15 November 2013 Hair

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble the are to takw Sir Willowby Todd-Hunter Brown to Shanghai but there is no one there to meet him? Priceless.
Quiet day sell a book go and get our hair done get icon books.
No Scrabble today too tired.


Charles Mosley – Obituary
Charles Mosley was an irreverent genealogist of mordant wit who charted the bloodlines of the British aristocracy

Charles Mosley with his Dalmatian, Fleur 
6:29PM GMT 14 Nov 2013
Charles Mosley, the author and genealogist, who has died aged 65, was an authority on the codes of etiquette and ancient bloodlines that once defined who was who in Britain.
His niche was overseeing the rarefied world described in Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage, that vast tome which details the lineages, arms, crests, mottoes, court and political appointments, seats and titles (historic, hereditary or lifetime) of the “leading families” of these Isles. This was the stock, as Burke’s publisher, Brian Morris, put it, that “played a formative role in shaping the civilisation of the entire English-speaking world”. About such matters, Morris admitted, Charles Mosley had “a knowledge and attention to detail that are equal to none”.
Not that Mosley, a fan of the satirical cartoon The Simpsons, was motivated by snobbery or social ambition. In his introduction to the wholly revised and updated 106th edition (1999, the first since 1970), he noted that some earlier editions of Burke’s had been “obsequious” and characterised by “a tendency to treat family legend as historical fact”. Though well-connected, particularly to the Tory party, Mosley was unencumbered by such deference, and vowed to prune the “fantasy” from “what was supposed to be a work of non-fiction”.
Nor was he afraid of embracing the juicier details of the aristocratic world. On the contrary. When detailing the lineage of Burke’s itself, he noted with relish that in the 1970s the rights to the title had been acquired “by Baron Frederick van Pallandt, who is better known as the ‘Frederick’ of the 1960s singing duo Nina and Frederick and who was murdered in Thailand a few years ago”.
Like Hugh Massingberd, the creator of the Telegraph obituaries page (and himself a one-time executive editor at Burke’s), Mosley’s tastes and outlook were more Bohemian and inclusive than hidebound and prescriptive. Shortly before he died, for example, he jokingly identified in his blog a blood tie between Charles II and the supermodel Cindy Crawford (“thru shared descent from Charlemagne”). The long-dead king was, he noted, “a true appreciator of distaff pulchritude”.
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Mosley himself was appreciated for his mordant, mischievous wit. In his introduction to Burke’s he pointed out that the branches of noble family trees sprouted in unlikely places. Thus he traced Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, to the Baron Mackie of Benshie.
Yet Mosley was not averse to the trappings of aristocracy. In particular he was very partial to a castle – living in one in Ireland for seven years and in a château in France for eight.
Charles Gordon Mosley was born in west London on September 14 1948 to Gordon Mosley and his wife Christine (née Dowland), and grew up in a bucolic house at Wraysbury, Berkshire. Unfortunately, the expansion of Heathrow soon brought runways to the end of the garden. “At least there are not so many Luftwaffe flights as there used to be,” Mosley would later muse, looking up at the jets taking off.
He was educated at Eton and elected a King’s scholar before going up to King’s College, Cambridge, where he read English before changing to History. Fond of dressing up, he spent much time at university garbed as Rupert Bear, complete with yellow check trousers and scarf. At one party – not fancy dress – he went as Rudolf Nureyev, sporting ballet shoes and heavy make-up.
On coming down he worked as a supply teacher in East Sussex before joining the staff of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the first of what he would later call his “Gutenberg-type books”. He remained as sub-editor and librarian until 1973, at which point he joined the Foreign Office Research Department (FORD).
He was not always the model employee. When asked what the FORD did exactly he would reply: “They plot for Abroad and against England.” Having decided to quit and go to Rome, he found himself detained by customs on suspicion of stealing Foreign Office files on the Italian Communist Party to sell to the “Spaghetti Reds”. Mosley was enraged, claiming: “I just took a few old press clippings.
“Anyway,” he fumed, “the Italian Communist Party could not fly a kite on Hampstead Heath.”
In Rome from 1977 to 1979 he taught English and sent many friends (some of whom went on to become leading political figures) shrewd dispatches about life in the Eternal City before returning to Britain, where he joined Debrett’s. There he edited Debrett’s Handbook (1981), before, in 1983, returning to the staff of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In 1989 he became Editor-in-Chief of Burke’s Peerage, where he remained until 2004.
In his long association with Debrett’s and Burke’s, Mosley sought to expand the traditional remit of such publications with books such as Debrett’s Guide to Entertaining (1994) and even Debrett’s Guide to Bereavement (1996). However, his suggestion that Debrett’s publish a Nouveau Riche De Luxe Edition met with less favour. Shortly after he proposed it he was fired.
Sociable, erudite, a talented pianist and bridge player, and blessed with a spectacular memory, Mosley was a louche figure who proved a welcome houseguest. With friends he was a frequent visitor to Tuscany for summer gatherings at what became known as the “villa libido”.
His early girlfriends had included a Uruguayan opera singer. Then he married Alice Hyde, with whom he remained on good terms even after they split up in 1987.
He subsequently moved to Ireland where, with his partner Grace Pym, he bought Ballaghmore, a castle in Co Laois which comprised a Georgian house and an ancient stone keep. It was an eccentric arrangement. Grace Pym would on occasion lead her horse into the dining room, and the pair fought to the extent that Mosley once locked her in the keep. It is said that she subsequently escaped, furious, armed with a garden strimmer.

Ballaghmore Castle, where Charles Mosley once locked his partner (INTERFOTO/ALAMY)
He fled in the early 1990s and moved back to Wraysbury. He then bought the Chateau de Mauprevoir, near Poitiers. He set about restoring it and renting out rooms; he sold it in the early years of the last decade.
Mosley returned to London to live with Lesley Lake, the PR who helped set up Biba, and whom he had met when he was brought along as a “spare man” to a New Year’s Eve dinner party at her house. They married, and Mosley dedicated himself to freelance writing projects, which included a screenplay and much-valued contributions to this page. He attended the launch party of his debut thriller, The Daffodil Party, only a few days before his death.
Lesley latterly suffered from ill health, and Mosley helped care for her. Shortly after his 65th birthday, however, he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Lesley died on November 1. Charles Mosley died four days later. He had no children. His first wife survives him.
Charles Mosley, born September 14 1948, died November 5 2013


At 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, I was in a supermarket where two minutes’ silence was observed. I doubt more than 5% of shoppers were wearing Remembrance Day poppies. On the same day and for weeks before, 100% of BBC presenters and interviewees wore poppies. Now it transpires that a brave news presenter on ITV declined to wear one to appear “neutral and impartial” on-screen and is being vilified with racist and sexist abuse (Report, 14 November). It seems the nazis won after all.
John Holland
Herne Bay, Kent
• I feel for Charlene White. I was approached at a church service on Sunday for not wearing a poppy and offered a spare one. I declined and explained. I had donated but said that what a person wears in his heart is of greater importance than worn on his chest. As the lord said, “what you do in secret, God will you reward you openly”. We are so quick, to rush to judgement. So sad, so unkind.
Roy Woolmans

