Gutter

28 November 2013 Gutter

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are to assist a film company. Can they hit the dummy enemy ships?
I sweep leaves. Peter finishes the roof and does the guttering.
Scrabble I wins but just by one point weget just less than 400 perhaps it will be Mary’s turn tomorrow.

Obituary:

Peter Griffiths – obituary
Peter Griffiths was a Tory MP whose triumph in the race-based contest for Smethwick saw him branded a ‘parliamentary leper’

Peter Griffiths Photo: UPPA PHOTOSHOT
6:37PM GMT 27 Nov 2013
5 Comments
Peter Griffiths, who has died aged 85, was a young Black Country headmaster who became a national political figure overnight when his capture of Smethwick for the Conservatives in 1964 led Harold Wilson to brand him a “parliamentary leper”. Griffiths had defeated Patrick Gordon Walker, whom Wilson nevertheless made Foreign Secretary, after a contest dominated by race.
While his views on immigration and integration were robust, the lanky, intense Griffiths always insisted he never used the slogan: “If you want a nigger for your neighbour, vote Labour”. But Labour pinned the phrase on him, relenting only when Enoch Powell presented himself as a better target.
It was a sign of Griffiths’s resilience that after being defeated in 1966 he regrouped in academia and later returned to the Commons. But he made little impact in 18 years representing Portsmouth North, never quite living down the extraordinary epithet with which Wilson had branded him.
Opening the debate on the Queen’s Speech on November 3 1964, Wilson, furious at the defeat of a key member of his incoming Cabinet, accused Griffiths of an “utterly squalid” campaign and castigated Sir Alec Douglas-Home for refusing to disown him. Then he provoked uproar by declaring: “If Sir Alec does not take what I am sure is the right course, and what the country will regard as the right course, Smethwick Conservatives can have the satisfaction of having sent a Member who, until another election returns him to oblivion, will serve his time here as a parliamentary leper.”

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Peter Griffiths in 1964 (JOHN SILVERSIDE/ASSOCIATED NEWSPAPERS/REX)
Furious Tories urged the Speaker, Sir Harry Hylton-Foster, to make the Prime Minister withdraw. He refused, but added: “I always deplore language of that kind.” Twenty Tories walked out in protest, and it was 10 minutes before order was restored — the most chaotic scene in the House since Suez. While old Commons hands believed Wilson had blundered, his onslaught ensured that Griffiths’s Westminster career was dead in the water. Yet the new member’s response was courageous: “If Harold Wilson wants a fight, then he has come to the right man.”
Peter Harry Steve Griffiths was born in West Bromwich on May 24 1928. He trained as a teacher at City of Leeds College, did his National Service and then, while teaching in his home town, took a London University Economics degree and a Master’s in Education at Birmingham. In 1962 he became head of Hall Green Road primary school, West Bromwich.
Living in nearby Smethwick, Griffiths became active in the Young Conservatives and was elected to the local council at 27, causing a stir by demanding the removal of two “salacious” classical statues from a secondary school. He first fought Smethwick in 1959 – race not emerging as an issue as he reduced Gordon Walker’s 6,495 majority; next year, at 32, he became leader of the council’s Conservative group.
Griffiths’s initial line on race was liberal. When council tenants tried to block the letting of a maisonette to a Pakistani family, he upheld “the right of any person to be rehoused regardless of race, colour or creed”. He soon added the rider that anyone rehoused would have to have lived in the borough for several years. “This is not racialist,” he explained. “It’s being fair”.
With 7,000 immigrants – mostly Sikh foundry workers – out of a population of 68,000 and a worsening housing shortage, Smethwick was one of the first towns in Britain to come under strain through immigration. And as tensions rose, Griffiths shifted his ground.
He rejected integration in favour of “peaceful coexistence”, and called for immigrants unemployed for six months to be sent home. In the 1963 council elections, Gordon Walker said he heard children using the offending racist slogan.
Sensing that a tougher line could win him the seat, Griffiths, whose trademark was a two-tone Jaguar, went into overdrive, calling for a ban on immigration of unskilled workers. Confident, he took a flat in London months before the election was called.
With a tight outcome expected nationally and locally, Smethwick attracted a media circus. As the scholarly Gordon Walker endeavoured to make up for having neglected his constituency, Griffiths exploited his own ability to galvanise an audience. While his campaigning embarrassed some Conservatives, embattled Tory MPs across the West Midlands saw it as a lifeline.
On the day Griffiths ousted Gordon Walker by 1,774 votes. The “white backlash” also won the Conservatives Perry Barr and held several marginals, but a national swing to Labour installed Wilson with a majority of six. Griffiths — and the electors of Smethwick — came in for scathing criticism from Labour and Liberal politicians. But it was nothing to what Wilson had in store.
In his maiden speech Griffiths insisted there was “no resentment in Smethwick on the grounds of race or colour”, merely a serious housing shortage. Soon afterwards, though, he arranged for Smethwick council — he remained an alderman until 1966 — to buy up white-owned houses to prevent one street becoming a “ghetto”; the Housing Minister, Richard Crossman, refused to let it borrow the money.
Griffiths drew satisfaction from Labour’s embarrassment at the revelation that Smethwick Labour Club was operating a colour bar — and even more from Gordon Walker’s defeat at Leyton after a vacancy was created for him. But in the House, with Labour MPs publicly ostracising him and many Tories embarrassed, he found himself walking a tightrope on race.
He repudiated white extremists who saw him as a rallying-point yet urged the Home Secretary to exclude Malcolm X from Britain, advocating voluntary repatriation of immigrants and seeking to exclude pubs from race relations legislation.
Up for re-election, Griffiths felt obliged to repudiate racialism, but no prominent Tory apart from, reluctantly, Selwyn Lloyd spoke at his meetings. Labour chose a bruiser to oppose him: the bombastic Shakespearean actor Andrew Faulds. With Faulds giving no quarter, Griffiths lost by 3,490 votes.
Out of the House he wrote A Question of Colour?, in which he claimed to have “no colour prejudice”, but argued that only a “tiny” number of immigrants should be allowed, from the old Commonwealth, Europe and the United States. He blamed the spread of disease on immigrants from the Caribbean, and praised South Africa under apartheid as “a model of Parliamentary democracy”.
He got a temporary job in a West Bromwich primary school, but Labour councillors vetoed his appointment as a lecturer at Matlock College of Education. In 1967 he took up a lectureship in Economics at Portsmouth College of Technology. He took a year out as an exchange professor in California, then stayed at the college, by now a polytechnic, until his return to Parliament. Save for a brief boycott in 1977, his students never protested at his politics.
In 1972 Griffiths was selected for the new constituency of Portsmouth North. When the snap February 1974 election was called he was in hospital and saw Labour’s Frank Judd take the seat by 320 votes. He sat out that October’s election on health grounds, but in 1979 ousted Judd by 2,311.
Back in the Commons, Griffiths was overshadowed by the younger, Thatcherite new intake. Presciently if self-interestedly, given the closeness of Portsmouth naval dockyard, he opposed the cuts in the Royal Navy planned by John Nott before the Falklands conflict, voting against the 1981 Defence White Paper. He also put in sterling work on the Select Committee on Members’ Interests, himself refusing all outside work.
By 1987 he had quietly pushed his majority up to 18,401. But his assiduous raising of naval issues could not offset the passage of time and the coming of New Labour, and in 1997 he was unseated by 4,323 votes.
Peter Griffiths married Jeannette Rubery in 1962; they had a son and a daughter.
Peter Griffiths, born May 24 1928, died November 20 2013

Guardian:

John Graham (Araucaria) was my chaplain at Reading University from 1968-71 (Report, Obituaries, 26 November). He showed me by his own presence and in his own being the presence of the God who actually loves me. He was fun to be with, kind and generous; I count it such a privilege that he was in my life through those formative undergraduate days. He was on holiday when I married – but arranged to meet us next day as we were honeymooning close by. He kept in touch from then on in his gentle unassuming way, visited us with Margaret when he remarried, and has been one of those few, special wise men in my life. His positive influence in my life has been immeasurable. He’d been much in my thoughts and prayers and I wrote to him for the last time a few weeks ago; I just hope he was able to pick up from my card the love and esteem I hold him in. Reading tributes, I realise how very many knew and loved him through his crosswords but there must also be so many others, like me, who knew him as John, not as Araucaria, whose lives have been touched, warmed and enriched by him.Thank you so much for everything you’ve been and meant to us and our family, John.
Jane Evans
Welshpool, Powys

Alan Posener seems a little confused about the meaning of victory (Merkel’s sham victory, 26 November). Angela Merkel may preside over the largest party grouping in the parliament but, as his numbers show, nearly 60% voted against the Christian Democratic Union of Germany and the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CDU/CSU). He also admits that the Social Democratic party of Germany (SPD), Greens and the Left party could in fact form a government as they hold a majority of seats. It is therefore only because the SPD is so far refusing to contemplate a coalition with the Left party that Merkel’s party has any chance of forming a government at all.
Many members of the SPD oppose a coalition with the CDU/CSU and Sigmar Gabriel’s promise to give party members a vote on any coalition agreement may not be “brinkmanship” but an attempt to keep his own party members on side. His view that a government of SPD, Left party and Greens, broadly committed to social justice and protection of the environment, should spell “real trouble” for Germany would require some explanation, seeing that his implied neoliberal prescriptions do not find much electoral support.
Harry Ziegler
University of Lincoln
• Alan Posener is right: it is unsatisfactory that “backroom deals” will decide the composition and the programme of their next government. The coalition negotiations have taken two months. Yet Germany hasn’t in this time fallen apart. In contrast, remember the rhetoric here in May 2010 from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats about the sense of urgency and their “acting in the national interest”. Ahead of the 2015 general election, we need public debate about what to expect in terms of processes and timescales if a majority government is not the outcome. Some clarity should reduce uncertainty and make it less likely that our politicians give us another rushed shotgun wedding.
Dr Alex May
Manchester

How refreshing to read John Harris’s hope that a vote for an independent Scotland could enable at least one part of the UK to try to build a fairer society (If I were Scottish I’d grab the chance of independence, 25 November). I’ve noticed that an online petition for greater equality (thefairpenny) has a hugely disproportionate number of signatories from Scotland. The Scottish are maybe more fair-minded than the English – and perhaps an independent Scotland will be a model for a fairer England.
Kate Green
London
• If Scotland opts for independence, it will no longer be possible for England to pass reforms such as the creation of the NHS thanks to Scottish votes. Scotland (and Wales) have long acted as a distorting mirror which has reflected back an undeserved image of England as a basically fair society. After 2014 we might have to start looking at ourselves as we really are.
Ivor Morgan
Lincoln
• The SNP promises a sharp cut in corporation tax. This means it intends that Scotland will steal tax revenue from the rest of the UK, as Ireland does today, by encouraging companies that make profits from the UK to pretend these are generated in token offices in Scotland.
John Wilson
London
• Supporters are making much of an independent Scotland’s right to introduce progressive measures in areas such as education and child welfare, as well as other social benefits. Scottish voters should make sure these commitments are in binding constitutional provisions that mean no future Scottish government can violate them. Ireland came to independence on the back of radical promises, only to renege on all of them and become a tawdry rightwing dependency which clears everything with the European central bankers and the money markets before cutting every social provision to the quick. Westminster seems benign in comparison.
Eoin Dillon
Dublin
• If Yorkshire and the other northern counties of England were allowed to join with Scotland to become North Britain, I would certainly vote for independence from London.
Denis O’Connor
Otley, West Yorkshire
• What a lot of work Alex Salmond and the SNP have put into this vast independence document. Surely the first thing will be a presidential election – or is that what this is?
Pam Brown
Lakenheath, Suffolk
• Does the Better Together campaign think we’re stupid? My local cable provider in Luxembourg can give me BBC, and ITV and Channel 4.
Cliodhna Dempsey
Bereldange, Luxembourg
• Scotland keeping the pound would be as independent as a student leaving home, but returning to be fed and have clothes washed.
Pete Bibby
Sheffield
• With the departure of Scotland from the union, will we become Little Britain?
Ann Mahoney
London

Series: Brief letters
Previous | Index
Fast and fabulous
The Guardian,

RWE drops the Atlantic Array windfarm project (Report, 26 November). Energy companies increase profit per customer by 77% in one year. Apologist from the Department of Energy says: “Profits are needed if energy companies are to continue to invest in Britain’s energy infrastructure.” Presumably RWE will now reduce their prices as they don’t need the profits to invest in the infrastructure?
J Oldaker
Nuneaton, Warwickshire
• Why do those against the proposed HS2 high speed train not ask the people of east Kent about HS1 instead of telling us what we think? Larry Elliott is wrong for once (HS2: a London gravy train not an engine of growth, 25 November). I was on HS1 when I read his claim that we Kentish commuters would rather have a slow journey than pay more. It was at midday, the train completely full, with people sitting on the floor. We love HS1, and its branch lines have transformed the lives of many here, just as HS2 will do in the north.
Professor Stephen Bax
Canterbury, Kent
• Your article (Out and down, 26 November) questions whether cricketers might be more prone to depression than other sportspeople because of the nature of the game. But depression is a very common condition that we just don’t talk about. One in four people experience some form of mental health problem in a year; if cricketers are representative of this, then five players in a match may be unwell. And two of the panel of umpires.
Andrew McLellan
London
• “Warne slams Clarke fine and goes on attack against Anderson” (Report, Sport, 26 November). I used to play a game where the fielding side clapped in each opposition batsman as he came to the wicket. Now, what was it called?
Ted Booth
London
• Iain Noble describes the condition induced by seeing a naked Warren Mitchell on stage (Letters, 26 November) as “post-dramatic stress disorder”. Post dramatic undress disorder, surely (PDUD)?
Stewart Conn
Edinburgh

