1 November 2013 Hospital

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble the have to find a lost missile and disarm it!
Take Mary to the GP and hospital lonh wait for blood tests 5 hours home fish and chips
We watch Hancock its not too bad
No Scrabble today


Graham Stark
Graham Stark was an actor alongside Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther films and provided voices for The Goon Show

Graham Stark (right) with Peter Sellers in ‘A Shot in the Dark’ Photo: REX
6:41PM GMT 31 Oct 2013
Graham Stark , the actor, who has died aged 91, was frequently cast in supporting roles in comedy films starring his close friend Peter Sellers.
Never quite achieving stardom himself, Stark moved on the periphery, appearing in nearly 80 films, often as the fall-guy or put-upon sidekick.
Stark’s links with Sellers dated from the post-war heyday of The Goon Show on BBC Radio, where his natural talent for creating funny voices shone through. The pair went on to appear in the popular Pink Panther films, Sellers starring as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau while Stark took various subservient roles. He was particularly notable as Hercule LaJoy in A Shot in the Dark (1964).

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Off screen, Stark and Sellers not only became good friends, but — as single men in the 1950s — shared many amorous adventures together, often taking girlfriends back to Sellers’s flat in Finchley Road where the machinery of seduction included one of the first automatic record-players in London. Stark would later stand as best man at all of Sellers’s four weddings.
Although best known as a comedy actor, Stark turned in a touching performance in the film Alfie (1966) as Humphrey, the bus conductor who marries the pregnant girlfriend of Michael Caine’s title character.
The son of a purser on transatlantic liners, Graham William Stark was born at Wallasey, Merseyside, on January 20 1922, and educated at Wallasey Grammar School, where he acted in school plays. He was only 12 when he appeared with the Liverpool Repertory Company as Macduff’s son in a production of Macbeth.
Dancing lessons led to his professional debut the following year in a West End pantomime, Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves (Lyceum, 1935). Moving to London in 1937, he took elocution lessons to lose his Merseyside accent and made his first, fleeting, film appearance as a bellboy in the thriller A Spy in Black (1939).
At 17 Stark enrolled at Rada, but volunteered for the RAF when war intervened, joining Ralph Reader’s gang shows and entertaining troops in North Africa, the Far East and Germany.
After the war Stark joined the bohemian coterie frequenting the ornate Grafton Arms pub in Victoria where up-and-coming entertainers like Terry-Thomas, Jimmy Edwards, Tony Hancock, Dick Emery and Alfred Marks held court. It was in the Grafton’s back bar that Stark renewed an RAF friendship with Peter Sellers while Sellers and Spike Milligan experimented with material that, in 1951, would metamorphose into The Goon Show.

Graham Stark in ITV’s ‘Tiger Bastable’ (ITV/REX)
As well as providing madcap voices for The Goons, Stark also appeared in other popular radio shows of the day, notably Educating Archie, with the ventriloquist Peter Brough, and Ray’s A Laugh, starring the Liverpool comedian Ted Ray.
Stark had a complex relationship with Spike Milligan, who suffered from manic depression . Whenever Milligan failed to turn up for a Goon Show recording, Stark would stand in for him; and when Milligan and Sellers moved into television with A Show Called Fred in 1956, Stark joined the cast.
In 1963 he appeared as a psychiatrist in Milligan’s bleak satirical comedy The Bed Sitting Room, set in the aftermath of World War III. But when Stark’s stage performance attracted critical acclaim, Milligan flew into a jealous rage and threatened to shoot him. Since Milligan was known to keep a revolver, Stark took the threat seriously — but the two were later reconciled.
In 1964 Stark starred in his television comedy sketch series, The Graham Stark Show, which — although written by Johnny Speight, later to create Till Death Us Do Part — proved a flop.
Stark was also an accomplished photographer, and often took pictures of stars, including Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor , whom he encountered on film sets.
He published Remembering Peter Sellers in 1999 and an autobiography, Stark Naked, in 2003.
Graham Stark married, in 1959, the actress Audrey Nicholson, with whom he had two sons and a daughter.
Graham Stark, born January 20 1922, died October 29 2013


In September, a group of activists (mainly women) took action to stop the DSEi arms fair at the Excel centre in London. They are being taken to court and charged for peaceful actions such as blocking military equipment from entering the arms fair. But where is the wrong? Inside the arms fair, governments, military and private delegates were encouraged to spend on the latest military wares. Those who attended are fuelling murder, torture, and conflict across the world. They were not questioned, searched or arrested during their time in London, even though many of the attendees were from countries our own government identifies as having “the most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns”. We support the activists who have stood up for peace and human rights and we support the right to strongly oppose and challenge the arms trade. The activists being charged, and taken to court on 4 November, for trying to stop this illegitimate trade should be congratulated, not convicted.
Caroline Lucas MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, Linda Riordan MP, Mark Thomas, Michael Mansfield QC, Owen Jones, Peter Kennard, Peter Tatchell, Will Self, Emily Johns co-editor, Peace News, John Hilary director of War on Want, Dr Stuart White Jesus College, Oxford, Sam Hollick Oxford city councillor, Glyn Robbins chair of United East End, Shelley Sacks professor of social sculpture, Oxford Brookes University, Dr Rebecca E Johnson executive director, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, Angie Zelter, Julia Oyster, Deborah Glass-Woodin, Bethan Tichborne, Helen Swanston, Rupert Eris, Tiggy Sagar, Valerie Cochrane, Philippa Cochrane, Kevin Meany, Jo Rowlands

Felicity Lawrence (Where did the 29% horse in your Tesco burger come from?, 22 October) misleadingly puts ABP Food Group at the heart of a story of alleged malpractice by Dutch meat trader Willy Selten. While ABP Silvercrest received a small amount of his meat, this was via a third-party supplier, Norwest. ABP was not one of the 502 customers in 16 different countries who purchased meat directly from Selten – meat that was later recalled by Dutch food authorities due to concern that it may have contained equine DNA. The meat that Norwest delivered to ABP Silvercrest was less than 0.1% of this total product recall.
In a second article (24 October), Ms Lawrence asserts “it is still not clear that anyone will be found responsible” for the horsemeat incident. ABP is taking every step possible to establish the source of contaminated product and reached a legal settlement in September with Norwest, which apologised for inadvertently supplying our company with contaminated product. We have also started legal proceedings in the Irish high court against a second supplier in Poland.
Among other misapprehensions, the second article gives the impression of an axis of corporate and personal relationships between Eamon Mackle of Freeza Meats and ABP’s chairman Larry Goodman. Mr Goodman was never friends with Mr Mackle and has not spoken to or met him in over 20 years, making the article’s characterisation of him being an “old friend” difficult to sustain. It is clear that the horsemeat issue was the result of an EU-wide fraud, and that many leading food producers – including Nestlé, Birdseye, and Findus – were independently and inadvertently affected by it. ABP is as keen as anyone to see that those responsible are prosecuted. We believe the industry in general, and ABP in particular, have made more progress than these two articles recognise.
Paul Finnerty
Group chief executive, ABP Food Group