Eighteen months ago my wife had a heart attack, diagnosed as indigestion by the GP. Last Sunday morning she started having similar symptoms. With the anxiety index through the roof, we phoned 111. She was advised to use her GTN spray and take a soluble aspirin and they called an ambulance. Her blood pressure crashed as the ambulance crew were assessing her. They did an ECG, which showed abnormal activity, probably due to her previous heart attack. The paramedics took the decision to take her to A&E where the ECG was repeated and they took blood for analysis.
Nearly four hours later, with her blood tests normal, she was discharged without treatment. At no time did we insist she should be taken to A&E, yet she is one of the 40% discharged without treatment that, according to your report (Real issues behind the emergency care shakeup, 13 November), “should have been offered other help”. She was, presumably, also one of the 7m ambulance journeys that “could have been managed at the scene”, although how they could have done a full blood screen to rule out a further heart attack escapes me. Having apparently “wasted” all sorts of NHS money and resources, perhaps someone could advise me what we did wrong.
Name and address supplied
• When our walk-in centre closed a few months ago, there was no warning, no consultation. One day there was a notice on the door saying it was closed and that instead there was a replacement service in the hospital, next to the A&E. A few months later that closed in the same way. No one asked us what we wanted. They never do. Patients complained to each other, but there didn’t seem to be anyone we could officially complain to; no replacement for the old community health council. I sent a letter to our MP, which was pointless. It was a good walk-in centre. It saved the A&E from pressure and saved people a lot of discomfort – and probably a few lives. I wonder what part of our NHS they’ll cut next?
Kevin McGrath
Harlow, Essex

Thank you, Jake Bowers, for speaking out on behalf of the Roma people with the voice of reason and tolerance (Blunkett’s Roma rubbish, 14 November). I have been working with Romanian immigrants, some of whom are Roma, for over two years. They come to me for help with their English, because they are keen to make a go of their new lives in the UK. They are honest, respectable, hard-working people, full of good cheer in spite of their difficult circumstances and deeply appreciative of the opportunities offered them in our country.
I’m shocked by David Blunkett’s ill-informed and prejudiced comments about Roma migrants. We live in a multicultural society and our lives are generally richer for that. We have lived through decades of increasing prosperity and rising standards of living, and we pride ourselves on our human rights standards. Studies show that immigrants contribute more to our economy than they take out. Are we about to display the same ignorance and lack of tolerance as the good citizens who have driven these poor folks to migrate to our shores? In any society there are good and bad citizens. Let’s show these persecuted migrants that we are enlightened enough to deal with them in an even-handed way.
Lynda Newbery
• Jake Bowers, who calls for empathy for people who might wish to live in a multicultural environment, should note that here in my doctor’s surgery there is already a Romanian and other translators, while I sit with one other “white English” person among perhaps 50 people waiting. The point is that the communities in which the Roma are arriving have already seen huge change from migration over the past two generations and now have endured five years of austerity (I have not had a pay rise for five years).
People arriving, who often can barely speak our language, require resources such as housing that are scarce, and thereby raise rents of existing tenants. It is the issue of migration that is tearing the EU apart as migrants arrive in communities with the least resources to cope. It is well-resourced people that can afford tolerance and David Blunkett’s U-turn is welcome, for how Europe responds to this migration challenge will probably decide its coherence.
Peter Hack
• Can we knock on the head this nonsense about the inaccuracy of New Labour’s estimation of the size of potential Polish immigration (Labour make a mistake letting in the Poles too early, 13 November). The Polish population was about 42 million; fraction of Poles 20-30 years of age, about one-seventh of this, ie about 6 million. Number coming to Britain if 10% decided to travel, around 600,000. What research did the Home Office need?
The eastern European countries should have been given a Marshall plan, access to western markets and protection from western predation. When the economic gap had narrowed, only then should free movement of Labour have been considered. New Labour hubris and intellectual shallowness lie at the root of this policy mistake.
It says a lot about the sterling qualities of the Poles that they have been absorbed with so little friction and tension. Do the same calculation for Turkey to see the impossibility of it being granted full accession status to the EU. A finer recipe for igniting an explosion of the far right I can’t imagine.
Alan Sharples 

Fact: Denmark’s economy has expanded 70% since 1980, with absolutely no increase in total Danish energy consumption (source: How to be Danish, by Patrick Kingsley). Energy UK, by warning “that household bills could rise by 50% over six years” (Report, 13 November), is just putting in place another future round of profiteering. It does so in concert with the government that says there’s no alternative. But there is, and it’s working perfectly well, barely two hours’ flight away.
Richard Cohen
• Speculation that Yasser Arafat was poisoned by polonium-210 is a reminder that the radioactive element was so-named as a political act (Report, 9 November). Its discoverer, Marie Curie (born Maria Skłodowska), called it after her native Poland, at that time under Russian, German, and Austro-Hungarian control. She hoped that the publicity would help her homeland regain its sovereignty.
Dr John Doherty
• At the same time as the UN was setting aside $25m for the Philippines disaster, a few streets away, at Christie’s, someone was paying $142m for a triple portrait by Francis Bacon (Report, 14 November). I don’t know much about art but I know when something feels just plain wrong.
George Steel
• What an excellent idea of John Saunders for pensioners who don’t need their winter fuel allowances to donate them to the Typhoon Haiyan Appeal (Letters, 13 November). My £100 is on its way there today. Hopefully more will follow suit.
Jenny Jones
Connah’s Quay, Flintshire
• The use of sewage for gardens in Bolton (Letters, 13 November) reminds me that when I had an allotment in Doncaster in the 1960s I could order sewage sludge from the council. It was supplied free and was dry, odourless, friable and grew excellent runner beans. The only downside was having to remove stubbornly non-degradable rubber rings from the fork tines.
Chris Weeks
Beaworthy, Devon

