Wine and leaves

4 November 2013 Wine and leaves

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they Pertwee and Fatso are sent on an initiative test they have to get to Malta on sixpence.
Quiet day relaxing post books , sweep leave and make wine
We watch Hancock its not too bad
No Scrabble today ipad collapses half way through


Gérard de Villiers
Gérard de Villiers, who has died aged 83, was a prolific spy novelist and created the bestselling SAS series, which became a French publishing phenomenon.

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Gerard de Villiers Photo: AFP/GETTY
6:39PM GMT 03 Nov 2013
A former journalist, whose mastery of political intrigue made him France’s most widely-read author, de Villiers claimed that his thrillers sold up to 150 million copies worldwide. His novels featured an aristocratic Austrian hero called Malko Linge, sometimes described as France’s answer to James Bond, and who works as a freelance agent for the CIA to finance the restoration of his family chateau.
The books followed the same formula — fast-moving plots, exotic settings and generous doses of graphic sex. Instantly recognisable by their lurid covers invariably featuring a femme fatale brandishing a handgun or assault rifle, they were ignored by the French literary establishment.
But outside literary circles, de Villiers was often congratulated on his geopolitical insights, and was known for cultivating a vast network of intelligence officials, diplomats and journalists who fed him information. His books were often ahead of the news and contained information about terrorist plots, espionage and wars before they appeared elsewhere.
“I never had any pretensions of being a literary writer,” de Villiers explained. “I consider myself a storyteller who writes to amuse people.”
He was also considered uncannily prophetic, outlining a plot to kill the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat a year before his actual assassination in 1981, and foreshadowing the arrest of the terror suspect Carlos the Jackal in 1994. Last year he published a novel about the threat of Islamist groups in post-revolutionary Libya that focused on jihadis in Benghazi and on the CIA’s role in fighting them, six months before the raid in which the American ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was killed.
Gérard de Villiers was born in Paris on December 8 1929 and during his early career as a journalist worked as a correspondent for France-Soir in the United States and reported on the Vietnam War.
Following the death of Ian Fleming in 1964, he was prompted by the success of the James Bond series to write his first novel, SAS in Istanbul (1965).
He went on to publish an average of four SAS novels a year, rattling each them out in a month flat on an elderly electric typewriter. The SAS tag derived from Linge’s codename “Son Altesse Sérénissime” (His Most Serene Highness).
Although de Villiers was often deprecated for his right-wing views and his overtly sexual portrayals of women, he remained unapologetic. “Some women are sexual objects in my books but others are beautiful, intelligent and brave,” he insisted.
The 200th book in the series — SAS: The Kremlin’s Revenge — was published last month. Before his death de Villiers appeared to be on the verge of realising his ambition to break into the English-language market, with reports he was working on a deal with the American publisher Random House.
Married four times, Gérard de Villiers was estranged from his wife, Christine. A son and a daughter survive him.
Gérard de Villiers, born December 8 1929, died October 31 2013


Judy Marsh is right about the Jane Austen portrait of course (Letters, 2 November). The only one we have from life is her sister Cassandra’s sketch, which shows a formidable person with dark curls cut short, intelligent eyes and a hint of a caustic smile. Perhaps she is thinking of how Pride and Prejudice was pronounced by a literary gentleman in London much too clever to have been written by a woman. Cassandra loved Jane and knew her better than anyone else. It seems absurd to use a watered-down copy of a copy when we have this genuine portrait.
Claire Tomalin
Richmond, Surrey
• Amusing as it is to be described by Nicholas de Jongh as having composed an obituary of Lou Reed in the language of “a homophobic 1950s judge” (Letters, November 2), I feel he has missed the point. Behind the use of a phrase such as “transgressive sex” and the reference to “electroconvulsive therapy intended to cure him of… homosexual instincts” lay the intention to reflect the prevailing moral climate during the period of Reed’s adolescence and subsequent emergence into public view. It was a climate he did much to change, as I hoped the obituary would make clear – though not, regrettably, to Mr de Jongh.
Richard Williams
East Twickenham, Middlesex
• I was disgusted by the Newsnight Halloween stunt (Report, 2 November). None of the zombies was wearing a poppy.
Chris Parkins
Stanmore, Middlesex
• So Ed Davey is going to shine a light on energy companies (Report, 1 November). That’ll cost him.
Gwyneth Pendry
Holyhead, Anglesey

It would be hard to find a pithier summation of the GM lobby’s misinformation and self-righteousness than the letter from Professor Dale Sanders on golden rice (29 October). There is currently no scientific or socioeconomic evidence on the practical efficacy of golden rice because it has not yet been released, for reasons that have almost nothing to do with disruptions of field trials in the Philippines. Free licences for it are indeed available for small-scale farmers, but not for anyone else – how the money will flow with golden rice and other GM golden geese is currently anybody’s guess.
And Professor Sanders’ sarcasm at the suggestion that the target populations might get their vitamin A from green vegetables speaks volumes.
He may be happy with a world in which many are too poor to eat any thing but rice, but nobody else should be.
Chris Smaje
Land Workers’ Alliance
• Has Professor Sanders ever heard of brown rice? Over 40 years ago, in parts of the Philippines, people were dying of beriberi. Their basic diet was white rice, whereas in other areas, where brown rice was still consumed, this problem did not exist. Free licences for golden rice may be available. It is still probably a covert entry into a very lucrative market supplying GM seeds. It has taken a long time to get poor farmers in certain parts of the world Fair Trade conditions. They do not need a future of premium-priced GM seed. It is insanity to strip natural foods of nutrients and then put them back artificially.
Hazel Downey
Ware, Hertfordshire

Polly Toynbee (Welfare dependency isn’t the problem. Pitiful pay is, 1 November) is undoubtedly right to point to widespread passivity against the background of “pitiful pay” for many and eroding real wages for many more. Some of the most drastic restrictions on trade union activity in the western world are part of the explanation. But when I scoured the pages of the same edition of the Guardian, I could not find a single mention of the 31 October strike by tens of thousands of members of three unions – Unison, Unite and the UCU – taking co-ordinated action for the first time across Britain’s universities over the issue of endemically low pay.
For the majority of direct employees the real value of pay has shrunk by nearly 15% in the past five years, while thousands in the higher education sector work on hourly rates well below the current standards for the “living wage”, not to mention thousands more on outsourced contracts on the £6.31 an hour national minimum. And as in the FTSE boardrooms, the salaries of university chancellors and other executives continues to balloon, with more than half now on remuneration packages exceeding £250,000 a year. The fact that thousands were and remain prepared to take a stand over pay in a sector hardly renowned for union militancy surely warranted coverage in Britain’s foremost liberal daily.
George Binette
Unison, Camden branch secretary
• Polly is right on one thing in particular: we do need to learn the real lessons of Grangemouth. We have ruthless employers prepared to sacrifice the livelihoods of their entire workforce to maximise their already obscene profits, and we have politicians who will support them in doing so all the way to the bank. In such a situation, our union leaders need to do a lot better than capitulate under such intense media and political pressure. They need to lead from the front and call upon their members nationally to stand up in solidarity with their targeted colleagues, and they need to go beyond the rhetoric of resistance and actually resist. In the specific case of Grangemouth, they should have learnt the lessons of the Upper Clyde shipbuilders (UCS) and occupied the plant against closure and put real political pressure on the SNP, as the independence referendum looms closer, to do the genuinely popular thing and nationalise the plant. The lesson for the union movement is simple: when the going gets tough, we have to get tougher.
Mark Campbell
UCU national executive committee, London Metropolitan University
• Polly Toynbee points out that the Treasury spends billions subsidising workers paid less than a living wage. A similar situation existed in southern England after the Napoleonic wars, when agricultural workers received extra money from poor rates to supplement inadequate wages. When the burden of rates was deemed too onerous, the system was replaced by the New Poor Law. Instead of subsidy, the poor were threatened with incarceration in the workhouse, where conditions were meant to be worse than for those living outside. This least-eligibility principle is echoed by Iain Duncan Smith’s mantra that the universal credit should ensure that benefits are always less than wages. Should we be worried that, rather than consider laws to enforce the living wage, IDS will reinvent the workhouse?
Malcolm Thick
Didcot, Oxfordshire
• “I’ll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man (sic) a living wage” – so sang Billy Bragg in Between the Wars in 1985. Yet here we are, a generation later in 2013, with a government robustly denying anything approaching what should be a fundamental right. Part of the problem, though, especially in the light of zero-hours beck-and-call-contracts, part-time work and chronic underemployment, is expressing the living wage as an hourly rate. The weekly and annual figures of £342 and £17,784 or £298 and £15,496 for London and elsewhere respectively give a clearer picture of the incomes needed to maintain a decent standard of living, while at the same time allowing an easier comparison with those nearer the top on living-it-up salaries whose incomes may be expressed in multiples of the living wage.
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire

Knowing our neighbours is vital, no matter what your age, where you live or your personal circumstances – as, pleasingly, Guardian writers have just discovered (How well do you know your neighbours?, G2, 31 October). Ten years ago I founded Australia’s annual celebration of community, Neighbour Day, after an elderly woman was discovered dead in her home two years after she had died. The circumstances were eerily similar to that of Joyce Vincent of north London, who became the subject of the film Dreams of a Life. On the last Sunday in March every year, Australians get together for everything from a cup of tea and slice of cake, to a BBQ, street party or fair to celebrate each other and why where they choose to call home is such a great place to live.
There’s no doubt that, around the world, our suburbs and towns have changed dramatically in the past 40 years. Both parents need to work to pay the mortgage and put food on the table; our careers and family responsibilities, such as children’s sport, keep us away from home longer and there is a creeping paranoia to make our homes maximum security fortresses. What hasn’t changed is that we still have neighbours and whether we choose to interact, or not, we are part of a community. As Guardian staff discovered, knowing the people next door and across the street promotes social inclusion, builds social capital and creates places which are safe, connected and sustainable. Communities are only as strong as the people who live in them, which has been proven yet again this week by the massive storms which battered the UK and the bushfires which have destroyed over 200 homes in Australia.
Andrew Heslop
Founder, Neighbour Day, Sydney, Australia

Dear Prime Minister,
We have joined together as an international coalition of free speech, media freedom and human rights organisations because we believe that the United Kingdom government’s response to the revelations of mass surveillance of digital communications is eroding fundamental human rights in the country. The government’s response has been to condemn, rather than celebrate, investigative journalism, which plays a crucial role in a healthy democratic society.
We are alarmed at the way in which the UK government has reacted, using national security legislation against those who have helped bring this public interest information to global attention. We are concerned about:
• The use of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to detain the Brazilian media worker, David Miranda on 18 August 2013 at London Heathrow Airport. Miranda was carrying journalistic material on behalf of the UK’s Guardian newspaper and is the partner of the journalist, Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story of mass surveillance of digital communications by the UK and USA
• The sustained pressure against the UK’s Guardian newspaper for reporting the disclosures of whistleblower, Edward Snowden, including sending officials to force the Guardian to destroy hard drives allegedly containing information from Snowden
• Your call on 16 October 2013 for a House of Commons Select Committee to review whether the Guardian has damaged national security by publishing material provided by Edward Snowden, and a subsequent announcement that the review will be conducted by the Home Affairs Select Committee as part of their inquiry into anti-terrorism.
We believe these actions clearly violate the right to freedom of expression, which is protected under British, European and international law. Under such laws, the right to freedom of expression includes the protection of both journalists, and those that assist them in the course of their vital work.
The right to freedom of expression and media freedom enable the free flow of information in order for the public to hold their governments to account. While the protection of national security can be a legitimate ground for restricting the right under international law, such restrictions are narrowly defined. Governments must show that a restriction is necessary to achieve a legitimate purpose and must be proportionate to the aim pursued. The presumption in favour of freedom of expression requires governments to demonstrate that the expression will actually harm national security; it is not sufficient to simply say that it will.
National security should never be used to justify preventing disclosures of illegalities or wrongdoing, no matter how embarrassing such disclosures may be to the UK or other governments. In the case of Snowden and the Guardian, the disclosures have facilitated a much-needed public debate about mass surveillance in a democracy, and exposed the possible violation of the fundamental human rights of millions of people worldwide. As such, no liability should be incurred as the benefit to the public outweighs the demonstrable harm to national security.
We also believe that this use of national security will have dangerous consequences for the right to freedom of expression and media freedom in the UK and beyond, creating a hostile and intimidating environment and discouraging those who could reveal uncomfortable truths and hold those in power to account. We are concerned that this will further create negative consequences for the reputation of the UK as an advocate for the protection and realisation of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom worldwide. States with little regard for the human rights of their people will seek to use the UK’s example to legitimise their own repressive practices.
The UK has a strong history of democracy, and while targeted surveillance may play an important role in protecting national security, in doing so it should not erode the very values it seeks to protect. We call on you to honour the UK’s international obligations to defend and protect the right to freedom of expression and media freedom, and to end the UK government’s pressure on the Guardian and those who assist them.
Yours Sincerely,
Gergana Jouleva, Access to Information Programme, Bulgaria
Mircea Toma, ActiveWatch, Romania
Ahmad Quraishi, Afghanistan Journalists Center
Remzi Lani, Albanian Media Institute
Thomas Hughes, ARTICLE 19, international
Zuliana Lainez, Asociacion Nacional de Periodistas del Peru (ANP)
Khaled Amami, Association of Citizenship and Digital Culture (ACCUN), Tunisia
Jasna Milanovic, Association of Independent Electronic Media, Serbia
Hans de Zwart, Bits for Freedom, Netherlands
Guilherme Alpendre, Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism
Yuri Dzhibladze, Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Russia
Ramana Sorn, Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Laura Tribe, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Olexandra Matviichuk, Center for Civil Liberties, Ukraine
Ioana Avadani, Center for Independent Journalism, Romania
Masjaliza Hamzah, Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia
Paul Dawnson Formaran, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Philippines
Dr Leila Alieva, Center for National and International Studies, Azerbaijan
Edison Lanza, Centro de Archivos y Acceso a la Información Pública (CAinfo), Uruguay
Cristian Horchert, Chaos Computer Club, Germany
Kate Watters, Crude Accountability, USA
Jillian York, Electronic Frontier Foundation, international
Jo Glanville, English PEN
Shiva Gaunle, Federation of Nepali Journalists
Karim Lahidji, FIDH / International Federation for Human Rights
Andres D’Alessandro, Foro de Periodismo Argentino, Argentina
Chiranuch Jiew, Foundation for Community Educational Media (Prachatai), Thailand
Trevor Timm, Freedom of the Press Foundation, USA
Ayushjav Tumurbaatar, Globe International Center, Mongolia
Eka Popkhadze, GYLA, Georgia
Artus Sakunts, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, Armenia
Avetik Ishkhanyan, Helsinki Committee of Armenia
Danuta Przywara, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland
Eldar Zeynalov, Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
Rasul Jafarov, Human Rights Club, Azerbaijan
Robert Ssempala, Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda
Sanar Yurdatapan, Initiative for Freedom of Expression, Turkey
Emin Huseynov, Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), Azerbaijan
Mayumi Ortecho, Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, Latin America
Elizabeth Ballantine, Inter American Press Association
Ann-Sofie Nyman, International Partnership for Human Rights, Belgium
Alison Bethel McKenzie, International Press Institute
Yevgeniy Zhovtis, Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law
Mariya Yasenovska, Kharkiv Regional Foundation ‘Public Alternative’, Ukraine
Alban Muriqi, Kosova Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims
Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty, UK
Prof. Amal Jamal, Media Center for Arab Palestinians, Israel
Meri Bekeshova, Media Workers’ Trade Union of Kyrgyz Republic
Nani Jansen, Media Legal Defence Initiative, UK
Soe Myint, Mizzima, Myanmar
Ludmilla Alexeeva, Moscow Helsinki Group
Omar Faruk Osman, National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)
Andre Loconte, Net Users’ Rights Protection Association (NURPA), Belgium
Gunnar M. Ekelove-Slydal, Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Alberto Cerda, ONG Derechos Digitales, Chile
Makereta Komai, Pacific Islands News Association
Owais Aslam Ali, Pakistan Press Foundation
Mousa Rimawi, Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms
Larry Siems, PEN American Center
Tasleem Thawar, PEN Canada
Laura McVeigh and Anders Heger, PEN International
Gus Hosein, Privacy International
Natalia Taubina, Public Verdict, Russia
Christophe Deloire, Reporters Without Borders, international
Oleksandra Sverdlova, No Borders Project, Social Action Center, Ukraine
Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Southeast Asian Press Alliance
Nalini Elumalai, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
Alison Meston, WAN-IFRA, international
Maria Pia Matta Cerna, World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
Arthur Gwagwa, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum


I attended an outpatient clinic at one of the large London hospitals. I arrived 10 minutes before the appointment time and was depressed to see about 40 people already waiting.
After about 10 minutes I was called in by a nurse who asked me various questions, some of which were answered by the referral letter she had on her clipboard and others of which seemed irrelevant to my condition. She then told me to go out and wait for the doctor to call me. He called me four and a quarter hours later.
Coincidentally we were having supper that evening with a doctor friend who works at the hospital. When I told him of my experience he grinned and said that, if the Government plays games with the hospital over waiting times, the hospital reciprocates. He said my waiting time will have been recorded as 10 minutes, as that’s how long I waited before seeing the nurse. The fact that I waited another four and a quarter hours before seeing the doctor was irrelevant (“Revealed, how targets make the A&E crisis far worse”, 31 October).
I asked him if all outpatient clinics at the hospital had a nurse whose role was to call people in and tick them off in order to fix their waiting time and he said yes, as it enabled the hospital to achieve its waiting time target.
Martin Richards
London SW12
Stick to the  ethics of the  Co-op bank
Over the past two decades many charities and campaigning groups have moved their accounts to the Co-operative Bank and urged others to do so. A major reason for this was the bank’s ethical policy – which sets out clearly and uniquely how monies will and will not be invested.
As customers, we call those involved in setting out the bank’s future to do their utmost to set in stone the continuance of the Co-operative Bank ethical policy and the underlying commitments to customer consultation, well-resourced implementation, third-party independent audit and warts-and-all reporting. The establishment of these commitments in the Articles of Association of a new entity would provide serious reassurance that the Co-operative Bank can continue to be a world leader in ethical investment.
Jenny Ricks
Head of Campaigns, Action Aid
Mary Shephard
General Manager, Animal Aid
Mark Farmaner
Director, Burma Campaign UK
Tim Hunt
Director, Ethical Consumer
Craig Bennett
Director of Policy and Campaigns, Friends of the Earth
John Sauven
Executive Director, Greenpeace UK
Sally Copley
 Head of UK Campaigns, Oxfam
Phoebe Cullingworth
Ents Officer, People & Planet
Keith Tyrell
Director, Pesticide Action Network
Catherine Haworth
Chief Executive Officer, ShareAction
Jeanette Longfield
 Co-ordinator, Sustain
Paul Monaghan
 Director, Up the Ethics
John Hilary
Executive Director, War On Want
Nick Dearden
Director, World Development Movement
Food banks see depth of need
Your recent pieces giving details of vastly increasing numbers of people having recourse to food banks, and highlighting the work of the excellent Trussell Trust, gave a considerable underestimate of the number of people in need.
There are many food banks operating independently, including the one in my home town, which has within it areas of the worst deprivation in the country, and many other organisations working in this area of need.
Additionally, there is a huge network of soup kitchens, most of which have experienced not only an increased demand, but a changing one. For the past 20 years the kitchen with which I am involved had an attendance of an average of 35, mainly single men; this has now risen to an average of 95 and sadly includes families.
It has become apparent that a significant proportion of the increased need is directly attributable to the imposition of draconian benefit sanctions; for example, being late for an interview means two weeks of benefit being halved.
One wonders too what effect the operation of this draconian system has on the front-line workers in offices paying benefits who are prevented from using any professional discretion.
Diane Parker
War’s forgotten casualties
On Remembrance Day, please spare a thought for all the many munitions workers, mostly young women, who were killed and injured by their work producing munitions. They are just as  much casualties of war as front-line troops.
Many of these forgotten casualties of war were not only killed and injured by accidents and explosions in munitions factories but by their exposure to very toxic chemicals, with many dying of toxic liver overload and conditions such as aplastic anaemia which can be precursor conditions to cancers. There are lists with names and addresses of some of these casualties now posted on the internet.
The legacy of the exposure to toxic chemicals can be passed in the form of cell mutations to future generations.
Edward Priestley
Brighouse, West Yorkshire
HS2 will be  no good to us
I live about a third of the way from Birmingham to London and am interested to know what use HS2 will be to the many travellers like me who would have to travel nearly 40 miles either by road or current rail north-west into Birmingham in order to access the line. This would be pointless and both time- and energy-consuming.
Assuming that the majority of rail users travelling between Birmingham and London will use HS2, what will become of the current regular services on the existing track? It would appear inevitable that with loss of revenue on these services they will be reduced, leaving those of us not in the major conurbations much worse off.
Graham Ruff
Lutterworth, Leicestershire
We are being told much about the ability of HS2 to reduce travelling times and to increase capacity for passengers. But I have seen nothing about its use as a means of transporting goods. The high-speed rail through the tunnel between Folkestone and Calais takes a substantial amount of goods traffic, particularly at night.
Surely there should be an opportunity to use HS2 to carry a substantial proportion of goods, particularly at night, between the North, the Midlands and London rather than have it clogging up the roads.
AB Crews
Beckenham, Kent
Peter Kampman  (letter, 2 November) writes from Edinburgh: ”I have yet to read about [HS2’s] connectivity to Europe”. I can advise him not to hold his breath. Seven years after Eurostar services started from St Pancras, the East Coast train company website still tells us Paris is “not a valid destination”. Eurostar and HS2 are for Londoners. The rest of the country can go hang.
Chris Bond
Newcastle upon Tyne
Etiquette for a lover’s letter
Keith Flett (letter, 2 November) says he is reassured by Rebekah Brooks choosing to communicate with Andy Coulson, during their affair, by sending a letter. It would, perhaps, have been more reassuring to Andy Coulson if the letter had been handwritten and not typed and saved on a computer.
Letters from lovers, close friends and family should be hand-written and personal. I have a large box full of hand-written letters from my late husband which is one of my most valued possessions. I wonder if Andy Coulson kept this particular letter from Rebekah Brooks, or was it shredded instantly?
Gillian Munrow
Amersham, Buckinghamshire
Written out  of history
I look forward to making a judgement on your new front cover on Thursday, as someone who bought the original Watford-printed issue and has stuck with the paper since.
I am puzzled, however, that you  mention in your Letter from the Editor (2 November) three of the founders of The Independent, but omit that giant of Fleet Street, Brett Straub. Has he done something to upset you, or was his role in the Leveson Report just one PR stunt too many?
Colin Standfield
London W7
Nothing cancels Guantanamo
Your paean for President Obama (leading article, 2 November) is misjudged. Whatever good he does, you must never forget the abomination that is Guantanamo Bay. Innocent men have been “disappeared”.
 Whatever comment you may make on behalf of the USA or its President, you must never end  without qualifying it by mentioning Guantanamo Bay. To do otherwise is to be complicit in this crime.
Finlay Fraser
Cottingham, East Yorkshire
Brand’s revolt
Howard Jacobson (2 November) has completely missed the point about the Paxman-Brand encounter. Democracy is meaningless when, once in power, all our politicians are the same, whatever their previous rhetoric. Corporate greed is ever channelling wealth into the hands of the very few and creating a disenfranchised generation – who will revolt.
Hove, East Sussex


The professional bodies should not only be providing confidential support for whistleblowers, but also the tools and training to investigate complaints
Sir, Sir Richard Thompson’s letter (Nov 2), as president of the Royal College of Physicians, will be welcomed by those with experience of NHS procedures with patients’ complaints producing less than satisfactory results. However, his contention that “concerns” is a better term than “complaints” is, I believe, misplaced. While patients’ concerns should indeed be dealt with at the lowest level for resolution, particularly after handovers of shifts, complaints can result from concerns which have not been resolved, even if elevated to the levels Sir Richard suggests.
What the NHS lacks is the ability to investigate complaints properly. There appears to be no national regulations or guidance for investigations, and those conducting them are too often ill-suited and unprepared for the task. The professional bodies should not only be providing confidential support for whistleblowers who fail to get satisfaction, but also the tools and training to get to the bottom of complaints by patients and their advocates.
Malcolm Watson
Welford, Berks