Your call for a review of all intelligence surveillance programmes in Britain (Learning the Feinstein lesson, 29 October) is well made but makes one error. Those responsible for oversight here did know what was going on; they just failed to tell the rest of us. The interception of communications commissioner’s annual reports detail the process by which warrants for targeted interception are authorised but not those for mass surveillance.
The intelligence and security committee reported on the government’s communications data bill last February and must have been aware of the breadth of GCHQ surveillance programmes, but just did not tell us. Intelligence oversight institutions can never make public everything they read in their work, but those here must move beyond seeing their role in narrow legal and managerial terms, to inform the public as to the complexities of intelligence, while acting as real protectors of citizens’ rights.
Peter Gill
Research fellow, University of Liverpool
• Congratulations to the Guardian and its brave editor and staff for publishing the latest revelations on the US spying programme. I have been an editor and journalist for 40 years (now retired), and I am aware of the constant pressure from vested interests. Now David Cameron is threatening to use regulation to rein in the scope of the Guardian’s investigations. It’s outrageous; shooting the messenger because you don’t like the message. We must have newspapers such as the Guardian which, unlike other major newspaper groups, cannot be bought off or intimidated by powerful interests. Full support to the Guardian.
Darrel Cake
Spearwood, Western Australia
• Re the phone hacking trial (Report, 29 October): it would be helpful to we lay people if Judge Saunders could summarise when the hacking of innocent people’s phones ceases to be a criminal offence and becomes vital to national security. Is it a matter of scale?
Kevin Bell
I know I am a lone dissenting voice, but the truth is that Lou Reed was a poor musician (Obituary, 29 October). He could hardly sing or play. He also had an appalling effect on music, especially in Britain, being one of the main influences on the disastrous and unmusical punk movement, which flooded the scene with DIY players and destroyed the skill base here for years. He furthermore promoted heroin openly, leading to more horror. I can’t help feeling anger at the way he is revered. And a blow to his “alternative” status: it was revealed this week on BBC TV News’ that after the disintegration of the execrable Velvet Underground, he went back to working for his father’s accountancy firm. Hip!
Pete Brown

• Is it a symptom of an ageing society that even the man who sang “Heroin, be the death of me” in 1967 lived on to the age of 71?
Martin Hillary
Ipswich, Suffolk
• So I too must commit a crime and be sent to prison in order to become more of a “complete person” (Prison clearly does not work, G2, 30 October)? Overweening, arrogant and narcissistic crap.
Pete Lavender
• The Guardian, 30 October: front page – photo of model when she was 14; page 19 – article on the joining of Europe and Asia by the Istanbul tunnel. Are you chasing a tabloid readership?
Mike Clarke
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
• Forget about strawberries and peas. Is it a record that one letter writer has two letters published on the same day (David Craig, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire: Letters, 31 October)? I never get one published.
Anne Abbott
• Regarding Patricia Lowe’s query about when the word “electric” became a noun (Letters, 31 October), I’m 84 years old and clearly remember standing in shops, aged nine or 10, and hearing women saying how hard it was to put by enough money for “the gas”, or (more rarely) “the electric”.
Beryl Jackman
Bognor Regis, West Sussex

Colin Leys (Private hospitals fail too, 28 October) is misleading on the transparency and availability of data about independent sector providers of NHS care. They are subject to the same regulatory scrutiny as the NHS and provide the same information so as to allow transparency and comparison. The Care Quality Commission includes independent providers in its annual audit. Independent hospitals are regularly inspected by the same CQC inspectors as the NHS, using the same inspection standards. The new friends and family test also includes independent providers and allows patients to rate independent hospitals using the same criteria as they use for NHS hospitals.
For elective procedures such as hip and knee replacements, independent providers submit the same comprehensive performance data including Patient Reported Outcome Measures, National Joint Registry statistics and NHS Hospital Episode Statistics. All these are available online and are collated by the Private Health Information Network and published by the NHS Partners Network. Like NHS hospitals, most independent sector hospitals provide outstanding care and the data show that, overall, the sector consistently achieves outcomes at least as good and sometimes better than those of the NHS providers.
When rare lapses do occur, in the past, as with NHS hospitals, these have usually only become apparent after the event. The CQC’s new approach to regulation and inspection will hopefully make it easier for risk to be identified in advance, for all types of provider, before patients suffer, and has our full support.
David Worskett
Chief executive, NHS Partners Network
• Colin Leys claims “private hospitals have successfully resisted publishing information which would allow them to be compared with NHS hospitals”. In fact, data soon to be published by the Private Healthcare Information Network directly equates and compares the performance of NHS hospitals against their independent counterparts. His article takes no account of the CQC’s inspections that found the independent sector is on average 93.1% compliant with standards, or that the clinical governance structures required across the whole service are in place. All hospitals, independent and public, are regulated and inspected by the CQC – and are held to the same standards.
In the wake of Mid Staffordshire and the Francis report, the emphasis is rightly on ensuring quality and transparency. All hospitals need to learn from these mistakes and contrary to Mr Leys’ claims, the independent sector is not immune from this rigour. Furthermore, the independent sector supports the NHS in covering a range of general and acute services, and provides complex and challenging treatment pathways. Given the significant economic and medical challenges facing our health service, the independent sector would welcome the opportunity to provide more services to complement and support the NHS.
The failings at Mid-Staffordshire do not reflect the excellence within the NHS. Similarly, it is wrong to write off the high-quality, patient-focused provision the independent sector offers based on one case.
Fiona Booth
Chief executive, Association of Independent Healthcare Organisations
• While politicians and officials call for greater transparency by health service providers, they look the other way so far as it might be applied to their responsibilities (Drive for transparency on NHS treatment to be extended, 31 October). We’re still waiting for the health secretary to comply with the information commissioner’s longstanding ruling that the risk register, prepared in the process of driving through the flawed legislation that became the Health and Social Care Act 2012, should be put into the public domain. So long as the register remains hidden, it is likely that many of us will continue believing that it is a damning indictment of changes, predicting problems that could be prevented.
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon

The affordable energy crisis (Energy firms ‘overcharge by £3.7 bn a year’, 30 October) is an inevitable consequence of three essential planks of coalition policy: engineered inflation through QE; further pressure on employment rights; and a farcically corrupt CPI measure of inflation – all highly regressive policies which have resulted in five years of falling real incomes. We seem to be living in a consumer society without the means to consume, a paradox of austerity which is entirely analogous with the paradox of thrift, being permanent, perplexing and palpable. The regional recession will not end until incomes start to rise, though it is quite unclear how that will happen. A significant rise in the nationally established minimum wage might be a good start.
Bill Goodall
Bewdley, Worcestershire
• Little attention has been focused on changes to be introduced by British Gas of a standing charge of 26p per day (£94.9 a year), removal of the prompt payment discount (about 1.7% 0f the cost of gas used), and also the continuing penalty of about 7% for those paying by cash or cheque rather than direct debit. Although the standard gas charge for those paying by cash or cheque has been reduced from 8.072p to 5.05p for users of less than 2,680kWh a year, the percentage increase in the annual bill for a small user (eg less than 1,000kWh) is close to 95%. Is there potential here for easing the burden of energy costs?
Alan Haines
• If the larger energy companies are indeed set to increase residential fuel prices (unnecessarily) by £3.7bn, it is worth noting that the consequent increase in VAT revenues will ensure the Treasury will also be receiving a windfall of an additional £180m next year. Equally, if the energy companies were to succeed in their disingenuous campaign to cease collecting funds for social welfare and environmental improvements (have they forgotten the polluter pays principle?), an additional consequence would be that the Treasury would be forced to forgo annual VAT revenue of well over £230m.
Andrew Warren
Association for the Conservation of Energy
• The government’s concern for consumers securing the best deal regarding energy supplies is surely disingenuous (Government set to make it easier to switch energy suppliers, 31 October). We all know that working through tariffs and comparisons is far from easy and leads many of us to despair and paralysis. As it is an objective fact which supplier is best for which circumstances at any given time, there is a simple answer: insist that the companies – or the regulators – automatically perform the switch for us. After all, they have all the relevant information and presumably are not baffled by the comparisons. Mind you, maybe that would bring to light how capitalist success partially relies on consumer ignorance, apathy or bewilderment in the face of marketing ploys, advertisements and temptations. After all, how many of us can work out the best deal, be it regarding energy, pensions, mortgages – or even wine sold as three for the price of two?
Peter Cave
• The argument by the energy companies that they do not make as much profit as, for example, Vodafone, is specious and irrelevant. Consumers have a choice as to their use of their mobile phones – including none at all if they fall on hard times: this option is not available to consumers of energy. These companies must remember that they are national utilities that have a duty to serve the community, not to screw customers for as much as the market can stand, as unfettered capitalism demands.
Frank Fahy
King’s Somborne, Hampshire
• My latest Scottish Power bill says that electricity costs make up 39% of their costs. So if their latest 9% rise is to be justified, that means wholesale electricity costs must have risen by 23%, not the 1.7% actual increase stated by Ofgem. Who’s telling porkies?
Peter Hanson
• I don’t see much written about the consistently rotten job that the toothless poodle Ofgem has done for the past decade. Compared to the rather good Ofcom, Ofgem has been a joke in particularly bad taste.
Stewart Taylor


Having been a head at a school where over 80 per cent of the young pupils had families living abroad, I am familiar with the problem of term-time holidays (“The easyJet generation revolts over holiday ban”, 31 October).
Then, as now, the guidance was that these were to be taken in exceptional circumstances only, and, then as now, families took the cheaper option. It was common for pupils to be absent for six weeks or more and, although the contact with their families was enriching, there was no doubt that their academic education, particularly their language skills, suffered. This is more serious than the short holiday with cultural trimmings, and has to be addressed by the travel companies with government regulation, as will certainly be necessary.
In the case of short holidays, there is room for negotiation, with attendance and attainment taken into account. But school is not something to do until a better offer turns up. Parents should ask whether a simpler holiday, in the UK during the school holidays, would give their child a better signal as to value.
Schools are not blameless. Of course, they want to minimise the disruption to children, but they are also target-driven. Successive governments have imposed arbitrary attendance and attainment targets on schools. These are turned into published data which is interpreted negatively by the same parents who contribute to the problem. If leave is refused, the family invariably take it anyway and the school is caught on the other horn of high unauthorised absence.
As an Ofsted inspector once memorably put it to me: “I know there isn’t anything you can do, but you’ve got to find something.” Instead of petitions, parents and schools would be better occupied in fighting this cockeyed attitude.
Jean Gallafent
London NW1
Council acted too late in Shoesmith case
The news that Sharon Shoesmith is to receive a large settlement following her dismissal by Haringey Council in the wake of the Baby P tragedy comes as no surprise, but this outcome could have been averted. 
Rumours of the death of another child were circulating in Haringey months before the court case that precipitated Shoesmith’s demise. The Labour administration employed specialist public relations advisers to assist in dealing with the anticipated negative fall-out when the verdict was announced.
This attempted spin failed because Shoesmith and the politicians in charge were not deemed to be sufficiently contrite, so Ed Balls said they had to go.
A more sensible approach for Haringey would have been to instigate a confidential in-house review into the circumstances that led to the death in advance of the trial, so that the council could have demonstrated that lessons had already been learned and acted on, rather than simply issue another lame apology.
There was no good reason to delay this process for a year until after the trial, and every reason to get on with it. Positive action could have saved Shoesmith’s career and the taxpayer a lot of money.   
Nigel Scott
Liberal Democrat Councillor for Alexandra Ward, Haringey
London N22
Peace poppies? Very suspicious
Early last night I ordered 10 white poppies from the Stop the War Coalition website, using my credit card online.
Within five minutes, I received a text from Tesco Bank asking me to ring them urgently. In case this was a phishing exercise, rather than replying directly, I looked up their number and rang from my landline.
They said they were making a security check because of recent suspicious activity on my account. They asked me to verify some recent transactions, including this last one, which I did. They said everything was fine and I hung up, but as soon as I put the receiver down, I felt a shudder.
Am I being paranoid or had the covert eyes of the State just turned in my direction? Have any other readers had a similar experience?
Dr John Buckingham
Hounslow, Middlesex
Nigel Cubbage is brave to not wear the remembrance poppy this November (letter, 31 October). It is perhaps worn too widely with too little thought – it seems odd a pop star would have to wear it on Saturday night television.
Neither world war was fought for Britain to become unthinkingly conformist in public. I might make a donation to the British Legion, but I should not have to feel I must broadcast the fact by wearing a poppy.
Ian McKenzie
Paying the bill for a waste of gas
The concern about the increase in gas prices exposes the ill-founded thinking underlying the “dash for gas” for electricity generation.
Modern combined-cycle gas-fuelled electricity generation plant results in a net energy conversion  efficiency of some 50 per cent,  allowing for production and transmission losses. When gas is piped and used as a prime  energy source its overall energy conversion efficiency is about 90 per cent, allowing for the storage and transmission losses.
When there are energy uses which can be satisfied from either of these routes, such as space and process heating, it would suggest that we require almost twice as much gas for the “electricity route”. Surely this extra, and perhaps unnecessary, demand for a finite resource tends to increase its price.
Until we have developed  sustainable energy resources and an effective national energy policy, we can at least educate domestic users to operate energy management strategies, such as the installation of efficient house insulation, which will serve to reduce both the demand for and the cost of fuel.
Dr David Bartlett
Ilkley, West Yorkshire
I do not understand why so many people are complaining about energy bills to heat their homes.
My 93-year-old grandmother wears two jumpers in the winter, sits in front of the gogglebox, a hot water bottle on her lap, and, armed with a flask of warm tea, regales her carers with stories of Winston Churchill, doodlebugs, the bygone days when there was no television or central heating, and, indeed, refuses to turn on the gas fire in her own front room.
At night, fortified with a cup of warm milk and another hot water bottle, it’s off to bed. No problem, fuss or complaint.
Her secret? Good home insulation to keep out the draughts.
Dominic Shelmerdine
London W8
Utility companies currently seem to regard it as their right to rip us off, especially the poor. Several of your correspondents recently have expressed understandable surprise and horror at this.
However, if we accept that the purpose of society is now to serve the economy, it all makes perfect sense.
Susan Alexander
Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire
It’s those crazy Froggies again
Another day, another French-bashing piece in the British media (“The French malady”, 31 October), replete with the usual, tired, old – and inaccurate – stereotypes. Allow me to counter them with some facts of daily life in France.
You describe a “way of life, a culture, a language and cuisine that critics describe as xenophobic”.  My local cinema in a small town is showing 13 films this week, of which five are in their original language with subtitles: three American films plus one Belgian and one Palestinian. English words pepper French daily discourse. I’m going to see a French Top 14 rugby match on Saturday in which both teams will have a mix of national and international players.
You highlight “the resistance to supermarket bread and McDonald’s”.  Supermarkets have sold sliced bread for ages: ours even have a machine for slicing up more traditional bread (French compromise: they’re as adept at it as we are). France is McDo’s largest European market, we even have one here. As to the “sclerotic labour market”, another old favourite, French labour productivity is higher than Britain’s.
Hollande is vastly unpopular, but little more so than Sarkozy was latterly. But the predominantly right-wing media on both sides of the Channel are becoming hysterical in their criticism of him, while pandering to the agenda of the extreme right.
Rod Chapman
Sarlat, France
How many more drone strikes?
In 2006 a US drone killed 85 teenage boys in Bajaur close to the Pakistan/Afghan border. My students in Peshawar told me this at the time, and the strike has  been independently confirmed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. And yet this has still not been admitted by the USA. So how many more drone strikes have there been in these borderlands than the ones you list in your poignant article of 30 October?
Dr David L Gosling
(Former principal of Edwardes College, Peshawar)
North star
Rather than HS2 bringing London’s “prosperity” to Yorkshire (Jane Merrick, 30 October), we might debate what Yorkshire offers to London (apart from myself!). Yorkshire has a natural boom – dales, wolds, rivers, coast, hills – which feels completely different to the hectic economic well-being of the South-east. There is also still a mutuality which is beyond price.  Let’s appreciate the differences, and accept London might learn from Yorkshire. That’s not to classify either as bad or good.
Chris Payne
London NW1
Avoiding the issue
At last a letter about tax avoidance that hits the mark (John Seymour, 30 October). Tax avoidance is perfectly legal, whether it be by individuals, small companies or multinational concerns. If the politicians don’t like what is happening, then they should stop the posturing and change the laws. Put up or shut up.
David Edmondson
Bacup, Lancashire
Today’s eagles
I see that the magnificent Roman eagle unearthed in the City of London (report, 30 October) belonged to a prosperous and important early Londoner. I wonder what sculptures future archaeologists would find that represented the power of the present wealthy City elite? Perhaps a statue of a fat cat smoking a cigar?
Ivor Yeloff
No error
Peter Whitehead (letter, 28 October) quotes a newspaper letters editor who does his best “to keep errors of fact off the letters page”. Please don’t say you will be adopting this policy. I would miss the Independent letters page.
Julian Gall