The prime minister is right in wanting to see greater diversity in public life. However, he should be wary of embracing a top-down approach to improving social mobility when there are already good grassroots models making a difference (PM’s despair at private school grip on top jobs, 14 November). The independent charity IntoUniversity has made great strides in helping disadvantaged pupils aim higher, supporting children as young as seven via long-term mentoring programmes which encourage them to dream big and aim for the top academic institutions. It has grown from a local project to a national charity in under 10 years, and has been hailed as an example of best practice for universities to follow. Organisations that know underprivileged young people the best are the most important foot-soldiers in the fight to widen professional opportunity.
Patrick Derham
Deputy chairman of trustees, Into University, and Headmaster, Rugby school
• Edward Pearce’s assertion that modern “public” schools largely achieve academic excellence is widely believed (Letters, 13 November). However the OECD has found that, once account has been taken of the socio-economic background of pupils, state-funded schools in the UK outperform private schools by a considerable margin. In fact, the gap in this country is much greater than it is across the OECD as a whole, where state schools have only a slight performance advantage over private schools. Our differences are social rather than educational in character and have contributed to the decades of entrenched elitism and deep-rooted inequality.
Ron Glatter
Emeritus professor, the Open University
• Many of us despair at David Cameron’s lack of a grip on reality about social mobility. Hasn’t he read The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett and seen the international evidence linking low social mobility to high income inequality? Making the living wage a universal minimum for every employee and heavily taxing the rich is one obvious step towards greater social mobility. But Mr Cameron focuses on education.
He says: “Our education system should help children out of the circumstances in which they were born, not lock them in.” The way to do that is to abolish private education and send every child to the local comprehensive school to make the opportunities easier for everyone “to fly as high as their luck, their ability and their sheer hard graft can actually take them” (his words). This would, of course, “unlock” the children of privilege and lead many of them into more mundane jobs than those of their parents. Social mobility is an up and down stairway.
Michael Bassey
Newark, Nottinghamshire
• Alan Milburn is right to recognise that growing inequality of earnings distribution amounts to a “social failure” (Report, 13 November). Inequality has grown in Britain since 1979 following an ideological shift towards a more market-driven economy. One outcome has been that individuals have become conditioned to strive to better themselves, rather than wishing to change society for the better. In the “selfish” rather than the “selfless” society, the most important prerequisite of social mobility has once again become, as it was in the 19th century, income and wealth. Those with the greatest resources benefit most from life-enhancing opportunities, an outcome which bears all the hallmarks of social engineering. For this reason, the pronouncements on improving social mobility by both John Major and David Cameron are empty rhetoric.
All governments, in theory at least, claim to strive for equality of opportunity, but in a country as unequal as ours, the gap between the aspirations of the poorest and opportunities for social mobility have widened. The current government has (and is) doing more than previous administrations to increase inequality. For a start, you do not improve the life chances of the poorest by reducing welfare payments or by removing early childhood provision such as Sure Start.
Dave Coppock
• Prime ministers caring about social mobility do not scrap educational maintenance allowances, do nothing about limiting the ability of so-called “top” universities to recruit high percentages of their students from private schools, do nothing about private school fees being exempt from VAT, do not give their education secretaries carte blanche to return school assessment back to the 50s, and do not appoint their chief ministers from Eton and the Bullingdon club.
Bernie Evans
• Is Cameron completely incapable of joining two dots? One day it’s small-state austerity for all but the gilded, the next it’s a tortured acknowledgment of government’s role in promoting social mobility. Since he has no plans to mitigate either those aspects of austerity or those behaviours on the part of the corporate kleptocracy which directly impede social mobility, this role will presumably be acted out, yet again, by telling those who can still afford socks to jolly well pull them up.
Root Cartwright
Radlett, Hertfordshire
• People who can afford to pay more in private school fees in a year than some get for working full time need to pay a lot more tax. That would increase social mobility and make the lucky few accept their responsibilities.
Cllr Andrew Beere
Labour, Cherwell district council
• The chancellor has, in his autumn statement, the ideal opportunity to tackle one part of the problem by removing the charitable status of the public school sector.
Simon Harris
• So, the PM has the solution: we need to “raise aspirations”. Again, the victim is to blame. Those oiks just don’t work hard enough at aspiring.
John Weeks
Shrewsbury, Shropshire


Throughout my working life (including 21 years as a headteacher) politicians like John Major have failed to grasp the real truth about social mobility in our country, preferring prejudice and bar-room anecdote to empirically researched evidence (report, 13 November).
At the end of the Labour government in 2010, youngsters in the poorest areas of England were 30 per cent more likely to go to university than in 2004 (see 2010 report by the Higher Education Funding Agency for England). Second, 20 per cent of students educated in state schools between 2009-11 achieved first-class degrees in our top universities, against 18 per cent of those educated in private schools (see study by Bristol University in 2013). Third, despite this, only 58 per cent of state-school educated graduates secured a professional job compared with 74 per cent of their privately educated counterparts (see report by the charity upReach  in 2013).
Or, to put it another way, even though Labour did take measures which closed the attainment gap, and even though state-school students performed much better at university than privately educated ones, when it came to getting the best jobs, networking trumped achievement. It’s called the English class system and sadly it remains as pervasive as it ever was.
Sir John is right to rail against the domination of the upper echelons of power by a privately educated elite. It is however quite disingenuous, not to say cheap, of him to blame this on the Labour Party; he must know who the real culprits are and if he really wanted to show some elder statesmanship he would name them.
Chris Dunne, London E9
I don’t understand all this fuss about social mobility. It is quite clear that through all ranks of society parents have one main aim: that their children should not end up lower in the ranking than themselves and ideally should end up ranking the same. If they are doctors they aspire for their children to become doctors and if they are hereditary landowners they aspire to sire hereditary landowners. When we had coal miners, they wanted their sons to follow them down the pits.
The mistake of many failed systems was to suppose that you need laws to keep people in their place. Here in Britain we have shown that we are perfectly capable of maintaining the social order of our own free will.
Trevor Pateman, Brighton
Terence Blacker writes (“The lost generation,” 12 November) that the idea that a child from a modest background can today break the cycle of generational underachievement is absurd. I agree, but in  the same breath he approvingly quotes  Alan Milburn to the  effect that low expectations by schools and parents  are a curse blighting lives all over the country. 
If, as the rest of his article and much else clearly demonstrates, mobility between classes has all but ground to a halt, for disadvantaged children to have low expectations is the merest realism, and to encourage high expectations is to set them up for severe disappointment.
The expectations we really need to address are those of the political class which thinks it can preside indefinitely over a deeply class-divided society, and indeed deliberately increase inequalities.
Michael McCarthy, London W13
Fixing A&E isn’t going to be that easy
Sir Bruce Keogh’s review is another example of failure to address the current situation adequately. There is insufficient resource in the NHS to meet the demands made of emergency and unscheduled care by a public that expects a service-industry approach to a professional role. The introduction of walk-in centres met a supply-driven demand and had little impact on arrivals at A&E. The same with NHS Direct and more recently the 111 service. The demand for healthcare out of hours outstrips supply no matter how many tiers of supply one creates.
As an emergency-medicine consultant I discharge a proportion of patients, after assessment, without any ongoing treatment. Some I discharge without any laboratory investigation or X-rays, including at weekends. Does the lack of a prescription or other formal treatment mean they did not need to be seen by me at all? If that were really true one would have thought the efforts made (by various governments) so far to reduce A&E attendances would have had a tangible impact: it has not.
I am glad Sir Bruce is confident that NHS 111 and paramedic practitioners will successfully identify those patients whom I would diagnose as neither requiring investigation nor treatment if I were to see them and, as a result, be able to avoid bringing them to my attention. Forgive me if I do not share that confidence – but my background is in emergency medicine, not cardiac surgery.
Dr Sarah Spencer, Consultant in  Emergency Medicine, Nr Llanharry, Pontyclun
It is a scandal that the NHS is spending £482m insuring against medical-negligence claims (8 November). Why does the NHS feel the need to cover against such claims? Why not settle any claims out of the money it would save by not insuring? Surely £482m would go an awfully long way in settling the claims that should arise.
Norman Crossley  Harlow, Essex
How the EU could help Egyptian women
The Thomson Reuters Foundation’s ranking of Arab states’ treatment of women makes for depressing reading (“Egypt – worst Arab country to be female”, 12 November). Independent readers in the UK might well ask themselves what they or the British government can do about this.
It’s true to say that legal and social changes in countries like Egypt to overcome gender discrimination and sexual harassment will be led primarily by Arab women’s rights activists. There are many of them bravely struggling for this in street protests, the workplace and the home already. But the UK can, and should, do more.
CARE International supported research led by women’s rights activists in Egypt, Morocco, Yemen and the occupied Palestinian territory. This pointed to two opportunities. Firstly, the UK and other rich donor nations should integrate women’s rights alongside other benchmarks on corruption and freedom of expression into their trade and aid relations with governments of the Middle East and North Africa. Second, they should let women’s rights and other activists who were at the forefront of the popular uprisings have a voice in setting those benchmarks and monitoring them. The EU already has such a framework on paper called More for More – more trade and aid for more reform. The problem is the EU isn’t implementing its own policy.
Howard Mollett, Senior Policy Adviser, CARE International UK, London SE1
You report that Egypt is the worst Arab country to be female (12 November). The overthrow of Mubarak and the “democratic election” of Mohamed Morsi has surely raised the question of what is the appropriate form of democracy to follow the removal of a dictator.
The first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all system clearly assists a minority organised grouping. Proportional representation is more appropriate and would undoubtedly help women to have a powerful and rightful voice in the future of that country.
Jack Penrose, Bristol
Outrageous block on Chilcot findings
First we learn that the Chilcot inquiry is being blocked by the refusal of the Cabinet Secretary, Sir John Heywood, to release key documents. The refusal is by a civil servant! Now we are told that it is being blocked by the US government! (Report, 14 November.)
Who runs Britain? Should the alleged foreign accomplices of those who allegedly lied to the British people and Parliament to start a murderous and illegal war be allowed to veto a British enquiry into the alleged crime?
Jim McCluskey, Twickenham, Middlesex
The strange case of Hercule Poirot
Gerald Gilbert is mistaken when he suggests Agatha Christie wrote the final Poirot novel a year before her death (14 November). Curtain was completed in the 1940s, when Christie was at her creative peak. She wrote it then to ensure she alone had control over the character’s destiny. The great dame then asked that the novel should only be published posthumously.
I suspect there’s an off-colour joke to be made about Mr Gilbert’s little grey cells, but I’m far too well brought up to make it.
Trevor Lambert, Shurlock Row, Berkshire
Crazy American  movie ratings
How wrong-headed is an American movie rating system that means that there’s more gun violence in PG13 films than in those that are R-rated (report, 13 November), and that slaps an R-rating on the critically acclaimed film Philomena because of two non-sexual uses of the f-word? In this country Philomena received a 12A rating from the BBFC.
Only in America. . .
Martyn P Jackson, Cramlington, Northumberland
Respect the local culture
How ironic that Tessa Bennet (Letters, 14 November) should have to remind an Italian how to behave when abroad. Presumably he had never heard the phrase “When in Rome…”
Stan Broadwell, Bristol