Sir, As a manager in a GP practice I have to deal with complaints about clinicians (“Quiz all hospital users, urges leading doctor”, Nov 2). This gives me a perspective overlooked by those who portray the NHS as a wasteland of care.
The current complaints process, which is onerous to administer, is described as defensive and delaying. NHS complaints span a huge range, from “I didn’t like the nurse’s attitude” to “I think your doctor was to blame for my husband’s death”.
Sadly, the preferred public perception in any complaint is that the patient is entirely right and clinician is entirely wrong. This is rarely the case and is, in my opinion, the root cause of the defensiveness of defendants. Doctors are deeply hurt when people complain about them. Most patients are astonished when I tell them this.
If there is to be a change in the NHS Complaints Proceedure, it must include at an early stage a statement from both sides answering the following question: “To what extent, if any, did the attitude or actions of the patient or their relatives diminish the ability of clinicians to carry out their duties to the best of their ability?”
Aggrieved and emotional relatives are rarely reliable witnesses. Exaggeration and comments taken out of context are routine. And don’t get me started on the phrase “I have been on the internet and it says …..”
Philip Horsfield
Chester-le-Street, Co Durham
Sir, I share Sir Richard Thompson’s fears about the NHS’s handling of complaints, despite repeated reassurances that such matters are being taken seriously.
My attempts at raising concerns about my own and my family’s care in public and private healthcare are nearly always met with a mixture of defensiveness, hostility, indifference, and economy with the truth.
Few people wish to spend weeks going through their own or their loved ones’ notes, as I have had to do, to prove that they were not treated safely or effectively. Yet this appears essential in getting a proper investigation, acknowledgment of failings, and measures to prevent recurrence.
I hope Sir Richard’s suggestions will be swiftly implemented, so that patients may be returned to their rightful place at the centre of care.
Alison Blenkinsop
Retired midwife, Aldershot, Hants

The Prawer Bill that enables the internal deportation of Bedouin from their villages contravenes international human rights law
Sir, We write as Jews, appalled by the “Prawer Bill”, now before Israel’s parliament, which will enable the internal deportation of 30,000-40,000 Bedouin from their villages into designated townships.
The Bedouin are Israeli citizens. They have been living in the Negev region for generations, from long before Israel existed. Their villages will be demolished and their lands given for new, racially exclusive, Jewish settlements and farms.
The Jewish National Fund will take control of the land as the owners are evicted. Its “Blueprint Negev” aims to move 250,000 Jewish residents into the area. Expansionist settlers call it “the next frontier”. One village, Al Arakib, has already been demolished over 50 times, and rebuilt in dogged resistance.
Many Jews are disgusted by what Israel is doing to its own citizens. The European Parliament and UN say the Prawer Bill contravenes international human rights law. In Israel it has been met with strikes and demonstrations.
We call on Israel’s Government to abandon this cruelty and injustice against defenceless, law-abiding citizens. We call on the British Government to take up the Bedouin case with Israel and to demand that Israel complies with international human rights law.
Sir Geoffrey Bindman, QC; Professor David Epstein; Morris Farhi; Dr Julian Huppert, MP; Professor Francesca Klug; Professor Sir Harry Kroto; Peter Kosminsky; Mike Leigh; Miriam Margolyes; Professor Susie Orbach; Professor Laurence Pearl; Michael Rosen; Professor Jonathan Rosenhead; Alexei Sayle; Dame Janet Suzman; Zoë Wanamaker

“Forum shopping” also goes on with insolvency: the period of bankruptcy is longer in some jurisdictions than in England and Wales
Sir, Aspiring Italian divorcees (Report, Oct 31) are not the only group to seek to exploit our justice system. “Forum shopping” also goes on with insolvency. The period of bankruptcy is longer in some jurisdictions, such as Germany and Ireland, than in England and Wales. This attracts some debtors to claim that their centre of main interests (COMI, the relevant jurisdictional threshold) is in the UK.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with this because the motive in acquiring an English COMI does not invalidate the resulting bankruptcy process, provided the English COMI is a genuine one. Nevertheless, the potential for abuse does mean that the English courts scrutinise claims from European nationals to have acquired an England COMI with considerable care.
His Honour Judge David Hodge, QC
Specialist Chancery Judge
Manchester Civil Justice Centre

While some people believe that statue to Mary Seacole would be a disgrace, others see no competition between her and Florence Nightingale
Sir, Further to Richard Morrison’s piece on Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole (“Nursing our rival heroines”, Times2, Nov 1), Seacole wasn’t a nurse, never made any contribution to the development of public health in this country, and never worked in a British hospital. Nightingale founded professional nursing, reformed the Army Medical Services, pioneered the use of statistics and the visual presentation of health data — and much more.
A statue to Mary Seacole in the grounds of the hospital most closely associated with Florence Nightingale would be nothing less than a national disgrace.
Mark Bostridge
London NW3

Sir, Can I assure your readers that the trustees of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal see no competition between Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale.
Nightingale created the modern nursing profession for everyone and brought her organisational and campaigning genius to the service of our forces; Seacole was a battlefield nurse who used her skills, care and compassion to treat our troops in the Crimea and the Caribbean. Both deserve celebration and are part of our world history.
Lord Soley of Hammersmith
Chairman of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal
House of Lords

Argentine claims that the UK is increasing its military presence in the Falklands are false: this is the minimum necessary to defend the Islands
Sir, The Argentine Ambassador’s suggestions (letter, Oct 31) that the UK is militarising the South Atlantic and that Argentina would like to ­
co-operate on issues of mutual interest on the Falklands do not stand up to scrutiny.
Argentine claims that we are increasing our military presence in the Falklands are false. UK forces are deployed to defend the freedom of the Falkland Islanders following the Argentine invasion of 1982. The numbers are not increasing. They represent the minimum necessary to defend the Islands.
Ambassador Castro makes a plea for peaceful dialogue, yet her Government refuses to acknowledge the right of the Falkland Islanders to determine their own future. Earlier this year, 99.8 per cent of Falkland Islanders voted to retain their status as a British Overseas Territory.
Although we and the Falkland Islands Government wish for a friendly relationship with Argentina, over the past decade Argentina has refused to discuss issues of mutual ­co-operation, including on flights and fisheries. Argentine calls for a dialogue ring hollow when their Foreign Minister refuses an invitation to meet the Foreign Secretary and representatives of the Falkland Islands Government, as happened in February this year.
However, if the Argentine Government is genuinely keen to promote air links between the continent and the Islands as Ambassador Castro says, reconsidering its ban on Falklands-bound charter flights through its airspace would be a welcome indication of this change of heart.
Andrew Rosindell, MP
Secretary of the Falklands All-Party Parliamentary Group

Sir, The Falkland Islands Government wishes to clarify that we are open to a neighbourly relationship with Argentina, and in recent times have extended several invitations to the Government of Argentina to enter into discussions on matters of mutual interest, such as co-operation in the fishing industry and hydrocarbons exploration. These invitations have, unfortunately, gone unanswered.
Regarding economic activity with the wider South American continent, we are pleased to report healthy working relationships with several countries in the Southern Cone and hope that these continue to develop.
Sukey Cameron
Representative, Falkland Islands Government

In the view of one reader at least, the time has come to abandon the editorial practice of replacing letters in swearwords with asterisks
Sir, The use of asterisks for “naughty” words is ridiculous. These can be heard on the radio and TV and read in books. And asterisks on the printed page automatically draw the readers attention to the word in question.
C. Brougham
London NW1