‘Britain’s place in world business and politics is due to the enterprise of the Industrial Revolution when vision was the driving force’
Sir, Your editorial “Right Track” (Oct 30) was indeed apt in questioning the reasons why HS2 should not be built by various siren groups that crop up whenever anything new is mooted. The same arguments were made by landowners and businesses, such as the canal companies, at the construction of the first railway between Liverpool and Manchester in the days of “the Rocket” and the Rainhill trials. The Luddite movement still flourishes.
The campaign against HS2 seems to be one of thinking of the cost and doubling it, or the even bigger lie that money “saved” will be spent on improving the current system. I have as much confidence in that as travelling on a flying pig. It will just be reassigned to something else.
I still recall the promise, when billions of pounds were thrown at the Channel Tunnel, that we would get a high-speed link to the North West. I urge the Government and the vacillating Labour Party (as a local councillor and secretary) to get a grip and support the project, otherwise there will be a lot of Labour voters and councillors very upset up t’North.
Bill Bradbury
Billinge, Lancs

Sir, You are right to highlight the peculiarly British symphony of opposition to major infrastructure improvements. It is tiresome, and drowns out the far more rational worry that HS2 will just turn Birmingham into a suburb of London (which a 49-minute journey could well do). Already we are being told that the Tube would not be able to cope with the huge increase of passengers at Euston, which would necessitate the construction of Crossrail 2 — another £12 billion. This will do nothing for the Midlands and the North.
HS2 emulates the French TGV model, which makes some sense where cities are generally 80 to 100 miles apart, but not in crowded Britain. Germany — which, like us, has closely spaced cities — has steadily and successfully improved its railways and the economic balance of the regions by upgrades and some shortish new lines. Most of these have not been exorbitantly expensive because in most cases very high speed was not needed. Surely that is a better model for us?
Dr Dominic White

Sir, Sluggish enthusiasm for HS2, together with the National Trust backing away from fracking, takes us back to the 19th-century days of the Luddites. Britain’s place in world business and politics is due to the enterprise of the Industrial Revolution when vision was the driving force behind cotton, coal, steel, railways and worldwide trade.
The National Trust should look at its stately piles; I would bet that most were built by men and women with backbone and foresight, creating industry and business.
David Sugden
Worsley, Manchester

Sir Our granddaughter recently won a temporary student job in Germany. The interview was done on Skype. Another family member was involved with a conference in Manchester where the lecturer was unable to attend, but appeared on a screen, not only talking but answering questions. It will not be long before such procedures are commonplace and the need for a second, overpriced and destructive railway system will be gone.
Pam Braithwaite
Ilkley, W Yorks

If our sense of morality diminishes during the course of the day, shouldn’t PMQs be moved to an earlier slot?
Sir, I noted with interest the claim by Harvard researchers that people are more likely to be dishonest in the afternoon than in the morning (report, Oct 31). As a chartered psychologist, I am moved to suggest that we bring Prime Minister’s Questions forward by an hour from its traditional noon start. I’m sure all sides of the House would benefit.
Professor Patrick Mcghee
Chorley, Lancs