Sir, Professor Nicol (report, Nov 13 ) makes the surprising claim that a free-range laying hen enjoys a lower standard of welfare than one kept in a cage. The professor and her colleagues at the University of Bristol are working with the Soil Association and the RSPCA on the AssureWel project — a pioneering system of welfare outcome assessment.
Another Bristol University scientist has done research which identifies the key elements of what makes a good life for a chicken and found that free range and organic farming systems provide birds with the element of choice and freedom that allows them to express natural behaviour.
As Professor Nicol says, farms do vary, but that is true for factory farms too, and is why organic and Freedom Food farms are strictly inspected every year. But the professor’s claim that chickens in cages enjoy higher welfare is based on questionable assumptions. The idea that dull, immobile, caged chickens that cannot stretch their wings, scratch and peck in the soil, take dust baths and feel the sun on their backs are better off than free-range and organic chickens defies common sense.
Peter Melchett
Policy Director, the Soil Association
Sir, In 1949 the Ministry of Agriculture decided that pullets not in the Poultry Health Scheme could not share the same pasture as birds in the scheme. My employer as a farm student decided to house such birds in the first “twin-bird cages”. He asked me to care for them and record their performance. The caged birds performed much better than their “free range” sisters.
In 1953 I was asked to go to Reading University, where they had been given the task of increasing protein production from poultry and eggs. The unit was equipped with various types of cage and the birds soon told us that they preferred to be in small groups (3-5), not 1 or 2, nor groups of 6 or 7 or more.
The high-quality research we carried out could not have been conducted without cages, which were continually improved and modified. Egg quality also improved. By 1990 cages were responsible for 90 per cent of UK egg production and most of the rest were for hatching purposes, for which no one designed a satisfactory cage. The success of the cage was always due to its reduction of mortality.
Several million hens have gone to an early death because of a mistaken definition of animal welfare called the “five freedoms”. The cage provided “protection”, not complete freedom. My contention is that the battery cage was the greatest advance in animal welfare during my career.
Dr Lou Marsden
Clitheroe, Lancs
Sir, Y ou can protect some animals from harm by locking them in a cage or keeping them indoors all day, but most of our customers don’t see that as natural or desirable.
Animal welfare is paramount to the way our business works with farmers and suppliers.
We believe good animal welfare is based on a system that provides the animal or bird with the freedom to express natural behaviours. Our evidence shows that the planting of woodland trees encourages the birds to roam farther and to express their natural behaviours.
James Bailey
London EC1

Negligence requires (by definition) the making of an error which would have been avoided if reasonable skill and care had been exercised
Sir, I note another correspondent complaining (letter, Nov 14) of the high cost of negligence claims against the NHS. To lawyers like me who work in the field it is dispiriting to note the lack of comparable concern about the fact that the cost of these negligence claims is because of negligence.
Negligence requires (by definition of the term) the making of an error which would have been avoided if merely reasonable skill and care had been exercised. And high damages awards are necessarily made to meet the needs of those seriously and irreparably harmed by that negligence.
Is it unreasonable to ask that your correspondents’ outrage be diverted to the alarming incidence of serious avoidable harm done by failures of reasonable standards of care in our health services? The total combined annual cost of damages and legal costs incurred by the NHS has been shown to be significantly less than the insurance premiums payable by commercial companies with a comparably huge turnover.
James Badenoch, QC
London EC4

A knowledge of language opens up the possibility of literature and, equally, good literature can help with language
Sir, Alice Thomson (Opinion, Nov 13) speaks of English language and English literature as if they were distinct subjects. They are examined as separate subjects but that is more of a convenience than a matter of significance. I am sure that she appreciates that some basic language opens up the possibility of literature and that good literature can help with the language.
I have taught and examined English language and literature together at O and A level and for the international baccalaureate and I have always been convinced of this. When I select exemplar material for students I look for the best literary qualities to teach how best to use the language.
And then there is D..H. Lawrence’s ebb and flow of the imagination, helping us to understand others or, as Thomson puts it, “increasing their empathy and becoming more alert to the inner lives of others”. What can be more important than this for human existence?
In my classes there was half an hour of private reading each week. Tell Mr Gove.
Peter Inson
Colchester, Essex