SIR – Madhur Jaffrey says that parents must teach their children to cook. But since both parents these days are often working to pay the mortgage, this might be a more suitable role for grandparents.
My 13-year old grandson spent some time with us this summer and took up my offer of cookery lessons. He chose some of his favourites and I added some of my basic staples.
Jars and tins were forbidden, with the exception of tinned tomatoes and pulses, and we planned the menus, shopped, prepared and cooked together. He even cooked a paella for our friends with his grandfather on the barbecue.
He started a recipe book of his own and has since cooked for his parents and his class at school. We had fun together and his parents are delighted.
Chris Beardshaw
Wickham, Hampshire

SIR – For almost two generations, children have not been taught no cookery at school. Madhur Jaffrey’s suggestion is not possible when many of the parents in question are themselves unable to cook.
Freda Schaffer
Highcliffe, Dorset
SIR – I agree with Madhur Jaffrey but it does depend on parents’ ability. Early in my education I had the choice between Latin or domestic science. I chose the former because I could learn cooking from my mother.
Television soaps are the way to spread the word about healthy eating and cooking at home. No one in them seems to cook – instead they go to the café or pub and spend money. Storylines in the past have dealt with a variety of public messages, so why not buying and cooking food?
Erica Lund
Moira, Co. Down

SIR – The purpose of the BBC Trust is to “set new standards of openness and transparency and do more to serve all audiences”.
Given the BBC’s clear Left-wing bias, the Trust is failing to achieve this. The licence fee should be scrapped and the BBC should earn its money through advertising. That would level the playing field for all broadcasters.
Lesley Hovington
SIR – The BBC’s tendency to make up its mind on certain issues and then cut off all debate is beginning to antagonise more and more sections of licence-fee payers.
Related Articles
How children with busy parents can learn to cook
03 Nov 2013
The idea of a public broadcaster is a fine one, but the BBC no longer broadcasts on behalf of the public – it broadcasts at the public.
Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex
SIR – The gulf in understanding between the BBC and the rest of the world over its biased news coverage is deeper than we on the outside can comprehend.
Whereas those with open minds can allow for diverse opinions, the BBC perceives only “truth” and “lies”. It is the self-appointed arbiter of the truth – everything else is lies and Right-wing propaganda (never Left-wing propaganda).
David Gilchrist
Johnstone, Renfrewshire
SIR – When quizzed by MPs on the culture, media and sport committee about Left-wing bias, Tony Hall, the BBC’s new Director General, said that the BBC was “bound” to get some things wrong. But were he to check, Lord Hall would discover that, over its 90 years of broadcasting, the BBC has never made an error of impartiality.
In all matters of bias and balance, complaints can be directed to nobody but the BBC itself. By “marking its own homework”, the BBC finds there has never once been a case to answer, and judges that its output has never wavered from being “fair, balanced and impartial”.
Martin Burgess
Beckenham, Kent
SIR – Although Auntie is not without fault, she is not the pariah described by Grant Shapps.
Many of the scandals involving Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and others occurred on the watches of managers now long gone.
I have found the old dear to be biased against the government of the day throughout my adult life. If you tread a middle road this is inevitable. It means she is doing her job and annoying all her relatives with equal aplomb.
Long may she continue.
Charlie Bloom
SIR – In today’s digital, multi-media age, the days of the licence-fee funded BBC may be numbered. However, from natural history to religious programming, classical music to extensive coverage of royal events, how much of the BBC’s current output would survive as free-to-air broadcasting without a licence fee, is questionable.
We may complain about the BBC, often justifiably, but I think we will miss it when it’s gone.
William Cook
Blandford Forum, Dorset
SIR – It is some 17 years since I discontinued my subscription to the TV licence. Having witnessed the BBC’s largesse since, I’m delighted to know I haven’t been paying towards it. Jonathan Ross was paid £16 million, staff kept their London weighting when they moved to Salford, Television Centre was sold for too little (so soon after millions were spent on it); £300,000 was handed over as “compensation for forgoing a promotion”, and a large severance package went to someone who found another job and then resigned.
Geoff Dees
Alford, Lincolnshire
SIR – If Grant Shapps really thinks £145.50 per year is “quite a lot to pay” for the remarkable range of channels, stations and other services (such as the Proms) provided by the BBC, he knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
David Woodhead
Leatherhead, Surrey
Great Central Railway proposal beats HS2
SIR – Andrew Gilligan’s persuasive argument for the resurrection of the Great Central line to the Midlands and North at modest cost frankly demolishes the HS2 case for additional rail capacity.
As a student in the Sixties, I commuted daily on the Great Central, and its closure in 1969 was a disgrace. Rail experts concede today that at least a third of Dr Beeching’s cuts were unjustified.
David Clegg
Shrewsbury, Shropshire
SIR – Reopening the Great Central Railway would enable completion very much sooner than 2026. Thirteen years is too long to wait to tackle the congestion problem.
Owen Edis
Chorleywood, Hertfordshire
SIR – Unlike HS2, the Great Central Railway would connect with HS1 and the rest of Europe.
The plan to revive it has been devised by people who understand railways. It is not just a vanity project, which HS2 in its present form clearly is.
Peter Coton
Pitsea, Essex
SIR – A mixed-use railway such as the West Coast Main Line cannot run to its full theoretical capacity, whereas HS2, to be used only by high-speed trains, can. A newly built railway can also be designed for longer trains than the current network could conceivably accommodate, and thus carry many more passengers on each train than a conventional solution.
The double-track line from Rugby to Birmingham carries a mix of expresses, stopping trains and freight trains. Even if a re-opened Great Central were to carry trains to Rugby, they could not reach Birmingham unless this stretch were to be quadrupled, or local and freight services reduced.
William Barter
Towcester, Northamptonshire
SIR – In his consideration of the proposal by Kelvin Hopkins, the Labour MP, to reopen the Great Central Railway, Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, might wish to consider the amount of compensation due to Tony and Cherie Blair, whose country home at Wotton lies within a few hundred yards of the line.
Chris Pullin
Ashendon, Buckinghamshire
Narrow Home defeat
SIR – Alec Douglas-Home should have won the 1964 general election. Unfortunately, two of the most influential Conservatives, Iain Macleod and Enoch Powell, disagreed with the method by which Sir Alec had been chosen to succeed Harold Macmillan and refused to serve in his government. So they were not at the forefront of his election bid. Meanwhile, the BBC ran a vicious campaign satirising Sir Alec’s appearance and style of speech.
Keith Ferris
Coxheath, Kent
SIR – Dr Martin Smith’s letter setting out the deficiencies of former prime ministers and defending Sir Alec Douglas-Home omitted Sir John Major and the free movement of labour within the EU – one of the biggest own goals in our history.
Colin Laverick
London WC2
Scottish poppies
SIR – Visiting my youngest son and his family in Scotland last weekend, I saw a box of poppies in a local garage with the legend “Buy a poppy for Scottish poppy day”. Has Mr Salmond pulled off another trick?
J S Hayhoe
Shenstone, Staffordshire
Falklands command
SIR – Much as I admire Lord Bramall, he was not “in command of British Forces during the Falklands conflict”.
The campaign was commanded by Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse from his headquarters at Northwood.
As Chief of General Staff, General Bramall was responsible for providing supporting army assets such as 22 SAS, 5 Brigade and other units such as artillery.
While his support was hugely welcome and appreciated, at no time was he part of the operational command.
Captain Michael Clapp RN (retd)
Broadhempston, Devon
The hull story
SIR – The French had copper-bottomed ships at Trafalgar as well as the British. They used 310 tons of copper sheets and nails.
The hulls of the French ships were not built of Corsican pine; the masts and spars may have been, although Scots pine and spruce from the Baltic was the norm.
A French hull was built of 90 per cent oak. The rest would have been elm and some beech.
They were relatively lightly built above the waterline, so could not stand hard pounding in battle or severe weather, as the British ships could.
R T Harrison
Alnwick, Northumberland
Sir Richard’s a foolish Virgin on Europe
SIR – Sir Richard Branson trots out the old canard that if we were to leave the EU this country would suddenly “have to start paying taxes for exporting goods into Europe”. Given that the EU sells so much more to us than we sell to the EU, that seems an unlikely prospect. Would Sir Richard treat his best customer in such a cavalier fashion?
Sir Richard also ignores the fact that the rules of the World Trade Organisation effectively prevent such a course of action. Sir Richard avers that “we’ve already made up our mind to be part of Europe”, to which anyone under the age of 56 might reasonably retort that they’ve never been asked.
Christopher Gill
Bridgnorth, Shropshire
SIR – Richard Branson’s love for the EU evidently blinds him to the harsh realities of belonging to this anti-democratic and seriously mismanaged organisation.
His opposition to a referendum ignores what the EU has become since 1975, and those European countries that are thriving outside the EU.
David Rammell
Lymington, Hampshire
SIR – Since all EU countries that host immigrants complain about benefit tourism to some degree, they should deal with it.
Set benefits for, say, Bulgarian citizens in Germany at Bulgarian levels and recover the cost from the EU. The country of origin would lose that amount from its EU funding. The same would apply to the French in Britain or the British in Spain.
Bill Wilson
Ushering out noise
SIR – At the cinema recently the advertisements were so loud that everyone around us had their fingers in their ears. I found an usherette in the foyer and explained the problem. She went at once into the projection room and the volume level was immediately reduced. We then went on to enjoy the film.
Patricia Carter
Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire
Unalloyed joy
SIR – Not only are 1p and 2p coins magnetic, but also 5p and possibly some 10p coins. They are not made of cheap alloys, which would not be magnetic, but of steel, plated with copper (1 and 2p coins) and nickel (5p). My door key, which is magnetised, comes out of my pocket with a 5p coin attached.
Eric Crook
Writtle, Essex