Drama schools have decades of experience in helping people to overcome their fear of speaking in public places
Sir, The news that for most people public speaking is more terrifying than death (report, Oct 30), will come as no surprise to the many performers who have “died” in front of an audience. Drama schools have decades of experience in helping young people overcome this anxiety and in recent years RADA has had to develop ever more courses to meet the demand from those in public and private service who periodically have to emerge from behind their keyboard to speak to other human beings.
The results can so often transform people’s lives that one of our teachers wondered recently whether drama training should be available on the National Health, or at least the national curriculum.
Edward Kemp
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

The armour-plated species of insect, designed to withstand massive shocks, are probably the form of life that will survive a nuclear blast
Sir, Reading Matthew Parris’s entertaining account of his battle with the beetles occupying his African drum (Oct 30), I was reminded of a paperweight given to my father and which I now own. An entomologist, he studied and admired most things that crawled and waved their legs in the air. The paperweight contains a small locust and is accompanied by a quote from The Rival World. It reads, “Who shall inherit the earth? Shall it be the rival world of the insects, striking us down in pain and death, destroying our possessions, devouring the food we now so sorely need?”
I hate to break it to Mr Parris but the answer is probably yes. The armour-plated ones, designed to withstand shocks up to nuclear attacks, will probably win the day.
Jane Hardy

The number of pupillage places available is decreasing steadily year on year and those aiming for the Bar deserve to know that
Sir, You suggest that there are 900 pupillages available (Student Law, Oct 31). I doubt the number will even be 400 this year, based upon the steady decline from more than 500 in 2005 to fewer than than 450 in 2010 alone. While I’m sure your article was not intentionally misleading, those considering a career at the Bar deserve to know the harsh reality.
Edward Ross
Pupil barrister, 3PB Barristers

SIR – Joe Shute is correct to point out that there is plenty of life yet in the Mark III coaches that make up the royal train.
He, and the Royal family, should look no further than Chiltern Railways and First Great Western to see what contemporary designers and operators can achieve with older rolling stock of the Mark III design.
Chiltern have set new standards in comfort for standard-class passengers, and First Great Western have got it spot on with their first-class seating and fine dining.
Anyone thinking of sending the royal train to the scrapyard should see and enjoy what is possible with the existing kit before making a rash decision.
Andrew Castledine
Petersfield, Hampshire

SIR – At last the penny seems to have dropped in Westminster as to the real problem with the British energy market: the lack of competition.
Last week Jeremy Warner defended the power companies, arguing that “since costs are largely the same… genuine price competition is at best marginal”. The inference is that there is little to be done.
While there is not much scope for large differentials in pricing, there is room for variation in operational efficiency and profit margins. The fact that all energy companies are showing increases in profits proves that there is no real competition. The companies have decided that there is more to be gained by following the herd on price and not going for market share. Whether this is by agreement, or by a common recognition of an exploitable oligopoly, is not important.
Now that the Government recognises the inherent competitive weakness in the energy sector (and similarly in the fuel, banking and water sectors) and the ineffectiveness of the regulatory bodies, it must actively foster new competitors. Until that happens there must be a constraint on profits, either by capping or taxation.
Peter Jackson
Poole, Dorset
Related Articles
The royal train has plenty of mileage in her yet
31 Oct 2013
SIR – I am confused. All our main political parties have announced loudly, at one stage or another, that they will pursue policies – encouraged or required by EU directives – designed to increase energy costs, in order to reduce usage of fossil fuels. Energy prices are now duly increasing and our political parties are falling over themselves to try to stop this. Have I missed something?
Charles Pugh
London SW10
SIR – What a complete waste of taxpayers’ money. The MPs were totally out of their depth while questioning the energy representatives. We need MPs who have worked in the world of business and commerce, not schoolboys who have gone straight into politics from university.
John Millar
Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire
SIR – Iain Martin is right to draw attention to the unedifying interviews by House of Commons committees. MPs need reminding that they are public servants, and that their interviewees should be treated with courtesy and respect.
Peter Wills
Long Melford, Suffolk
SIR – When I asked my energy provider why they had not put me on their preferential 60-plus rate when I first joined them months ago, their answer was: “You didn’t ask”.
Gerald Puttock
Children and tablets
SIR – How worrying that children as young as two typically spend an hour a day in front of a screen.
Yesterday, while I was travelling by train, I sat next to a father and his young sons. Not a single word was uttered between them all for the entire two-hour trip. During this time the boys remained glued to their tablets, pausing only to grab a sweet from a packet without their eyes ever leaving the screen, while their father was absorbed in his work.
Were they just perfectly behaved young boys or products of a generation who may have lost – or never gained – the ability to have a family conversation?
Dr Jennifer Pendleton
Metal hip replacements
SIR – In 2004 and 2009, I had metal-on- metal hip replacements. Everything was fine until 2011, when I started experiencing physical symptoms. Following media coverage about metal toxicity, I contacted my GP who arranged for blood tests. Results for chromium and cobalt were high: over twice the normal levels, but not at danger levels.
My orthopaedic consultant said these levels were not serious, but I am concerned about the health risks associated with constant high levels of metal in my blood.
Julie Luscombe
Harberton, Devon
SIR – I have had two metal-on-metal hip replacements, both inserted by Ronan Treacy, the co-designer of the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing. As a result, I now play tennis, walk and garden.
I remember my grandmother crippled because of arthritic hips, before any replacement was available. Every day, I am grateful to my surgeon for giving me a normal existence.
Celia Foulkes
Hambleton, Rutland
Gadgets galore
SIR – One of Aldi’s attractions for men is a regularly changing selection of non-food items. My garage is filled with items bought from the supermarket, including a garden trolley, tarpaulins, torches, tools and paint.
I try to visit their store once a fortnight, preferably when my wife is not around, as, if she knows I have been there, she greets me with: “What have you bought now?”
Sid Davies
Bramhall, Cheshire
Saving state schools
SIR – David Kynaston argues against private schools but ignores the underlying truth: for the vast majority of parents, making the huge financial sacrifice of paying twice for their children’s education is a necessity, given the evident failures within state schools.
Politicians should stop using education as a political football and start serious investment in a consistent curriculum, teacher numbers and basic infrastructure. They should also instil in staff a renewed appreciation of non-academic arts and sporting activities. If that happened, within a single generation, hard-pressed middle-class parents would desert the increasingly unaffordable private schools in droves.
It is time the Left embraced policies that improve state-funded education instead of fighting an outdated class war.
Anthony Fry
London W11
Undercover police
SIR – I greet the news that undercover police are to be banned from having sex with individuals they are investigating with a great deal of scepticism. Just last week I was told by the Met Commissioner that the police have “always” had such a policy – yet we know that the Met authorised Mark Kennedy to have sex with the people he was targeting.
What is there to stop this new guidance being ignored, just like the Met’s own policy? Other countries legislate to make clear this practice is unacceptable, and it’s time for Britain to do the same.
Jenny Jones
London Assembly Member (Green)
London SE1
Charity expenditure
SIR – For years, we have been receiving mail from the British Red Cross. This contains cards, coasters and sometimes pens. I wrote to the Red Cross complaining about this, but, as yet, I have not received a reply.
Trying to return these unwanted goods is not possible as on the envelope, in small print, it states: “Please do not return.” I do not want our small donations to go towards these unwanted “gifts”.
Valerie Hampton
Tettenhall, Staffordshire
Profitable litter
SIR – Roger Marlow’s letter about the 25 cent deposit on beer cans in Germany reminded me of a British soldier in the early Eighties who bought beer in East Berlin.
After legally exchanging his currency in marks at 5:1, he drank it in West Berlin and, after floating the labels off the bottles in a bath, reclaimed his deposits in the West, making a handsome profit on them.
He was eventually found out and court-martialled.
Malcolm Watson
Welford, Berkshire
SIR – Forty years ago, as children on a camping holiday, we would go out each morning to collect discarded bottles from the site and return them to the camp shop.
We received many francs in return.
Sara Dickinson
Tadworth, Surrey
Return to sender
SIR – I have received a letter from my bank thanking me for informing them of my change of address. It was sent to my old address.
Margaret Nicolson
Ranish, Ross-shire
Take one broad bean, a gold ring and some soap
SIR – The best home remedy for nasty warts is to use the inside membrane of a broad bean skin.
I can assure you that it removes them every time.
Sue Burtsell
Ash Vale, Surrey
SIR – In answer to Barbara Loryman, touching a sty with a gold ring works because the tear gland of the eye produces trace hydrochloric acid, which reacts to create gold chloride and effect the cure.
Geoff Smith
Grantown-on-Spey, Morayshire
SIR – A bar of soap (unwrapped) between the sheets near your feet will prevent night leg cramps.
Faye Morris
SIR – My mother claimed that she cured her night-time cramp by getting out of bed and standing on a magnet. She said that it was the magnetic field that cured the problem.
I sceptically used to suggest that it was the getting out of bed and standing on a cold object that stopped the cramp.
William Petch
London SW20

