16 November 2013 Seed

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble the are to assist a film company in making a film about the Royal Navy. Priceless.
Quiet day sell a book go t some soil for the seedlings
No Scrabble today too tired.


Glafcos Clerides – obituary
Glafcos Clerides was President of Cyprus and steered his nation into the EU but failed to unify his divided island

Glafcos Clerides Photo: REUTERS
7:26PM GMT 15 Nov 2013
Glafcos Clerides , the former President of Cyprus, who has died aged 94, was earmarked from the earliest days of independence as the natural successor to Archbishop Makarios, first President of the new Republic; however, he only succeeded to office in 1993, at his fourth attempt.
Cyprus was still under British rule when Clerides first became involved in politics. During the 1955-59 uprising he served with the guerrilla group Eoka under the nom de guerre “Yperides”. Although he claimed never to have been directly involved in any violence, as a lawyer he defended numerous Eoka fighters arrested by the British.
As a member of Eoka, Clerides had been committed to its rallying cry of “Enosis” — union with Greece. But after Cyprus achieved independence in 1960, he was said to have stood aloof from the intrigues which weakened the new government; nevertheless, as Makarios’s closest adviser, he bore some responsibility for the constitutional violations by the Greek Cypriot majority against the Turkish Cypriot minority that provoked the outbreak of inter-communal violence in 1963.
During the years of unrest that culminated in the partition of the island following the Turkish invasion of the northern part of Cyprus in 1974, Clerides acted as Makarios’s chief negotiator in the inter-communal talks with the Turkish Cypriots. He won the trust and respect of Turks for his humanity and common sense — though both he and Rauf Denktash, his opposite number on the Turkish Cypriot side, were prevented from achieving anything of any substance by Makarios’s byzantine machinations.
After Makarios’s death in 1977, Clerides’s realism and his pro-American sympathies counted against him and denied him the presidency for many more years. Memories of the Turkish invasion meant that few Greek Cypriots were minded to heed calls for compromise.
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Clerides greeting the Queen at Larnaca in 1993 (IAN JONES)
Clerides’s election in 1993 was welcomed by the international community as a hopeful sign that a settlement might be reached on the island’s future. But despite the prospect of eventual EU membership, not even he could overcome decades of hatred and suspicion. A final settlement of the island’s constitutional future remains elusive.
Glafcos Yiannis Clerides was born in a mountain village near Nicosia, Cyprus, on April 24 1919, the eldest son of a distinguished lawyer, Yiannis Clerides, QC. His father, a political moderate, became Attorney General with the Governor’s executive council under the British and would stand unsuccessfully as a moderate presidential candidate in the 1959 presidential elections, against his son’s mentor, Archbishop Makarios.
Glafcos studied at Nicosia’s leading Greek college, the Pancyprian Gymnasium, but was suspended for writing to a newspaper in defence of demotic Greek and against the “mandarin” variety he had been taught. He asked his father to let him study in England.
After studying Law at King’s College, London, he trained as a barrister at Gray’s Inn. There he became friends with the young Rauf Denktash, who was studying at Lincoln’s Inn. The two men remained friends, despite their political differences. Following the Turkish invasion of the northern part of Cyprus in 1974, there were widespread rumours that Clerides had helped Denktash’s family escape from the Greek sector to the Turkish-occupied part of the island.
Clerides’s studies were interrupted by the outbreak of war and he volunteered for the RAF, one of 30,000 Cypriots who joined the British armed forces. He became a bomber pilot, but in 1942 had to bail out when his Wellington was shot down over Germany. He broke a leg in the parachute drop; in prison he hacked the plaster off with a pair of stolen shears and escaped by cutting through two barbed wire fences.
Recaptured a week later, he tried again within the year, breaking out of Stalag 5B and heading for Yugoslavia. But he was again picked up. A third escape in 1944 was successful. He broke away from a column of prisoners on a forced march ahead of the Allied advance, found an American tank and climbed aboard. He was mentioned in despatches.
Clerides was called to the Bar in 1951, subsequently joining his father’s chambers in Nicosia. In the 1955-56 uprising he defended political prisoners in court and found himself acting as courier between Eoka and its jailed members, once helping to arrange the escape of Polycarpos Georgadjis, who would become interior minister of the new republic before being assassinated.
He participated in the 1959 London Conference on Cyprus, and during the transitional period from colonial administration to independence (1959-60) served as Minister of Justice. During the same period he was head of the Greek Cypriot delegation in the Joint Constitutional Committee which agreed a democratic power-sharing constitution for the new republic.

Clerides with Prime Minister John Major in London in 1996 (AP)
In July 1960 Clerides was elected to the House of Representatives, becoming its first president, a position he held until July 1976. He liked to recall how, out canvassing during the election, he had been approached in a local taverna by a large, belligerent man who challenged him to drink zivernia, the local firewater. Since he had been brought up on the stuff, Clerides cheerfully accepted and left the challenger under the table. It was this feat, he claimed, that earned him a handsome majority.
As Makarios’s right-hand man, Clerides often stepped in as acting President during Makarios’s absences from Cyprus. But it was clear from the early days of the new republic that Makarios and the Greek Cypriot majority in the House of Representatives had no intention of implementing constitutional provisions which did not suit them, and intended to replace the bi-communal republic which gave a veto to the Turkish minority with a unitary state in which their voting power would be paramount.
As violence broke out between the two sides, Clerides led the Greek Cypriot delegation at the 1964 London Conference called to find a way out of the crisis. But Makarios continued to press for Enosis and brought back the former Eoka terrorist leader, the notorious General Grivas, to command the National Guard.
In 1967, after a massacre of 27 Turks at Kophinou, the Turkish government threatened to invade unless Greek irregular forces were withdrawn from Turkish areas and Grivas exiled. Under American pressure, the invasion was called off; but the crisis apparently convinced Makarios and Clerides that further attempts to grab Enosis would almost certainly provoke a Turkish invasion. Instead they sought to negotiate on the basis of an independent Cyprus, distancing themselves from the ruling junta in mainland Greece.
Makarios appointed Clerides representative of the Greek Cypriot side to the inter-communal talks that began in 1968. On several occasions over the next six years Clerides seemed to be on the verge of a breakthrough, only to find his position had been undermined by the Archbishop and by unofficial advisers such as the hawkish Dr Lyssarides, Makarios’s personal physician.
On July 23 1974, following the short-lived coup orchestrated by the junta which gave the Turks the pretext for an invasion, Clerides temporarily assumed the duties of the President pending Makarios’s return.
But he found himself in an almost impossible position. While the 40,000-strong Turkish army steadily increased its hold to include the booming tourist resort of Famagusta and the rich citrus-growing region of Morphou, causing 200,000 Greek Cypriots to flee their homes, he had to try to maintain order between rival Greek militias while avoiding further provocation of the Turks.