Most people believe that there are more urgent priorities for spending the North of England than a high-speed railway line
Sir, Your report (Nov 13) that “the North is cool on HS2” has a poll that shows 56 per cent of voters in the North are against the project. I suspect that number would increase if more people realised that the Government does not appear to have enough money to provide a guaranteed electricity supply in the winter or sufficient water during a dry summer. Improvement in those utilities is where the money should go.
Guy Godfrey
Pishill, Oxon

In the UK the life sentence is the most flexible sentence we have, and its imposition is replete with judicial discretion
Sir, Field Marshal Lord Bramall (letter, Nov 13) says that the mandatory life sentence “cannot take into account extenuating circumstances” and pleads for judges to be given “discretionary powers”, adding that “senior members of the legal profession ….. feel equally strongly that something needs to be done to rectify this situation”.
In fact, the life sentence is the most flexible sentence we have, and its imposition is replete with judicial discretion. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 leaves it to the judge to recommend the minimum term of imprisonment which a convicted offender should serve. The lowest starting point is 15 years, but the Act expressly allows the judge to reduce this in the light of “mitigating factors”. Only in the rarest cases does a life sentence involve imprisonment for an offender’s natural life. It is hard to believe that the senior lawyers to whom Lord Bramall refers are unaware of these facts, even though he himself may be.
Richard Oerton
Cannington, Somerset
Sir, I agree wholeheartedly with Field Marshal Lord Bramall that the mandatory life sentence for murder needs to be re-examined in the sort of case he has in mind. Where there are extenuating circumstances as, for example, where a soldier fires and kills “in the agony of the moment”, a life sentence serves no purpose. It should be open to the court to impose such lesser sentence as the case requires.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick
House of Lords


SIR – My wife and I have been playing social bridge since we were teenagers, before we knew each other. We do not play in clubs or tournaments, but gain pleasure from good company in a mildly taxing intellectual environment, often with a glass of wine beside the table.
In the past decade, we have noticed two trends that reduce our enjoyment: the introduction of “bidding boxes” and of the Chicago scoring system. The first seems to imply that the players have no memory (or are dishonest), and the second eliminates the pleasure of making “one diamond” with a poor hand, when one has a game and 90 on the card.
Are modern players less subtle or are we getting old?
Roger W Payne
Over Peover, Cheshire