Irish Times:

Sir, – Once again we find ourselves faced with a spectacular failure of an essential public service. It appears that the Ballymore Eustace water treatment plant has been overwhelmed by a change in feed water character. Professionals are paid to anticipate and plan for such events.
Those who plan to meter and charge for water need to be aware of the resulting contractual obligations. Once a commodity is charged for, it is required to be of “merchandisable quality”. I write as one whose water supply has tested positive for Cryptosporidium within living memory. Continuity and reliability of service are also issues.
We appear to be moving to an economic model of Scandinavian levels of tax (for the PAYE sector, pension fund contributors and health insurance holders at least) coupled with third-world standards of public service. This is not sustainable. Troika please copy.
The situation is clearly serious, they have called in the chemists! – Yours, etc,
Shanganagh Road,
Killiney, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I am amazed at how Dublin City Council and The Irish Times present the tapping of the Shannon as a done deal: it is not, and the proposal would likely breach, inter alia, the European Habitats Directive and the EU Water Framework Directive. The Greater Dublin Area proposes to tap the Shannon for 600 million litres per day, while 300 million litres of water leak away daily due to Victorian pipelines. What an Irish solution to an Irish problem!
Several consultation papers have identified 60 adverse effects on the Shannon and its lakes, and Dublin City Council has made no provision for alternatives such as exploring ground water aquifers, which supply 90 per cent of demand in Cork city. Nor has it done a relative costing on the option of desalination versus the enormous costs involved in pumping water right across the country. The madness of having the Greater Dublin Area paying the ESB compensation for the loss of generation capacity from the Shannon hydro-electric scheme speaks for itself: it’s a double environmental disaster. We’re obliged by the EU to boost our energy production in renewables, not reduce it.
I’m afraid this is the reaping of poor spatial planning in Ireland. Our regional cities are falling into economic slump while Dublin continues to grow and grow and grow. Ireland is a tiny island – people in New York State travel greater distances to work daily than the relative distances between Limerick/ Cork/Galway to Dublin, and they do so on an efficient public transport network. The solution to this problem is clearly regional development and investment in high- speed transport nodes. – Yours, etc,
Tulla, Co Clare.
Sir, – Adrian J English (October 31st) bemoans the introduction of a “water tax” even as the Dublin area suffers another set of water restrictions. I take the opposite view – the current shortage shows the need to better fund our water treatment system, and encourage people not to waste a precious resource in times of scarcity. – Yours, etc,
St Alphonsus Road Upper,
Drumcondra, Dublin 9.
Sir, – I wonder how much water is wasted by people filling up every utensil and bin they have in their homes with water that probably will never be used just because of the water being turned off for a time? – Yours, etc,
Glenageary Woods,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – One’s heart sinks when reading headlines such as “Dublin area ‘faces 10 more years of water shortages’ ” (Front page, October 31st)
The attitude that allows such an unreasoned and unsophisticated approach to communicating the true nature of the problem and possible solution in relation to issues such as these brings about a degree of despair among people observing from the outside.
While people leave the country for many different reasons, a key factor encouraging them to stay away is unquestionably Ireland’s tolerance for this “can’t do” attitude.
Why should it take 10 years to solve this issue? It shouldn’t and it needn’t.
I hope all future stories about why Ireland can’t, also include the question “Why not?” – Yours, etc,
Strathmore Avenue,
Sir, – It’s autumn in Dublin, the leaves are falling from the trees, the evenings are shorter & with the changeable weather in the last few weeks, there has been at times water, water everywhere, but now at night, there is not a drop to drink (or wash, or clean). It is a national disgrace. – Yours, etc,
Beaumont Road,
Dublin 9.
Sir, – Everyone is calling Ireland’s water supply “third world”. Please stop, it is insulting. I have never had my water supply cut for anything more than one day for repairs on local pipes – and even that is not very frequent. Sometimes this is due to leaks being repaired (the Government might want to take note that this is what you do with a water service). Ongoing restrictions for an indefinite time period? Never! So whatever you want to call it, don’t call it “third world”: it isn’t up to such a high standard. – Yours, etc,
Calle 12D,
Bogotá, Colombia.

Sir, – The successful Bord Bia trade mission to the Middle East is to be welcomed. This is, indeed, evidence of a robust green shoot breaking hard economic ground. Quality food is to Ireland what engineering excellence is to Germany.
All concerned with the Bord’s export drive are to be congratulated. – Yours, etc,
Montrose Crescent,
Artane, Dublin 5.

