sections of the press.
What they really want is the “right” to carry on intruding on private misery and marking their own homework when anyone has the temerity to complain. Despite having been hacked, I support freedom of expression. I know many wonderful journalists who risk their lives to tell us the truth and to hold governments, including our own, to account. It is precisely because I want them to be able to carry on performing those vital roles that I want to see them regulate themselves properly, instead of bringing themselves into disrepute by defending the indefensible and resisting the reasonable, light-touch self-regulation that Leveson recommended and which both houses of Parliament and the overwhelming majority of the public support.
• You suggest that everything would be fine if only everybody got together and talked. For 11 months politicians have been talking to all parties, and they have repeatedly compromised on the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry in the hope of winning over the Murdoch, Mail and Telegraph papers. Unfortunately those papers listen to no one. Instead they use every conceivable means to block change while engaging in hysterical scaremongering. Brian Leveson foresaw this. His carefully structured scheme, embodied in the royal charter, provides victims of press bullying with meaningful redress for the first time – without posing any threat to freedom of expression. It also provides substantial benefits for participating publishers, both financially and in terms of journalistic freedom. These arrangements should be given a chance to work and newspaper groups that refuse to listen to reason or to the voices of their own readers should not be allowed a veto.
You mock as medieval the use of royal charter, but again this is ill-judged. Whatever its trappings, this charter has legitimacy. It was fully endorsed by all parties in the commons on 18 March and the polls show it has overwhelming public backing. All leading victims of press abuses, whose views the party leaders said were important, endorse it. Further, it implements the recommendations of a senior judge following a year-long public inquiry in which every relevant view was heard. That it requires royal assent may indeed be medieval, but so does ordinary parliamentary legislation; I take it you do not question the legitimacy of all our laws.
Executive director, Hacked Off
• If I had any hope that the aggressively unrepentant editors were really interested in co-operating and setting up a truly independent regulator, then perhaps more discussion would be constructive. The problem is that there has been a chorus of protest and resistance to meaningful negotiation alongside campaigns of misinformation, all designed to block the reforms recommended by Leveson. The public wants and deserves better. The royal charter was a compromise back in March – why would a new initiative be any better? Let’s sit down together to discuss how to make the royal charter do its work rather than delaying yet again.
Professor Sheila Hollins
House of Lords
Much recent commentary about the poor and declining pay and conditions of care workers (Cuts forcing care firms to break minimum wage laws, 23 October) has rightly drawn attention to the contributory role of cuts in local authority budgets. What has received much less comment has been the role of the marketisation of social care services.
Since the 1980s, governments – Conservative, Labour and coalition – have pursued policies intended to increase competition in social care provision. One upshot of this is that the majority of care is outsourced to often non-unionised charities and, increasingly, private companies. Another is that the resulting price-based competition has acted to increase workloads while driving down pay levels and a host of other staff conditions, such as pensions, sick pay entitlements, overtime payments, and allowances for callouts and night work. Recent revelations that providers have struggled to provide services at the price local authorities have been prepared to pay, or that they are refusing to bid for unsustainable contracts, come as no surprise to those of us who have been researching the impact of social care marketisation.
Action is clearly needed to counter the adverse consequences of these developments for both staff and the clients they serve. The introduction of a requirement on contractors to pay a living wage would be a clear step in the right direction. More positive still would be the imposition of duties on local authorities to only contract out services on the basis of nationally negotiated terms and conditions.
Is it too much to hope that the Labour party will commit itself to act in this way?
Professor Ian Cunningham University of Strathclyde, Professor Phil James Oxford Brookes University
• Your headline is wrong to suggest that owners of social care companies are forced to further underpay their workers – they choose to do so. They could take a reduction in their profits; they could acknowledge that their current difficulties are to an extent a consequence of low bid strategies designed to force competitors out of the market and then rack up charges; they could acknowledge that boards meeting hundreds or thousands of miles away from where the services are delivered have no concern about the conditions of their workers and users.
Before a charity I chair was driven from the market, complaints against our provision were board agenda items. For the hedge funds and other interests that own many of the providers, complaints, even if serious, are simply a business expense.
The value of companies providing social care has been one of ups and downs. The trick to success has been to buy low and sell high. It has had little to do with the quality of provision and consistency of service. There are people working in the care and nursing home sector who are trying to do a good and decent job. But too much of it is now a world of franchises. financial engineering, leasebacks and property deals.
• Many of these problems in caring are directly attributable to the policy of outsourcing care provision, so that what the government in its recent white paper calls “for profit” organisations bid for care contracts and the needs of the sick and elderly are subject to auction. What no one in government seems to want to admit is that a significant amount of money is being diverted into the pockets of shareholders in companies which provide little more than office support in the organisation of care visits, together with recruitment of care workers and a limited amount of training.
What the Equality and Human Rights Commission calls “the quiet revolution” in home care provision resulting from the 1990 act needs to be gradually reversed, so that social services authorities would take over the organisational role once again. In the long run, social care needs to the integrated with the NHS service, and funding must ultimately come from national insurance contributions.