John Harris (If I were Scottish I’d grab the chance of independence, 25 November) identifies the problem, but then optimistically posits the flourish of a constitutionalist’s pen as the solution to the Westminster-centric neoliberal consensus he rightly deplores. But as Grangemouth so clearly exposes, globalised capital remains indifferent to national borders. When all that is solid has melted into air – and the Transatlantic Trades and Investment Partnership adopts a global outlook which the most devout internationalist might be proud of – it is only by exercising equivalent muscle in the form of collective state regulation and democratic control that we can resist the corporate drive to commodify every corner of our lives, whatever our nationalities.
The alliances which might challenge the dominance of corporate power around the world do not as yet exist in Scotland, so claims that it provides terrain for a different settlement are overstated. It is ironic also that on the other side of the debate, the state levers referred to by the United with Labour campaign are precisely those which the last government proved so reluctant to deploy, and for this government are a democratic impediment to profit maximisation.
Mike Cowley
Scottish Labour Campaign for Socialism
• Despite any wild claims by Alex Salmond, the European Union (EU) treaties have not changed, nor has the position of the European commission. Quite simply, Scotland will have to reapply for membership, and even the fast lane to EU membership is a long road. The commission was quite clear in it interpretation. In 2004, it stated that: “…when part of the territory of a member state ceases to be a part of that state, eg because that territory becomes an independent state, the treaties no longer apply to that territory. In other words, a newly independent region would, by the fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the union and the treaties would, from the day of its independence, not apply anymore on its territory.” The commission reaffirmed that position again this year.
The idea that Scotland could secure independence in the morning and have the saltire flying as the 29th member state by dinnertime is as arrogant as it is fanciful. We have heard Scotland would be welcomed with open arms because of our fishing water and oil reserves – would that negotiations for EU membership be so simple. Pro-independence supporters are less keen to admit that as a new applicant to the EU, Scotland would not have an opt-out from the euro and would be obliged to join when it met economic conditions. The UK’s opt-out to Schengen’s open borders would also be lost. Furthermore, some other EU states, like Spain or Belgium, under pressure from their own independence movements, would not embrace Scotland’s membership.
Could these obstacles be overcome? Eventually, yes. But the lengthy process would not only jeopardise our employment rights during the years of negotiations, it would leave us no better off in pursuing a strong economy and advanced social rights at EU level.
David Martin MEP
Labour
• Simon Jenkins (Don’t lecture Scots. They want freedom, not wealth, 27 November) is clearly right to advocate an offer to Scotland of a status somewhere between full independence (which would be a tragedy for the whole UK) and the current degree of devolution. The polls suggest a clear majority of Scots at present want neither independence nor the status quo, but much greater control of their own affairs within the UK. The continuing failure of the Labour and Conservative parties to promise Scotland full internal self-government (perhaps modelled on that enjoyed by Massachusetts or New South Wales within their federations) as an attractive alternative to independence is both incomprehensible and unforgivable. There’s still time, but not much.
Brian Barder
London
• John Harris grasps a core difference between Scottish and English perspectives on the independence debate. While the former can offer a vision for a progressive society that can stimulate passionate commitment, the absence of an analysis providing a similar narrative for the UK together leaves the no campaign peddling negativity. A visionary agenda is hamstrung by a no campaign composed of a coalition of interests that cannot generate a coherent or positive alternate. Having worked in Scotland for 35 years, if I were still there, I would grab independence too. But now retired in England I am despairing that so little is being done on the left to capture all our imaginations and at least make no a positive option for Scottish voters.
Alan Barr
Drybeck, Cumbria
• As someone safely ensconced on the right side of the border as far as John Harris is concerned, I’m still waiting for someone to assure me that Scotland voting yes doesn’t consign my English pals to the “eternal Tory government” that John refers to. I was hoping that he would address the issue and offer some reassurance, but after raising the issue he moved on. Is there any reasoned argument that doesn’t foresee an endless Tory hegemony in the rump of a post-independence UK? I’d gladly vote for a Scottish Elysium, but not at the expense of consigning my English pals to misery without end. What kind of socialist, worthy of the name, would do that?
Alistair Richardson
Stirling
• It is possible that the establishment down here is more worried about the referendum than John Harris suggests. Why, were it not so, are we to have the launch of the 1914 Remembrance events, not in Westminster abbey but in August in a cathedral in Glasgow, less than six week before the referendum? What a great opportunity to tell the Scots to forget Culloden and to concentrate on how brave and British we are when we all struggle together.
Bruce Kent
London

Recently during two “normal” typhoons I witnessed the amazing efficiency of the existing barangay [village] based systems in the Philippines. Down the road from where I live in Valenzuela city, a small ruined block of houses supports many families with a huge number of small children. The block is next to the river, and floods constantly. During previous typhoons there was time to move these families to a basketball court that doubles up as an assembly area. This was usually done over night and involved the city administration, the barangay and the Philippine Red Cross. They bring food, water, small canoes and the city has an amphibious truck. It’s all very efficient, no fuss, no arguments. This is just one barangay amongst maybe hundreds across the Philippines, each with their own approach.
The Philippines have some thing like 20 typhoons a year and often experience earthquakes, so they could probably teach the rest of the world about disaster management. There have been reports recently praising the Philippines for their strong democracy and the way the barangay system has managed to get funds to the poorest without corruption. But this typhoon was in a whole order different from any before. My partner, said she has never seen anything like this before in the Philippines. Following the typhoon these systems were totally over whelmed. There were many reports of those desperate to help in the aftermath but unable to access the means to do so. It is clear that existing systems need revamping.
So what is needed?
First, we need more secure shelters and this is no easy task. Recently a local mayor was talking about making areas by the sea “no go” areas. This may be one possible solution but we also need to think about the informal settlers by the sea and what buildings survived Typhoon Haiyan. Most of the makeshift buildings were smashed so more robust concrete structures may be needed. Outside specialists could well be of help here. We need secure buildings above sea level to use as evacuation bases.
Second, we need more scientific research to understand typhoons and hurricanes. There is research out there but it now needs to be put onto something of a war footing: satellite observations, sea temperatures, computer modelling and all the rest as a matter of urgency. This needs to help us to accurately predict the occurrence and path of future typhoons. Will their strength increase because of global warming? Any new typhoon, especially a super one will need to very closely monitored right from the start.
Third, we need quicker communications systems in place to make immediate evacuations and get supplies to affected people. We need national bases across the Philippines with the necessary emergency equipment at the ready.
I’ve been disappointed by coverage of Typhoon Haiyan using references to “poor, third world countries”. Yes large areas of the Philippines are relatively poor and yes the Philippines does need help. But we must also remember that the country has made positive steps to create systems to respond to disasters. International assistance is needed but should aim to build on, rather than replace, what already exists.
Jonathan Robert Effemey, retired technology teacher, Valenzuela city Philippines
Views and reviews is a weekly space to share the correspondence we get from our readers and also for our members to tell us what global development books you are reading. Sign up here to become a member

Independent:

In his paean to German coal-burning, Nigel Farage (18 November) appears to accept that the coal which powered much of Britain’s industrial revolution did so at enormous human cost. He asserts that “the emerging shale gas industry is safer, cleaner and much less visually intrusive”.
“Safer” and “cleaner” than coal is not the same as “safe” and “clean”. What he describes as “grown-up technologies” are simply those which use unsustainable resources and are highly polluting (coal and gas) or nuclear, which is incomplete in that as yet there is no solution to the waste issue.
How refreshing it would be to hear Nigel Farage place some enthusiastic faith in British innovation, and Britain’s ability to commercially exploit such innovation, by backing the origination and development of energy technologies which are not hazardous or harmful in production nor in their legacy, rather than emulating, highly selectively, our neighbours. 
It is a great pity that he continues apparently to believe that climate science is wrong and that he is right. It is irresponsible to leave future generations to take the risk.
William Dale
Amersham, Buckinghamshire
Yet another sustainable energy generation project – the Atlantic Array wind farm – has been cancelled. I am shocked and saddened. Low-cost, clean energy for several hundred thousand people and jobs for thousands have been lost.
Any economy and community needs cheap and plentiful energy. Renewables can deliver those benefits and a cut of the price that nuclear and more traditional forms of energy generation can deliver.
It’s not surprising therefore that in the recent election in Germany neither the Conservatives nor any other established parties wanted to reverse the country’s commitment to renewables. Germany has implemented a long-term strategy to generate at least 60 per cent of all energy needs from renewables by 2050, so far exceeding every target. Germany was able to generate enough electricity from renewable energy to meet 37 per cent of Britain’s energy needs in 2012. In Britain our government is  missing every opportunity to encourage the generation of renewable energy supplies and instead sending us down the dead-end of fossil fuel reliance.
Jurgen Huber
Co-Chair, West Central London Green Party, London, SE23
No one can criticise The Independent for devoting half its letter columns to the subject of global warming (20 November) but we have been having this same debate since the previous report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.
It is pointless arguing with the likes of Lord Lawson and Nigel Farage, because they will never change their view on the subject, no matter what evidence is presented. It really is time to move the debate forward.
Why is Saudi Arabia investing so heavily in non-fossil fuels if oil supplies are secure for the foreseeable future? Why is the world price of gas continuing to rise if shale gas from America is the bonanza that the drilling companies claim? How come Germany managed to supply 30 per cent of its electricity from renewables when the received wisdom is that renewables cannot substitute for nuclear, let alone gas? And finally why does the media mainstream not promulgate the advantages to local communities of microgeneration from renewables sources?
When these issues get discussed properly then the Government’s energy and environmental policies will self-destruct.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire
‘Plebgate’ erodes public trust
Whether you like Andrew Mitchell or not, the closing of establishment ranks and disingenuous denial, so evident in the “Plebgate” row, have eroded trust in all our public institutions.
 Whether it is police, NHS, or other publicly funded organisations, leadership and integrity are woefully absent today, just as institutionalised and shameless self-interest among public officials is as blatant as it is shocking.
Unless the man on the street can trust the powers that rule over him to act justly and in the public interest, he cannot truly enjoy his liberty.
James Anderson
Geneva
What does it matter whether Andrew Mitchell called the police “plebs” or not? He swore at them, using the F-word, in a way that implied this is what he thought of them – how much more arrogant could a member of HM Government be?
This whole affair has been blown way out of proportion. Either he was right to step down in view of his arrogant and abusive behaviour or he wasn’t. Either way, he only has himself to blame, so let’s have an end to his bleating.
Francis Kirkham
Crediton, Devon
If we really want to know what was said at Plebgate why don’t we ask the Americans? They’re bound to have been listening.
Morris Graham
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
Pay for your own footpaths
At a time when councils around the country are having to make real cuts to essential services for the vulnerable young and elderly, I am astonished that, as regular as Christmas, The Ramblers are yet again whingeing that their hobby (which is after all what rambling is) has been affected (“Access denied: ramblers restricted by council cutbacks”, 25 November).
If they love footpaths so much, maybe it’s about time we gifted all existing footpaths to the Ramblers, together with an annual sum for upkeep. If more needed spending, then, like the National Trust, they could raise it from their members, the people who use the footpaths.
Or would the prospect of paying for their hobby be too much for them?
Andrew Whyte
Shrewsbury
“Barbed wire, missing bridges, overgrowth” block Britain’s so-called rights of way – but how much of that is really new? Every complaint listed in your “blocked footpaths” story was true in 1980 when my wife and I moved to a country where, without vaunted “rights of way”, even the farmers kept tracks open where they were marked on the map. That’s Germany.
It was still all true 12 years ago when we moved from the UK to France, and pretty much the same applies here.
In the UK, “rights of way” always have been blocked with barbed wire, broken bridges and any other obstacle (such as a parked JCB here and there) that a cantankerous farmer can dream up. It never took council spending cuts to ruin a walk. But no doubt it helps.
David Boggis
Matignon, France
Robert Peston and the Daily Mail
By omitting key elements of our press statement, your report (27 November) on Robert Peston’s City University journalism lecture gives a completely misleading account of the circumstances in which in 2008 the Daily Mail ran a three-paragraph diary item on his late wife’s illness.
As our statement made clear, our diary reporter was introduced to Mrs Peston as a Mail diary journalist by a well-known freelance celebrity press photographer – who is also the late Mrs Peston’s cousin – at a book launch in January 2008. The reporter had a friendly conversation with Mrs Peston during which she volunteered information about her forthcoming book and her illness, which he quoted in his story. She also posed for a picture with her husband, which we published alongside the diary item, which itself was positive and upbeat. No complaint was made to the Daily Mail at the time or since.
Peter Wright
Editor Emeritus, Associated Newspapers, London W8
They all hated Thatcher
Sir Bernard Ingham (Monday Interview, 25 November) seems to have forgotten that the North of England, as well as Scotland, Wales and the Midlands, were so ill-served by his erstwhile mistress in government that they can neither forget nor forgive. I was a young teacher in North Yorkshire in the early 1980s, and well remember pupils “striking” in my school because there were no jobs for them to go to, so no point in doing schoolwork.
Robert Carlin
London W10
This spock was  no doctor
Leonard Nimoy is not, as your caption said, “Star Trek’s Dr Spock” (“Great company”, 26 November). Nimoy in fact played Star Trek’s Mr Spock. You’ve confused the Vulcan first officer of the starship Enterprise with the late American paediatrician Dr Benjamin Spock.
Martyn P Jackson
Cramlington, Northumberland
Forgotten victory for the Navy
In your interesting obituary of Mavis Batey (25 November), you describe Matapan as “the Navy’s first fleet action since Trafalgar”.  Does Jutland not count?
Gordon Elliot

Times:
Sir, You report (Nov 27) that if Scotland chooses independence, the rest of the UK would face a “sizeable bill” for establishing new Scottish bureaucratic institutions and underwriting Scottish banks.
If taxpayers in the rest of the UK are expected to pay for such fundamental aspects of Scottish independence, the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland should have the opportunity to vote for or against the break-up of the UK in a referendum. It is clear now that this is no longer a matter purely for the people of Scotland. An important and long-established principle is at stake: “No taxation without representation”.
Michael Patterson
Swineshead, Lincs
Sir, According to the Scottish Government’s White Paper, an independent Scotland would have its constitution drawn up after independence. Surely the first act after a “Yes” vote should be to determine a constitution that would form the basis of all accession negotiations? As matters stand all of the real constitutional issues will be predetermined by the politicians of the present Scottish Government during the transitional negotiations that they are mandating themselves to conduct, leaving the constitutional convention little of substance to decide. It would be no more than a talking shop, and could not be further from the 1778 US Constitutional Convention.
Even countries facing such challenging transitions as Iraq and Afghanistan managed to hold constitutional conventions prior to national elections. Surely Scotland could manage to match them?
Brendan Hughes
Glasgow
Sir, Surely all canny Scots will be asking what is remotely independent about their keeping sterling and being subservient to the Bank of England as the lender of last resort.
Further, in the event of a Scottish vote for independence, should not the rest of the UK then be entitled to a referendum as to the extent it wishes to share any of its facilities with a recalcitrant neighbour who reckons it is entitled to pinch all the best sweeties out of the bag?
R.F. Taylor
Cheltenham, Glos
Sir, Alex Salmond wishes to retain the Queen as Head of State, the pound sterling as currency, access to the BBC, sections of the Army, construction of naval ships on the Clyde, dual nationality for Scottish citizens and no border controls with England.
The implication is obvious: Mr Salmond wishes Scotland to remain within the UK.
D. W. Harding
Gullane, East Lothian
Sir, I am Scots-born but live in England, so do not get a vote on Scottish independence. My friends who are English, but live in Scotland, do. How can it be right that a matter affecting the whole of the UK excludes most of its citizens from a say in the matter?
Barry Hyman
Bushey Heath, Herts
Sir, Your headline (Nov 27) states “Scotland would tell rest of UK to pay for independence”. I can only imagine you are being mischievous, as Scots have been paying UK taxes for years. It’s perfectly fair that in the event of a “Yes” vote a fair division of assets, as well as liabilities, happens.
Michael Rossi
Southall, Middx