Sir, – In Derek Scally’s article about NSA spying (World News, October 31st), he cites a Washington Post article that stated the “Muscular” programme was “illegal in the US but was permitted . . . overseas on the assumption that anyone using a foreign data link is a non-US citizen”.
As a US expat living in Ireland, I have always used my e-mail address when corresponding via the Internet. This is also the case with other US citizens living in Ireland: I know this as fact. As past vice chair of the US Democratic Party Committee Abroad, Ireland chapter, I know that many of our members have non-US data link e-mail addresses which would have made them and me targets for data gathering by Muscular. This would have been illegal had we remained in the United States. – Yours, etc,
Crana View
Buncrana, Co Donegal.
Sir, – Politicians in the US are fond of saying that Ireland is a good friend, but surely actions speak louder than words? If we are such a good friend, then how come our leaders’ mobile phones haven’t been bugged by the NSA? – Yours, etc,
Seafield Crescent,
Booterstown, Co Dublin.
Sir, – To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: surely, for the democratically-elected leader of a western nation, the only thing worse than the annoyance at learning that your mobile phone was being tapped (presumably by the state security apparatus of a large powerful ally) would be the dismay at realising that your mobile phone was not being tapped. – Yours, etc,
Orlagh Park,
Knocklyon, Dublin 16.
Sir, – I am beginning to (nearly) feel sorry for the US president and Jay Carney and their specific troubles. They are discovering that there are deniable deniables, but there are also undeniable deniables. Should Mr Carney and other spokespersons attend a course in Jesuistic semantics? – Yours, etc,
Brookside Terrace,
Dublin 14.

Sir, – Paul O’Neill (October 31st) is making the unfortunate mistake of confusing geography and law.
Undoubtedly, all 32 counties compose the island of Ireland as a matter of geography.
However,when it comes to statehood, matters are well-defined. Article 4 of our Constitution clearly states that the name of our state is Ireland. The constitutional aspiration to a unified Ireland in Article 3 also acknowledges the different jurisdictions north and south.
Regarding our status as a republic; this is a description of the kind of democracy that we are and not part of the State’s name.
Mr O’Neill undoubtedly lives on the island of Ireland but he resides in the state of Northern Ireland, which is of course part of the UK. – Yours, etc,
Christ’s College, Cambridge,
First published: Fri, Nov 1, 2013, 01:06

Sir, – Cork hurler Conor Cusack’s incredibly brave public stand on dealing with depression was inspiring to read online (October 30th), and to listen to on Prime Time. In his blog entry that went viral this week and last, he specifically mentions bullying at school as a factor that contributed to his condition. He talks about an improbable stroke of luck in his mother breaking a habit of going to Mass, on a particular Saturday, for saving his life, as he was just hours away from taking his own life.
In 2009 his elder brother Donal Óg Cusack publicly came out as gay while at the top of his game, as Cork senior hurling captain, and has been an inspiration to young gay Irish people who feel trapped and isolated, particularly in rural Ireland as they struggle with bullying and prejudice, both real and perceived. Indeed rates of suicide among young gay Irish people are multiples of their peers.
While not taking away from either Conor or Donal Óg’s bravery and integrity, I think someone should interview Mammy Cusack and find out how she managed to raise two boys that grew into such stalwart and inspirational men.  – Yours, etc,
Vevay Road,

Sir, – Andy Pollak (Weekend Review, October 26th) writes, “The Government of the Republic should stay out of thorny issues such as ‘dealing with the past’,” and that any “compromise” was merely for the satisfaction of “tribal leaders in the North”.
In doing so, Mr Pollak ignores the fact that Dáil Eireann passed an all-party motion in 2006 calling on the British government to establish an independent public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane and collusion between Britain and loyalist paramilitaries in the killing. To date, this remains Irish Government policy. It is affirmed at every opportunity by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to their British counterparts and rightly so.
The failure to hold an inquiry is a broken promise by the British government and it is right that Ireland should involve itself and hold it to account. Britain would like nothing more than to be rid of its responsibilities. It behoves the Irish Government to ensure they fulfil them.
What is evident here is the extent to which efforts made to address other all-island issues such as energy, health, tourism and investment contrast sharply with the absence of imagination and industry when it comes to the legacy of the past conflict. Despite the position of the British government on the Finucane Inquiry and recent comments by Theresa Villiers MP, the past is unresolved and must be dealt with; and unlawful British state involvement was a significant contributor.
In the era of external management consultancy, it is unsurprising that Britain chooses the option of bringing in Richard Haass from the US to find a solution to this problem. However, this risks abandoning the issue of the past to a process internalised to Northern Ireland and its “tribal leaders”, letting both governments off the hook.
Ignoring the past and simply giving it to an outsider who can be readily blamed for any shortcomings is worse than failure. It is cowardice. It is an abdication of responsibility by all of those involved in and affected by what is undoubtedly the most important issue of the peace process that remains unresolved.
Matters cannot be left as they are; more ingenuity must be shown in how this problem is tackled. The potential consequences of failure are simply too monstrous to calculate. – Yours, etc,
Arran Quay,
Dublin 7.

Sir, – Further to letters (David O’Brien, October 24th & Dr John Bosco Conama, October 29th) relating to my request for a two-minute silence in the Dáil to highlight the experiences of deaf children seeking second bilateral cochlear implants, I wish to outline the reasoning behind my action.
This act was merely an attempt to make my Dáil colleagues aware of the experiences of parents and children who are seeking bilateral cochlear implants. I am not a spokesperson for the groups campaigning for this, nor am I a spokesperson for the deaf community, but I am an elected representative and have a role in advocating causes at the request of members of the public, and this is one of them.
I am fully aware of the debates surrounding the construction of deafness as a pathology and its subsequent medicalisation, and surgical treatment with bilateral cochlear implants, and the opposing view of deafness as a cultural minority to be emancipated – but my request for two minutes silence in the Dáil was certainly not to pitch one against the other, nor to define those who are deaf as either a linguistic community or a group of persons with a disability.
Sinn Féin has long supported the campaign by the Irish Deaf Society for official recognition for Irish Sign Language as a third official language and has called on this, and previous governments, to address this as a matter of priority. We are committed to the positive promotion of equality for the deaf community and have called for a bilateral cochlear implant programme in the HSE national service plan due to be published next month.
Equality is an integral part of a democratic society and this includes upholding the rights of those who use Irish Sign Language. However, equality should mean that people also have access to medical and surgical treatments should they wish to avail of them. – Is mise,
Sinn Féin Spokesperson
on Education, Skills,