SIR – The decline of Britain’s standing in the educational league tables has prompted calls for the return of grammar schools. As someone who benefited from a state primary, a northern grammar school and a Cambridge scholarship, I was shocked later to discover the bitterness of some of my contemporaries who, having achieved a coveted place at grammar school, were then unable to compete at the top levels.
It is true that Melvyn Bragg, John Major and many others such as myself benefited both ourselves and the nation via this channel of upward mobility, but the failure of British education will not be resolved by returning to a system that only selects a tiny minority for special treatment.
Other nations have a wider perspective –Germany’s technical schools offer entry into a rewarding and fulfilling career. And I haven’t even mentioned the 80 per cent who failed the 11-plus examination.
Comprehensive education may be regarded as a failure but it is a failure of execution, not principle, brought about by a misguided educational establishment espousing ineffective teaching methods combined with a unionised, low status and badly educated teaching force. My inspirational teachers were mostly ex-Second World War Oxbridge graduates.
Dr A E Hanwell
Related Articles
Making a bid for better standards in bridge
14 Nov 2013
SIR – My father was born in the East End of London to working-class parents and attended a grammar school through a funded scholarship. I went first to RAF Changi Grammar School, in Singapore, which included children of junior
non-commissioned officers and those of commissioned officers. I later attended East Grinstead Grammar School, in Sussex, where many of the children came from working-class and lower-middle-class backgrounds. Most of them, from both schools, did well in professional careers.
Ted Shorter
Tonbridge, Kent
SIR – Every successful country in the developed world has based its progress on a comprehensive school system, aiming to raise the attainment of the whole population, not just an elite. Only in Britain has this faced such obstinate opposition.
With a clear understanding of the facts of educational attainment and social mobility, Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph oversaw the closure or conversion of so many grammar schools. As David Willetts, the shadow education secretary, observed in 2007, there is “overwhelming evidence that academic selection entrenches advantage, it does not spread it”.
Chris Dunne
London E9
SIR – Sir John Major should read all the definitions of “elite”. They include “superior wealth”, which can be applied to some of our leaders, but it also implies superior intellect, which cannot.
Ken Wells
Felpham, West Sussex
Breastfeeding support
SIR – Before having my baby, I thought that women made a choice whether to breast- or bottle-feed, and that breastfeeding would come naturally.
Now, as a new mother, I have realised that breastfeeding can be incredibly difficult. The only reason I am continuing to breastfeed after four months is as a result of support from my local breastfeeding network, which is charitably funded and gets no grants from the NHS or any other government body.
Rather than provide an “incentive” in the form of shopping vouchers, the NHS should increase the availability of support to enable women who are facing problems to continue to breastfeed.
Elizabeth Ramsden
SIR – Breast milk is free. If that is not enough incentive to breastfeed, then nothing is.
Judith Naden
Matlock, Derbyshire
Learning English
SIR – I applaud the fact that new projects will be put in place to help non-English speakers learn the language. I volunteer in two English classes, one for literacy (which is attended by both English speakers and non-English speakers and which is free) and another for speakers of other languages, which is paid for by the students, who often study in order to receive a permanent British visa.
This course concentrates on real-life situations, such as doctors’ appointments. More than half of the students are women from Arab or Asian countries who have children attending British schools who are no doubt fluent in English. Some have been here more than 10 years and still have minimal knowledge of the English language. These women largely remain within their own communities and maintain their own cultures and traditions. Any project put in place to enable them to integrate better can only be a good idea.
S M Freedman
Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex
M&S priorities wrong
SIR – Marc Bolland, the chief executive of Marks & Spencer, says he wants “to have 80 stores in India by 2016”. Only a week ago he announced a 1.3 per cent fall in clothing sales following the disastrous million-pound “Leading Ladies” advertising campaign, which features Tracey Emin, Helen Mirren and other notable British women, but has apparently failed to lure customers to M&S. Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, it must be one of the most dismal and lifeless campaigns ever.
Mr Bolland should forget arty photographers and the lure of international markets and get his own high street stores back on track first.
Geoff Chessum
London EC2
Eight-legged travellers
SIR — Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’s story about the snail travelling on her car’s wing mirror reminded me of a similar occurrence. While flying as a passenger in a light plane, I noticed a spider’s web, complete with occupant, suspended between the starboard wing’s Vee lift struts. Though it quivered in the 120 mph slipstream, the web remained intact for the entire journey and the spider was unharmed.
It also survived the return journey.
Richard Riding
Radlett, Hertfordshire
Engineering PR
SIR – One reason for the shortage of engineers in Britain is that most people don’t know what an engineer actually does.
An engineer is a professionally qualified individual (a graduate with additional training and experience, and a member of a chartered institution) capable of designing, building and managing the most complex things that support our lives. These include vehicles, white goods, buildings, refineries, computers, smart phones and many others.
Many people generally identified as engineers are actually technicians, who install and repair the things that engineers have created.
There is a place for both, but until the distinction is understood, engineering will not seem to many of the brightest children to be the interesting, seriously challenging and often very rewarding career that it is.
Stuart Gillies
Christleton, Cheshire
Country house model
SIR – Regarding the identical designs of Melton Constable Hall, Uppark, Pynes House and Stansted Park, there is little doubt that all were copied from Raynham Hall in Norfolk (best known for the legend of the Brown Lady), built between 1622 and 1637.
Sir Roger Townshend took his master mason William Edge on a 28-week tour of Britain and the continent to get ideas for the sort of country seat he wanted. The resultant Italian style with Dutch gables and large windows was once thought to be indicative of the work of Inigo Jones. But the blending of styles was unique.
It wasn’t until the time of Queen Anne and the rise of Sir Charles Townshend to political prominence that Raynham was “discovered”, its radical practicality becoming a template for many new country houses built to complement sumptuously landscaped estates.
Mark Boyle
Johnstone, Renfrewshire
Joys of maidenhood
SIR – Jane Austen was one of the original “panks” – professional aunt, no kids.
“I have always maintained the importance of aunts as much as possible,” she wrote to her niece, Caroline. From all accounts, she was a favourite of her lucky nephews and nieces.
Joan Moore
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
British shipyards should exploit civilian market
SIR – Now that military shipyards are being closed and many skilled workers being made redundant, perhaps our ship designers and builders should explore the civilian market. Tankers and container ships, oil and gas support vessels, cruise ships and ferries are being built elsewhere in the world. Surely this country has a place in that market.
The London Gate container port has just started operation to discharge and load huge numbers of international containers, which will fill our roads and railways. A better method of transporting containers around Britain and the rest of Europe would be on smaller ships, using the free coastal highway and the smaller ports. Our ship designers and builders could lead in the production of such classes of ships.
Brian Farmer
SIR – Duncan Redford says it is not important that we can’t build our own warship hulls, because we can buy them abroad. It is this attitude that has left us unable to build our own nuclear power stations, leaving us dependent on foreign governments and companies and leading to job losses in Britain.
The Government should be spending tax money to maintain and create jobs in areas such as shipbuilding, rather than spending it on unemployment benefit for out-of-work shipbuilders.
T M Banks
Knutsford, Cheshire
SIR – Do the Prime Minister or Defence Secretary know how many surface escorts are required to provide the anti-submarine and anti-air screen of a carrier task group? If they did they would order more Type 45 destroyers and advance the build programme for the Type 26 global combat ships, especially as the latter have good export potential.
Cdr Carl Graham RN (retd)
Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – We share the concerns regarding EirGrid’s Grid Link project raised by Kieran Hartley (November 4th); and would like to add some more.
EirGrid acknowledges the lack of national landscape mapping in Ireland is a “data challenge” and we have unearthed inconsistencies in EirGrid’s mapping of constraints for the Grid Link project. It is not working from a single, comprehensive map of Ireland, instead EirGrid has pieced together what is in effect a patchwork quilt of Ireland’s landscape.
They have collected landscape information from each local authority, however there are massive inconsistencies in how landscape value is mapped between local authorities. This lack of a whole Ireland map of landscape value is a known problem in identifying and protecting our landscape “resource” for proper planning and development throughout Ireland.
To give a specific example; this inconsistency is clearly visible in EirGrid’s constraint mapping in the Barrow and Nore river valleys. The Kilkenny County Development Plan protects the landscape of east Co Kilkenny with a “high amenity area” designation. Whereas across the county boundary which is formed by the River Barrow, south Co Carlow, containing the monastic settlement of St Mullins, the historic designed landscape of Borris House, and the architectural conservation area of Borris, all set against the beautiful backdrop of Mount Leinster and the Blackstairs Mountains, has no such designation in the Carlow County Development Plan. Two of the potential pylon routes are located in this precious landscape.
High amenity areas are mapped as a primary constraint by EirGrid, to be avoided if possible in selecting pylon routes, the absence of high amenity areas from the Carlow County Development Plan has clearly disadvantaged Co Carlow in EirGrid’s route selection process. All four potential pylon routes pass through the “unconstrained” landscape of Carlow. A search for objective whole Ireland mapping of scenic value uncovered the 1977 Inventory of Outstanding Landscapes by an Foras Forbatha and the 1994 National Scenic Landscapes Map by Bord Fáilte – both of which contain the Barrow and Nore River valleys.
We were unable to find anything more recent, nor have we been able to get answers to the following questions.
What Government body currently has the remit for identifying and protecting Ireland’s landscapes of high scenic value? Given the importance of the Irish landscape to our national identity, our tourism industry and to the sustainable economy of rural Ireland is it reasonable that a strategic infrastructure project of the scale of the Grid Link project be undertaken without such a map in place?
Does its absence allow for proper planning and sustainable development in this strategic infrastructure process, executed in the common good?
Isn’t the identification and protection of the scenic landscapes of Ireland also in the common good? – Yours, etc,
On behalf of
Save Our Heartland Group,
Borris, Co Carlow.
Sir, – Colm Kelly (November 13th) points out some of the technical issues associated with the installation of underground cables. However, the long term benefits to the Irish people cannot be overlooked.
First, the sterilised corridor above the underground cable is just 10 metres wide as opposed to a 200-metre spread from overheads. Second, the underground cable has a life expectancy of 40-plus years before renewal. Overheads need to be replaced every 15 years. Third, more than 90 per cent of the Irish people are opposed to ruining our countryside (and possibly our health too) with the installation of hundreds of EirGrid’s massive pylon monstrosities.
EU environment policy states that environmental and human health protection should be based on the precautionary principle that “prevention is better than cure”. The most progressive countries throughout Europe are now putting these cables underground, in a cost-effective manner. Why cannot we do the same? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Brendan Howlin’s decision to withdraw a proposal which would have made Irish Freedom of Information (FoI) the laughing stock of Europe is to be welcomed (Home News, November 14th). But despite his promises of reform, he still intends to retain one key part of the clampdown imposed by Charlie McCreevy a decade ago: the €15 up-front fee for requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
This penalty on information is no “token charge” as the Minister has suggested. It’s a serious disincentive for freelance journalists to pursue potential stories. Most freelances work on very tight margins. If they were able to do their jobs properly, they ought to be able to make two or three requests a day. Of course that’s impossible with these charges.
It’s the public that suffers as a result of this and that fact has been recognised throughout Europe. Mr Howlin seems unaware that, far from normal practice, such charges are the absolute exception.
FoI actually saves the public purse large sums of money in the long run, as the NUJ and others have repeatedly shown. Of course those savings don’t matter to the bureaucrats who draft penalties like this one. They only measure the height of paper in their in-trays.
Over the decades, Labour’s commitment to transparency seemed strong and sincere. In 1997 it faced down the bureaucracy. What a pity Brendan Howlin isn’t Eithne Fitzgerald! – Yours, etc,
(Journalism lecturer,
Griffith College Dublin),