Cawood, North Yorkshire
• I was able to hear first hand about the striking workers of Future Directions, the care company that Rochdale council contracts with, when one of the Unison stewards attended a Save Bolton Health Services campaign meeting this month. It was distressing to hear how many of the workers have seen pay cuts upwards of 30% and even 43%, including cuts in sick pay, unsocial hours pay and holiday entitlement. This company, Future Directions, is being run by a number of current board members of an NHS foundation trust based in the region. I would urge a thorough appraisal of these management issues by Monitor and the Department of Health.
Save Bolton Health Services campaign
• There is another side to councils underfunding care providers, and that is the amount charged to those who have to pay their own costs through having savings above the maximum level for subsidy. I am disabled and, through wanting to lead as normal a life as possible, have little choice in the care worker I use in the evening. This is being charged out at £28.60 an hour – and with an increase now being demanded on the pretext that more time is needed. At least this company pays travelling time – but I know not whether there is some cross-subsidy of local authority work going on here.
• It is not just care homes that are under pressure to cut wages. The voluntary sector is under the same pressure. Our staff are paid well above the minimum wage for a job that demands immense skill, so are also offered continuous and often costly training. In return I expect and get the highest standards of professionalism, and our users the best possible care. It now seems that rather than being a rate people should be slightly ashamed of paying, the minimum wage is becoming the benchmark figure for those working in the frontline of caring.
Director, Resources for Autism
I thoroughly applaud the article by Michael Williams on an alternative to HS2 (28 October). The Great Central (which incidentally did not go to Birmingham as he stated – only in the present Chiltern Railways era have trains gone there from Marylebone) was built to the Continental loading gauge with a view to its becoming part of a through route from Manchester to Paris via the Channel Tunnel, a project which was also started at the same time.
It is a tragedy that the Government allowed it to be closed in the 1960s, at a time when the possibility of a Channel Tunnel was once again on the radar. It was closed because it duplicated the parallel Midland Railway route from St Pancras to the Midlands, yet now the Midland Railway route lacks capacity and we need the Great Central once more. What lack of foresight!
I would therefore urge that, before the Government goes further with the present exorbitant HS2 proposals (which involve the reuse of only some 15 miles of the former Great Central route in north Buckinghamshire), a very careful study is made of the relative costs of reopening as much as possible of the Great Central.
It is probably too late to save the trackbed in urban areas of the cities of Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield through which it went on its way to Manchester, but with some relatively short stretches of new track around those places the majority of the remainder of the old line could potentially be reused, with enormous benefits to the costs of the project.
Peter Nixon, Richmond, Surrey
Michael Williams’ suggestion that the route of the old Great Central railway from London to Sheffield should be reopened instead of HS2 has rather garbled the facts.
Yes, it was impressively engineered and designed for speed (as were other late Victorian main lines), but it is sadly a myth that it can take today’s European-sized trains. The line went no nearer to Birmingham than Rugby, and its route to Manchester via Sheffield is very roundabout.
Among the obstacles in the way of reopening it are the need to bypass Leicester and Nottingham and to provide additional tracks alongside the existing route for the first 40 miles or so out of London.
Reopening it as a conventional commuter railway like the Borders line in Scotland might be relatively easy, but that is very different from the HS2 proposals. From a North-western (or indeed a Yorkshire) perspective it has little to recommend it.
Colin Penfold, Great Harwood, Lancashire
There was no fuss at all at Railtrack spending nearly £10bn on the West Coast Main Line, with years and years of disruption, yet the money was still insufficient to allow speeds higher than 125mph. And now £15bn is being spent on Crossrail and yet more vast sums on Thameslink, yet HS2 is getting inordinate attention for its cost of £32bn plus the vast Treasury contingency sum of £12bn. Up-to-date cost parameters are available from the HS1 project meaning the original £32bn estimate is credible.
So who is Michael Williams speaking up for? London, or the poor citizens in the rest of this country who pay vast sums in taxes and get almost nothing related to transport in return.
F F Mitchell, Haslington, Crewe
I can quite understand that an alternative to HS2 may cause considerable disruption, but that is not a reason for continuing with HS2.
At home, we are now in the third week of disruption as the result of replacing a kitchen not fit for purpose with one that is. We could have avoided the disruption by having, say, an ornamental water feature built in the garden, but the end result would not have been as beneficial, despite the saving in disruption.
Gordon Whitehead, Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Don’t forget, the fares on HS2 are expected to be double the standard fares. As with the private motorway, I suspect most people would prefer to take the cheaper option and grumble.
David Ridge, London N19
Believe it or not, the NHS does quite well
Since the Care Quality Commission report finding almost a quarter of NHS hospitals are “at risk” of giving poor care, readers might have noticed the upsurge in adverts for private medicine. Yet comparing NHS hospitals ignores the financial context of the NHS compared with the other 20 Western countries.