Those of us who have spent their lives in engineering in Britain would like to ask opponents of wind power what they would prefer to live next to
Sir, Your article on the test facility for wind turbines in South Carolina (Nov 25) confirmed that the US is still managing to keep an interest in traditional engineering. Germany also develops and uses a large number of such alternative sources of energy.
Britain has a similar installation at the National Renewable Energy Centre in Northumberland. A 15mW motor made in Rugby was recently installed there and similar testing will be available to that in South Carolina.
This site is important for Britain when many are doubting the future for green energy. Those of us who have spent our lives in engineering in Britain would like to ask opponents of wind power what they would prefer to live next to: a nuclear generating plant, a wind farm, a solar farm, a traditional coal-fired power station, or an old-fashioned gasworks. Or would they prefer to live without electricity?
Bob Newton
Bedford

The proposed estuary airport does not have to be built all at once to become operational: it could take over gradually from Heathrow
Sir, Stephen Rush (letter, Nov 27) seems to imply that Heathrow would be turned off like a tap as soon as an estuary airport became operational. The proposed estuary airport, however, does not have to be built all at once to become operational. As soon as a single runway plus terminal and control buildings were in place, the new airport would provide the third runway that Heathrow is demanding, and in a better place. There would not be a sudden mass transfer of workers and businesses from Heathrow; rather, additional jobs and businesses would grow as capacity increased. Heathrow would only gradually be reduced in size, and fresh usage for the space released would be exploited.
D. A. Franklin
London SE5

Introducing the right to bail, reforms to stop jury tampering and other social reforms for the benefit of the ordinary man are Richard III’s true record
Sir, Richard III was not a villain (leading article, Nov 27). Introducing the right to bail, reforms to stop jury tampering and other social reforms for the benefit of the ordinary man are his true record. I am surprised that The Times should essentially endorse the fictionalised accounts of his life by such Tudor propagandists as Sir Thomas More and Shakespeare.
Martin Spector
London NW11

For all the talk of an export-led recovery, tourism is one sector where export earnings have grown, and are forecast to continue to grow
Sir, James A. Paton (letter, Nov 25) is wrong to dismiss tourism as not creating “proper jobs”. Tourism is a major part of the British economy, responsible for 9 per cent of GDP and 10 per cent of employment. It is a major export: international visitors to the UK spent £18 billion here in 2012. The UK’s balance of payments position is worsening, to £58 billion in 2012. For all the talk of an export-led recovery, tourism is one sector where export earnings have grown, and are forecast to continue to grow (at 6 per cent annually) for the rest of this decade.
The UK economy could do with a few more industries like tourism.
Sandie Dawe
Chief executive, VisitBritain

Telegraph:
SIR – On a recent visit, I was horrified to see what has happened to Greenwich. The National Maritime Museum contains hardly any exhibits from what used to be a glorious display of Britain’s maritime heritage. Pride of place is given to a simulator in which you can experience a boat ride down the Thames, when the actual river is so nearby. It took me just half an hour to get round the exhibits and the staff seemed to outnumber the visitors.
The wonderful maritime bookshops and the eel and whelk shop on the high street have gone, to be replaced by fast-food chains.
The restored Cutty Sark on the waterfront is partly enclosed by glass so you get little impression of what the ship used to look like. Inside, below the waterline, the hull is covered in polished brass plate instead of the green copper that would have been used. This so-called restoration seems to have been inspired by Disney, rather than any feeling for the past.
Dag Pike
Bristol

SIR – My daughter was among the first intake of female officer cadets to be commissioned into the Army after the integration of the WRAC College with the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1985.
At that time, the issue green WRAC uniform skirt had a knee-level circumference that permitted a stride of only 28 inches, whereas the regulation march step by men, measured strictly by the drill sergeant’s pace stick, was 30 inches. Thus, when marching together on parade, the women would inevitably fall two inches behind the men for every beat of the drum,­ causing chaos in the ranks.
Thus, for the first joint Commissioning Parade, taken by the Queen, it was ordained that the women officer cadets should remain at attention during the ceremonial slow and quick march-pasts.
The Queen, who had herself marched on the Sandhurst parade ground when training for the Auxiliary Territorial Service in the Second World War, was not amused. She ordered that steps be taken to ensure full participation by all cadets in the next Sovereign’s Parade. And so it was, and is.
Lt-Gen Sir Richard Vickers
Cerne Abbas, Dorset

er was among the first intake of female officer cadets to be commissioned into the Army after the integration of the WRAC College with the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1985.
At that time, the issue green WRAC uniform skirt had a knee-level circumference that permitted a stride of only 28 inches, whereas the regulation march step by men, measured strictly by the drill sergeant’s pace stick, was 30 inches. Thus, when marching together on parade, the women would inevitably fall two inches behind the men for every beat of the drum,­ causing chaos in the ranks.
Thus, for the first joint Commissioning Parade, taken by the Queen, it was ordained that the women officer cadets should remain at attention during the ceremonial slow and quick march-pasts.
The Queen, who had herself marched on the Sandhurst parade ground when training for the Auxiliary Territorial Service in the Second World War, was not amused. She ordered that steps be taken to ensure full participation by all cadets in the next Sovereign’s Parade. And so it was, and is.
Lt-Gen Sir Richard Vickers
Cerne Abbas, Dorset
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27 Nov 2013
Where has Greenwich’s maritime heritage gone?
27 Nov 2013
Rapunzel in the kitchen
SIR – We see more and more cookery programmes where the cooks, both professional and amateur, have long hair, which hangs over the food.
Out of the 100,000 to 150,000 hair follicles on the human scalp, a daily loss of about 50 to 100 hairs occurs.
In the interests of food hygiene, why are the people on television not required to set a good example by having their trailing hair covered with a chef’s hat, bandana or similar? The thought of eating something prepared by these long-haired people makes me feel quite ill.
Howard Bishop
Ballaugh, Isle of Man
Cutlery cue
SIR – Correspondents are pondering the best way to save one’s seat when temporarily leaving the table while dining out alone.
The etiquette when one has finished a meal is to place the knife and fork together at the position of half past six on the plate. If left in any other position, the waiter should assume that you are still eating and leave the plate.
George Sullivan
Cubbington, Warwickshire
Ethics of business
SIR – Charles Moore is right to draw attention to the misuse by organisations of the word ethics (“This obsession with Ethics is one of the great curses of our time”, Comment, November 23).
Ethical behaviour in any organisation is essential if it is to survive. Loss of reputation can be fatal to any company.Ethical behaviour should be a continuous feature of how a business operates, not an end in itself. It is an outcome emanating from an organisation’s core values (ie. integrity, openness, trustworthiness). To make it an end in itself, as the Co-op Bank appears to have done, is to miss the point completely.
Responsible corporations require their principle agents to operate in a trustworthy fashion in all aspects of their business. If they fail to do this, lawmakers will move in and then the box tickers will win.
Philippa Foster Back
Director, Institute of Business Ethics
London SW1
Primary boot camp
SIR – I share Jemima Lewis’s sneers over the NHS Live Well website’s ludicrous advice that children aged five should be working out with exercise bands and weight machines.
However, the clue to her own lack of rampant adipose tissue may be attributed to her lifestyle: she mentions walking to school and sledging down the stairs – two activities alien to today’s youngsters, who are chauffered from door to door – and for whom physical high jinks could never replace the excitement of a computer war.
Perhaps a daily boot camp is necessary for the health of our children, unless we return to walking as an acceptable form of transport, and “messing around” as an alternative form of entertainment.
Catherine Gregg Major
Chamonix, Rhône-Alpes, France
Magazine waiting list
SIR – Jonathan Rawsthorn found a 1974 magazine in a hospital waiting room. I believe that there is a large NHS warehouse somewhere in the East Midlands where magazines are stored for a minimum of 10 years before being released to hospitals.
For some reason, NHS dentists have to wait a minimum of 15 years, and they are restricted to Practical Boat Owner magazine and Reader’s Digest.
Vernon Stradling
Havant, Hampshire
Circular arguments for using satnav or maps
SIR – I am one of those over-sixties who still relies on map-reading. The wealth of information contained in maps, such as the Ordnance Survey Landranger series, can make one’s trip so much more interesting.
However, I have just invested in a satnav device, which I’m finding irreplaceable for carrying out my duties as a volunteer driver for a hospice.
David Hartridge
Groby, Leicestershire
SIR – Years ago, I used the map in the back of my pocket diary to navigate around the country.
Once, on the way to Abergavenny, I headed for the initial “A” instead of the final “y”. This caused a 50-mile error. I still prefer maps, but larger ones.
Bill McCreath
Dore, Derbyshire
SIR – I have been blessed with a human satnav: my wife. I get an accurate verbal summary of the route, together with places of interest along it.
Such is the dependence on satnav round here that the mountain rescue service is frequently asked to provide the postcode for various mountains.
Peter Greenhill
Cockermouth, Cumberland
SIR – My son was showing off his first satnav to us while on holiday in the Lake District.
One evening, having dined out, we tried to drive home to the other side of Lake Windermere. The satnav, with its infuriatingly smug voice, told us to “prepare to board the ferry”, which, since it was almost 11.30pm, had long since closed.
John Hale
North Cadbury, Somerset