A chara, – Pat King, the general secretary of the ASTI claims the proposals to come from the recent negotiations with the government were the “best” they “could produce” (Home News, November 13th).
From where I stand, that is in front of the class, their “best” is not good enough. Perhaps if Mr King and his co-negotiators had been in the classroom for the last few years they too might come to that realisation.
I only hope that teachers, who meet on Saturday as members of the ASTI central executive council, reject these proposals. Further, I trust they will send Mr King and his team back to the negotiating table with one simple instruction: negotiate on behalf of teachers and not the Government. – Yours, etc,
ASTI member,

A chara, – While Jacqueline O’Toole (November 14th) may despair that she now cannot walk her dog freely on the Lissadell estate, I think it time to present some facts on this case.
First, the restrictions that are now in place provide a minor barrier to walkers – several miles of stunning coast and beach are there, free for all (Ms O’Toole’s dog included) to use.
Second, amid all this talk of public rights of way, attention to the work that the Walsh-Cassidy family have done at Lissadell has been lost. I grew up in this area and watched the outbuildings, grounds and even the house itself, falling into dilapidation and ruin under the absent eyes of the remaining Gore-Booth relatives. Soon after the Walsh family purchased the estate, restoration began on the grounds and gardens (including the walled garden and alpine garden); the tumbledown coach house was also restored to include a café and art gallery – all this providing employment and enhancing the tourism value of the area.
While I am uneasy in general about speaking for such privatisation of access, especially in light of the current issue of fencing on hilltops, in this case, certain members of the north Sligo community have shot themselves in the foot and cost the taxpayer a great deal in the process.
Instead of, as many reasonable people in the locale did, considering the luck that brought owners to the house who retained its character with due consideration for the environment (they might have, for example, established a golf resort), they have embarked upon a Quixotic (and costly) quest to prove their right to walk their dogs on a half-mile stretch of avenue, when the public spaces of north Sligo are among the most accessible and pristine in Ireland. In doing so, they have harmed the local community and the local tourism industry.
I support the fight for public rights of way in Ireland fully, but would ask that, in future, we might choose our battles more carefully. – Is mise,

Sir, – How many more families must tell their stories in The Irish Times before Minister for Health James Reilly and the HSE sort homecare packages for children such as Josh Knowles and Dylan Gardiner who remain trapped in hospital beds (Home News, November 13th)?
We echo the call from Colm Young of the Tracheostomy Advocacy Group for a national strategy and central funding to make this happen. Furthermore, the HSE must step out of the shadows and stop hiding behind this cloak of “spokesperson” when commenting on this most serious issue. – Yours, etc,
CEO, Jack & Jill Children’s

Sir, – I would suggest that recent letters about the wearing of the poppy reflect the fact that the lesson of the first World War has still not been understood.
The arguments about the poppy are related to the unresolved issue that a ruling elite made disastrous decisions that created a situation where other people had to sacrifice their lives for those decisions. The past is the present. There is still a refusal of the ruling elite to sacrifice their pride for the common good.
The issue is not the poppy but rather the hubris of decision-makers. – Yours, etc,
Broadford Drive,
Ballinteer, Dublin 16.
Sir, – I have spent a lifetime’s teaching in Trinity College Dublin trying to explain the difference between England and Britain. Is it so very difficult to understand this distinction or is it simply anti-English racism with which we are contending?
In response to the letter on the poppy from Nigel Newling may I say for what must now be at least the thousandth time that there has been no English imperialism since 1707. It is British imperialism.
At present there is not even an English parliament. At Westminster there is still a British parliament, alongside a Scottish parliament in Edinburgh and a Welsh assembly in Cardiff and a Northern Irish assembly in Belfast. The English are now oppressed by the British as the Irish have been.
Perhaps you would be so kind as to publish this letter for the benefit of your readers still struggling with the concept of Southern Ireland. – Yours, etc,
The Chaucer Hub,
Trinity College,

Sir, – Within a month the Government and other European Union member states will decide whether to limit the amount of land-based biofuels used in our transport energy. The importance of these negotiations – which will impact on European and world food price rises, land rights and world deforestation rates – is critical.
Almost all biofuels are made from food crops, such as wheat, soy, palm oil, rapeseed and maize. These are essential food sources for a rapidly expanding global population, of which 800 million is going hungry. Without the EU’s current biofuels targets – which are being reviewed – the price of foodstuffs such as vegetable oil would be 50 per cent lower in Europe by 2020 than at present, and 15 per cent lower in the rest of the world. The World Bank, OECD, WTO, IMF, FAO and five other UN agencies have all warned “prices are substantially higher than they would be if no biofuels were produced”. These same agencies have called for a global end to subsidies and targets for biofuels on the basis of their impact on food price volatility.
Most biofuels do not even deliver the carbon emissions savings that they are subsidised to provide. And the demand for additional land to accommodate EU biofuels, an area the size of Ireland, puts great strain on the environment, wildlife and local communities.
EU citizens supporting our work understand the impact that biofuels policy is having on hunger, land grabs and climate change, while costing governments and taxpayers billions every year, and pushing up prices for consumers. Yet the EU Council is considering weaker measures that would neither limit the use of damaging biofuels nor capture their full climate impacts.
We are calling on the Government to urgently step in and play its part in fixing the EU’s failed biofuels policy. It can do this by strongly and publicly supporting an immediate halt to the expansion of biofuels that compete for food, by pressing for full accounting for their real climate impacts, and by phasing out subsidies. We urge the Government to show leadership in the EU negotiations and back the Commission’s proposal for a cap on land-derived biofuels of 5 per cent or lower to stop further increases in the use of food for fuel. – Yours, etc,
OLGA McDONOGH, CEO, ActionAid Ireland; JIM CLARKEN, Chief Executive, Oxfam Ireland; ÉAMONN MEEHAN, Executive Director, Trócaire; OISIN COGHLAN, Director, Friends of the Earth; JAMES NIX, Policy Director, An Taisce; & ROSAMOND BENNETT, Chief Executive, Christian Aid,
C/o Parnell Square,
Dublin 1.

Sir, – Michael Austin (November 13th) makes the rather remarkable claim that marriage “has always, at least implicitly, included the procreative goal of the union of a man and a woman”. By this rationale, a heterosexual couple cannot or should not marry where either the man or the woman is knowingly infertile, or both are, whether by reason of age or otherwise. Mr Austin, albeit it is not his intention, makes a persuasive one-man argument for teaching philosophy, in particular logic, in our schools. – Yours, etc,
Moyclare Park, Dublin 13.