A Turkish army tank in the Turkish section of Nicosia during the 1974 invasion (AP)
Though he refused to negotiate under duress, Clerides sought to delay Makarios’s return to Cyprus, fearing that it might provoke the Turks to further military action. He thus found himself attacked from all sides for passivity in the face of the Turkish advance: from Right-wing supporters of Eoka B still committed to Enosis, and Left-wingers campaigning for the return of Makarios.
Moreover, he found himself increasingly at odds with the new democratic leadership in Athens. Clerides believed that American pressure would be the key to persuading the Turkish army to withdraw, and that it would therefore be advisable to remain on good terms. However, the invasion and the toppling of the military junta on the mainland unleashed a tide of anti-American hysteria during which the new Greek government announced its withdrawal from Nato. When the American ambassador to Cyprus was murdered in August during violent rioting, Clerides personally donned a gas mask to get through tear gas to the embassy and help carry out the ambassador’s body. It was a gesture that was personal as well as symbolic.
When Makarios returned to Cyprus in December, he pointedly omitted to pay tribute to Clerides during his first public address; but he again appointed him chief negotiator for the Greek Cypriot side during peace talks convened by the UN.
Makarios continued to make Clerides’s task difficult, with belligerent talk of a long struggle to oust the Turks from Cyprus, and in January 1976 Clerides resigned from the talks.
He founded a new Right of centre party, the Democratic Rally Party, to fight the parliamentary elections the same year, but the party won no seats; and when Makarios died in 1977 Clerides was out of office. It was the centrist Spyros Kyprianou who stepped in as acting President.
As the most Right-wing grouping, the Democratic Rally Party attracted support from members of Eoka B. Clerides found himself unwillingly portrayed as sympathetic to the hated junta, an impression confirmed in Greek eyes by his avowedly pro-Western stance. Though the party fared better in the 1981, 1985 and 1991 Parliamentary elections, Clerides failed to achieve his ambition of becoming President.
The Right-wing tag was exploited for all it was worth by his opponents. On the eve of the 1988 presidential elections (won by the Socialist millionaire George Vassiliou), forged documents were published in a Greek newspaper purporting to show that Clerides had been recruited as a Nazi agent in Hamburg during the war.
He was finally successful in February 1993, winning a slender majority over Vassiliou. In his acceptance speech, Clerides pledged to be a leader of all Cypriots irrespective of their class or political persuasion. In 1998, despite his earlier intention to retire after one term as President, he won a second five-year term.
Over the next five years Clerides was credited with getting Cyprus ready for its accession to the European Union, which took place in 2004, but he lost much of his popularity over the strong backing he gave to a UN peace plan, promoted by the UN’s Secretary General Kofi Annan, that would have made Cyprus a federation of two states with a loose central government. In a referendum held in April 2004, 65 per cent of the Turkish Cypriot community voted in favour, but the Greek community rejected it by more than 75 per cent. Clerides was defeated in the 2003 elections by Tassos Papadopoulos.
Clerides was no demagogue, and was always far more comfortable talking to small groups than addressing mass rallies. Yet from the early 1960s onwards he was the only Cypriot politician who was capable of winning the respect and trust of both sides.
He married, in 1946, Lilla Erulkar, who died in 2007. Their daughter survives him.
Glafcos Clerides, born April 24 1919, died November 15 2013


The forthcoming vote in a Swiss referendum which seeks to limit the salary ratio in any company to 1:12 is an interesting example of a way in which citizens can play an active role in both initiating and approving legislation (Report, 15 November). Their constitution provides that, once 100,000 supporting signatures have been collected, the government is obliged to organise the referendum. The outcome of the vote will be binding, the positions taken by the political parties or any other organisations are irrelevant.
Karl Gehring
• No need for Dave to despair just yet (Letters, 15 November). All he has to do is lose the next election and then the PM and most of the cabinet will have been to comprehensive schools.
Michael Pyke
Lichfield, Staffordshire
• It is an excellent idea for pensioners who can afford the donation, to give their £100 fuel allowance to the Hayian appeal (Letters, 15 November). However, for those of us who’ve watched in frustration while Royal Mail has been sold off, we can both contribute to the fund and remind the government and the overseas financial investment companies that our spending power in stamps cannot be counted on. This year all my Christmas greetings will go via email and the £75 saved in stamps is already on its way to MSF for their work in the Philippines.
Joyce Brand
Ludlow, Shropshire
• Hurray for Hadley Freeman (G2, 13 November). There is nothing complicated about feminism – it just means treating women as equals. But dominant patriarchal (and heteronormative) discourses mean people find this difficult to understand.
Jennifer Coates
• The horses of Achilles speak in the Iliad. Whatever view one takes of the date of Homer, that is some time before Babe in 1995 (Letters, 12 November).
David Harvey
• I use them in the potting shed (Letters, 12 November). They cover the seedling trays beautifully and prevent drying out.
Ian Garner
Keighley, West Yorkshire

It’s not often the International Plant Protection Convention, hosted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome, gets to hang out with Katy Perry. But thanks to Katy Perry’s new album Prism (Review, 18 October) we now have a chance to attract some attention to the things we do. Regrettably, the album was manufactured and sold internationally along with seeds of unidentified origin, which has caught the attention of the IPPC and our member national plant protection organisations around the world. Although the distribution of seeds by Ms Perry, as evidenced by her Twitter account, was to “spread the light”, our work focuses on ensuring the safe trade of plants and plant products and, most importantly, protecting plants from harmful pests and diseases to protect food production and the environment.
We cannot turn a blind eye to Prism and its possible repercussions. Seeds could easily introduce an invasive new species to an environment, like the wood-boring beetle, resulting in widespread destruction. Depending on the species of flower inside Prism’s seed paper, the risks may be small, but commercial movement of seeds into many countries is subject to assessment of those risks, restrictions and prohibitions. The introduction of pests can results in millions of dollars in damage, and some pests can never be eradicated. As the northern hemisphere prepares to celebrate the bounty of agriculture at Thanksgiving, and those in the southern hemisphere are sowing seeds to provide new crops, we would encourage people to learn about protecting plants, and support efforts to make the trade safe.
Craig Fedchock Co-ordinator
Yukio Yokoi Secretary
International Plant Protection Convention

I joined the Labour party when it was obvious Gordon Brown was going to lose the 2010 election, in order to have a vote on the next leader. I wanted to vote for John McDonnell, but in the end, I voted for Ed Miliband – which I hope I got right. Now John McDonnell invites people to suggest specialist speakers for his People’s Parliament (Letters, 13 November). Monbiot is a good start. I would suggest also: Anne Power on housing; Anna Minton on urban planning and home ownership; Peter Melchett on the environment; Andrew Simms on alternative economics; Frances Crook on prison policy; David Nutt on drugs policy; and Jeremy Deller on culture, with a sideline in William Morris. Listen to them and society can only be better. They are all published writers and/or public figures. The shocking thing is that successive governments have stuck their fingers in their ears.
Judith Martin
Winchester, Hampshire