The main medical objective is to reduce feasible mortality, and our studies contrasting the NHS with other nations provide a more accurate picture of NHS efficiency. Between 1980 and 2006, 18 countries spent more GDP on health than the UK, yet UK adult all cause mortality had the fourth highest reduction, and for cancers deaths the UK had the second biggest. Soon-to-be-published research shows the NHS has achieved even more up to 2010.
The evidence is available in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Pritchard & Wallace, 2011, and in the British Journal of Cancer, Pritchard & Hickish, 2011.
Health Secretary Hunt calls for “openness” about the shortcoming of the NHS but ignores the fact that the NHS is chronically under-funded but achieves more with less.
Colin Pritchard, Research Professor in Psychiatric Social Work, Bournemouth University
Back to conflict in the workplace
Owen Jones’s article about the Grangemouth dispute (28 October) took me right back to when I was an undergraduate at Liverpool University in the 1950s. At that time the management and unions in the shipbuilding industry were having so much fun knocking the spots off one another that they quite forgot to build any ships that any customer would want, with the inevitable result that shipbuilding on Merseyside has virtually disappeared.
It is clear from what Owen says that something similar was happening at Grangemouth. The agenda of the union leaders appears to have been to bring down the company so the plant would be nationalised, and they used the workers as their weapon. The management also seem willing to play on the same playing field, and apparently made no attempt to engage the workers.
The workers, caught in the middle, didn’t know whether they owed their loyalty to the company or the union, but Owen rightly points to the relief of the workers when the plant was “saved”.
Unless the management of Grangemouth really learns from this near-disaster, and treats its workers as the fantastic resource they are, the union bosses will be back and the whole thing will start again.
David Pollard, Salen, Isle of Mull
Being a lifelong Tory, I can’t totally agree with Owen Jones’s implied call for a revolution. But I find myself increasingly sympathetic to his views, as our infrastructure gradually falls into the hands of foreign shareholders, whose interests and objectives may differ from ours in the UK. I find this very frightening.
James Dunlop, Whaley bridge, Derbyshire
Look to the tax laws
While we applaud the good work of Margaret Hodge MP and her committee, together with some of the more responsible press, including The Independent, is it not time for her, and her committee, to focus on the cause, not the results, of these vast corporate tax mitigation activities?
There can be little doubt that the majority of these major UK trading concerns have the tax law on their side – and if they don’t, it will be the tax advisers’ professional indemnity insurers picking up the costs. The cause has to be the inept, outdated, UK corporate tax laws.
The corrections have to come from within Mrs Hodge’s own House. Until these laws are rewritten this public breast-beating will remain the hollow sound it currently is, and HM Treasury will continue losing many hundreds of millions of tax revenue through the activities of the super-bright tax-mitigation experts.
John Seymour, Ashington, Sussex
No chance to be lonely
I had to smile when I heard that two leading charities have said more than a third of older people are suffering from loneliness.
You see, at the age of 87 I am the sole carer for my 60-year-old autistic, insulin diabetic, asthmatic son, who lives with me. I love him to bits, but the continuous years of strain and the fact that more and more cutbacks mean that there is even less help available than ever, makes me wish I could have the opportunity at times to be lonely!
Barbara MacArthur, Cardiff
Not too clever
Steve Richards (29 October) claims that “Balls has displayed astute judgement on the big issues in recent decades.” How astute was he with regard to his support for tearing up regulatory controls on the big banks, keeping interest rates very low throughout an unsustainable boom, and allowing government debt to increase during the years of strong economic growth? If his views on all these issues are astute, then perhaps we need less astuteness from Ed Balls.
Professor Michael W Eysenck, London SW20
The Government is to allow drivers who overstay their allocated parking time a period of five minutes’ grace before a fine is imposed. I guarantee that within a week of this becoming law we will hear of somebody complaining that they were only in their sparking bay for one minute over this new time limit and it was just an overzealous traffic warden coupled with an obsessive desire for local authorities to bleed the poor motorist dry that caused them to be stung.
Michael O’Hare, Northwood, Middlesex
Power of protest
Will all those busily campaigning against wind and solar farms (“Most treasured landscapes ‘can be vandalised by developers’ ”, 28 October) be the first to volunteer for the inevitable power cuts if their efforts prove successful?
Anthony Batchelor, Bromyard, Herefordshire
A suspicion of paedophilia is today’s trigger for witch-hunts. When you have witch-hunts, innocent people get killed (“A modern British murder”, 29 October). Many of us are not as civilised as we like to believe.
Nigel Scott, London N22
Sir, Professor Norman Williams is right that patients will have to accept closure of hospital facilities if the NHS is to achieve “super-deluxe” round-the-clock care (“Seven-day NHS ‘means hospitals must close’,” Oct 28). In a publicly funded healthcare system that needs to improve quality with virtually zero real-term funding increases, an ageing population and an ever-increasing cost base it is simply impossible for the NHS to provide a higher quality service across all its existing hospitals.