Irish Times:

Sir, – The issue of apprentices facing exorbitant registration fees as a result of the recent Budget (Paul Gorey, October 31st) is all too familiar to the Technical, Engineering & Electrical Union, which successfully challenged the Department of Education over the very same issue in 2004.
The attempt by the Department of Education to impose a similar charge met with a nationwide apprentices’ protest and a High Court challenge before an agreement was reached. Now in 2013, workers once more appear to be the forgotten group in terms of the Government’s considerations. Eamon Devoy, general secretary of the TEEU, said: “Apprentices are employees not students and the proposed imposition of this stealth tax against young people who are working for less than the minimum wage, in many instances, flies in the face of the Government statement that youth employment is one of their key strategies”.
As mentioned the TEEU reached an agreement with the Department of Education on this matter in 2004 and would still expect that such an agreement would be “honoured”. With that in mind one would have to ask has the Minister and his Department lost site of this concept of honouring agreements along with losing site of the commitment the Government made to Youth employment? If this is the case then it may well be time to remind them once again. – Yours, etc,
TEEU , (National

Sir, – In most matters of tribulation a point is inevitably reached when one ends up saying that enough really is enough. The latest announcement by Revenue in relation to the payment of the controversial property tax reached this point for me personally and it showed clearly that this Government’s brass neck has neither dulled nor softened.
Revenue’s statement that those opting to pay this tax, in respect of year 2014, by either cheque or debit card can expect to have the monies deducted instantly after a November 27th deadline of its designation left even a hardened cynic like me aghast. Not alone has it committed daylight robbery upon the property-owning populace – whom will receive absolutely nothing in return for this cash grab – but it has the gall to demand the money be given to it ahead of the year concerned.
But please remember, none of this is its fault. It’s those nasty banks yet again. Because Revenue’s website has the temerity to blame the fact that monies will be instantly deducted, over five weeks ahead of the year of the tax itself, on account of “the nature of the banking and credit card systems”! Obviously the simple expedient of allotting a deadline in January or February of 2014 escaped the Revenue.
Never mind that this course of action will be monumentally unpopular and massively unfair (it has long since abandoned any considerations with regard to these matters) but has it even half considered the gross economic stupidity of sucking millions of euro out of a half-dead economy at precisely the time of year when the hard-pressed citizen might be prepared to part with at least some of their dwindling cash? – Yours, etc,
Stillorgan Road,
Stillorgan, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The NUI Maynooth report summarised by Frank McDonald (Home News, October 25th) on the economic impact of climate change on the agriculture sector has many flaws and ignores the significant action of farmers in addressing the climate challenge.
The reported economic losses to agriculture are unrealistic. For example, the reported economic cost to the arable sector is €530 million per year, despite the value of the output of the sector being only €264 million at the moment. How can the cost to a sector be twice the value of the sector?
There are 20 references in the report, only two of which are peer-reviewed, one of which discusses the role of genetically modified crops in addressing the economic losses associated with climate change. This adaption measure is ignored in the report.
Irish agriculture is a serious business, supporting more than 300,000 jobs in all parts of the country and contributing in excess of €9 billion in exports last year. This is being done sustainably, as will be the extra output as part of our expansion plans. Emissions per kilo of beef and milk produced are among the lowest in the world.
Farmers continue to build on this. Several thousand farmers participate each year in carbon auditing programmes to verify the low carbon count, in schemes operated by Bord Bia, Glanbia and others.
IFA will not accept pot-shots from environmental groups or NUI Maynooth which are inaccurate and potentially damaging to the sector.
The association highlighted the flaws in the report directly with the groups concerned and sought retractions. However, these have not being forthcoming. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – An article “Row about electricity pylons turns into insults about dogs and cows in Dáil row” (Dáil Report, October 24th) made light of a row over the Eirgrid Link project, Eirgrid’s scheme to link Leinster and Munster with a €500 million extension to the national grid. The proposed project would march a network of 45 metre and 60 metre pylons through some of the most beautiful parts of Co Waterford – so residents in the area are not amused.
Waterford residents were shocked by reports in September that a major upgrade to the national grid could involve a route from Cork through the Blackwater Valley and Comeraghs to Co Wexford. We now know why the project caught so many unaware.
Eirgrid’s Stage 1 Report contains a long list of newspapers in which the company had advertised as part of its first and second periods of public consultation. Neither the Dungarvan Leader nor the Dungarvan Observer – the local papers of Waterford’s largest town – appear on that list. In a letter to members of this committee, Eirgrid confirmed no such advertisement had been placed during the first two periods of public consultation.
Eirgrid has previously stressed the importance public consultation would have on the selection of GridLink’s final route: “During this first stage of public consultation we would urge people to come in and talk to us about the study area. Local knowledge is invaluable and all information received will inform preparations and plans for proposed route corridors . . . Eirgrid will identify, with the help of the public, constraints within the proposed study area . . . Constraints can be anything from natural features in the landscape to cultural or archaeological structures. They are mapped in the study area and taken into account when corridors are identified.”
While advertisements were placed in numerous papers outside the region – some as far afield as Limerick – the failure to advertise locally puts Waterford residents at a disadvantage. This is especially so because 75 per cent of the routes between Cork and Wexford revealed by Eirgrid last month would pass within three miles of Dungarvan.
The project is in its third public consultation phase – which ends on November 26th. In its letter, Eirgrid claimed it did not rely on advertising to spread the word about this project; but why then did it advertise in 30 other papers? How is it that it received more than 800 submissions from individuals living in areas covered by advertising, and few from the people of Waterford where no such advertising took place?
Only now, when the shortlist of routes has been made, has this project been properly advertised locally. This makes a mockery of Eirgrid’s commitment to public accountability.
An ex-post facto consultation is no real kind of consultation at all. We call on Eirgrid and the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte TD to immediately halt this flawed consultation process. We request that Eirgrid investigate these failures, identify how the process erred, and publicise its findings. The Eirgrid Link project team, meanwhile, must start again at square one. Eirgird’s plan to despoil Waterford is no laughing matter. – Yours, etc,
PRO Comeraghs Against

Sir, – The frequently mentioned instances of the callous way in which the entitlements of various health and social welfare recipients are being investigated caused me to remember an event that occurred about 50 years ago.
At the time, officials directly involved with the management of welfare were obliged to live in the areas they served. They were often attached to the local dispensary. One of these officials was a neighbour and friend of my own parents. Indeed, he was a friend to all his neighbours. To everybody’s shock he died suddenly some time in the late 1950s. Of course I accompanied my parents to his funeral. The church was filled with many of his former clients, who were the poorest of the poor. After the service, some of them approached the official’s widow and told her of the great kindness her late husband had shown to them. Many of them were in tears.
If anyone can suggest a more noble memorial to a life than the love and respect of the poor, I would like to know about it. I would also suggest that we may need to review the manner and underlying attitudes with which we now concern ourselves with their needs. – Yours, etc,
Hillside Drive, Dublin 14.