A wholly predictable result of the obsessive imposition of academies is the fragmentation of school music provision. Setting up music education hubs (Shakeup in children’s music education has failed to bring significant benefits, 15 November), with vastly less money, does nothing to replace the strategic approach to music education previously championed by the best local education authorities. Most hub provision explicitly promotes a lowest common denominator approach, offering nothing to students who can achieve up to and beyond grade 8. Instead, parents are “signposted” to suitable provision with no funding support.
In London we are fortunate to have the fantastic Centre for Young Musicians, enabling talented young people to take part in a vast range of individual and ensemble activities on Saturdays. However, many local authorities refuse to provide financial help for poorer students to attend and bursaries are limited. Ministers would never expect their own children to make do with the level of music provision now available to most families in this country; it is they and not teachers who have low expectations of talented young musicians from ordinary backgrounds.
Alison Higgs
• Ofsted’s criticism of the progress made in music education shows that the government needs to do more to implement the National Music Plan. The completely unrealistic timeframe which was imposed on music services to recreate themselves as music education hubs last year, compounded by cuts within local authorities alongside the statutory grant, has made it impossible for hubs to fulfil the aspirations of the plan. Although many music hubs are making great efforts to make the new system work, until the government ensures that all schools engage with them, musical opportunities for young people will continue to be a postcode lottery.
John Smith
General secretary, Musicians’ Union
• Music hubs are aimed primarily at children aged five and over, even though research supports the idea that children should be exposed to musical activities at a much younger age, and ideally from birth. Singing, combined with active music-making, can aid educational development in many areas. Music also benefits communication and speech, listening skills, physical development, balance and co-ordination, and memory. So why is this limited to the over-fives? Good music education is a fundamental ingredient for inspiring the self-confidence of children.
Caroline Crabbe
UK general manager, Jo Jingles
Toby Mottram is wrong to claim that we should intensify farming to keep prices down (UK needs ‘mega farms’ to keep food prices down, say experts, 13 November). This ignores the scientific evidence from the US, where large-scale intensive farming systems have become the norm, showing there are real risks to human health from mega farms because of their routine use of antibiotics. There is also new evidence from the Netherlands, where a strain of MRSA was found more frequently and in higher concentrations in the air within 1km of intensive pig and poultry farms. The UK’s chief medical officer recently stated that the problems of antibiotic resistance in humans means we are facing a human health crisis, and that this is linked in part to antibiotic use in intensive livestock farming. This was raised at the recent G8 meeting.
The solution is not to create huge-scale, intensive, indoor livestock operations that threaten our landscape, farming and rural communities. Large-scale industrial farms may be able to produce food a little more cheaply in the short term, but we risk ending up paying a high price in terms of the loss of antibiotics that save millions of lives, to say nothing of the cost to the animals themselves. We need to eat less but better-quality meat, from farming systems that respect animals and allow them to enjoy natural behaviours.
Emma Hockridge
Head of policy, Soil Association
• Despite high levels of support from the public purse, our current food system is leaving growing numbers in food poverty and is leading to widening inequalities in health. It is also exerting a heavy toll on the environment and preventing many farmers from receiving a fair price for their produce. Rather than further intensification of livestock farming, we need a resilient, diverse approach to food and farming. We need an approach that will halt and reverse the decline in all the things that people love about our countryside: plentiful wildlife; a varied landscape; farm animals enjoying life out of doors; and fresh, seasonal, local food which can be bought at fair prices, while providing a reasonable livelihood for the people who produce it. Farming and food are not just issues for academics and vested interests – we all have a stake in getting this right. The first step is moving food, farming and the countryside right up the political agenda, and reconnecting people with where their food comes from, and how it is produced.
Sue Armstrong-Brown RSPB, Dan Crossley Food Ethics Council, Sue Dibb Eating Better, Vicki Hird Friends of the Earth, Tim Lang Centre for Food Policy, Jeanette Longfield Sustain, Paul Wilkinson The Wildlife Trusts
• Your article states “only 2% of dairy farms keep their cattle indoors all year round, compared with as many as 90% in the US”. Having seen first-hand the terrible impact of mega dairies in California on the environment and on farmers trying to make ends meet, I can say that following the US down the road of intensification and ever-larger indoor only dairy farms would be a huge error. In the debate around feeding our growing population, we should be very clear that the consumer only picks up part of the bill. Someone, or something, has to pay the price for cheap meat and dairy products and all too often the unsustainable burden falls on the environment and the animals that provide them. We must be more effective at putting food in people’s mouths by reducing food losses and wastes; by getting farm animals off human-edible grain and fishmeal and feeding them on grass, forage and food wastes; by returning to mixed farming which restores soils and by avoiding the over-consumption of meat and dairy.
Philip Lymbery
CEO, Compassion in World Farming
• Last week the headlines were about Brits and our wanton wastage of food (Report, 7 November). We slaughter approx 1bn animals each year – most are farmed in fetid sheds. Animals suffer and die for us to eat yet each day we trash 1m eggs, 1.5m sausages and 6m glasses of milk and the equivalent of 86m chickens are trashed each year too. This week we have “influential farming experts” telling us we need even more intensive livestock farming to “keep food prices down”. No doubt so we can trash even more animals without a financial care.
Sara Starkey
Tonbridge, Kent