The only way the NHS can deliver services seven days a week is through significant, clinically-led reconfiguration of care. This means delivering more services closer to home and fewer — but appropriate — services in larger acute hospitals. This will result in smaller, local hospitals becoming community hubs for primary and social care and greater centralisation of emergency and acute services on to fewer larger hospital sites. While these changes are often understandably opposed by local people, they are absolutely necessary to drive up quality and save lives, so it is time for local political leaders to show courageous leadership and become advocates for the changes which they know provide the only mechanism to improve care standards for patients.
sam burrows and matt hannant
PA Consulting Group, London SW1
Sir, A seven-day NHS would be ideal for patients and their employers but it could only be achieved by initially unpopular hospital mergers. This would allow critical levels of need to be met with the possibility of consultant-led services at most, if not all, times. These benefits would only be achieved if professional staffing levels were to be maintained but the savings in maintenance of buildings would be considerable. The more economic use of equipment which may now be used at less than optimum levels is also a consideration.
The introduction of shift work is already taking place in support areas such as laboratories. T he prospect of a rolling four or five-day week may create problems for those with dependent children or elderly parents, but these difficulties have been met in the private sector and should be faced in the public sector too.
Dr Robert J. Leeming, frcpath
Sir, Of course simple treatments can be carried out by GPs, and complex procedures requiring sophisticated expertise and expensive equipment need to be centralised.
The difficulty lies with the mass of work which falls into neither category — hip replacements, hernia repairs, maternity services and medical conditions such as pneumonia, strokes and diabetes.
There are downsides to centralisation. If a smaller hospital is closed, replacing the beds required in the closest major hospital will be near impossible, as these are invariably in conurbations with no free land. So waiting times go up and increased travelling for relatives can cause major problems and expense, particularly in rural areas.
Dr Alastair Lack
Coombe Bissett, Wilts
Sir, If local hospitals are to be closed and GPs’ offices expanded (leading article, Oct 28), why not rehouse the GPs in the hospitals and retain simple diagnostic and treatment services?
Dr Robert Lefever
The Heathrow Hub concept suggests extending both runways at Heathrow to the west and making a link to the mainline national railway system
Sir, We have put forward a pragmatic, sensible and affordable scheme to increase the capacity at Heathrow sufficient to cater for expansion for decades to come. It will allow noise mitigation in addition to the very considerable reduction in noise which new aircraft can and will generate.
So the claim by Boris Johnson (letter, Oct 28) that Willie Walsh will not meet with the Mayor to discuss the plan for a new East London airport is the pot calling the kettle black. Mr Johnson does not appear to be willing to listen to proposals other than his very expensive idea.
We will be very happy to meet with him to outline our far more practical and affordable submission.
Our Heathrow Hub concept suggests simply extending both runways at Heathrow to the west and making the obvious but sadly missing link to the mainline national railway system. Available capacity would be doubled, although a significant percentage of the slots could remain unused for noise alternation protocols. Also, early morning flights can land much farther down the extended runway so reducing noise to a large area of west London.
Our estimate of total cost including road diversions and a station is approximately £12.5bn, which is much lower than all other suggestions and would be funded from private capital. What is more, Heathrow is already one of the safest airports in the world and this scheme will make it even safer.
Our proposals meet all the criteria laid down by the Davies Commission. We have written to Mr Johnson to ask for a meeting but to date have heard nothing. Perhaps he already realises that our scheme has great merit but it would be beneficial if we could discuss the topic face to face.
There are issues that are nothing to do with privatisation that now make pre-emptive responses to emergencies on the railways difficult
Sir, As a former engineer on the railways in the BR days, I do have some sympathy for Mr Dow’s point of view (letter, Oct 29).
However, there are issues that are nothing to do with privatisation that now make pre-emptive responses to emergencies difficult. Much of the routine maintenance has been mechanised so there are fewer gangs that can respond. Gone are the railway cottages for key staff. When major 24/7 planned engineering works have been undertaken at key stations recently, Network Rail booked local hotels to ensure that its teams of contractors could be fed, watered and rested. To undertake almost any trackside task or use any machine, operatives will now have had to attend the necessary health and safety training course and thus it is no longer possible to adopt an “all hands to the pumps” approach. The systems are now far more complex than in the BR days and to ensure that the track and signalling are safe for 125mph traffic after any damage, the technicians need to be alert and concentrating on the task in hand.
‘The public deserve not to be sold down the river by disgruntled MPs and image-preening celebrities over press regulation proposals’
Sir, Not only was the Institute of Journalists incorporated by a Royal Charter in 1890 (letter, Oct 28) but it has a duty under that charter to uphold ethical and professional standards in journalism. As the current president of the Institute recently pointed out: “The public deserve not to be sold down the river by disgruntled MPs and image-preening celebrities over press regulation proposals. It is time these individuals come clean and admit that, when the police do their job, there are perfectly acceptable laws that already exist to keep law-breakers, including those in journalism, in check”.