Sir, – In response to Edel McMahon’s letter (October 30th), there are a number of payment options which allow you to pay local property tax by phased payments. Revenue is asking you to decide now on your payment method for 2014 so that we can set these up in good time to spread the payments evenly throughout 2014, beginning in January.
In fact, Tim O’Brien’s article “What’s the best way to pay my property tax in 2014?” (Home News, October 30th) is very clear on the range of options available and the relevant payments dates. – Yours, etc,
Media Relations Manager,
Revenue Commissioners,
Dublin Castle,
A chara, – It was great to read about “One Voice”, various language teaching professionals co-operating toward the vision of a multilingual Irish population (Education, October 29th).
The strategy of an integrated language curriculum with Irish and English at its core and involving teaching through the medium of second and third languages as a matter of course has long been championed by Prof David Little of TCD and is certainly an idea whose time has come.
The Finnish education system is often held out as an ideal by Irish commentators and rightly so. The Finnish system has multilingualism at its core, rooted in early acquisition of the country’s two national languages: Finnish and Swedish.
Teacher training is key. High standards must be expected in order to be achieved. Investment is needed but even more important is the understanding that the acquisition of languages to a very high standard by teachers of those languages is a condition precedent.
We are the most gregarious people in the world. We are natural linguists, we just don’t know it yet. – Is mise,

Sir, – There has been some criticism in the media of the gender imbalance of those involved in the Web Summit at the RDS. Will the same criticism be brought to bear in respect of the upcoming Knitting and Stitching Show at the same venue? – Vive la différence. – Yours, etc,
Seafield Road,
Killiney, Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

31 October 2013
* I always fear what I see as a ministerial PR stunt, especially when it goes unchallenged. Education Minister Ruairi Quinn’s project runs roughshod over the reservations of teachers, particularly in the area of assessment.
Also in this section
The electorate needs real alternatives, now
If you want to see a really big tractor, call me
Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it alright
In a radio interview, he went totally unchallenged as he promoted his Framework for Junior Cycle. Does it not appear strange that he failed to consult teachers, the experts in education? Did he fear that the changes in assessment might be exposed as a money-saving rather than educationally sound exercise?
The proposed statement of achievement, at the end of Junior Cycle, will not be state-certified. So let’s call a spade a spade. It will be a school report, nothing more and nothing less. Why would he not want students to have state certification, considering he expects them to achieve so much under his new proposals?
If Mr Quinn’s proposals go ahead, the first time students will be assessed by the State will be at the Leaving Certificate Examination. If we think senior cycle students are currently under pressure, what will it be like for them in the future facing a state examination for the first time after six years at second level?
He speaks about project work as if it is the answer to all our woes. Mr Quinn should talk to teachers, whose subjects currently have a second component such as a project. He might then understand the difficulties of this approach.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, this minister does not listen. He stated that there are sufficient resources to deal with the implementation of the Framework for Junior Cycle.
We in the profession know that there is a total lack of resources and that schools depend hugely on the goodwill of teachers.
Perhaps if the teachers gave up the teaching part of their job, they might have time to make out exams, assess, moderate and deal with appeals – all in the name of progress at Junior Cycle.
Mr Quinn would be well advised to consider the excellent ASTI publication ‘Teachers’ Voice’. Talking to and consulting with the experts would be a very worth-while experience for him.
Maire G Ni Chiarba
Muinteoir meanscoile, Priomhoide chunta & ball de Bhuanchoiste Chumann na Meanmhuinteoiri
* With the recent controversies over the parentage of non-stereotypical Roma children, we have to wonder whether there is now such a thing as being illegally blonde?
Killian Foley-Walsh
Kilkenny City
* The EU had one of its many euro summits last week and there were many serious issues to consider: the ongoing debt issue, the massive unemployment problems across the EU especially among the youth, to name but two of them.
Yet what was discussed was the minor problem concerning German Chancellor Angela Merkel when it was found that the NSA had been listening to her mobile phone calls.
There was not a problem some weeks ago when it was found that most of the German population’s phone calls were being listened to. One wonders – does it suit the EU that the major issues are not dealt with and put on the back-burner?
Frankly, I cannot understand the problem of spying as the only revelation that happened was that someone got caught.
Paul Doran
Dublin 22
* Your wonderful picture, of the crow sitting on the deer’s head, reminded me of a song from ‘The Sound of Music’ . . . All together now: Crow, a deer, a female deer . . .
Fergus O’Reilly
Mealisheen, Leap, Co Cork
* I’d like to complement former Cork hurler Conor Cusack, younger brother of legendary Cork goalkeeper Donal Og, for his honesty in writing about his battle with depression and how he was able to move on with his life in ‘Depression is a friend, not my enemy’, (Irish Independent, October 29).
It is very brave for a young man like himself to speak as openly as he does and his wisdom shines clearly through his writing, a wisdom gained from facing his demons and being prepared to be vulnerable. He writes about therapy as a “challenging experience” and “it can be quite scary”.
I myself suffered depression in my late teens and early 20s and like Conor benefitted from psychotherapy, having originally been diagnosed as suffering from manic depression at the age of 20. Last July I celebrated 20 years free from all psychiatric medication.
Thomas Roddy
* In relation to the much-discussed contretemps between Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane inter alia, let us not get our underwear into a proverbial tangle. It is an argument of two halves. To be fair, both Roy and Alex gave 110pc for their club Manchester United. We cannot ask any more of the lads than that.
Some egos have been bruised in the current spat but nobody has died.
Tony Wallace
Longwood Co Meath
* Have we reached the pinnacle of television?
A few weeks back we saw the eagerly awaited finale of the TV show, ‘Breaking Bad’. After five years of top-notch drama, more than 10 million viewers were treated to an epic conclusion. It took the internet and social media sites by storm. The show that encapsulated and enthralled so many, finally came to a gratifying conclusion. Vince Gilligan’s writing is genius.
In recent years other shows have been aired displaying a tremendously excellent narrative. ‘The Walking Dead’ and the Irish hit ‘Love/Hate’, are examples of such shows. It is the expertise of these narratives that allow them to garner so much attention. Show writers have really come a long way.
Television is evidently at its best right now. With TV services now shifting online, it is no surprise ratings for shows rocket into the millions each week.
Aaron McCormack (15)
Kilcormac, Co Offaly
* Your editorial ‘Emigration is a poor substitute for real choice’, (Irish Independent, October 26) raises some interesting points.
However, in line with the majority of Irish media coverage of emigration, the melancholic tone betrays the reality for many of the people who leave this country in search of work.
Yes, for some emigration is a terrible thing, yet for a vast number of young, well-educated and ambitious people – a group I include myself in – having the option to go overseas and find decent, fulfilling employment in line with our skills is something to celebrate, as well as being a privilege.
The grass is not always greener; but it can be worth a look.
Brendan Corrigan
Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon
* There are a number of irritating advertisements on radio and television these days and the one which insists that it is the law to have a television licence is among the most infuriating.
Yet for the €160 fee, purchasers of licences are still being insulted with the general lack of quality in the programmes being screened. Saturday night should be a prime viewing time but the offering on RTE 1 these weeks is an affront to people’s intelligence.
Surely RTE could do better?
Gary Cummins
Dunshaughlin, Co Meath
Irish Independent


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