Simon Usborne gives what is probably useful advice about avoiding injuries while cycling (14 November), but after the horrific toll of five deaths on bicycles in the space of nine days, we should be taking a closer look at the reasons why they occurred. All incidents involved either buses or trucks, a common theme in London’s cycling deaths. A cluster of fatalities like this warrants detailed investigation.
The problem is that although we get information about these high-profile catastrophic tragedies, we know next to nothing about the larger parts of the iceberg of cycling injury which lie underneath. A&E departments in England and Scotland do not collect useful data on injuries which means a proper epidemiological analysis of the cause of cycling injuries, the type of injuries sustained, and even their location, is impossible.
The UK lags behind many other European countries in its injury-surveillance capabilities; only Wales has a decent system in place. All hospitals in England and Scotland should be routinely collecting data on every A&E attendance for injury, including where it occurred, what the person was doing at the time, how the injury happened and whether it was intentional or unintentional, combined with patient characteristics and diagnostic information.
Until this is done it is hard to see how evidence-based planning of cycling safety can take place.
Graham Kirkwood, Research Fellow, Professor Allyson Pollock, Professor of Public Health Research and Policy;  Co-director,  Global Health, Policy & Innovation Unit Centre for Trauma Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London E1
Government funding for cycling infrastructure remains paltry compared to elsewhere in Western Europe. The Dutch spend £30 per head, the European average is about £4 per head, while in the UK we’re spending less than £2. It’s not that there’s a shortage of money; the problem is road planners are putting it in the wrong place. In an attempt to reduce congestion they continue to pour vast sums into schemes designed to squeeze more vehicles through junctions. This is completely unnecessary. In Britain, as elsewhere in the west, the number of car journeys is dropping. Young people in particular are turning away from the car – in the past five years the number taking the driving test has fallen by 10 per cent. If transport planners do nothing, journey times will drop as fewer drivers take to the roads. Instead of persisting with their 1980s attitude to road infrastructure, transport chiefs should look to the future and start diverting money into making the roads safe for everyone.
Martin Gorst, London W13
Cycling home in a bus lane recently, a bus passed me, far too close for comfort. So I stopped beside the driver’s window to let him know he had nearly hit me.
His reply that “you shouldn’t have been in the bus lane anyway” left me dumbfounded. It is clearly marked as a a shared bus lane with a large blue sign. Although in other cases I have noted that – perhaps in order to avoid confusion – the white cycle symbol is removed from the large blue bus-lane signs. Most disappointingly, First Bus have yet to reply to my 14 October letter to them.
George Jamison, Bristol
Unite is the voice of working people
Unite in Falkirk acted entirely within the laws of the Labour party at that time (editorial, 13 November). Both the Labour Party and Police Scotland looked at events and found no rules were broken.
Yes, Grangemouth was a very bruising dispute; certainly there are brutal lessons for our country to learn from a situation whereby one company can shut down an essential facility. But I answer to the wishes of this union’s members exclusively; it was they who, in Grangemouth, wanted their union to defend their representative and also to take whatever steps were needed to save their jobs, which we did without question – indeed at the mass meeting following the dispute, 100 per cent support was given to the union. 
You are correct to highlight the role of “trade unions working closely with management to minimise job losses” yet you praise the action without acknowledging the actor. Unite members worked tirelessly and creatively to help our major companies like Jaguar LandRover and Vauxhall weather the storm and emerge as the successes they are today.
Unite does not seek “war, not dialogue”, just as workers do not seek strikes. The vast majority of our day-to-day work is resolving problems, and my door is always open to employers who want to work with us constructively.
In a world where power increasingly rests in the hands of the few, I make no apology for the desire of my union and its members to strengthen the voice of working people.  Because that is the path to social justice, and that is a service to us all. 
Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite, London WC1
The regeneration  of Southwark
“End of an area for notorious Heygate estate” (8 November), trotted out the same old rhetoric about what a dreadful thing Southwark Council is doing by regenerating a run-down part of south London. Yes, there are a few people who owned their own property on the estate and didn’t want to leave, and who may have to move a little further out to find an equivalent property (although at the time the initial offer was made there were many similar properties on Southwark estates available for a comparable price).
However, the council did offer them assistance to stay in the area – for instance they had the opportunity to enter into a shared ownership deal at the Strata Tower in the heart of the Elephant. And of course they were a small minority on the estate – most of its residents were council tenants, all of whom have been rehoused in the borough and offered the right to return once the new homes are complete. Most do not want to return – they are delighted with their new homes, in comparison to the dreary, brutalist blocks they left behind.
Your article failed to explain why Southwark is regenerating Elephant: not to bring in lots of expensive housing, but to use those housing deals with developers to fund brand new affordable housing, a new leisure centre, a huge new park, and to bring 6,000 jobs to the borough.
Elephant and Castle  has been crying out for change for decades. We have no intention of driving anyone out of Southwark,  and a few lone voices should not be the only ones heard  in this debate.
Cllr Fiona Colley, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Corporate Strategy, Southwark Council, London SE1
Why relocate cultural institutions?
The think tank Civitas has suggested that institutions such as the British Museum and Royal Opera House should relocate to cities in the north of England (report, 13 November).
Surely a more realistic way forward would be for each London-based museum or concert hall to be required to be linked with a similar body in the north as a condition of future government funding.
The V&A, with its splendid ceramics galleries, could join up with the wonderful, but disgracefully underfunded, Gladstone Museum in Stoke. As far as I am aware, Stoke council are doing their best in the face of massive cuts from central government. Only last week it was announced that the Royal Academy was awarded £12m of lottery money. How much went to galleries in the north?
Miriam Mazower, London NW11
Time to turn non-urgent cases away from A&E
Surely it’s about time that A&E departments took a stance and refused to treat non-emergency people arriving at their doors and referred them to their GPs?
George Smith
Breastfeeding  requires courage
No one would want to go back to the days when, if a baby was not breastfed by someone, their mother or wet nurse, he or she died. But it is worth reminding ourselves how far removed we have become from what nature intended. We are the only species that gives the milk of another species to our young. Parents of sick babies are only too aware of how vulnerable babies can be if they become allergic or intolerant to cow’s milk. And yet Grace Dent insinuates that breastfeeding is the thing that is not normal.
It takes a lot of courage, confidence and support to successfully breastfeed in Britain today, particularly within deprived areas of the country. Anything that tries to redress the balance has to be a good thing, even if it is a drop in the ocean; £200 might mean quite a lot to a breastfeeding mother, struggling to do the right thing for her baby.
Jackie Martin
Witham, Essex
Many women do not wish to breastfeed and are happier bottle feeding. They do not have to be mothers in deprived areas or lacking in education or parenting skills. It could be that they weren’t supported sufficiently in hospital, hadn’t the confidence to do so or simply didn’t want to. None of these reasons is wrong or means that the mother is less caring and capable of bonding with a happy, healthy and successful child. There may also be other children in the family and a husband who wants to be part of this special time.
I am concerned that what is a personal choice will be muddled by feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
Judith Phillips
Wigston, Leicestershire
Where in Grace Dent‘s article was there mention of the pernicious and aggressive global marketing by formula milk companies that, over years, has successfully persuaded women living in poverty that formula milk is a better choice for their babies? Or of the hostility that mothers meet when they expose their breast to try to feed their baby in public?
Rebecca Evanson
London SE15