President of the Chartered Institute of Journalists 1995-96
It would be wonderful if sections of the Royal Collection of Art could be sent around the country visiting galleries across the nation
Sir, Andrew Adonis is right (Thunderer, Oct 28): a permanent place to view the treasures of the Royal Collection of Art would be a wonderful attraction. Better still would be travelling sections of the collection visiting galleries across the nation: Leonardos in York, Van Dykes in Manchester, stamps and prints in Cardiff, silver in Scotland, the scope is endless. Look what the Walpole/Catherine the Great visiting collection has done for Norfolk’s visitor numbers, and consider the amazing regeneration of Margate which has followed the Turner Gallery’s establishment there.
If Her Majesty were to approve such a venture her legacy to this nation would be accompanied by ringing cash tills for generations.
Stoughton, W Sussex
SIR – The great storm of 2013 was a bit of a damp squib. While I fully appreciate the need for preparation and warning, especially given what happened in 1987, I can’t help wondering how much absenteeism as a result of this widespread panic has cost Britain’s businesses and the economy.
I rent office space for my PR company which I can reach easily enough, no matter what the weather. But for the small and medium-sized enterprises that almost had to write yesterday off, for lack of employees, this is going to be a significant hit.
By 9am yesterday morning, many must have been wondering what all the fuss was about.
National broadcasters completely over-dramatised their live reports from locations such as Brighton beach and Lyme Regis. They won’t be compensating small businesses for the consequence of having scared away employees.
Worthing, West Sussex
Pumpkins are wasted on a Hallowe’en lantern
29 Oct 2013
SIR – I don’t agree that it was “overkill” to think that extreme care might have been needed for those considering getting to work yesterday.
I too well remember the 1987 hurricane, the loss of life and the years it took to right the damage done.
So warnings were necessary: these weather systems cannot ever be foreseen exactly.
St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex
SIR – I suppose it was commendable for the train-operating companies to postpone commencing services on a day when severe gales were forecast, in order to avoid stranded trains full of passengers and, worse, accidents.
But the problems of fallen trees on the line would have been almost non-existent had Network Rail kept trackside growth in check.
Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Would anyone care to report how our “essential” wind farms performed on Monday (apart from the one that fell over)?
SIR – Were these power cuts actually an attempt by the energy companies to help us reduce our energy bills? (Sent from my smartphone, as I have no power at home.)
SIR – Despite the dire weather warnings, our Telegraph was delivered yesterday as usual at 6.30am.
SIR – A hurricane haiku.
Trees down, roads flood, some winds come.
Met Office over blow.
Nether Stowey, Somerset
SIR – In discussing the health tourism issue and associated costs, doctors’ representatives maintain that it should be no part of their members’ duties to act as Border Agency surrogates or to check on the legitimacy of foreign nationals’ entitlement to NHS services. In effect, the cost factor is not part of their remit.
I wonder if they would take the same attitude in respect of foreign nationals presenting themselves for treatment by private medical practitioners?
SIR – Here, in France, the system is simple: if you are a French resident you present your health identity card, which entitles you to treatment. Everyone else, even those who have the European health insurance card, pays for everything. They are then given a form detailing what they have paid for and can submit this for a possible refund. The only exception is, if involved in an accident, you will not be left at the roadside.
Narbonne, Aude, France
SIR – My cousin, recently visiting Britain from Australia, developed an ear infection. My wife phoned our GP and got an appointment the same day, appropriate treatment was administered and £40 charged. The process worked well.
So what is the difficulty in recovering costs from foreign visitors?
Police dress sense
SIR – I was in the supermarket at the weekend, where there were two policemen, buying cigarettes and crisps. They were laden down by heavy equipment round their waists, with more hanging from loops on their open-necked shirts. They had bulging pockets and loose fitting trousers tucked into boots.
Not that long ago the police wore white, collared shirts and ties, smart jackets and trousers and shining shoes. At least then they looked helpful, and not as if they were about to drag you off to prison.
Bridlington, East Yorkshire
Leaving a paper trail
SIR – I have now received four letters from my bank thanking me for registering for their paperless service.
SIR – The problems with some metal-on-metal implants have been widely publicised for years. In collaboration with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the British Hip Society and British Orthopaedic Association produced guidance for patients several years ago, which was updated recently.
There has been a significant reduction in the use of metal-on-metal devices over the past few years. The worst-performing implant (the ASR) was recalled three years ago and other poorly performing devices have been withdrawn since.
Some devices, such as the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing, have had good results and a low revision rate in certain population groups. In resurfacing 55-year-old males, with a 54mm head has a revision rate of 3 per cent at seven years.
John Timperley FRCS (Ed)
President, British Hip Society
John Skinner FRCS (Orth)
President Elect, British Hip Society
SIR – Metal-on-metal hip replacement has not been “banned”; it is the subject of ongoing deliberation by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and others. More than a million metal-on-metal devices have been implanted in patients in the past 25 years, but true toxicity has only been published in a handful of case reports – one of which, ironically, was a result of a shattered ceramic bearing.
Your article does not mention the success of Birmingham Hip Resurfacing – the most widely used procedure, and therefore the most relevant to patients.