SIR – Without North Sea oil revenues a stand-alone Scotland would be insolvent, yet its claim to sole ownership of this huge income stream goes unchallenged.
Leaving aside legal debate about maritime boundaries and conventions, the tax reductions granted to the oil companies to encourage costly and risky exploration were conceded and borne by United Kingdom taxpayers, and the licences are vested in the United Kingdom.
Surely the independence referendum is a matter for all United Kingdom voters?
David Gardner
Horsham, West Sussex
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27 Nov 2013
Where has Greenwich’s maritime heritage gone?
27 Nov 2013
SIR – We are told that the Scottish National Party would keep the pound, given independence. The people of the rest of the United Kingdom must be asked in a referendum whether to allow a foreign country to use our currency. The effect of the East German (Ost) mark on the West German (Deutsch) mark was disastrous.
Paul Gilbert
Knowle, West Yorkshire
SIR – If Scotland votes for independence, what will happen to the 2015 British general election? Presumably it will have to go ahead as normal, as Scotland will still be part of the United Kingdom.
But then we could witness Ed Miliband become Prime Minister, only to be removed less than one year later by a vote of confidence when his Scottish MPs’ seats are dissolved.
James Tooley
Newcastle upon Tyne
SIR – Boris Johnson’s fairy-tale descriptions of holidays in the Highlands do not balance out the inequities of the Barnett Formula and the West Lothian question.
There has never been a special relationship between the two countries. The Romans built a wall and walked away, the Picts established their own nation, and throughout history war was a prevalent state of affairs. Scotland’s “Auld Alliance” was with France, not England.
The Act of Union was, from England’s point of view, a way of ensuring that Scotland paid homage to the Crown, and Scotland was bankrupt and in need of support. A hundred years of sharing a monarch was the case of a “single crown, but two countries”. The Act was never a bringing together of kindred spirits.
Harry Maddock
Bristol
SIR – Boris Johnson asserts that Scottish independence would mean that, with the top section lopped off and “independent”, Britain as a political entity would be annihilated.
Every country in the European Union except one – Malta – has a border with a neighbouring country. Perhaps if America advised us, as Mr Johnson suggests, they might feel that having a 4,000-mile border with their Canadian neighbours to the north has not held them back.
David Smith
Teignmouth, Devon
SIR – Should Scotland break away from the United Kingdom, surely it is possible that countries such as France and Spain could use their veto to prevent it joining the EU, on the basis that it might create a precedent for nationalists in Corsica and Catalonia?
John Taylor
Glasgow
SIR – If Scotland votes overwhelmingly for independence, fine. If Scotland votes by a big majority to stay in the Union, fine. The worst result would be a tiny majority either way, with the argument dragging on with demands for new referendums, and both sides trying to bribe the Scottish voters.
Alan Hughes
Minster-on-Sea, Kent
SIR – I look forward to an independent Scotland. It will put to bed that unease that an Englishman feels whenever he is described as a Briton.
Orlando Bridgeman
London W2

Irish Times:

Sir, – Given that so many Irish-language schools are at the top of the league table for entrants to third-level education, what is the justification for the 10 per cent bonus marks given for answering certain Leaving Cert papers through Irish? The old idea was that since studying through Irish resulted in students acquiring less knowledge, that their marks should be topped up to sustain them in that challenging activity. Clearly that’s nonsense. So why does the Department of Education continue this practice, an obvious corruption of the examination marking system?
The 10 per cent is an example of the sort of institutionalised favouritism to select groups which was the hallmark of governments in the past. Now it should be ended. – Yours, etc,
DONAL FLYNN,
Breffni Terrace,
Sandycove,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – Surely schools where all the pupils opt for third-level education are failing somewhere along the way? – Yours, etc,
PD DOYLE,
Clontarf Road Dublin 3.
Sir, – Gráinne Faller (Opinion, November 26th) writes that the cessation of the publication of league tables in Wales decreased school performance and increased inequality. But the evidence quoted only points to the short-term effects.
Faller fails to acknowledge that these tables, introduced by New Labour in the late 1980s, decrease social mobility in the long run. A vicious cycle emerged because rich parents moved into the neighbourhoods within the catchment areas of the best publicly-funded schools. This then caused house prices in the given areas to rise so that only children of wealthy families could attend these schools. As a result of such neo-liberal policies, Britain is now a more stratified society than any time since the second World War. Your paper’s commitment to these tables could soon have the same effect in our country. – Yours, etc,
BEN LENNON,
Edenvale Road,
Ranelagh, Dublin 6.
Sir, – I suggest the information provided in the school league tables (November 26th) is of little value because:
1. The figures are simply based on the percentage of students who progress to third level education with no indication of the points required for different courses.
2. It fails to take account of the fact that in some schools a significant number of pupils either go on to a university or other third-level institution outside the State. This applies in particular to schools in or close to Border counties and schools which have a significant number of non-Irish nationals. Not surprisingly in the latter case, a significant number decide to pursue third-level studies in their home country. Moreover, some schools encourage their pupils to look beyond these shores when considering third-level options, not because there is anything wrong with Irish third-level colleges, but to broaden their horizons and widen their course options.
3. It fails to give credit to those schools which may encourage some pupils to take a gap year and to use that year to pursue socially useful activities and/or for personal development.
If you are going to publish information on individual schools it should be a more objective marker, such as the mean number of points obtained in the Leaving Certificate or perhaps the range of points obtained. However, I suggest that publishing any information of this nature on individual schools is socially divisive and that its only purpose is to enable parents to boast that their Johnny or Jane will perform better at school at X than their neighbours’ children at school Y, even where this is not necessarily true.
I do accept that some of the information on the geographical variations in both the private and State sectors provides interesting data which are worthy of further analysis and investigation. However, as acknowledged in the article accompanying the tables, in many cases these simply reflect the variations in socioeconomic status in different parts of country and the proximity to third-level institutions.
In conclusion, the currently provided information on individual schools is at best meaningless and at worst socially divisive. This is in marked contrast to the articles in the main body of the paper which provide useful advice to parents on selecting a school. – Yours, etc,
CHRISTOPHER HONE,
Green Isle Road,
Clondalkin,
Dublin 22.