Money spent wisely before emergencies on disaster preparedness pays huge benefits in mitigating the effects of natural calamities
Sir, The argument put forward by Ross Clark (Opinion, Nov 12) that aid spending should be recalibrated away from long-term projects in favour of emergency relief will resonate strongly in the light of the terrible images of destruction in the Philippines. However, it is important to be clear about exactly when and how the money should be spent.
All the evidence shows that money spent wisely before emergencies on disaster preparedness, risk reduction and resilience pays huge benefits in mitigating the effects of natural calamities and building the capacity of local people to respond. There are countless examples, from Bangladesh (cyclone preparedness) to Ethiopia (food security safety nets), where money invested in the longer term has saved countless lives and helped to restore livelihoods.
Unfortunately, finding aid money to invest before a disaster has always proved to be far more difficult than raising funds for emergency response itself. Figures on global development spend (provided by UK based Development Initiatives) show that for every US $100 spent on aid less than $1 is spent on disaster risk reduction (DRR). For the last entire decade DRR expenditure equalled only 1 per cent of Official Development Assistance.
Ross Clark is right that we need to be more careful in the way that aid money is spent — and spending proportionally more before a disaster strikes will surely bring benefits for all.
John Mitchell
Director, Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action
Sir, As British and US forces assist in aid efforts after Typhoon Haiyan, the thought arises that such efforts could become the most valuable work of our Armed Services, and in the process become part of their salvation.
When spending of money on the Armed Services is reviewed there is always pressure to cut costs. What if our Armed Forces were to be reconfigured as “peacekeeping and rescue” services? Expenditure on them would then surely be seen as unarguable.
There would be fewer people opposed to the building of aircraft carriers if their main purpose was seen to be the transport of personnel and equipment to regions devastated by natural disasters. And few would begrudge expenditureon helicopters and fast aircraft whose main function was todeliver medical aid in such circumstances.
David Lindsley
Hampton Wick, Surrey
Sir, The dispatch this week of the destroyer HMS Daring to provide emergency relief in the Philippines had a notable parallel 60 years ago. After a major earthquake in August 1953, an earlier HMS Daring, also a destroyer, brought aid and medical support to Cephalonia. A street in Argostoli was later renamed HMS Daring Street in gratitude for the ship’s help. Another earthquake hit Cyprus the following month and Daring was rushed from Port Said to land tents and other emergency supplies at Paphos.
The young men and women of today’s HMS Daring, and from the carrier HMS Illustrious which is also on her way to the Philippines, will face immense challenges in these coming weeks. They will do well; they always do, and the nation should be proud of them.
Lt-Cdr Lawrie Phillips
Author, The Royal Navy Day by Day
Northwood, Middx

The idea of having music ‘hubs’ nationally is already taking a heavy toll on music provision around the country
Sir, Despite publicly voicing the importance of the arts in education and culture in speeches and interviews, Michael Gove seems to have managed to pull the plug on music in schools (“Gove’s music reforms ‘falling short’,” report, Nov 15). The idea of having music “hubs” nationally is already taking a heavy toll on music provision around the country. Music GCSE numbers are falling year on year, and the subject has started to slip off the academic timetable.
If Mr Gove seeks inspiration in his musings he would be wise to take a
look at the medieval university curriculum, where the academic study of music was one of the seven liberal arts that included grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, astronomy and geometry.
John Arkell
Head of Academic Music, Oundle School, Northants

GPs should be left to explain medical conditions to their patients, not be forced to justify their salaries
Sir, I struggle to see how disclosure of individual doctors’ salaries (“GPs told to reveal their pay”, report, Nov 15) will improve the health service. It will surely lead to resentment between GPs and some of their patients. Even the disclosure of average earnings of £103,000 per annum is simplistic as it’s not clear if this is net of expenses or not.
Doctors should be left to explain to their patients their medical conditions, which in many cases is no doubt difficult enough, rather than having to account for their remuneration.
Gareth Tarr
Chertsey, Surrey

The main issue with mandatory life sentences is that the prisoner remains on life licence and is subject to recall to jail for misbehaviour
Sir, Richard Oerton (letter, Nov 15) refers to the “flexibility” of the mandatory life sentence. Yes, the judge may set the minimum sentence but this is no guarantee that the prisoner will be released; that is a decision that is left to the parole board.
However, the main issue is that the prisoner remains on life licence and subject to recall to jail for misbehaviour. For a determinate sentence the prisoner is on licence for a determinate period of time. That is a major difference and has potentially very serious consequences for the life prisoner. It is perhaps this difference, together with the lack of an automatic release date, that the senior legal figures talking to Lord Bramall (letter, Nov 13) are rightly concerned about.
Alisdair A. Gillespie
Professor of Criminal Law and Justice, Lancaster University

Would keeping London’s parks open longer help to ease the problem of cyclists using the roads at dark and therefore more dangerous times?
Sir, During the light evenings of spring and summer, many cyclists (report & leading article, Nov 15) use paths through some of London’s parks. These provide safe, traffic-free places and often avoid busy junctions. Unfortunately, once the clocks have gone back, most of these parks close at dusk, forcing cyclists back on to busy and now dark roads. Would it not be possible to keep some of these parks open until a little later, giving commuting cyclists a chance to get home safely?
Hilary Thorniley-Walker
Bingley, W Yorks


SIR – In his review of the final episode of the excellent Poirot, James Walton suggests that the only other impersonations of fictional detectives on television to compare with David Suchet’s interpretation are Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, John Thaw’s Inspector Morse and Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison.
Only a lapse of memory (or possibly youth) accounts for the omission of Jeremy Brett’s definitive portrait of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes.
David Salter
Richmond, Surrey