Ronan Treacy FRCS Orth
Derek McMinn FRCS
Co-designers, Birmingham Hip Resurfacing
Beating parking fines
SIR – Peter Sissons is to be congratulated on fighting and beating his incorrectly issued private parking ticket. However, Mr Sissons says: “If you throw the ticket in the bin and refuse to pay the fine, it can affect your credit rating.” Fortunately this is not correct.
The only time a motorist’s credit rating would be affected is if the parking company took him or her to court, obtained judgment and the motorist failed to pay this judgment. Only a very tiny percentage of these cases go to court. Recently, a district judge threw out a claim for the high penalty requested by a parking company because the penalty was illegal and did not represent the loss to the parking company.
SIR – I was interested to read that it was not the £90 fine that worried Peter Sissons, but the deception of the fine. Mr Sissons should worry about the fine.
I was fined £90 for parking in a disabled bay with a disabled badge on show because it was a private pay-and-display car park. Why are parking companies allowed to post disabled signs and charge that amount?
B E Tuppen
Pulborough, West Sussex
Cherie as martyr
SIR – I was surprised to learn that Cherie Booth was thought to have had special vocal lessons to deepen her voice. When I first encountered her I was a new teacher at her school and she was starring in the school’s production of Murder in the Cathedral. She was a Lower VI student. Her voice was deep and resonant, and she absolutely convinced me that she was a 12th-century archbishop.
Were our bags dangerous before the plastic era?
SIR – What do the scientists think we did before the advent of single-use carrier bags? Baskets and bags were made of a variety of materials, and foodstuffs were not wrapped in plastic, yet somehow we survived.
SIR – My mother used the same basket to carry her meat, eggs and cheese every week for many years. After she died at the age of 88, I took over her basket and have used it now for seven years to no ill effect.
SIR – Colour-coding re-usable bags, to show what they have been used for, might help to prevent illness from bacteria.
SIR – I, too, share the concerns of John Alcock (Letters, October 26) about pumpkins being hacked up for Hallowe’en, and then left to rot. My love of eating pumpkin arose during my visits to Uganda, where it was used to supplement the rice or sweet potatoes that accompanied the bean, fish or occasional goat stews prepared for a household of seven.
Sadly, even the smallest pumpkins are too big for a person like me, living alone, to use without wasting a large proportion. However, I understand our local guide leader is planning to show her members how to make pumpkin soup from the edible parts that are left over, once Hallowe’en pumpkin lanterns have been made. A commendable task, which will be exciting, nourishing and useful.
SIR – When I lived next door to neighbours who had children, I helped to prepare their pumpkin for Hallowe’en. They kept the shell; I kept the insides for soup. On November 1, I buy pumpkin for practically nothing; the Americanisation of Hallowe’en has resulted in the pumpkin losing its culinary value.
SIR – John Alcock writes that Hallowe’en is a mindless celebration. Pagans who celebrate Samhain as being the end of summer and the start of a new year would not agree with him.
SIR – I really do think there are more important things to get offended by than pumpkins being carved up for decoration.
Sir, – Noel Whelan’s incisive analysis of the pervasive practice of the bugging of the telephones of world leaders is topical, but it is not a recent phenomenon (Opinion, October 26th). The attitude of the Taoiseach that presumes all his telephone calls are monitored is sound reasoning; and similar to the attitude of Lloyd George during the first World War. He always assumed agents of the kaiser would be eavesdropping on his conversations, and whenever possible he would speak in Welsh. In the 1960s, I read of a British academic making a call from his hotel in Bolivia, only to be castigated over the phone by an unknown third person for speaking too fast.
The Orwellian environment in which we now live is concerning and a disturbing feature of the landscape in which we operate. It’s not just world leaders and high-powered politicians who are susceptible to this practice, it affects us all. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – All over Europe media sources are clamouring to reveal details of US monitoring of millions of phone calls, including the phones of national leaders. Such spying on one’s friends is more akin to the role of a peeping Tom than pursuing genuine national security aims.
The Irish media by contrast seems to adopting a deafening silence on the likelihood that the US embassy in Ballsbridge and the US ambassador’s resident in the Phoenix Park may have been involved in similar widespread communications monitoring. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – When President Obama came to Europe shortly after election, he promised his administration had come to Europe to listen and listen carefully.
Nice to see a government keeping its word. – Yours, etc,
Sandycove, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s recent comment that he always operates on the basis that his calls are monitored (Miriam Lord, October 26th) echoes that of Dr Garret FitzGerald almost 30 years ago. The then taoiseach said, “Any Irish government that was simple-minded enough to assume that the intelligence services of the Soviet Union or the United States or Great Britain did not have the power to intercept messages would be taking risks with our national security.”