Sir, – Concern about top-up payments to medical administrators has nothing to do with gender as Dr Emer Ryan et al claim (November 26th).
We already note from your columns that the male CEO of the country’s biggest paediatric hospital, Our Lady’s Hopital Crumlin, is paid less than half the salary commanded by the female Master of Holles Street. Attempts to muddy the water by claims of an anti-female doctor agenda is risable, even if it does come from “young female trainee doctors” from Holles Street, as they describe themselves.
The issue is transparency on public sector pay and how we share the austerity burden across society. If we demand that patients and low-paid care assistants take the brunt of the cuts in the health sector then we should at least expect the senior management to be seen to shoulder their share – all the more so when the public purse is doing the paying.
As citizens, we feel horribly let down when we see politicians and the privileged elite greedily reward themselves while demanding that we live within our already reduced and meagre means. Ministers, senior civil servants, lawyers, bankers and even the church have shamefully let us down.
Public morale and social cohesion simply cannot accept the spread of greed and self-interest to those charged with caring for our sick and vulnerable. How can someone surviving on invalidity allowance of less than €200 per week comprehend, never mind accept, how someone on €4-5,000 per week should want to take even more.
Privileged young doctors, trained and maintained at enormous public expense, need to stand back from casting themselves as victims of the media and threatening to emigrate. It is time they answered John F Kennedy’s question about what you can do for your country and not what your country can do for you. Medical consultants, hospital managers, State-funded agency and “charity” administrators should ask the same question. – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL ANDERSON,
Moyclare Close,
Baldoyle,
Dublin 13.

Sir, – Miriam Lord’s description of the “quiet funeral” of Tom Gilmartin and her tribute to his legacy was an example of all that is good in Irish journalism (Home News, November 27th).
The picture of the coffin being carried through the cemetery with the bare hills in the background was bereft of pomp and splendour and was very appropriate for the man.
Tom Gilmartin had the temerity to take on the arrogance and avarice of Celtic tiger Ireland.
Anyone who criticised the status quo in Ireland then was labelled a whinger, a loser and was dismissed as irrelevant. The malign effects of the recklessness and the vulgarity that was at the core of what was going on, and which eventually ended with a bankrupt country, was ignored by most.
But it was not ignored by Tom Gilmartin. All of us should be grateful for that. – Yours, etc,
ANTHONY LEAVY,
Shielmartin Drive,
Sutton, Dublin 13.
Sir, – It was heartening to read Miriam Lord’s gentle article on the funeral of Tom Gilmartin; an Irish civil patriot of a rare ilk, who did his country a valuable service. – Yours, etc,
PADRAIG J O’CONNOR,
Lower Dodder Road,
Rathfarnham,
Dublin 14.

Sir, – The appearance of a lone sparrow in Dublin Airport (Peter Pearson Evans, November 27th) answers the question about the disappearing flock. It is obvious they have taken flight and emigrated with the thousands of young Irish people who continue to leave the nest. – Yours, etc,
T McELLIGOTT,
Fortfield,
Raheen, Limeric

Sir, – It is generally accepted that the current Seanad electoral system is flawed. It is also obviously desirable that the Seanad not be merely a pale reflection of the Dáil.
The electorate could be broadened in many ways. For example, it might valuably include all EU citizens resident in Ireland, and all Irish citizens resident in other EU countries, which would encourage the Seanad to pay special attention to EU legislative proposals and to the work of the Commission.
If the proposal to extend the franchise for the six university seats to all graduates remains confined to only 10 per cent of the seats, it cannot matter very much. But differentiating Irish residents by educational level sets a bad precedent.
In 2011, about a third of the population aged 25-39 had university degrees compared to an average of 14 per cent for those 40 and over. The proportion of the population getting higher education has risen very sharply in recent years. In 2012 the number of entrants to a full-time undergraduate course was equivalent to 79 per cent of the population aged 18. The proportion of the voting-age population with degrees will therefore increase over time, eventually becoming a majority.
Those with degrees tend to have higher than average incomes, so the Seanad electorate will increasingly be more affluent than the average citizen.
If a reformed Seanad plays any significant political role at all, this strikes me as unjust. – Yours, etc,
TIMOTHY KING,
Shanganagh Terrace,
Killiney,
A chara, – Denis O’Donoghue (November 26th) makes an important point: if ESB workers take industrial action it is likely that many who have nothing to do with this dispute will be left without heat. What happens to the old, the sick, the vulnerable, and families with young children if the power goes out? Many modern homes do not even have a fireplace as an alternative. A cold winter would make for a brutal and potentially lethal season.
While I understand the workers have legitimate concerns, I do not think it acceptable that innocent third parties should not only endure real suffering but be put at risk. Perhaps the time has come for our Government to recognise the service this industry provides is too important to people’s health and well-being to be treated as a bargaining chip and, if need be, change the law to prohibit it being used as one. – Is mise,
Revd Fr PATRICK G
BURKE,
Castlecomer,
Co Kilkenny.
Sir, – ESB pensioners wish to offer their support to ESB staff in their stance against the company, which is distancing itself from the issue of the pension fund deficit.
We hope the staff will be successful in their efforts to ensure the ESB accepts responsibility for this pension fund deficit and any future deficits that may arise. We also hope they continue the fight to resolve this issue while they are still in service in the company because once they become pensioners they won’t have a voice; ESB certainly won’t listen to them, and they will find it impossible to stand up for their rights to protect their pensions into the future. – Yours, etc,
TONY COLLINS,
Chairman,
ESB Pensioners Association,
Elton Court,
Leixlip,
Co Kildare.
Sir, – I don’t understand the logic of ESB workers threatening industrial action. They obviously have an issue with management regarding the operation of their pension fund. But we, the general public, had nothing to do with this. We pay our bills on time and have in reality, because of its monopoly position, built up the ESB to the strong organisation it has become. Why would they now seek to punish the very people who have supported it just to get back at management? Surely there are other avenues to explore without inconveniencing the public, especially coming up to Christmas. –Yours, etc,
EAMONN KITT,
Tuam,
Co Galway.

Sir, – October/November is the busiest time of the year for travel on Dublin Bus (Paul Stuart, November 25th). During morning and evening peak times the maximum Dublin Bus fleet is in service and is augmented, whenever possible, to provide additional capacity on main corridors. On the morning in question (November 13th) there was a bus on this corridor every two minutes between 8.30am and 8.50am. Despite this high frequency, it was peak time, meaning higher customer loadings and when combined with heavier volumes of traffic, especially at this time of year, it is always advisable for customers to allow a little extra time when making their commute.
The fact customer numbers are growing is a positive and welcome sign after a pattern of decline due to the recession. It is also a direct result of the improvements that Dublin Bus has implemented over the past few years: including more direct and high-frequency cross-city routes due to the Network Direct project, the convenience and value now available through Leap Cards and the arrival of Real Time Passenger Information on street, online and via smartphone app for all Dublin Bus services.
Dublin Bus is building on these improvements and planning for future customer growth while continuing to provide a quality service for Dublin. – Yours, etc,
CLÍODHNA
Ní FHÁTHARTA,
Media and Communications
Manager, Dublin Bus,
Upper O’Connell Street,
Dublin 1

Sir, – The BBC Panorama programme of November 20th reported that a special British army unit, the Military Reaction Force (MRF), had been given approval to kill “real or suspected IRA members regardless of whether they were armed” (Home News, November 22nd). The Panorama programme reported how some members of this unit were alleged to have killed two men, neither of whom had paramilitary connections, in a drive-by shooting.
It was claimed in the programme by former members of this unit that they had high command permission to operate outside the law and carry out summary executions. Your report also stated that the North’s director of public prosecutions has asked the PSNI chief constable to investigate what amounted to a shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland in 1972.
In 1984, following a string of allegations about security force shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland, the British government set up an inquiry headed up by the deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester police John Stalker. In 1986 just before Mr Stalker was due to present his final report to government, he was removed from his position in charge of the inquiry on the basis of false allegations that he associated with known criminals.
This inquiry was then taken over by Colin Sampson of the West Yorkshire police. The findings by both Stalker and Sampson have never been made public. This current call from the North’s DPP Barra McGrory for the PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott to initiate an investigation into the claims by the MRF must be viewed with cynicism. – Yours, etc,
TOM COOPER,
Templeville Road,
Templeogue,
Dublin 6W.