SIR – The critical factor in emergency medicine is the time it takes to get to medical care. Fewer than one in four British emergency hospitals has a helipad. With 35 air ambulances in Britain, there is barely one hospital helipad for each of these machines. By contrast, many American hospitals have multiple helipads.
For only about £25 million, all major trauma centres in Britain could be equipped with a helipad. This would provide a better return on investment, in lives saved and enhanced recovery times, than almost any related proposal. Demountable, fully equipped aluminium helipads can be constructed in weeks and start saving lives immediately. Southampton General Hospital is an excellent example.
Tony Bateson
SIR – With local A&E closures, and moving units into specialist hospitals, outcomes may improve. However, as a paramedic, I am concerned that, under the new plans, the ambulance that has to do the transfer will be out of its area for a longer period, thus depleting local cover. The A&E to which the patient is taken will be dealing with local people as well, thus increasing the workload on the already-near-breaking-point staff and hospital. If the department is full, then this will further delay the ambulance, as it won’t be able to off-load.
Adrian Gilbert
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15 Nov 2013
SIR – Apparently, pressure on hospitals can only be relieved if patients are confident they can get help from their GP when they need it. However, officials say that the amount of bureaucracy placed on GPs must be reduced so patients can have same-day access to their family doctor.
I am a GP with more than 23 years’ experience, yet in order to continue offering learning disability health checks, a service we have been providing for the past two years, I have been told that I, my practice nurse, and practice manager must attend a half-day training session on a weekday morning. These health checks involve asking patients and carers basic questions about their health and doing some routine checks, including blood pressure, BMI and vision – nothing beyond the expertise of all GPs and practice nurses.
I hope that my patients who try to get an appointment on that day will understand and hope they do not feel the need to attend A&E.
Dr Karen Haworth
Rainham, Kent
SIR – Surely the A&E crisis could be solved in an instant if all those requiring treatment due to excessive consumption of alcohol were either denied treatment altogether or charged a fee, say £100. The money could be reinvested in the NHS.
Jon Law
Doncaster, South Yorkshire
Fighting heart attacks
SIR – You report that “millions more are to be told to take statins” if they are at risk of having a stroke.
Next week at my twice-yearly check-up with my GP for my mildly raised blood pressure, he will, as always, offer me statins, an offer I have refused for years due to the numerous side effects.
As you also report (November 14) that drinking three cups of tea per day will reduce the risk of a stroke by 20 per cent, I intend to ask my doctor for a prescription for PG Tips.
Dr Martin Henry
Good Easter, Essex
SIR – Cholesterol-reducing drugs (statins) are among the most widely prescribed on the market, and are the number-one profit maker for the pharmaceutical industry, largely thanks to relentless direct-to-consumer advertising campaigns. Yet their adverse effects run the gamut from muscle problems to increased cancer risk.
Anthony Jakeman
Gympie, Queensland, Australia
SIR – Isn’t it true to say that obese Americans are more at risk from stroke and heart disease? The latest research recommending broader use of statins takes into account symptoms, not causes, advantaging drug companies over promotion of a healthier lifestyle.
Neil McEwan
Folkestone, Kent
Rural infrastructure
SIR – I was delighted to read that BT is to spend £900 million on broadcasting football matches. I live in a rural community and receive broadband at 1.4 mbps download, and 0.37 upload speeds. I pay the same price as those in urban areas, who receive a vastly superior service, but with these speeds it is impossible to view matches via a broadband connection.
Spending money on infrastructure for rural communities (don’t get me started on mobile reception) would be appreciated.
Sylvia Smith
Great Moulton, Norfolk
SIR – I, for one, will never return to BT, having suffered poor service and indifferent customer care on my land line account.
A sweetener of free or discounted sports will not make me change my mind.
Win Draper
BBC appointments
SIR – The BBC is to replace as lead commentator at next year’s Chelsea Flower Show the professional and experienced horticulturalist Alan Titchmarsh with Sophie Raworth, who “grew up in a family of keen gardeners”.
Jenny Walker
Felpham, West Sussex
SIR – As the “fantastic” Sophie Raworth is to fill Alan Titchmarsh’s presentation role at the Chelsea Flower Show on the BBC to “keep things interesting”, should we now expect Russell Brand to replace Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight?
Charles Foster
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
Ageing rockers
SIR – If a professional aunt, no kids, is a pank, does that make me, at the age of 57, a punk (professional uncle, no kids)?
David Watkins
London SW17
Philippines disaster
SIR – Aid and assistance are pouring into the Philippines, slowly, one week after the onset of Typhoon Haiyan. Why cannot the nations of this modern world set up an organisation, maybe under the UN, which is funded with food, equipment and a reserve of qualified men already trained to move instantly to the seat of a disaster? Instead, a lot of time is wasted getting the equipment and help together.
Terence G Dunham
Enfield, Middlesex
Reforming education
SIR – It was excellent to read Allister Heath’s well-argued piece on the role the private sector could play in state-funded education. A move in this direction would release a huge investment in buildings, equipment and high-level teaching. It would also take education out of party politics. Schools would be selected by families in the same way they make choices in housing, travel, luxury goods and entertainment. In a free market, we would see more innovation and a genuine competition in quality.
It is time for the state to withdraw from an area that it has meddled in for too long.
Alastair Graham
Bagshot, Surrey
Sharing the roads
SIR – Commenting on one of the recent cycling deaths in London, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said: “We should have cycle super highways to physically separate cyclists from roads.”
This is a very dangerous idea. It is education and the standards of driving that need to be addressed, as well as correct cycling procedures in traffic.
Separating drivers and cyclists only creates an “us and them” situation where there is no understanding between the two parties. It will inevitably cause more problems.
Marcus Kenyon
Whitby, North Yorkshire
Cushioning the blow
SIR – I wonder if any of your correspondents can explain the fairly recent proliferation of cushions on beds in hotels, inns, guest houses and B&Bs. They serve no purpose, get in the way, and have to be placed on the floor prior to getting into bed. Decorative they may be, useful they are not.
Alan Baker
Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire
Technology only adds to the pleasures of bridge
SIR – If Roger W Payne is taken aback by bidding boxes in bridge, then what would he make of electronic bridgemates that post your running score on a screen throughout the match? Or even worse, participating in international online games or the challenge of playing against robots on your iPad?
Bridge is a glorious and brilliant game that is being made ever more dynamic and accessible by the introduction of technology. No longer can the tipsy kitchen player keep the secret to themselves.
Mary Sharp
Hyde Heath, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Modern bridge players are not less subtle, but more so. Bridge is a game par excellence, a multiple skills game brought to me forcibly when, as a reasonable player in the London league, I watched a match in a London hotel in the Seventies between an Italian team, introducing the Blue Club system (conventional in that bids did not mean what they seemed to), against a visiting young American university team which played simpler “straight” bridge.
When one American player, on being asked why he played a particular card, replied “it was 76.8 per cent odds”, I quickly realised my inadequacies and mediocrity.
Bridge is a game of gradations, where one can never reach the pinnacle, only steps, improvements and plateaux. Its many conventions require an extraordinary memory: one has only to look at the bridge games in The Daily Telegraph to see this.
The bidding and the play require many skills, the ability to compute, awareness of inferences and implications of bids made and cards played, and even a Machiavellian delight in misleading opponents.
A top player needs all this, plus a driving ambition, a partner of equal standard and a highly toned intellect.
Leslie Thorogood
Maidenhead, Berkshire
SIR – When I rule the world, anyone using the weak no trump opening bid will be summarily executed.
Colin Akester
Richmond, Surrey

Irish Times:

Sir, – Vincent Browne (Opinion, November 6th) is absolutely correct in his analysis of “Ireland regaining her sovereignty”, once we exit the bailout. The Lisbon Treaty ensures that we are governed by the EU forever. That treaty has reduced this State to the status of a county council. No matter who we elect at the next election: the rules of the game and the budgets will be decided by the EU. Therefore, is it not time to signal our intent to withdraw from this new empire as we did from the British empire?
There is another reason for departing this rich man’s club: that is the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” currently being negotiated by the EU and US. This agreement is a highly dangerous neoliberal piece of legislation. If it were passed into law it would hand over all our public services to multinationals. The Irish people need to understand the dangers we face. We need to get away from the “private good, public bad” approach. The public sector needs to be protected for the common good. The EU empire is offering nothing but perpetual austerity. It’s time to depart. – Yours, etc,
Old Youghal Road,
Sir, – It was with mirth sprinkled with cynicism, that I read the articles and editorials on Ireland exiting the bailout. So the Germans in five years have achieved in Ireland what British colonial power failed to do in 700. I suggest, if ever there was a case for the pen been mightier than the sword, this is it. – Yours, etc,
Co Clare.
A chara, – “Never again will our country’s fortunes be sacrificed through greed and short-term gain,” proclaimed Enda Kenny on Thursday after deciding to exit Ireland’s bailout without a precautionary credit line. However, I honestly believe that these words will come back to haunt Mr Kenny once the details of Budget 2016 are announced just a few months shy of General Election 2016. – Is mise,
Maxwell Road,
Dublin 6.
Sir, – Listening to Government Ministers these days, like them or loathe them, it’s wonderful to understand what they are saying, although we might not like what we hear. At least dreaded phrases such as “moving foward in time” appear to have vanished from our radar screens. – Yours, etc,
Ballydubh Upper,
Co Waterford.
Sir, – Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has often been harshly criticised for his obsession with austerity and cutbacks, but every now and then he pulls a stroke that illustrates just what a wily old fox he is. His consignment of the promissory note to the indefinite future, where all impossible debt should be dispatched, was masterful and his exit strategy from the “bailout” shows a touch of similar genius.
His sure guarantee that he will have a back-up line of support is by not arranging one in advance. Mr Noonan knows the EU desperately needs an economic success; this country is the shining light in that category at the moment. Ireland’s weakness and danger of slipping back into bailout mode is its great strength.
Such a catastrophe could herald the twilight zone for the euro, so within a year or possibly two Mr Noonan will brandish that possibility to ensure the ECB follows through on the retrospective recapitalisation of Irish banks so casually mentioned and forgotten at a financial conference last year. The Irish debt will drop from the impossible to the improbable and bring much needed relief.
Mr Noonan may not yet fully grasp that the root cause of economic upheaval is technological rather than fiscal, but when it comes to outsmarting the dour bureaucrats of Brussels he shows he is still the maestro. – Yours, etc,
Co Sligo.
Sir, – Now that the ECB/EU/IMF team has departed our shores can Ireland be said to be in its “Gorbachev” era, ie, perish-troika? – Yours, etc,
Delford Drive,