Dr FitzGerald was reacting to evidence that British Government Communications Headquarters at Cheltenham had intercepted a coded message to him from an Irish diplomat in London in the run-up to the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement and passed it on to the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. In the message, the diplomat advised the taoiseach that a junior British minister had confided to him that a critical speech by a British cabinet member on Ireland was for domestic consumption and not to worry about it. Within hours the junior minister was carpeted by a senior Whitehall official and told Mrs Thatcher was rather cross to learn the Irish were being given such privileged information. The Irish were tipped off about this encounter as well. Aware that their Swiss code machine was compromised, Irish diplomats resorted to sending sensitive despatches by hand. An embassy official would fly to Ireland, or hand the message to an Aer Lingus pilot at Heathrow for delivery to an Army despatch rider in Dublin to take to the taoiseach’s office. These were typed on an old mechanical typewriter, as the diplomats were also tipped off that a listening device could translate the sound patterns of the embassy electric typewriter. The lesson, then and now, is that the only way to beat new technology is with old technology. – Yours, etc,
Former Irish Times London Editor,
Stepaside, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I have read reports of Chancellor Merkel’s phone being tapped by the Americans. Can the Taoiseach confirm that the NSA has never bothered to tap his phone, preferring, rather, to monitor the communications of the troika? – ours, et,
CORMAC Mc MAHON,
Sir, – Just as the effects of an earthquake can be quantified on the Mercalli scale, will future monitoring of communication devices be measured on the Merkeli scale? – Yours, etc.
Drumree, Co Meath.
Sir, – We still await expressions of gratitude to Edward Snowden and statements of concern for his safety, from Angela Merkel and other European leaders including Enda Kenny. Don’t hold your breath. – Yours, etc,
CIARÁN Ó MURCHÚ,
Dún Chaoin, Co Chiarraí.
Sir, – Would our Government now consider granting Edward Snowden political asylum for his sterling service to the European community? – Yours, etc,
Mountjoy Street, Dublin 7.
Sir, – Una Mullally (Opinion, October 28th) brilliantly criticises the use of drones, stating “killing remotely from a computer is constructing a new wireless axis of evil”. Referring to Barack Obama, she states, “He won the Nobel Peace Prize after all”.
The Nobel Peace Prize is normally awarded on the basis of an outstanding record of accomplishment in working for peace. In the case of Obama it was more in the nature of an anticipatory award based on the expectation the he would fulfil the promises he had made so convincingly during his pre-election campaign. It is now fairly obvious that the Nobel awarding committee should have waited for results rather than banking on expectations. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – “The Minister [Michael Noonan] said that a decision on an exit strategy for Ireland would not be made until a new Government is formed in Germany” (Suzanne Lynch, Front page, October 29th). Could Mr Noonan explain if it was the Seanad or the Bundestag that the Irish electorate voted to retain? – is mise,
Sir, – Senator David Norris (October 23rd) rightly indicates the problematic dilemma regarding preparation of an accurate register for university panel Seanad seats, once updated to include graduates from all third-level institutions.
As he mentions, the current combined register entails approximately 200,000 registered details, while there are a great number of graduates who are not registered, or registered for example at an outdated address (not untypically a residence at time of graduation; a costly discrepancy as State-funded postage is sent to such addresses).
In particular, it is disconcerting that the number of younger registered graduates is relatively low.
The registration problem with the university panel Seanad seats has severely impinged on the entire credibility of this mode of election, and this issue must be seriously tackled before the next election takes place.
Essentially, on this basis, a new registration mechanism involving automatic registration and updating using PPS numbers should be introduced in tandem with the extension of the Seanad voting franchise to all third-level graduates.
Sir, – While I enjoyed Frank McNally’s article (An Irishman’s Diary, October 25th) on the potential for confusion in the complexities of timekeeping in Ireland and England circa 1920, I fear he over-simplified matters by saying Dublin Mean Time or Dunsink Time was “apparent time”. Apparent solar time is based on the successive passages of the sun across the meridian and these intervals are not uniform. It is the time displayed by a sundial. Most clocks advance at a constant rate and instead keep a “mean” time, where these differences are averaged over the solar year. – Yours, etc,
First published: Wed, Oct 30, 2013, 01:08
Sir, – I think Joan Burton and Eamon Gilmore meant they were cutting pensions “To the core” (Phil Sheridan, October 26th)! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – And where would you leave “a moxy”, “a gansey-load”, “a clatter”, “a dose” or “ a lock” (Irishman’s Diary, October 24th & Letters, October 28th)? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Thank heavens for Peter McNamara (October 26th) whose letter consoled me that I wasn’t the only one bamboozled by the letter from Revenue regarding Local Property Tax.
Notwithstanding an honours degree in English, I found the correspondence utterly confusing. Why is one being asked to “commit to your payment option” by November 27th, 2013, for a tax payable on March 21st, 2014? And if one should choose to pay online by credit card, will that payment be deducted then and there, ie before November 27th next (therefore clashing with Christmas bills and expenses!)? Anyway, what if we don’t “commit” before the November 27th deadline? Will we then be barred from using an online payment option later? Is it that those of us who are fully tax compliant are now also considered a soft touch to be tapped early?
Perhaps the Collector General could simplify the process by allowing us to choose a payment option in the days and weeks before the March 2014 deadline, instead of writing to us with a deadline some four months before the actual due date. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Hugh Gibney (October 28th) makes a valid point when he writes that the content of what the speakers at this week’s Web Summit in Dublin say should matter more than their gender.