Sir, – The Flood Relief Works along the River Dodder from Ballsbridge to Ringsend in Dublin 4 have almost been completed. Walls and banks have been raised, and no less than six mighty flood gates, that could hold back a Niagara in spate, have been installed. This should all allow the residents of the area to sleep more soundly in their beds.
These flood gates are held in the open position by impressive padlocks and bolts. Keys and other tools are needed to allow the heavy gates to be manhandled into position in the event of threatened high water. It would be reassuring to know that a Dublin City Council crew, trained and practiced in the operating of these gates, and with a knowledge of where the keys are kept, was standing by.
This was not the case two years ago, when the first new flood gate at Londonbridge Road was called into service during a November storm. Nobody knew where its key was, and eventually fire brigade personnel had to jemmy open the padlock. A pathetic debut. Fortunately St Jude spared us on this island the worst of his wind and rain on Bank Holiday Monday. But if he had not been so considerate, I wonder if our much vaunted flood gates would have been able to save the day? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I was saddened to read the comments of Dr John Bosco Conama (October 29th) regarding bilateral cochlear implantation for profoundly deaf children. He clearly shows a misunderstanding of the technology, of advances in medicine, the results of research, and of the pathos and significance of Deputy O’Brien’s gesture in the Dáil two minutes’ silence.
My son, who is 20 months-old was diagnosed as being profoundly deaf at birth. Hearing aids were fitted, but he showed no response to any sounds despite the aids being at their maximum setting. We never heard his voice until six weeks after his cochlear implant was switched on at 13 months of age. He now has about 30 words, is responding to and understanding many more, and dances when he hears music.
However, he has no idea where sound comes from. This is a constant worry as he grows and gets more independent. He can’t tell if a lorry is coming down the street from his left, or right, or if it’s behind him. Similarly, when he goes to school, he will have difficulty locating people’s voices, and discerning the teacher’s voice if there is background noise in the classroom.
There is a large body of peer-reviewed research to support not only cochlear implantation for profoundly deaf children, but also evidence is emerging of significantly improved results for children who have bilateral implants, in hearing voices amid noise, the localisation of sounds, and in their quality of speech. More research is needed, but so it is with every new development in medicine.
I have the highest regard for members of the deaf community who have opted for their profoundly deaf children not to have implants. That is their decision, and if they feel their children would be happier and more fulfilled in that community, then hats off to them.
However, I and my husband, as well as many other parents, are abundantly thankful to medical science for the invention of the cochlear implant, and to Prof Laura Viani and her wonderful team in Beaumont, who simply want to provide a world-class service and are hindered because of Government short-sightedness and lack of funding. – Yours, etc,

MB BCh BAO Sir, – I see Colm Kelly (November 1st) is indulging in that love, peculiar to the Free State mindset, of attempting to define away the northern nationalists abandoned in 1922. As a proud Armagh man born and bred I have no problem informing Mr Kelly that my entitlement to describe myself as Irish is not a mere function of my postal address. – Yours, etc,
The Mullans,
Co Donegal.

Sir, – Apropos of Frank McNally’s Irishman’s Diary (October 24th) regarding nuances of certain Hiberno-English words, he refers to a nursery child who had not been collected from school. An American friend recently corrected me for using a similar expression, pointing out that children are “picked up” from school but garbage is “collected”! – Yours, etc,
Beechwood Lawn,
Dún Laoghaire,

Sir, – Msgr Dermot Lane, president of the Mater Dei Institute, suggests the Catholic Church should reinvent itself as Fianna Fáil has done in recent years (Patsy McGarry, Front page, November 1st). If the monsignor ever decides to leave the institute, perhaps he might consider a new career as a stand-up comedian. – Yours, etc,
Albert Park,

Sir, – Well said, Vincent Hibbert (October 29th), in relation to the logic-defying increase in public transport fares, and the inane attempts at justification by the NTA spokesperson.
We will soon have no public transport system if this logic persists; a spiral of unaffordability driving further fare increases which drives further drop in usage due to unaffordability, etc, etc. – Yours, etc,
Shanliss Avenue,

Irish Independent:

Madam – November brings timely reminders of the lives that were lost during various world wars – none more so than former alumni of Trinity College who paid the ultimate price on the various battlefields of the Second World War. And yet there is no extant memorial to their sacrifice. It would appear that they have been written out of the story.
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Consequently, the Trinity College Dublin War Memorial Project has been inaugurated to support a campaign to erect a memorial within the college to remember their heroic dead of the Second World War.
Peter Mulvany, Co-ordinator,
Trinity College War Dublin Memorial Project, Dublin 3.
Madam –Yippee, the recession is over! Oh, didn’t you know?
Well, it must be over because, while flicking through your Life magazine, I was pleased to see that winter coats are “only” from about €500 to €2,000. And the ‘Masterchef’ Marco Pierre White is giving a jolly good lunch at his new Donnybrook premises for outrageous prices. And this, when cuts are being made right, left and centre in “ordinary” people’s incomes. And while your paper is continually berating the present Government for its profligacy. Shame on you!
Kitty Carroll,
Kilmallock, Co Limerick
Madam – All the media coverage on the state of the health service is forgetting to mention the fate of older people in our hospitals. They are waiting for increases in their home care packages or for nursing homes. On average, this process is taking two to three months for each person. This is leaving our older people open to increasing risks of re-infection and depression as they wait for these services to be set up.
It is very difficult and frustrating for the hospital staff to see this situation continue. This process is inefficient and financially wasteful to taxpayers. This is causing major delays in hospital discharges and increasing A&E waiting times.
It would be wonderful if the Sunday Independent would start the discussion on people preparing for their old age. In particular, who is going to fund the nursing care?
Johann Doohan,
Ballymote, Co Sligo
Sunday Independent

Madam – Well done, Emer O’Kelly, but we should not be surprised at various Sinn Fein events and actions which are offensive to ordinary decent people given that they have been led to believe that anything they do or say will not lead to serious questioning, challenge or outcry at their hypocrisies by most media commentators.

Let’s look, for instance, at their approach and contrasting stances to child abuse; towards Cardinal Brady on the one hand and towards Gerry Adams on the other; in the matter of failure to report incidents of child abuse.
Likewise their high moral stance on recent incidents involving Roma children contrasts with their involvement in what was described in an article by Prof Liam Kennedy (Sunday Independent, October 24), as the worst form of child abuse in western Europe. This was in reference to their practice of blowing the knees or ankles off children as young as 12 or 13.
They must find comfort in the fact that those atrocities raised less controversy than hare coursing or fox hunting.
Pat O’Mahony
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin
Sunday Independent

Madam – I refer to articles written by Niamh Horan: ‘No running away from it – you are what you eat’ (Sunday Independent, October 27) and ‘Reilly chews the fat as nation gets more obese’ (Sunday Independent, October 20). First of all, I would like to congratulate Ms Horan for having the courage to broach the subject of the ‘Minister for Health James Reilly’s waistline’, which has indeed been ‘the elephant in the room’ for far too long.
There is no doubt that her article was not a personal attack on Dr Reilly, but rather an opportunity to put important information out into the public arena – information that was badly required in an effort to highlight the increase in obesity and the danger to health that it causes.
I was, however, disappointed to learn that the government spin-doctors’ response was to ignore what I believe were some of the most poignant points that Ms Horan was alluding to in her first article. For example, the fact that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan ignored the representation made by Dr Reilly prior to the 2014 Budget? Ms Horan also mentioned that the Department of Health had previously admitted that obesity was ‘a ticking timebomb’. She also said, and I quote: ‘Junk food is far more addictive than cocaine.’ It was clear that Ms Horan had every right to question why a so-called ‘fat tax’ – a levy on fattening food and beverages – was ignored in the Budget?
Surely the most important thing regarding obesity is not about trying to make the Minister for Health look good by having him pose for a photograph with a large bowl of fruit – but all about tackling the matter head on and for Dr Reilly and the Government to take the risk to rattle the cage of the all-powerful food companies by introducing the proposed ‘fat tax’.
Derry-Ann Morgan,
Naul, Co Dublin
Sunday Independent
Madam – Over the years I have threatened to go on diets, write to a paper, all the usual stuff. I’ve stopped buying your paper on a number of occasions because of some of the anti-Northern nationalist tripe spewed out with glee by some of your regular contributors.
I am a card-carrying GAA member in my 40s. I had the luck to meet some Northern Irish people on holidays over 25 years ago; we became firm friends. Over the years, myself and my family have had the pleasure of meeting people from all persuasions in the ‘black wee north’. I used to sing Wolfe Tones songs in full voice but no more. If I’ve learnt one thing, it’s that we should be slow to judge those who’ve lived through the conflict in Ulster.
Emer O’Kelly’s article (Sunday Independent, October 27) sums up the type of attitude we need to move away from in the Republic if we are to ever understand the conflict and the people on all sides with whom we share this island.
Over the years, the reason I continued to buy your newspaper was for the sports section. For a time, I would insert the sports section into my changed choice of Sunday weekly. Eamon Sweeney’s article on the back page last week relating to Northern GAA clubs saved me from resorting to my old habits.
John O’Brien,
Sandyford, Dublin 18