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s article (“Never mind the Nazis. What about our own stolen treasures?”, Culture Shock, November 9th) raises questions around the ethnographical collections in the National Museum of Ireland in the context of the discovery of a collection of paintings amassed by the German dealer and collector, Hildebrand Gurlitt in a Munich apartment, much of which is suspected to have been illegally confiscated.
O’Toole compares the two, stating the National Museum’s collection “has been out of sight for a very long time”. While he is correct in saying the museum’s collection has not been on public display since 1979, unlike the Munich hoard, this was not in an attempt to conceal or deny its existence, but rather was to make space available to re-display the museum’s Irish archaeological treasures.
He is right in highlighting the need for a full survey of the collection. Between 2003 and 2007 the museum engaged an ethnographer to produce an inventory of the material in question as a first step. As a result, we now have a clearer picture of its range and extent, but only in outline. It was intended, at that time, that the museum’s world-class collections would form one of the key displays in a new central block to be built as part of an expansion of facilities at Collins Barracks. Unfortunately, funding for this development never materialised and the necessary resources to fully catalogue the collections are as yet unavailable.
O’Toole’s second point is “that at least a significant amount of it [ie the museum’s ethnographical collection] is loot, pure and simple.” He cites cases in which some objects were clearly acquired as war trophies and as the result of punitive raids by colonial military men and civil servants. However, the number of such instances and the precise circumstances pertaining in each case remains to be established. Further research does need to be undertaken on the collections, particularly around provenance; only then can the question of legal possession be addressed.
The article raises the wider question of the presence of ethnographic objects in Western museums, and the existence of “ethnographic” museums, both of which issues have involved much soul-searching and reflection in the last several decades. These are complex matters which also need to acknowledge that this material forms part of Ireland’s history and its relations with the wider world.
The repatriation of these objects also forms part of this on-going debate, as does engagement with indigenous communities. The return of such cultural property is something which the museum has been responsive to over the years and requests have been dealt with on a case-by-case basis. In this regard, the museum has entered into formal negotiations with representatives of the Maori and of the Native Americans. In 1990, for example, the museum permanently repatriated two toi moko (tattooed Maori heads) to Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) and agreement was reached on the retention of the Maori holdings by the museum. This followed formal discussions with representatives of the Maori in the context of a special exhibition Te Ao Maori in Kildare St which was opened in accordance with Maori ritual. In other cases, requests for the temporary loan of material have been granted.
Ethnographic museums in Europe are changing and evolving (an example is Paris’s Musée de l’Homme which has become the Musée du quai Branly) in ways that reflect changed understandings of what constitutes the ethnographic in museum terms. Some are reconstituting themselves as museums of world cultures.
This is a debate that is open-ended and one which the National Museum of Ireland welcomes. Indeed, the museum hosted, participated in and part- funded a conference in 2007 on the subject of ethnographic collections in Irish museums, the proceedings of which were published in 2012 under the title Exhibit Ireland, to which Fintan O’Toole refers in his article. – Yours, etc,
National Museum of Ireland,
Collins Barracks,
Benburb Street,

Sir, – For more than a decade we have heard nothing but praise for the Filipino immigrants who first came to our shores around 2000. Initially, it was mostly nursing professionals who came and brought a new dimension of care to our hospitals. These were followed later by family members and others who began to make a positive contribution to the communities where they made their new homes. Their benign presence is reflected nowadays in schools, the service industry, our churches and, particularly, in church choirs. They have been a breath of fresh air to our country.
Now, with the almost indescribable disaster that has cruelly struck their home country and relations, we Irish, who know something of emigration and suffering ourselves, can rise to this awful occasion and show our gratitude and acknowledgment of the Filipinos’ wonderful contribution to our society by contributing money to the Red Cross or any of the established Irish aid agencies. I know that members of local Filipino groups, whether they lost loved ones or not, are fundraising at their work places and beyond. It behoves us as a nation not to stand idly by but to help our friends and newer citizens in this time of absolute need. The time for our action is now.– Yours, etc,
Main Street,
Blanchardstown, Dublin 15.
Sir, – The aftermath of natural disasters, such as the recent passage of Typhoon Haiyan over the Philippines, provokes the usual criticism that not enough is being done. What purpose does the United Nations serve if it cannot put in place provision for an immediate international response team for situations such as these?
The leading nations of the world, with their standing armies replete with so much search and rescue equipment, must surely see that being part of such an internationally recognised standby force would, more than anything, serve to validate their place in the world. US, UK, Germany, France, China, Russia, etc: stand up and be counted! – Yours, etc,
Sydenham Terrace,
Rathgar, Dublin 6.

Sir, – So now the personal insolvency practioner who was lambasted for saying he would have to take into account the status of professionals has been proved partially right.
If anything, he understated the position by limiting it to the liberal professions. The High Court has confirmed that if you run into serious financial trouble your family may still be able to access income in keeping with the “lifestyle to which you have become reasonably accustomed”. An allowance of €9,000 per month (including golf membership at about €2,000 per annum!) would far exceed even the lifestyle affordable by former Ministers’ handsome pensions.
No one wants to see any family destitute. But there have to be limits. Cases such as this are an affront to any sense of equity. They must be resented bitterly by those who are struggling to eke out a living, never mind a lifestyle.
The fact that it is legal because the allowance comes from frozen assets will be of no consolation to anyone. Laws and cases of this sort reinforce the view that in our society the wealthier classes remain protected.
It is always a little tasteless to express things in terms of status in society. During the boom we heard a lot about the prospects for upward mobility. That would imply that in purely relative terms there would be a corresponding degree of downward mobility. Our laws and practices tend to rule out the latter even in times of recession. – Yours, etc,
Flower Grove,