It should, of course, be the case in every industry that the content of what people say matters more than their gender and, indeed, that the best qualified person is always chosen for the job. Academically, women have consistently outperformed men over the past number of years, so it cannot be the case that they do not have the relevant knowledge or expertise, regardless of the industry. The problem is not that they have nothing to say, merely that they are not invited to say it.
Women account for 82 per cent of graduates in health and welfare, 74 per cent of graduates in education and 63 per cent of graduates in arts and humanities. Yet a mere 15 per cent of our TDs are women, a little over one third of the members of State boards are women and less than a fifth of the members of local authorities are women.
It is a matter of concern that men do not appear to think primary school teaching is a viable career opportunity. Nevertheless, although 85 per cent of primary school teachers are indeed women, only 53 per cent of them are managers. In secondary education 63 per cent of teachers are women but only 41 per cent of them are managers.
Mr Gibney is concerned about future imbalances in law and medicine. Clearly, with the academic results above, there should already be a massive imbalance. The fact that it hasn’t happened leads me to believe that although we have equipped ourselves with the intellectual ability to compete at the highest level, women still haven’t learned to edge their male counterparts off the podium. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – So now we have it. The ructions caused by Archbishop Michael Jackson’s “Polyester Protestants” address is the fault of The Irish Times (Letters, October 25th). Keep digging, your Grace – the South Pole is only a shovelful away. – Yours, etc,
Very Revd TOM GORDON,
Dean of Leighlin,
Sir, – Archbishop Michael Jackson’s letter (October 25th) demonstrates that he has not opted for the quiet life. Clearly from the feedback published in the Letters page in recent days, he has his work cut out.
At least some of his flock is not afraid to “wash their linen”, or polyester, in public! I wish him well. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – My maternal ancestors were Protestant Palatines who settled in Ireland centuries ago while escaping from religious persecution. For my own part I chose to be a member of the Church of Ireland more than 40 years ago and, although I now form part of the Irish diaspora, I am very much still a practising member of the Anglican Church.
Although in the past there were divisions in Irish society, including some very sad ones affecting members of my own family, for the most part attitudes have changed with the times. There are bound to be vestiges of ancient suspicions. How could there not be given the ecclesiatical history of these islands? We should not, however, be afraid to discuss these matter openly in our Diocesan Synods if we perceive that they are affecting the well-being of the church. Certainly unhelpful remarks about members of our hierarchy serve no positive purpose in our mission.
When attending a main Sunday service in a rural cathedral of the Church of Ireland last summer, there were seven of us plus the dean and the organist. I would say that polyester is the least of our problems. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Enough of this divisive debate. Let us acknowledge our differences, celebrate our similarities and move forward together.
As someone who worships in both Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, I do not see myself as a polyester Protestant or a woolly Anglican – but more as a cotton-rich Christian. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It’s very obvious from the Government’s different responses to the alcohol and smoking issues,which of these two industries (tobacco and alcohol) exerts the greatest clout in this country.
Tobacco can’t advertise or offer sponsorship and now its having its shiny packaging taken away – all good news. Alcohol can advertise, offer sponsorship, hold an annual “let’s all drink as much as we can day” and keep its shiny packaging!
If the Government and Minister for Health James Reilly are so convinced that plain pack cigarettes will reduce cigarette smoking, then by logic, what works for cigarettes should also work to reduce alcohol consumption: introduce plain bottle alcohol. And while they’re at it, ban alcohol sponsorship and advertising. – Yours,etc,
Sir, – So our Minister for Education is happy for teachers to get involved in student assessment because such methods show “satisfactory results” in other countries (Breaking News, October 29th). Ruairí Quinn obviously has never been involved in any form of assessment, or else he would realise that “satisfactory” comes after Excellent and Very Good, with Poor following Satisfactory. I thought he was aiming for an “excellent” education system, not a satisfactory one! – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Robin Heather (October 28th) is being somewhat overcautious in insisting that mobile phones should not be used around petrol pumps.
Such a device is simply not capable of generating sufficient power to create a spark with enough energy to cause ignition. This is why there has never been a proven incident of this kind anywhere in the world.
In fact, your correspondent would be more likely to cause an explosion by wearing nylon stockings while refuelling. Unfortunately his/her androgynous Christian name prevents me from surmising the relevance of this last piece of advice. – Is mise,
Dr GARETH P KEELEY
Department of Interface
Chemistry & Surface
Engineering, Max Planck
Institute for Iron Research,
Sir, – Shouldn’t the Vatican check if anything is hidden behind the Bishop of Limburg’s €15,000 bath? – Yours, etc,
Cherryfield Avenue Lower,
Ranelagh, Dublin 6.
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.
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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.
NO CHOICE BUT TO LEAVE
* 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.
EU FINGERPRINT ID CARDS
* 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.
IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS
* 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?
DOG FIGHTING HATE/HATE
* 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.
Campaign for the Abolition Of Cruel Sports Callan, Co Kilkenny
BARACK? IS THAT YOU?
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.
Bantry, Co Cork