Madam – Congratulations on your article about Christy Moore (Sunday Independent, October 27). When the diaspora was on its knees, Christy gave us the confidence to stand up.
Bobby Gilmore, SSC,
Dalgan Park, Navan
Sunday Independent

Madam – Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, October 27, 2013) rightly drew attention to the racism which is prevalent throughout Irish society; be it a throw-away comment or something more insidious, it is something we encounter far too often. I believe this stems from post-colonial insecurities we have yet to rid ourselves of.
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Sinn Fein hypocrisy
Tackle ‘fat tax’ head on
After nearly 100 years of independence, it is apparent we are still not comfortable with our identity. This can be seen in the innocuous (but often deluded) chant on the football terraces, “You’ll never beat the Irish”, or by the seemingly harmless desire to be loved by everyone. This betrays a lack of confidence in ourselves as a people and shows we have yet to assert ourselves as a confident nation.
Still, we have much to be proud of: we are one of the leading nations when it comes to private charity donations, and a recent report showed we are one of Europe’s least developed nations (building/ land ratio). Let us keep it that way and enjoy it together with whoever chooses to make this beautiful island their home.
John Bellew,
Dunleer, Co Louth
Madam – I would like to thank councillor Malcolm Byrne for bringing to our attention the unbelievable waste of money handed out to gangsters’ molls so they can visit their men in prison. For the crimes they have committed the guilty should be severely punished. They should be deprived of getting to see their loved ones for the duration of their sentence. The money saved could then be used as a pension for a deserving 70-year-old justice mandarin or politician for one year. Thank you again, Mr Byrne.
Danny Conroy,
Ballymoe, Co Galway
Madam – I write regarding Gene Kerrigan’s article about police accountability. (Sunday Independent, October 27, 2013).
I don’t wish to make any judgement on the case of the Roma child in Tallaght. However, I wish to pose the following scenario to Mr Kerrigan. If the gardai simply made inquiries and left the house, and if the family left the address and could not later be found, I am sure Mr Kerrigan would be outraged that the gardai were negligent in the execution of their duty. Gardai have to make a judgement call at the scene, and sometimes this can be very difficult.
He seems to think that gardai should not be allowed to investigate other gardai. I can assure him that complaints against gardai are thoroughly investigated. I am aware of a number of gardai who have received prison sentences over the years. All of those cases were investigated by their fellow officers. As a retired garda, I can assure Mr Kerrigan that wrongdoing by any garda is frowned on by colleagues.
M Fitzpatrick,
Madam – Seymour Hersh recently addressed a packed audience at City University, in London’s summer school on investigative journalism, and described how he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize because of his exposition of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, and how he was the first reporter to uncover the pictures of the American soldiers brutalising Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib.
He said that investigative journalism in the US is being killed by the crisis of confidence, lack of resources and a misguided notion of what the job entails. “Too much of it seems to me is looking for prizes. It’s journalism looking for the Pulitzer Prize – it’s a packaged journalism – looking for easy stories without any real investigative journalism present. When he was asked what the solution is, he responded: “I’ll tell you the solution – get rid of 90 per cent of the editors that now exist and start promoting editors that you can’t control.”
Needless to remark, none of Mr Seymour’s speech was covered by the Irish mass media.
Vincent J Lavery,
Dalkey, Co Dublin
Madam – Michael McDowell wrote re- the encyclical Humanae Vitae: “Confession of the error of that encyclical would not weaken the church; it would strengthen it. It could do wonders for the revival of the church as a community of the people of God.” (Sunday Independent, October 27, 2013).
This is an erroneous opinion. The opposite is the truth. Jesus told Pilate that he was born and came into the world to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37). Down through the centuries, he has continued to bear witness to the truth, especially through the Magisterium of the church.
Pope Paul VI told priests that they should accept Humanae Vitae because what is written in it is the truth (H.V. n.28). Some people do not appreciate the fact that the strongest argument in theology is that from authority, whereas the strongest in philosophy is that from reason.
Fr Peter O’Grady, OFM,
The Abbey, Galway
Madam – As one having respect for the large intellect of Michael McDowell, I was very puzzled when he stitched together Humanae Vitae and celibate priesthood.
As everybody knows, Humanae Vitae is concerned with the sacredness of potential and unborn life.
Celibate priesthood is simply a commitment to living celibate.
I am still very puzzled.
John Smyth,
Malahide, Co Dublin
Madam – Michael McDowell makes a big mistake comparing Lucinda Creighton’s situation to Derek Keating’s (Sunday Independent, October 27, 2013). Lucinda’s party reneged on their pre-election pro-life promise, and she stood up to that and did what she was voted in to do, while Derek Keating knows that the Catholic Church is pro-life, voted anti-life and suffered the consequences.
Eamon Reilly,
Mullingar, Co Westmeath
Madam – I welcome the interest shown by a politician of the standing of Michael McDowell in the need to reform politics and the church.
However, typical of politicians, his understanding of church reform is superficial. The obsession with sexuality is a trait of the modern world more than it was of the church. For example, celibacy was introduced to protect the church from family dynasties. It had little to do with sex as such. It is a church regulation only and could be dropped at any time, just like the Friday fast. But is it not strange that the church’s moral teaching on questions of justice, charity and peace does not seem to catch the world’s attention in the same way as its teaching on sexual morality?
We must, of course, recognise that the two most powerful instincts in man are the instinct for self-preservation and the preservation of the human species. These instincts are god-given and must be respected; respected, yes, but not exploited. The discipline of reason, which is also a god-given gift, needs to regulate these instincts. Very often it does not. Why? Because we live in a hedonistic society which resents anything which limits its enjoyment and pleasures. It has adopted a relativistic morality which gives it its maximum freedom. This, anyhow, is the age of relativism. Objective reality is old hat. The objective morality of the church is particularly odious to modern society, the spokespersons for which, with few exceptions, are usually the media.
But this wave of hedonism will break, as in the past, on the cold grey stones of reality.
In the meantime, we need the institution that gives witness to objective morality. It is “the truth that makes us free”, not the changing trends of society. These trends may determine the policy of the politician, though one always hopes for the statesman who can rise above the trends of the day.
James Neville,
Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick
Madam – Dr Ruairi Hanley’s criticism of the HSE makes some legitimate points (Sunday Independent, October 27, 2013).
I am aware of the weaknesses, but what Dr Hanley fails to acknowledge is the progress that has been made. The HSE now sees more patients, and many of its new buildings are fit for purpose. Dr Hanley’s suggestions of reform, removing administrators, ending team meetings and paying new consultants the high salaries others have do not inspire my confidence, as administrators are the ones the public deal with first as reception staff.
Team meetings often focus on the most complex cases and getting all involved to work together, and I would rather offer junior doctors decent working hours and career structures than necessarily treating them badly on the promise of a future higher salary.
F Browne,
Dublin 16
Sunday Independent


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