Sir, – The heading on Brian Hanley’s article reads, “Part of the remembered interest in the Great War in Ireland is based on a desire to promote reconciliation” (Opinion, November 9th).
I agree with this sentence entirely and would go further. My father, Bruno E Werner, served and thank God survived at the Somme as a young lieutenant in the German Royal Saxon regiment in this terrible, terrible war.
The Great War marked the introduction of the mass killings in the 20th century. My reason to “sport” a red poppy is to wear it in remembrance of all people who died because of it.
It should be worn once a year by everybody in the whole world! – Yours, etc,
Sandycove Avenue,

Sir, – When I saw the photograph of Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton and Tánaiste and Minister of Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore holding goofy job-creating T-shirts bearing the words: “I help people get jobs”, I couldn’t wait to see the reverse side (Business Back Page, November 15th). So I turned the page and there it was: a large advertisement for the position of chief financial officer at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Been there, done that. – Yours, etc,
Shandon Crescent,

Sir, – Exiting the bailout programme is all very well, but what about facing the All Blacks?  They should have been told by everyone years ago that the grisly haka had no place in sport.  As they were not, one would expect opposing teams to devise an effective response, but most of them submit weakly and are psychologically beaten before the kick-off.
Proposals are now required quickly from brilliant Irish Times readers for an Irish response by the team and/or the attendance which shows defiance but which is not so provocative as to incur severe punishment for such daring. – Yours, etc,
Cricklewood Park,

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,

Irish Independent:

* The thought process behind decision-making at government level would surely make for a riveting thesis for some PhD student because it is so utterly baffling to normal people.
Also in this section
It’s time for a dose of European solidarity
Still the most beautiful place on earth
There’s no good reason not to wear the poppy
Take two different examples, which are both linked to Brendan Howlin’s role as Minister for Public Expenditure.
Firstly, he attempted to insert a last-minute amendment to freedom of information (FOI) legislation that would apply a fee of €15 for each question.
Secondly, we hear that if the ASTI votes to accept the Haddington Road agreement, its members will get an incremental payment backdated to July. But the Department of Education, which requires approval for such a payment from Mr Howlin, refuses to confirm how much this will cost because the public have no right to know the cost.
It seems the concept that the taxpayer should have an automatic right to know the cost of things such as backdating increments, genuinely never occurred to Mr Howlin. It is precisely that type of attitude, where an actual member of the Government refers to the Government as ‘them’ instead of ‘we’ that adds to the dysfunctional gap between the process of Irish governance and the public’s ability or will to hold it to account.
This in turn feeds into why the public sector fails so frequently to make long-term decisions in the public interest.
This attitude of fighting any effort at transparency shows that Mr Howlin and the Government he is part of have failed to make the reforms required so that the failures of the last government will never be repeated. A government and public sector afraid of embracing transparency and accountability are not capable of delivering the reforms that are still required for Ireland to reach its potential.
The proof of this is that three years into its term this Government hasn’t even bothered to apply a standard values message across the entire public sector.
Something along the lines of ‘the public is not the enemy and has a right to know…’
Desmond FitzGerald
Canary Wharf, London
* This year, not only does autumn in Ireland bring its customary crisp freshness in the evenings (which I, for one, always find energising and hopeful), but it also brings a fresh start for Irish rugby.
The Autumn International Test-match window is my favourite period in the sporting calendar, as it traditionally has been the period where we schedule matches to compete against the first-tier rugby nations of the world. It offers the most truthful gauge of where the standard of Irish rugby ranks in the world, not merely of where it ranks in Europe.
It is for this reason that I continue to suggest that we should find the will to play the “big three” southern hemisphere nations on a more regular basis than we currently do, to aid our desired improvement to their level.
Playing Australia and world champions New Zealand this month will represent a step-up which, sadly, is not likely to be repeated until the southern hemisphere returns to Dublin in autumn 2014.
Therefore, Irish rugby must take this all-too-rare opportunity to show the world what we are made of.
John B Reid
Monkstown, Co Dublin
* This week I witnessed a young woman vomiting at the side of the platform at Monkstown Dart station, a direct result of yet another case of extreme over-crowding on the service. It is the third time in as many months I have witnessed fellow passengers either vomiting or collapsing as a result of the dangerous over-crowding that is now an everyday occurrence on trains.
Contrary to public assurances from Iarnrod Eireann that reduced carriage capacities would ‘only affect non-peak time trains’, the issue of over-crowding has become critical – in particular at peak times.
A large part of this is due to Iarnrod Éireann’s definition of ‘peak time’. I would argue that peak time should encompass the hours of 07.00-09.30 and 16.30-18.30 and not merely 08.00-09.00 and 17.00-17.30.
Secondly, whether by accident or design, many trains during peak hours have clearly been ‘unofficially’ cancelled.
I’m sure I don’t need to point out that if there are roughly half the number of trains serving the same number of commuters then said trains will be twice as full.
Name with editor
Monkstown, Co Dublin
* In her letter (November 8), Susie Glynn invokes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in support of a right to same-sex marriage.
It’s worth pointing out that when the UDHR was drawn up in 1948 the concept of same-sex marriage, as generally understood nowadays, was non-existent.
Therefore, to interpret the UDHR as establishing a right to same-sex marriage would be questionable, to say the least; and would be highly controversial, especially outside the Western world (most of the world simply doesn’t share the views of Western liberals on matters such as same-sex marriage and is highly unlikely to do so anytime soon, if ever).
Such an interpretation could well lead to the UDHR being perceived in much of the world as being little more than a vehicle for the advancement of a certain type of Western cultural imperialism and could destroy whatever moral force and claims to universality the declaration has outside the West.
Hugh Gibney
Athboy, Co Meath
* I sentenced myself to a minute (no more, please) listening to Justin Timberlake’s version of ‘The Auld Triangle’. I now fear I may have splinters in my ears.
Tom Gilsenan
Beaumont D9
* This week’s business section reports the sad news that world famous French piano makers Pleyel are to shut down after 200 years.
Having supplied Ravel, Stravinsky and Chopin, the company are now unable to compete with competition from China. So, “chopsticks” has come back to haunt them!
Sean Kelly
Tramore, Co Waterford
* The news that Ireland will be exiting its bailout from the troika on December 15 is to be welcomed on a nationalist and morale level.
But it will not be negotiating a financial back-up package in case of setbacks or mishaps.
With an economy that has a debt of approximately 120pc of GDP, high unemployment and low growth, Ireland is heading out on to the great ocean of world finance on a prayer and a load of optimism – while waving the Tricolour of imagined independence.
It’s a very big risk given the volatile state of the world financial markets.
Surely it would be prudent to have as much protection as possible against financial upheaval. Ireland is a very small country in financial terms and with an open economy is really at risk in the present circumstances.
I think we should all have our lifebelts handy and our places booked in the lifeboats.
We may be getting our feet wet.
Liam Cooke
Coolock, Co Dublin
Irish Independent


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