Sir, – If John T Kavanagh (November 13th) were to crash his car on the way to Muckanaghederdauhaulia, Co Galway, he would at least have the satisfaction of having crashed in English. Personally speaking, I’d rather take my chances with the original Irish-language placename: Muiceanach idir Dhá Sháile. Each to his own, perhaps . . . That aside, equal billing is important when it comes to placenames. It proclaims to the world that both versions are valid and valued. Perhaps this is what Mr Kavanagh really fears? – Yours, etc,
Tweed Street,
Highett, Victoria,

Sir, – The Irish Times (November 14th) runs eight articles over three full pages (3, 18, 19) on the Roy Keane press conference the day before. Your coverage of this event (a media briefing by an assistant manager before a friendly soccer international) is excessive. Disappointingly, it is indicative of a dumbing down of standards in print media in general recently.
Meanwhile, the world championship chess match between the defending champion Viswanathan Anand (India) and the highest rated player of all time, Magnus Carlsen (Norway) continues in Chennai, India without mention by the “paper of record”.
Chess may not be as sexy as football and undoubtedly, Grandmaster Roy Keane is box-office gold, but please keep things in proportion. – Yours, etc,

Sir, –   It’s heartening to know that the cost of living has reduced so greatly from the Celtic Tiger days that a family in Dublin could now (if they trimmed their outgoings) be expected to survive on a mere €9,000 per month (“Judge allows bankrupt family €9,000 a month”, Front page, November 14th). – Yours, etc,  
Forrest Road,
Swords, Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:
* From the mines of Australia to the endless crowds on the New York subway, a temporary subterranean people surge forward to make life above ground the reality that sprang from dreams below it.
Also in this section
Lack of transparency at heart of government
There’s no good reason not to wear the poppy
Unbearable pressure on country’s youth
Fleeting hopes abound again in the digital imagery of what life should be on every device that can talk, dance, and tell a story, and the imagination knows no bounds.
Yet it all remains so distant, as distant as if they were not a person but an observer without learning much at the end or at its beginning, becoming an instinctive ant that once thought it was more than that. It is only when they leave it all, its subservience to that dream that was fast becoming a nightmare, to be at one with what is so natural, so spiritual, was when it could be understood of why they were there, or where it was worth going. This place can only be nature.
In the west of Ireland, rains make hidden paths all the more hidden, melancholy bogs protected by sparse trees lie in splendid isolation and within a day all the seasons can come at once. It is here, without having to look very hard, lie angry oceans that come to perfect calm before your eyes and where to be outdoors is the only door you need to walk through. Storms can come out of nowhere and days seem to reward now and again with sun that paints a landscape anew. It is the best place to be heard above the distant memory of the crowd.
This place and how it affects its people, and those that are new to here, to return, and yet to come, will often find the soul is soothed and a journey at its end, where the ambition is somehow to stay, for nothing will ever be the same again.
Barry Clifford
Oughterard, Galway
* The rumours of a new political party have spread with the recent meeting in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, of Lucinda Creighton and Declan Ganley.
We Irish will always complain about the party in power but essentially we are a politically conservative nation. The emergence of a new party would almost certainly be centre-right in nature. Here, Ms Creighton and Mr Ganley perfectly fit the bill. Although they have locked horns in the past, each is both economically and socially conservative. With Lucinda at the helm we could finally have a centre-right party with a conscience. There also are many more than competent political ‘exiles’ who could form the nucleus of a new party.
John Bellew
Dunleer, Co Louth
* The Dail is currently examining an amended FOI bill which will, in practice, greatly increase FOI charges and bring Ireland even more out of line with international best practice in this important area.
The Government claims the average cost of an FOI request is €600 and says our economic state is the reason for increasing charges. I suspect this figure is as spurious as the €20m cost of running the Seanad.
Surely the staff in the various FOI units are permanent civil servants and get paid anyway, regardless of the number of FOI requests? The only costs relating directly to FOI requests are postage and photocopying and sometimes that won’t apply when the material is sent by email.
If the Government is so concerned about balancing the books may I suggest the abolition of tax-free ‘turning up’ money for TDs and senators who live within normal commuting distance of the Dail.
Enid O’Dowd
Ranelagh, Dublin 6
* David Quinn’s concern for children is laudable (‘Denying a child’s right to have a mother has become state policy’ Irish Independent, November 8) but his piece misses a few important facts.
First of all, there is the reality of the adoption process. With legislative change, gay couples won’t have the right to adopt – like every other applicant, they will have the right to be considered for suitability for adoption.
The adoption agencies will rightly continue to have the challenge of matching the needs of the children to prospective adoptive parents. With the pool of children available for adoption, I suspect very few children will actually end up in same-sex parent households.
When parents resort to surrogacy it must be remembered that these children are desperately wanted. They are not conceived on a whim, not the results of drunken one-night stands. It involves very careful planning and consideration.
Again, Quinn would argue that this arrangement would deliberately deprive these children of one of their natural parents. What he seems not to have considered is that without this arrangement, the child would never be conceived. So is it better never to be born at all than be raised by loving gay parents?
He concludes by urging readers to confront Enda Kenny on the “creation of motherless or fatherless children”. We must assume, therefore, that he is opposed to those lives being created at all, since they would not be created otherwise. How does this square with his firm pro-life stance?
Tony Kavanagh
Dublin 7
* ‘Time the poppy’s wilted petals of hypocrisy were thrown away’.
I think Robert Fisk misses the point completely in this article (Irish Independent, November 9).
Not only are we honouring the dead and dead heroes, but it is a national outpouring of grief. Freedom is worth fighting for. The poppy is a symbol of that.
Vincent Murray
Rathcoole, Co Dublin
* In reply to Colin Crilly (Irish Independent, November 7) the money from the sale of poppies goes to the welfare of ex-soldiers. Remembrance Day is to keep in mind that righteous people gave their day for our tomorrow. The tomorrow that we now enjoy is universal human rights in a world made safe for democracy.
I wear a poppy so others have the freedom to criticise me for doing so.
Noel Flannery
* The impressive journalist and author Robert Fisk exposes the “poppy’s petals of hypocrisy”. His anti-war article confronts militarism and its symbolism. Hence his call to “cast poppies aside”.
Fisk warns readers that “patriotism is not enough”. Above all nations stands humanity. Weapons of war, alas, offer a worldwide threat. “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind”. (President John F Kennedy)
John A Barnwell
Dublin 9
* Silly season in Irish media land used to end around the end of September, but not anymore; we now get it all year round. Someone shakes a stick at Bertie Ahern in a pub and the media goes ballistic.
Actors from ‘Love/Hate’ are paraded all over the place as if they were some kind of VIPs.
Meanwhile, in the real world we must be the global laughing stock when the gardai and social services decide a conwoman aged 25 is just 15; and a Roma family are questioned because one of their children has blond hair.
But all is not lost, on the brighter side we’re having a soft winter; the church seems to now have a leader who is actually a Christian, who refuses all Vatican luxuries and cooks his own meals in the scullery. Finally, the troika have departed our shores.
Paddy O’Brien
Balbriggan, Co Dublin
Irish Independent


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