   
Sir, – Raymond Deane’s reference to Israel as a “rogue state” (November 27th) ignores that Israel, unlike every other country in the region around it, is a fully fledged democracy and a member of the international community of democratic states. If words like rogue are going to be bandied about they are better applied to a regime like Iran’s. – Yours, etc,
MELISSA TEODORINI,
Gledswood Park,
Clonskeagh, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Forget the mild good news of rising employment, reviving property prices and even matching up to the All Blacks. Your map poster (The New Europe, November 27th) shows that each of us in Ireland (GDP per capita) is richer than individuals in any other EU state, bar Luxembourg! When does the dancing in the streets begin? – Yours, etc,
JOHN DOYLE,
Ahascragh,
Ballinasloe, Co Galway.

Irish Independent:

*There is a serious need for all Irish people living on the island of Ireland to take a moment to pause and reflect about the letter that some very deluded person or persons have circulated in the belief that they are speaking for the whole of the Irish people, which I really doubt, as it is my belief that the nature of the Irish people is not of hatred or a desire to beat men, women and children.
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Away in a haka went a match we could’ve won
What I found very interesting in this hate letter was the comment, “the true holders of the Irish people’s heritage and history to use whatever powers we need to stop you the Muslim people who have no right to be on our island”.
One wonders if this deluded person even knows what the legacy of this nation and the island of Ireland was?
For hundreds of years, the Irish people were oppressed by a foreign land, the Catholic faith had to go underground, and yet it was great men like Charles Stewart Parnell who fought for the rights of all who lived on the island of Ireland.
Our legacy is not to forget our past. A legacy of tolerance, peace, caring for all God’s creatures, our legacy of the freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of religious discrimination, all written in the Constitution of Ireland set up in 1922.
One wonders if the author, or authors, of this letter of revulsion really understands when they say “we will defend our Christian faith at any cost and will attack any Muslim or person we feel is a Muslim”.
These people see all Muslims as foreigners, a threat to the Irish culture and Christian faith.
But let me ask a question. Many Muslims living in Ireland are from the eastern part of the world and so is the Islamic faith; is not your own faith from the east?
Was it not also, at one point in history, a foreign religion, which was brought to Ireland by foreign Christian missionaries in the fifth century? The very founder of your faith was a Palestinian Jew!
So one may ask if 2,000 years ago, or indeed today, a Palestinian Jew named Jesus came with Peter and Paul, all of whom are from the Middle East, to Ireland to live, this absurd letter would not allow them to and they would have to leave or be beaten, according to the threats of the defenders of Ireland, whose very faith is a foreign faith.
St Patrick came as a foreigner and settled and changed the Irish heritage.
As I said at the beginning to all those who might read this letter, take time to reflect upon our own history and legacy before you will fall in to the hands of such foolish people.
IMAM IBRAHIM NOONAN
IMAM OF THE GALWAY MOSQUE MASJID MARYAM
AHMADIYYA MUSLIM COMMUNITY IRELAND
SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE
* Irish people are naturally very interested in the move towards an independent Scotland.
In a recent study, I documented how James Joyce and the Irish Nationalist leader Arthur Griffith wrote that the soul of a country can be weakened through being governed for centuries by another people and can develop into a ‘slave people’.
It is not generally to the advantage of a smaller country to lie adjacent to a larger country. The interests of the latter usually determine the degree of interference or levels of subjugation involved. The various acts uniting England with Wales, Scotland and Ireland are testament to that.
The legitimacy of these acts has been disputed, with Robbie Burns’ phrase expressing much Scottish and Irish feeling: “We’re bought and sold for English gold.”
It would be a pity if Scottish independence was decided by purely economic circumstances alone.
It is noticeable how the English media can scarcely comprehend why Scots might wish to be in control in their own country.
ANTHONY J JORDAN
GILFORD ROAD, DUBLIN 4
DON’T TAKE IT OUT ON US
* I don’t understand the logic of ESB workers threatening industrial action. They obviously have an issue with management regarding the operation of their pension fund. But we, the general public, had nothing to do with this.
We pay our bills on time and have, in reality, because of its monopoly position, built up the ESB to the strong organisation it has become.
Why would they now seek to punish the very people who have supported it, just to get back at management? Surely there are other avenues to explore without inconveniencing the general public, especially coming up to Christmas.
EAMONN KITT
TUAM, CO GALWAY
TROIKA TRAVAILS
* I am wondering why the Taoiseach, Finance Minister, Governor of the Central Bank and others were asked to provide feedback on the troika.
This seems strange because none of them, like the troika officials themselves, have been greatly affected by the euro crisis and the resultant recession.
They haven’t been majorly impacted by any of the cuts they imposed on other people.
Did they get the idea from the feedback forms they might have seen in reception when they departed from the five-star hotels, having left the final bill to the Irish taxpayer?
Maybe they were asked for feedback from the providers of the fleet of luxury cars that brought them to the airport. Who knows?
Or perhaps it was while waiting in the executive lounge of the airport, or perhaps it came to them in the business-class section of the plane home.
In my opinion, the best way for the troika to learn how well they had done their job would be to ask the Irish people directly.
DESMOND FITZGERALD
CANARY WHARF, LONDON
TOP-UPS AND DISCOUNTS
* We have begun to learn about top-ups in the HSE and health sector in general. Now we read of discounts in the “commercial” semi-state sector.
Your report (Irish Independent, November 23) that “spoilt” ESB workers benefit from a 55pc discount on their personal electricity bills stuns me.
It would be interesting to know whether Bord Gais employees get a similar discount on their gas bills.
I don’t believe Revenue employees benefit from lower tax rates, nor do other public service employees glean a benefit similar to the ESB discount scheme.
I am appalled that commercial enterprises owned by the State are giving discounts of such magnitude.
As a taxpayer and ESB customer (for the present), I feel that I am being ripped off by a monopoly and I do hope that at least benefit in kind is being charged and that VAT is not also being discounted.
Such discounts and their costs should be clearly identified in the annual reports of these companies.
TIM BROSNAN
MONTENOTTE, CORK
HELP FOR NEW MOTHERS
* It is ridiculous in this day and age that young mothers after difficult births must go into a busy city centre just to register the birth of their newborn child, which should be done automatically in maternity hospitals as soon as the child is born. This was done years ago, but only for married couples, not unmarried mothers.
My daughter, who had a very difficult birth with our first grandchild four weeks ago, must travel miles from Tallaght just to register the birth, even though she is still in bad pain.
Places like Ballyfermot, Tallaght, Coolock, etc, should all be able to register births in any of the HSE centres located in these areas.
They will tell young mothers there’s no rush to register, but these mothers cannot get children’s allowance or anything else until the child is registered.
It is hard enough going through difficult labour without this added pressure. Make life a bit easy and at least do this small thing in allowing new parents to register a child in largely young populated areas.
NAME AND ADDRESS WITH EDITOR
Irish Independent

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